I’ve already made up my mind that if the Space Force starts opening up its doors to include combat arms within my lifetime, I’d be at the recruiting office in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter that knowing how I’d react, I’d probably be a random Red Shirt who’d have his back turned at the worst possible moment and say something ironic like “the coast is clear!” before getting eaten by something.
Then Senator Ted Cruz in a Senate hearing advocating the Space Force planted the ultimate idea in my head… Space Pirates. Sure, the memes were taken slightly out of context because he was referring to rogue nations attacking satellites and not the swashbuckling buccaneers we’re thinking of. But is it a bad thing that kinda makes me want to join the Space Force even more?
It’ll take far too long for us to make first contact with aliens yet it’ll only take a few decades for space travel to be affordable enough for us to get down on some Firefly or Babylon 5-type action. We’re counting on you, Elon Musk. Make this dream come true!
While we wait for the cold dark reality that the Space Force will probably be far less exciting in our lifetimes than pop culture expects, here are some memes.
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
“I don’t know, Hanz, he said something about my mother being a hamster and my father smelling like elderberries.”
Fun fact: The insult from Monty Python was actually implying that King Arthur’s mom reproduced fast like a small rodent and his father was a drunk who could only afford the lowest quality wine. The more you know!
But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.
The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.
5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.
British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.
The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.
Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.
Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.
He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.
“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.
Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.
Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.
“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.
Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.
If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.
Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.
First, you need to gather a few things.
A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.
Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.
Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.
After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.
Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.
Military working dogs have been thrust into the media spotlight over the last few years, bringing awareness to the critical roles they play in the U.S. armed forces. While once considered “unsung heroes,” multiple books, television shows, and even a military working dog monument have brought attention to their service.
However, as with all stories that gain attention, sometimes facts being reported and perpetuated are either slightly inaccurate or even blatantly untrue. To handlers and advocates in the MWD community, it can be frustrating to read and hear about stories that not only are untrue, but are actually harmful. It’s important to understand what is myth vs reality.
Here are the 9 biggest myths about military working dogs.
MYTH: Military working dogs bite to kill
Reality: MWD’s certified in patrol (bite work) are very capable of causing serious bodily harm and possibly even death. However, MWD’s are not trained to kill or even trained to bite vital areas of the body such as the head, neck, or groin. Handlers train MWD’s to “apprehend” suspects which means biting and holding on to them until the handler arrives to detain them.
To minimize injury to both the dog and suspect, MWD’s are taught to apprehend suspects by clenching down on a meaty part of the body such as an arm or leg. That being said, I fear for a suspect’s life who comes between a handler and their dog.
MYTH: Military working dogs are left behind in war zones
Reality: This wasn’t always a myth. Tragically, after the Vietnam War, military dogs were left behind and not brought home with their handlers. But there have been false reports that military dogs were sometimes left behind again during recent conflicts. That is simply not true and it has not happened since Vietnam.
Every military working dog is brought back to the U.S. bases from which they deployed with their handlers. In fact, there is a quote handlers are made to repeat: “Where I go, my dog goes. Where my dog goes, I go.”
MYTH: Military working dogs go home with their handlers every day
Reality: When deployed, handlers and their dogs are inseparable and will stay in the same living quarters. However, when back at their U.S. base, handlers are not allowed to bring their dogs home at the end of each day, and for good reason. Every MWD is an incredibly valuable asset to each base and there are simply too many risks in allowing them to stay anywhere but a controlled kennel area.
While it may sound harsh, there probably aren’t cleaner kennels in the world than on U.S. military bases as they are cleaned several times every day by motivated handlers and inspected regularly by the base veterinarian to ensure maximum comfort and health for the MWD’s.
MYTH: Military working dogs get titanium teeth implants so they bite harder
Reality: This was a myth perpetuated after the infamous Navy SEAL dog Cairo was thrust in to the spotlight after being named as being part of the Osama Bin Laden raid. Suddenly, there was an insatiable appetite for information about these heroic dogs, the missions they went on, and the special capabilities they could provide thus creating an environment for false information to spread.
