Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again - We Are The Mighty
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Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.


“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”

He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.

“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.

“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”

Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.

“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”

Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.

What is retinitis pigmentosa?

“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”

In 2014, the National Eye Institute generally estimated that the rare disorder affected roughly 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S. and worldwide.** This genetic condition results from a mutation in more than 100 genes and can present in individuals without family history of the disorder. It usually develops gradually either early or later in life and eventually causes significant visual impairment, according to Gregori. In severe cases, the disorder can cause a complete loss of vision, forcing people like Catalan to find ways to cope and emotionally adjust to life with the condition.

Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.

“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”

The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.

“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.

Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

Moving to Florida

In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.

“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”

Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.

In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.

One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time

When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.

“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”

Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.

“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.

It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present

Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.

“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”

“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”

Catalan’s progress

Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.

“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.

During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.

“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”

About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System

The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.

According to the Second Sight website, more than 200 patients worldwide have now received the prosthesis. To learn more about the Argus II, visit the Second Sight Medical Products Inc. website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Intense bombing brings Syrian rebels to the bargaining table

Rebels in besieged areas of southwestern Syria say they are returning to negotiations with Russia over a possible pullout after an intensive bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian forces.

The move by rebel forces on July 5, 2018, comes after a brief suspension of the Moscow-brokered negotiations that have produced agreements already to return more than 30 towns to government control in the strategic zone of southern Syria bordering both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A brief collapse of the talks on July 4, 2018, ushered in a blitz of Russian and Syrian air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles, following a pattern Russia and Syria have pursued repeatedly to regain control over rebel territory.


The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria’s seven-year civil war, prompting an international outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s goal is to recapture Syria’s entire southwest, one of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

Within 24 hours of the resumed bombing, rebels said they wanted to return to negotiations, with the talks focusing on their pullout from the territory they still control in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Daraa is considered to be the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad that triggered the devastating war, which has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions.

Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south’s joint rebel command, accused Russia of pursuing a “scorched-earth policy” to force rebels back to the negotiating table.

As rebels agreed to renewed talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported a halt to both Russian and Syrian government air strikes over the south.

Rebels say Russia has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

Moscow also reportedly has refused rebel requests for safe passage to opposition-held territory in other parts of Syria, as was granted to rebels who agreed to pull out of Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

Rebels then handed some 275 square kilometers of territory near the border to government forces without a fight, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nearly 150 civilians have died since the government assault in the south began two weeks ago, according to the observatory.

Many of the area’s 320,000 displaced people have been fleeing south to the borders with Jordan and the Golan Heights, the UN says.

But both Israel and Jordan have kept their borders closed, despite mounting calls to let Syrians escape to safety.

The International Rescue Committee said displaced families are struggling to cope with 45-degree heat, scorpions, and snakes in the open desert area.

Rebel territory in southern Syria was included in a cease-fire zone created last year in a deal between Washington, Amman, and Moscow, but that did little to halt the government’s assault.

Near the start of the government’s offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of the cease-fire deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it had told them to expect no American military help.

The onslaught has sparked calls for restraint and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on July 5, 2018. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an “estimated 750,000 lives are in danger.”

But Russia blocked the council from adopting a statement on the issue. A diplomat said on condition of anonymity there had been a fruitless push to persuade Moscow to accept a pause in fighting to distribute humanitarian aid.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Benefits restored to 4,200 veterans who are less dead than the VA thought

Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.


Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Rep. David Jolly

“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”

The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s massive Air Force is a joke

North Korea has a massive air force that outnumbers the South Korean and US jets it’s meant to counter mostly with Russian-made fighters and bombers, but in reality the force is basically a joke.

According to a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report on North Korea’s conventional military, the air force has 110,000 officers and enlisted personnel taking care of approximately 1,650 aircraft. That force includes about 820 combat aircraft, 30 reconnaissance aircraft, and 330 transport aircraft.

“During wartime, the force likely has the capability to conduct a limited, short-term strategic and tactical bombing offensive and to launch a surprise attack,” IISS assesses.

Because the jets are spread out across a wide swath of the country, North Korea is most likely able to “conduct strike missions against command and-control facilities, air-defence assets, and industrial facilities without rearranging or relocating its aircraft,” the report says.


The IISS says North Korea’s best jets are its MiG-29 fighters, which it probably only has a few dozen of, its 46 MiG-23 fighters, and its roughly 30 Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. “The remaining aircraft are older, and less capable MiG-15s, MiG-17/J-5s, MiG-19/J-6s, MiG-21/J-7 fighters and Il-28/H-5 light bombers,” the report says.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
A MiG-29 of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence.
(Photo by Srđan Popović)

But all of those planes are from the 1980s, and IISS says they can’t hang in today’s environment of electronic warfare.

This is something the US would be sure to exploit, as almost all of its jets have jamming capabilities and its aircraft carriers can transport specialty electronic-warfare planes.

