There hasn’t been a more shining example of how great the military meme community can be than when its faced with a possible WWIII. The media is reporting every last detail, the civilians are clutching their pearls, and the vets? We’re completely unphased at the prospect of another multi-decade war.
All geopolitics and possible danger aside, at least gearing up for war is a hell of a lot better than just sitting around doing CQ, motor pool Mondays, and online correspondence courses…
Actual war may be benched – but the meme war will continue!
There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.
First, let’s talk about legal piracy.
Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.
Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.
A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.
And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.
Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.
The Justice Department on Thursday indicted two alleged Russian hackers who work for a Russian-backed cybercriminal group called Evil Corp.
Maksim Yakubets is accused of being involved in international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes spanning from May 2009 to the present. He is also alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Igor Turashev was indicted for his alleged role in the “Bugat” malware conspiracy. According to the FBI, Bugat is a “multifunction malware package that automates the theft of confidential personal and financial information … from infected computers through the use of keystroke logging and web injects.”
The State Department, in conjunction with the FBI, offered a reward of up to million for information on both men’s whereabouts. That figure is the highest reward for the arrest and conviction of an alleged cybercriminal to date.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned Evil Corp. on Thursday for its role in using malware to steal more than 0 million from banks and financial institutions.
Russian hacking group “Evil Corp” accused of targeting American businesses
“Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a press release.
“For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world,” said US Attorney Scott Brady, who represents the Western District of Pennsylvania, which was particularly hard hit by the Bugat malware.
(Photo by Philipp Katzenberger)
A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh brought a 10-count indictment against Yakubets and Turashev. The document charged the two Russians with conspiracy, computer hacking, bank fraud, and wire fraud in connection with Bugat.
The indictment also accused Yakubets and Turashev of using individuals, known as “money mules,” to take their stolen funds and smuggle them overseas.
Ultimately, the indictment said, the two defendants were able to steal “millions of dollars” and the scheme was active as recently as March of this year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Norway summoned the Iranian ambassador in Oslo on Nov. 1, 2018, to protest a suspected assassination plot against an Iranian Arab opposition figure in Denmark that allegedly involved a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin.
Denmark said on Oct. 30, 2018, that it suspects the Iranian intelligence service tried to carry out an assassination on its soil. It is now calling for new European Union-wide sanctions against Tehran.
A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested in Sweden on Oct. 21, 2018, in connection with the plot and extradited to Denmark, Swedish police have said.
“We see the situation that has arisen in Denmark as very serious and that a Norwegian citizen of Iranian background is suspected in this case,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.
She said that during her meeting with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Habibollah Zadeh, “we underlined that the activity that has come to light through the investigation in Denmark is unacceptable.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The target of the alleged plot was the leader of the Danish branch of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), Danish authorities said.
Danish police said they temporarily closed bridges and halted ferry services to neighboring Germany and Sweden at the end of September 2018 as part of their attempts to foil the plot.
ASMLA seeks a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran’s oil-producing southwestern province of Khuzestan. Arabs are a minority in Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy.
The Norwegian citizen has denied the charges, and the Iranian government has also denied the alleged plot.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen on Oct. 31, 2018, met with other Nordic prime ministers in Norway and said he hoped to secure broader support for a unified response to Iran.
These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.
The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.
But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?
The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.
From battle screen to battlefield
As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.
The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.
Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.
Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”
But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.
Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.
In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.
An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”
Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”
Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.
“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”
Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.
“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”
Militarizing legions of gamers
Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.
Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.
Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.
(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)
Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.
However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.
“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”
Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”
“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added.
Ever since a 2015 poll revealed that a certain slice of Americana supported bombing Agrabah, the fictional city Disney’s Aladdin calls home, it’s been interesting to consider what other fictional countries have actually messed with the United States and totally gotten a pass. Agrabah didn’t actually damage its relations with the U.S., presumably because the U.S. either doesn’t exist yet in that world, or because they don’t have oil.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have attacked America and/or its American heroes and haven’t yet met the full-on retaliation they deserve.
1. Pottsylvania — “Rocky and Bullwinkle”
These guys have been sending special agents to try and kill American heroes FOR YEARS. Pottsylvania is populated entirely by special agents and saboteurs.
Their children are taught assassination techniques and espionage practices from an early age, their highest medal is the Double Cross and their mysterious dictator (known only as “Fearless Leader”) makes Kim Jong-Un look like a teddy bear. Their two most active agents are skilled infiltrators and have never been captured.
2. Bilya — “Iron Eagle”
Bilya is supposed to be a fictional Arab state in the Middle East. These guys had the balls to shoot down an American F-16, capture its pilot, and then sentence him to hang in a show trial.