The truth is that military dogs can receive a titanium tooth but only if an existing tooth becomes damaged. It’s the same as a human receiving a crown. A dog’s actual tooth is already stable, strong, and effective enough on their own that there is no reason to replace them unless for medical reasons.
MYTH: Any dog can be a military working dog, including shelter dogs
Reality: While it would be nice to be able to save shelter dogs and train them to be MWD’s or for civilians to donate their pet dogs to help serve our country, the truth of the matter is military working dogs are the front line of defense both on deployment and at home.
With this amount of responsibility — and so many lives on the line — there is no room for error and therefore only the world’s top dogs will do. A much better use of shelter dogs, or those who want to donate their pet dogs to the military, is to train them as therapy or service dogs for veterans.
MYTH: Military working dogs are euthanized when their service is complete
Reality: This is another myth that, tragically, was at one point true. After the Vietnam War, military working dogs that completed their service in the military were considered too dangerous to adopt and were routinely put down. Thanks to the passage of Robby’s Law in 2000, all retired military working dogs, if suitable, are now allowed to be adopted. Most retired MWDs (90%) are adopted by their current or former handlers.
Because of this, there is a 12-18 month waiting list for a civilian to adopt a retired MWD. Today, the only reasons an MWD may be euthanized is due to terminal illness or extreme aggression, but every effort is made to have MWD’s be successfully adopted.
MYTH: Every military working dog is trained to detect both narcotics and explosives
Reality: While all dogs receive the same patrol training, not all receive the same detection training. Each dog trained in detection specializes in either narcotics or explosives detection but not both. There are several different odors for both narcotics and explosives for dogs to learn, too much for a dog team to train and be proficient on so they must specialize in one or the other.
Also, there are different tactics in detecting narcotics vs. explosives, and even if your dog was trained on both and responds, how would you know to call the bomb squad or narcotics unit? That being said, it should be noted that some also believe MWD’s will retrieve what they find and bring it to the handler. MWD’s are trained to get as close as possible to the odor and then respond without ever touching it.
MYTH: All military working dogs are male
Reality: Females make just as good of an MWD as their male counterparts and are frequently used. They meet the same standards males do in becoming certified military working dogs in both patrol and detection. The only real and obvious difference is females are generally smaller than the males but in a military working dog world it’s not the size of the dog that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, and well trained female MWD’s will fight at all costs to protect their handlers as MWD Amber demonstrates (pictured above).
MYTH: Military working dogs are considered equipment
Reality: Once again, the most tragic moment in the history of the military working dog program was when they were considered to be surplus equipment at the end of the Vietnam war and left behind. However, the mentality that the military still considers them that way ended years ago. For all intents and purposes MWD’s are in no way thought of, treated, or tracked as equipment.
All MWD’s do receive a National Stock Number, or NSN, which allows the military to track and identify them but it’s the same as every service member being designated with a MOS (military occupational specialty) code so the military can track the kind of training they receive. Additionally, any official language found referring to MWD’s as equipment is currently being eliminated.
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan dropped 5,075 bombs during close-air-support, escort, or interdiction operations in August, according to US Air Forces Central Command data.
The August total was the highest of any month during the three-year campaign against the terrorist group.
The previous monthly high was 4,848 in June. Each of first eight months of 2017 has exceeded the amount of bombs dropped in any other month of the campaign.
The number of weapons released through the first eight months of 2017 is 32,801, surpassing the 30,743 dropped all last year, which was the previous annual high for the campaign.
The 13,109 sorties so far this year is on pace to fall short of the total in 2016 and 2015 — both of which exceeded 21,100. The 8,249 sorties with at least one weapon deployed so far this year are set to top last year’s 11,825, however.
Both Iraq and Syria have seen intense urban fighting this year, which often requires more active air support.