Additionally, the US and South Korea’s abilities to monitor North Korean planes via satellite and recon drones severely blunts any surprise attacks they could pull off.

Even worse for North Korea than the age of its planes, however, could be its pilots’ lack of training. Because North Korea relies on China for almost all of its jet fuel, and that item has long been under sanction, it has to preserve the precious little fuel it does have.

This means less flight time for pilots and less time training in the real world, and it almost certainly precludes realistic training against adversarial jets.

A video in 2015 showed North Korean pilots walking around with toy planes in front of Kim Jong Un, who observed their training. Another shot shows the pilots at flight simulators, a tool commonly used by air forces around the world.

For this reason, North Korea relies heavily on building hardened, bomb-resistant ground structures for its jets and using surface-to-air missiles to fight any prospective air wars.

North Korea’s air force actually has modest capability impressive for a country of its size and income, but it simply could not contend with South Korean and US jets.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military spends millions to not upgrade computers

The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.


Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?

www.youtube.com

The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.

The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.

But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)

When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.

(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)

If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.

(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)

And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.

So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.

And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.

While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.

So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.

But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.

Articles

This is North Korea’s simulation of the missile destroying the US

North Korea celebrated decades of hard work on its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile with a giant concert complete with pyrotechnics, an orchestra, and a simulation video of its missile destroying the entire U.S. mainland.


The concert not only featured the simulation video, but photos of the real missile tested by the North Koreans, providing missile analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere tons of hidden details to study.

Because North Korea remains one of the most closed-off nations on earth, the imagery it posts of its missiles is an excellent source of intelligence for civilian and military analysts alike.

Watch the clip below:

Articles

These 5 dogs of war took it to America’s enemies

Working dogs are an integral part of modern military life, but dogs have been accompanying humans into combat since before recorded history. Alexander the Great’s dog, Peritas, took down a charging elephant. An unnamed Newfoundland rescued Napoleon during his escape from exile on the Isle of Elba. The Dog of Robert the Bruce (yes that Robert the Bruce) defended the Scottish King from English troops.


Here are five more pups whose bravery is awe-inspiring:

1. Stubby

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Stubby on the watch.

 

The war dog of war dogs, this American Pit Bull Terrier was found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917 and smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy.  Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in 17 battles. He used his keen senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers on the battlefield. He was promoted to sergeant – the highest rank achieved by a military animal at that time – after sniffing out a German spy in the trenches. Sgt. Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades, and was also injured in Mustard Gas attacks. Because of that he was issued his own, specially designed, gas mask. His handler smuggled him home after the war. Soon after, he met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. In 1921, General John J. Pershing presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society to Stubby. Stubby died in 1926.

2. Chips

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Chips was a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix whose owner donated him for duty during World War II. He was trained as a sentry dog and deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Later that year, during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners, which caused them to surrender. In the fight he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take 10 Italians prisoner. Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions, but unfortunately, the commendations were revoked as military policy at the time didn’t allow such recognition for animals. Chips was discharged in 1945 and returned to his original family, who in turn gave Chips to his military handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell.

3. Kaiser

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Kaiser was a German Shepherd and one of 4,000 dogs who served in the Vietnam War. His handler was Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in twelve major operations together. After they joined “D” Company for a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed by the Viet Cong while on patrol in 1966. Kaiser was hit in the initial contact and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during Vietnam.

4. Nemo

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

On December 4, 1966, Nemo and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol near an airbase in Vietnam when they suddenly came under concentrated enemy fire. Nemo took a round to his eye while Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Nemo viciously jumped at the enemy, giving Throneburg time to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his body to protect him. The dog didn’t let anyone touch his handler, and it a veterinarian had to sedate Nemo so medics could attend to Thorneburg. Both survived, and Nemo lived until 1972.

5. Smoky

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The unlikely hero at four pounds and seven inches long, the Yorkshire Terrier was initially found in February 1944 after being abandoned in a foxhole in New Guinea. The dog was purchased by Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio, who backpacked with Smoky all over the Pacific Campaign, both living on a diet of C-rations and spam. Smoky was a trooper, even running on coral ground for months, without developing health issues. Smoky Served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 rescue and photo reconnaissance missions. Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars. She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa. Smoky even parachuted from 30 feet in the air, out of a tree, using a parachute made just for her. Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on an LST, calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” On the Philippine Island of Luzon, she pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe, saving construction time and keeping workers and engineers safe from enemy fire. She died in 1957 at the age of 14.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s F-35 fleet reportedly made 7 emergency landings before that crash

Five of Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-35 jets reportedly made seven emergency landings prior to a crash somewhere in the Pacific Ocean last week, the Ministry of Defense said, according to the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.

Two of the emergency landings were related to the crashed F-35, but the Defense Ministry approved the aircraft to fly again. The emergency landings occurred in flight tests between June 2017 and January 2019, The Mainichi reported.