Luckily, the pilot’s 16-year-old son Doug (an Air Force Academy reject) and Chappie, an Air Force Reserve pilot, steal two F-16s of their own and fly off to Bilya to rescue him. What should have happened was America launching an all-out raid on Bilyan infrastructure and military targets. Then, after they released the American they took for no reason, the Bilyans would pay us back the $18 million they owe us for shooting down our F-16.
3. Val Verde — “Commando,” “Predator,” and “Die Hard 2“
This nondescript South American country has more coups than a flock of pigeons (say that sentence aloud for the full effect). For some reason, all of their worst representatives seem to end up in the United States, ready to coerce American heroes to do their bidding.
Fortunately, John Matrix lives inside an unlimited ammo cheat code world.
In “Commando,” a deposed dictator named Arius kidnaps John Matrix’ daughter to force him to kill the current president (of Val Verde). Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t even make it to Val Verde. Instead, he ices every single person who came near his daughter.
In “Die Hard 2,” terrorists hit an airport to free another captured dictator, ruining John McClane’s Christmas, everyone’s flight schedules, and never taking any blame for what they do.
And that is United Airlines’ job.
In “Predator,” Dutch Schaeffer’s commando team has to mount a hostage rescue from guerrillas in Val Verde. You might know what happens next (hint: it has something to do with an invisible alien).
Seriously, how many times do they get to mess with America before we do something about this? Who is the President in this movie universe? And I am dying to know more about this place – what are the exports, other than terrorism and contras?
4. Latveria – Marvel Comics
Latveria is an Eastern European nation tucked back into the Carpathian Mountains, led by a guy whose name is freaking Dr. Victor von Doom. Even George W. Bush could convince the world that this guy needed to be ousted, and he wouldn’t have to throw Colin Powell under a bus to do it.
Dr. Doom is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism. Doom is responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, attempted assassinations of allied heads of state, and oh so many crimes against humanity.
Conflicting reports from U.S. officials and terrorist leaders suggest a top commander of the militant Islamic State group might have been killed in a U.S. airstrike near the embattled Syrian town of Aleppo.
The Pentagon said in a release late yesterday that a precision airstrike had targeted a vehicle that officials say Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was riding in. Al-Adnani was believed to be the ISIS group’s top spokesman and a key player in inspiring so-called “lone wolf” attacks on Western targets, including the shooting rampages in Paris, France, and Orlando, Florida.
“Al-Adnani has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. “He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members.”
While the American military was uncertain whether Al-Adnani had been killed in the strike on Al Bab, near Aleppo, the Islamic State confirmed his death in a statement.
Analysts say the result, if confirmed, is an effective blow against the terrorist group, which has seen its hold on territory in both Iraq and Syria wither under U.S., coalition and Russian air and ground assaults in recent weeks.
“He was an important Islamic State leader and one of the top remaining leaders of the old guard,” said terrorism analyst and founder of The Long War Journal Bill Roggio. “It’s definitely a good kill.”
But while ISIS has now lost three of its top leaders in one year, the death of al-Adnani could have the unintended consequence of bringing rival terrorist groups together. For years, Roggio says, al-Adnani has been at odds with al Qaeda — eventually causing a very public split and disavowal from Osama bin Laden’s successor, Aymen al Zawahiri.
With al-Adnani gone and only one of the Islamic State’s founding leaders left on the battlefield, the group behind the 9/11 attacks could rise as ISIS falls.
“In it’s way, al-Adnani’s death could pave the way for a rapprochement with al Qaeda,” Roggio said. “It could have implications that could bolster other jihadist movements.”
Al-Adnani may have been an important leader and a key victory in the war against ISIS, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. military is planning to stop going after them anytime soon.
“The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies, and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Cook said.
Russia celebrated its Navy Day on July 29, 2018, with a naval parade on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, a day of pomp and military power that Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.
The parade, which involved 40 warships, 38 aircraft, and about 4,000 troops, was unfolding when a Serna-class landing craft collided with a bridge. Oops.
The video below shows the Ivan Pas’ko going about 8 to 10 knots as it collides with the bridge, jolting and even knocking over some of the crew members who had been standing at attention.
It’s unclear how the incident happened, and there were no reports of injuries, but the bridge and ship were partially damaged, according to Defence Blog, which first reported it. Some egos were most likely scraped up as well.
The Russian navy “will get 26 new warships, boats and vessels, four of them equipped with Kalibr missiles,” Putin said during a speech at the parade, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
The US Army is using its developmental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) heads-up display, which was created to help soldiers better wage war on future battlefields, to combat the novel coronavirus, the service revealed.
The Army recently tweaked the software for a number of IVAS prototype goggles to allow the devices to detect fevers, and soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia have been using them to scan hundreds of troops on base.