The battle to retake Mosul in Iraq began in October 2016 and formally ended in July, while the final stage of fighting for Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital in Syria, began in June and is ongoing.
Not all aircraft active over Iraq and Syria are under Air Forces Central Command’s control, so the figures likely understate the total number of weapons deployed.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also intervened to request more money for bombs in response to concerns about expenditures in the US Central Command area of operations, which includes the Middle East.
Mattis asked for about $3.5 billion more for “preferred munitions,” including 7,664 Hellfire missiles and 34,529 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” and he appears to have keep that pledge.
Bombing during Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — the recent stages of which US commanders have referred to as an “annihilation campaign” — has reached “unprecedented levels” under Trump, according to Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the increase has extended to other areas, like Yemen and Somalia, as well.
The intensified bombing appears to have yielded a higher civilian death toll. There were at least 2,300 civilians killed by coalition strikes during the Obama administration, and between Trump’s January 20 inauguration and mid-July, there had been over 2,200 civilian casualties, according to monitoring group Airwars.
Other estimates put the number of civilian deaths much higher, and there is similar uncertainty about the number of ISIS fighters who have been killed. Coalition officials have made several estimates about the total slain, despite doubts about the utility and reliability of body counts.
Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said in July that “conservative estimates” put the number of ISIS dead between 60,000 and 70,000, echoing an statement he made in February.
The Pentagon said in summer 2016 that there were 15,000 to 20,000 ISIS militants left in Iraq and Syria, and US officials said in December that 50,000 of the terrorist group’s fighters had been killed — twice as many as the UK defense minister claimed had been killed that same month.
The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.
No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.
His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”
The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.
Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.
The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.
“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”
In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.
Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.
Ed Tipper, a member of the famous D-Day-era “Easy Company,” died at his home in Lakewood, Colorado, Feb. 1.
He was 95.
According to a report by the Denver Post, the former paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, spent over 30 years as a teacher before retiring in 1979. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations, for his service in World War II.
The Daily Caller noted that Tipper suffered severe wounds during the Battle of Carentan, including the loss of his right eye, when a German mortar shell hit while he was clearing a house. The opening credits of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” shows Tipper, played by Bart Raspoli, being comforted by Joe Liebgott, played by Ross McCall, in the aftermath of that hit.
“So much of what people talk about with him is what he did in the war. That was two years and really six days starting on D-Day,” his daughter, Kerry Tipper, told the newspaper. “Teaching was 30 years.”
Most notable, though, is that despite the wounds, which included two broken legs, Tipper managed to carry on a very active life.
“He just refused to accept people’s limitations,” his daughter Kerry told the Denver Post. The newspaper reported that Tipper took a list of things doctors said he couldn’t do and made it a checklist. He was known to be an avid skier well into his 80s.
His daughter also added that Tipper, like many in Easy Company, felt, “a little embarrassed that their group got attention, that theirs was spotlighted when there were so many other groups that did incredible things and made sacrifices.”
According to the Denver Post, Tipper is survived by a wife who he married in 1982, a daughter and a son-in-law. A public memorial service is scheduled for June 1.
Below, see the Battle of Carentan as portrayed in “Band of Brothers.” Ed Tipper is wounded at around 7:14 into the video:
The UK and Japan are carrying out their first joint military exercise in the latter country, as both look for ways to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Soldiers from Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company are at a training camp near Mt. Fuji in Japan, where they are drilling with troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Vigilant Isles.
The exercise started with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill and will continue for two weeks in Ojijihara, north of Sendai on Honshu, which is Japan’s largest island.
Japanese and British soldiers will be deployed to a rural training area there for drills focused on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques, according to The Telegraph.
Japanese forces have carried out joint drills with the British navy and air force, “but this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the HAC.
“There’s always a commonality with soldiers — equipment, interest in each other’s weapons, each other’s rations — so I think that always gives any soldier a basis for a discussion, a common point,” Lance Sgt. Liam Magee told the British Forces Network.