“That’s the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our Soldiers need tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, who heads PEO Soldier, said in a statement.
The Army has been partnering with Microsoft to create a mixed-reality heads-up display for the dismounted soldier that offers a warfighter immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in digital space.
With this system, soldiers can see in the dark, shoot around corners, translate text, take photos and video, and track targets, among other things.
Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, IVAS is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s signature modernization effort, and the team has been pushing forward with its development even as the coronavirus continues to upend plans.
At the same time, the Army has figured out how to use its IVAS head-up display to help combat the virus.
The service is using the system to “rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of Soldiers as they prepare for training” at Fort Benning, where thousands of soldiers go through a variety of different courses and training programs, the Army said in a statement.
One common symptom among individuals who have been infected by the coronavirus is a fever.
Last week, Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science Technology Special Project Office with C5ISR’s Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, realized that the HUD’s digital thermal sensors used to detect enemies in the dark could be repurposed to spot temperature spikes.
Modified IVAS heads-up displays were quickly sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. With these devices, which display scanned forehead and inner eye temperatures in the user’s goggles, soldiers were able to scan and process around 300 individuals in just 30 minutes.
The Army said that anyone who had a fever was sent to a nearby medical facility for evaluation.
Scanning was carried out indoors in a facility where commercial thermal referencing sources were used to calibrate the devices to room temperature.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future. No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today,” Bowman said in a statement.
If everything goes according to plan, the Army intends to start fielding IVAS goggles to soldiers in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, in summer of next year.
Shopping in any grocery store with children (young or old) can be a real pain. Add in going to the commissary on payday and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Maybe you’ve already tried all of the tricks for navigating shopping with kids in tow. Or are you are new to the whole grocery with kids game? Either way, try these five parent-tested secrets for making it through the experience without losing your mind.
1. Do it in the car
No list? No plan? Before you jump out of the car, write down must-have items and meal ideas, then prep any necessary items before you unleash the munchkins. Refresh your mind on coupons, write down any necessary purchases you remembered on your way there, and make sure you have any distraction items for the baby. It’s better to do this now than before you get in the store.
2. Get Attached
If they are little enough, the best place to have your kids is hanging out on you in a carrier. You can talk to them while you go to shelves and they aren’t climbing out of the cart and getting hurt. If they are at the in-between age where they want to run around, make holding onto the cart a game. “If you hold on through this aisle, you can pick out the cereal.” Or, if they sit still in the cart, say they can have a slice of cheese at the deli or bring a healthy treat along to get them through a rough spot. Make the reward something that can be given sooner rather than later.
3. Create a game
Involve you kids in the process and they’ll look at the grocery store as a fun place to be. Can they spy something orange in the fruit section? Find things that begin with “A”? See if they can locate the can of tomatoes you always buy first. How many uniforms can they count in the store? Don’t be afraid of looking a little silly. The commissary is a little crazy on payday anyway!
4. Give them a job
Oh, how kids love to help! But often it is the kind of help that gets them in trouble. Instead of letting them pick and choose their role, give your little helper a job each time you go. “You are in charge of crossing things off of the list.” Be sure to bring a clipboard. Or maybe they can get the items off of the low shelves. Can they help you pick out apples while sitting in the shopping cart? The more involved you make them on your terms, the less they will be on the receiving end of a reprimand.
5. Acknowledge and avoid their triggers
Kids feed off of your anxiety and the more amped up you are the crazier they feel. If you know you have a big shopping trip, don’t make it 20 minutes before lunchtime. Everyone will be hungry and grumpy, and you’ll have to rush through the store. If naptime is at noon, avoid bumping up against it and opt to go afterwards. If you know your child is going to flip in the cereal aisle, distract him as you grab the Cheerios. You know what has made shopping a miserable experience every trip before so create a battle plan that will keep you and your shopping buddy happy right to the checkout.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has a direct answer when asked what echoes to this day, what continues to influence his thinking and actions even now, 20 years after he found himself on the ground in hostile surroundings, his F-16 Fighting Falcon in the distance smoldering and destroyed.
“Where it echoes most for me is trying to lead with character,” Goldfein said May 7, 2019. “When I talk to young commanders I tell them, ‘As an officer, we never know when some young airman will risk everything to save our lives, to pull us out of bad-guy land, to pull us out of a burning vehicle. They risk everything they hold dear and their families hold dear to save us.’
“And the question at that moment is, am I worthy of their risk?”
For Goldfein, of course, the question and his answer are both meaningful and literal. It is especially potent this month, which marks the 20th anniversary of his shoot-down and rescue during a mission over Serbia.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
The facts of that incident are well known. Goldfein was a squadron commander for the May 2, 1999 mission to find and destroy anti-aircraft batteries. The mission was part of Operation Allied Force, which was NATO’s response to Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians that had risen to an ethnic cleansing. The 78-day air campaign ultimately convinced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate.
Getting to that point, however, was difficult and dangerous. Air power made the difference.
While officially a NATO campaign with many participants and facets, the U.S. Air Force played a prominent role, flying 30,018 sorties and striking 421 fixed targets.
It was a defining moment for the Air Force in several ways. It validated the air expeditionary force concept; it was the first time a B-2 stealth bomber was used in combat and the first significant use of what today are referred to as drone aircraft.
And for Goldfein, it was a life-shaping event that forced him to eject into a moonlit night, test his training and forge a unique command outlook.
It triggered a tight bond with pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, Senior Airman Ron Ellis and Staff Sgt. Andy Kubik, a combat controller. All three bolted from a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and ran toward Goldfein as he emerged from a row of trees and brought him home safely, eluding vigorous gunfire on the way out.
A MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.
For Goldfein, the memory and the lessons from that night endure.
He remembers how the training he received 20 years before that night on the proper way to safely eject, parachute to earth and evade capture, returned clearly and instantly when needed.
“What I found that was amazing in looking back was how little I had to recall,” he said, reciting the stern admonitions of his instructors for a successful “parachute landing fall” – “knees together, don’t look down, roll like a football!”
There also was something more profound that only someone who’s been shot down and rescued can fully understand.
“I wear these stars every day for somebody else,” Goldfein said. “I wear them for some young airmen who risked everything and did a great job that night. So every day you get to serve is a day to pay it forward.”
It also forces him to return to the question, am I worth it?
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Hours before the inauguration of Mexico’s new president in Mexico City, two grenades were thrown at the US consulate in Guadalajara, the country’s second-biggest city and home to one of the largest US expatriate communities in the world.
A little before 11 p.m. local time on Nov. 30, 2018, an unidentified person was caught on film throwing two grenades into the consulate compound in central Guadalajara, which is also the capital of Jalisco state in western Mexico.
The consulate was closed at the time, and no one was killed or injured, but the blast left a 16-inch hole in an exterior wall, and grenade fragments were found at the scene.
The US consulate said the following day that the damage was minimal and that US and Mexican authorities were investigating and “strengthening the security posture” around the consulate. Jalisco state prosecutors also said that federal authorities had taken over the investigation.
While it’s possible the attack Nov. 30, 2018, could be unrelated to organized crime, the timing and nature of the attack suggest it could be tied to political and criminal dynamics in the country.
Guadalajara is the home turf of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, or CJNG, which has grown rapidly over the past decade to become one of Mexico’s largest and most violent criminal groups.
Its rise was boosted by the 2015 shoot-down of a Mexican army helicopter in western Jalisco, killing six soldiers, which came during an operation to capture the cartel’s leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, or “El Mencho,” who is among the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted fugitives.
Purported members of Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation cartel.
Two weeks before the grenades were thrown at the consulate, the cartel purportedly posted a video online in which it threatened to attack the consulate.
In the recording, a bandaged man says he was ordered to attack the consulate and capture Central American men, women, and children for ransom with which to pay Mexican officials to ignore other criminal activity, according to The Dallas Morning News, which could not independently verify the footage.
That attack, the man reportedly said, was to be a message to the US to leave “Mencho alone.”
The Nov. 30, 2018 attack comes a few weeks into the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in New York City. Guzman is the longtime leader of the Sinaloa cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups and a main rival of the CJNG.
Criminal groups may also be hurting because of Central American migrant caravans crossing Mexico that don’t need protection from criminal groups or help from those groups’ human-smuggling networks.
Losing that business ahead of the holiday season have put a strain on cartel leaders, security experts told The Dallas Morning News.
Mexico’s political transition — from the center-right government of Enrique Peña Nieto and his establishment Institutional Revolutionary Party to leftist Lopez Obrador and his new National Regeneration Movement party — may also be stirring turmoil in the underworld.
The CJNG in recent months has also been challenged in Guadalajara. A new group, called Nueva Plaza, is believed to be led by a one-time confidant of Oseguera, and some have said other rivals, namely the Sinaloa cartel, could be backing the new group.
In the past, criminal groups have committed high-profile acts, like dumping bodies in public, on rivals’ turf to draw authorities’ attention there.
“Remember that the [New Generation] grew exponentially and became what it is now since the beginning of the Peña Nieto government,” Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political science professor at George Mason University and expert on security in Mexico, told The Morning News. “But they should not be attracting attention, and with this attack you’re calling for a response from two governments. Why?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.