The exercise comes roughly a year after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan to discuss trade and defense issues. During that trip, May toured Japan’s largest warship and became the first European leader to sit in on a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.
The two countries released a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which they pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises. May also said three times that the countries were “natural partners,” and “each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe.”
The UK has in recent months also taken a more active approach to countering China, whose growing influence and assertiveness in the region has put it at odds with many of its neighbors.
A British warship sailed through the South China Sea in March 2018, and British ships accompanied French vessels through the area in summer 2018. At the end of August 2018, a British ship had a close encounter with Chinese frigate as it sailed near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands.
In Japan, which is also watching China warily, Abe’s hawkish government has made a number of moves on sea and land to build military capacity.
The country’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever, and this year saw the Ground Self-Defense Force’s largest reorganization since 1954. Japan’s military has also said it would raise the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32 to ensure “a stable supply” of personnel. The force is also looking to bring in more women.
1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.
Earlier in 2018, Tokyo activated an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, and it has carried out several exercises already in 2018.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships joined a US carrier strike group for drills in the South China Sea at the end of August 2018, and September 2018 saw a Japanese submarine join surface ships for an exercise in the same area — Japan’s first sub deployment to the contested region.
Tokyo has made moves farther afield to counter China as well.
The government of Montenegro has defended its contribution to peace in response to a comment from the U.S. President Donald Trump, who said in July 2018 that the tiny Balkan state’s “aggressive” people were capable of triggering “World War III.”
In a July 19, 2018 statement, the Montenegrin government said, “We are proud of our history, our friendship and alliance with USA is strong and permanent.”
“[Montenegro] was the first [country] in Europe to resist fascism, and today as a new NATO member and a candidate for EU membership it contributes to peace and stability not only on the European continent but worldwide, and along with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The statement also stressed that while building friendly relations with other countries, Montenegro was ready “to boldly and defensively protect and defend our own national interests.”
U.S. President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“In today’s world, it does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity, and democracy. Therefore, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the United States of America is strong and permanent,” the statement concluded.
In his interview to Fox News television aired on July 17, 2018, Trump said Montenegrins were strong, “very aggressive” people and suggested he feared NATO’s newest member could drag the alliance into World War III.
Trump then acknowledged that under Article 5, which enshrines the principal of collective defense, NATO would have to defend Montenegro if it is attacked because “that’s the way it was set up.”
Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member in June 2017, marking a historic geopolitical turn toward the transatlantic alliance amid opposition from Russia.
Russia has long opposed any further NATO enlargement and has bitterly criticized Podgorica’s accession to the alliance.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the grill master or pit mistress:
~ a pack of spice rubs from the kitchen of a Vietnam vetrepreneur ~
“One of the beauties of being a human being is that you have the ability to adapt.”
Gene (Cappy) Holmon is a force at a farmer’s market. I’d know. All it took him was five minutes talking to my wife about his local Los Angeles line of dry rub spices and she came straight home and put me in a headlock until I promised to include Cappy’s Dry Rub in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide.
And she doesn’t really like meat. But she’s sure got a thing for Cappy.
I caught up with Holmon this week and got the 411 on how an Army veteran who was disabled during the Tet Offensive in 1968 first transitioned to a busy career as a FedEx Distribution Hub Director before pivoting to become the Meat Spice King of Los Angeles. Brace yourself. It involves losing an arm.
Holmon had been in Vietnam about 6 months when he was injured in combat, suffering damage from both AK-47 rounds and what he assumes was an RPG. Medics amputated his right arm above the elbow in a field hospital before sending him to Japan for recovery.
“…I was pretty depressed…I think it was probably three days before I actually looked to see if my arm was still there…I was in an amputee ward and I saw a lot of guys, you know, like me but with both legs gone…or both legs and an arm or something like that and at that point I said, well, hey, I’m not that bad off…At that point I just decided to get better.”
Holman returned home to San Francisco and studied business management at USF on the G.I. Bill. Then he returned to his previous employer, UPS. He quickly rose through the ranks to Division Manager of UPS Hub Operations for all of Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Nevada. That’s when FedEx poached him to help implement their new Super Hub Distribution Center in Memphis.
And as he tracked across the American South for business, he sampled the many flavors of sauce, spice and smoke upon which Southern culinary tradition pins its most heartfelt pride.
By the time he retired, Holmon was experimenting with his own blends of dry rub spices, perfecting his grill skills, and winning praise for his cooking at family events. When California Cottage Law went into effect in 2013, Holmon’s wife Paulette urged him to offer his blends to the public and Cappy’s was born. But because Cottage Law permitting initially limits sales to direct-to-consumer, Holman found that he’d have to adapt from being the distribution genius behind the scenes to being a grassroots-level, Face-of-the-Brand at farmer’s markets and local boutique grocery stores.
It can’t have been too hard. Insider knowledge: Cappy is a peach. As soon as you meet him, you’re sipping the paprika-flavored Kool-Aid.
Cappy’s has since expanded to online sales, which is where we wholeheartedly recommend that you go to order yourself one or several of his blends in time for Holiday cooking. Cappy’s Dry Rubs are great on meats, obviously, but check out how well they crossover to fruits and vegetables. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?
Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.
Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.
Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.
Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.
As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.
Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.
While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.
Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.
Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.
Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.
There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.
This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.
So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.
Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The media dubbed it “The Worm that Ate the Pentagon” and it was the most serious breach of the Pentagon’s classified computer systems. In November 2008, the Army caught a worm called Agent.btz crawling through the Defense Department’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network – the classified SIPRNet – as well as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System used by the U.S. government’s top intel agencies.
No one knows if any information was taken or who its creator was. All they know is it took 14 months to eradicate.
The worst breach of U.S. military computers in history begins in 2008, in a parking lot at a U.S. military installation in the Middle East. A flash drive infected with a virus called “agent.btz” was inserted into a DoD computer network and quickly spread throughout the U.S. military’s classified and unclassified networks. Data – anything on these networks – could now be transferred to other servers under the control of agent.btz’s creator. The worst part is that no one knew it was there, what it might have sent, and to who the information went.
Once in place, the malicious code began to “beacon” out to its creator, letting whoever created it know that it was in place and ready for further instructions. That’s the only way analysts from the NSA’s Advanced Networks Operations team noticed it was there. At the height of the Global War on Terror, the Pentagon’s defense intelligence networks had been compromised.
“Go over to that village and get the wifi password. My USB drive isn’t working.”
The NSA and DoD quickly determined the cause of the infection, and banned thumb drives as a response. They then collected thousands of thumb drives from officers and other troops in the field, finding they were all infected with the worm as well. Reports of new infections to the network didn’t slow down until well into 2009. In an operation called “Buckshot Yankee,” the Defense Department led an all-out assault on the worm. The effort was so intense and deliberate that it led to the creation of the 11th military unified command – The U.S. Cyber Command.
Pentagon officials blame Russian agents for the virus, but individuals who worked on Buckshot Yankee dismiss that assertion, saying that the worm, though potentially destructive, ended up being “relatively benign.” Still, others assert that Russian intelligence agencies have used code similar to agent.btz before. Even with the concerted effort against the worm, Pentagon officials couldn’t answer the simplest of questions. How many computers were affected? How many drives were infected? Where was the virus’ patient zero?
No one knew. To this day, no one knows for sure.
The Air Force’s “silent service.”
In the end, it taught the Defense Department an important lesson. It was much more vulnerable to a small threat, even a cyber threat, than it should have been. Now the DoD claims it is better-equipped to detect such threats and infections, and to respond to them. The policy shift took the responsibility of protecting classified and unclassified Defense networks out of the hands of the local IT troops (or contractors) and put it in the hands of senior commanders.