Among other issues, the F-35s reportedly had problems with the fuel and hydraulics systems. The diagnosed aircraft were were inspected and refitted with parts.


The crashed F-35, which was assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan, was reportedly diagnosed with cooling and navigation system problems in June 2017 and August 2018, according to The Mainichi.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The aircraft, designated AX-6, is the second F-35A assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ F-35 Final Assembly Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan and is the first to be assigned to the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.

(JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.)

Four of the five F-35s with problems were also assembled by Mitsubishi, while the fifth aircraft was reportedly assembled in the US. All of Japan’s F-35s have been temporarily grounded.

The downed 6 million aircraft marked the first time an international ally has lost an F-35. Search-and-rescue teams were able to locate debris of the wreckage but the pilot is still missing.

The particular F-35 was the first one assembled in the Mitsubishi plant and was piloted by a veteran who had 3,200 hours of flying time, according to Defense News and Reuters. The pilot reportedly had 60 hours of flying time in the F-35.

Following the crash, the US and Japan have conducted an intensive search for the aircraft. The Lockheed Martin-developed, fifth-generation fighter boasts several technological and stealth features, which could provide rivaling nations like Russia or China valuable intelligence, if found.

“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted.

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

Articles

The Army-Navy game has more riding on it than you think

The service academy college football teams play each other every year, despite playing in difference conferences. The series is one of very few triangular rivalries in college football. It features the U.S. Military Academy (Army Black Knights), the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy Midshipmen) and the U.S. Air Force Academy (Air Force Falcons).


Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
President Barack Obama looks at the helmet given to him by the United States Naval Academy football team during the ceremony to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the team in the East Room of the White House, April 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Navy–Air Force game is traditionally played on the first Saturday in October, with the Army–Air Force game on the first Saturday in November. The Army-Navy game is the biggest of the three, because it’s the oldest of the three, first played in 1890 and annually since 1930. It’s also the last in the series, played on the second Saturday in December and it often decides which academy gets the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy.

The trophy itself is almost three feet high and weighs 170 lbs. It is awarded to the service academy with the best inter-service football record.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, on the Air Force side.

While there are many trophies in college football rivalry, there are only two teams invited to the White House and congratulated by the President every year: the national championship team and the service academy who wins the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
President Reagan presenting Army with the 1984 trophy.

Since Nixon began the annual contest between the three academies in 1972, it’s been a slugfest on the field when these teams play throughout the season, even if the teams themselves haven’t performed so well. Besides, it’s not just about trophies, it’s about service pride.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
President George W. Bush congratulates the Navy football team during the Commander In Chief’s trophy ceremony at the White House Rose Garden. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Alan J. Baribeau)

Air Force is the all-time leader in wins, with 19. Navy is a close second with 14, and a likely win in 2015. The longest streak also belongs to Navy, who held it for seven years from 2003 until 2010. Army only won 6 times since 1972 and the last President to present Army with a trophy was President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Articles

The Air Force wants to replace ‘terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.


Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US troops demolish ISIS leader’s compound to keep it from becoming a shrine

US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerous news reports.

Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.


US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.

Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.

Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.

Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation

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In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.

Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran claims it ‘successfully’ launched military satellite

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on April 22 that it launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of failed attempts.

State television and the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch on April 22, calling it “successful.”

The United States, Israel, and other countries did not immediately confirm the satellite reached orbit, but their criticism suggested they believed the launch happened.


Analysts said it raised concerns about whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor (light), was launched this morning from central Iran in two stages. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” state TV said.

The IRGC on its official website said the satellite reached an orbit of 425 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

The multistage satellite launch used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space — a previously unheard-of system, according to the paramilitary group.

Tasnim added that the operation was carried from a launchpad in Dasht-e Kavir, a large desert in central Iran.

Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The United States and Israel have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Following Iran’s latest launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done.”

“We view this as further evidence of Iran’s behavior that is threatening in the region,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told a Pentagon briefing.

General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the launched vehicle “went a very long way” but that it was too early to say whether it successfully placed a satellite in orbit.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “facade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology,” while German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger warned that “the Iranian rocket program has a destabilizing effect on the region.”

The launch comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States over the latter’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.

It also may signal that Iran is more willing to take chances during the current global coronavirus crisis, which has slashed oil prices to historic lows and forced many countries into an economic recession.

“This is big,” said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

“Big question now is what tech the first stage used. Solid propellant? Liquid using old Shahab 3 tech? Liquid using more sophisticated motors/fuels? This is key to establishing how worrisome the launch is from a security perspective,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Germany wants a new nuclear-capable fighter

Germany wants to replace its fleet of 89 Tornado combat jets with a new aircraft that retains the plane’s nuclear capability, but doing so may mean the US gets a say about which aircraft the Luftwaffe ultimately picks, according to Defense News.

As part of a Cold War-era NATO deal, Germany’s Tornados were equipped to carry nuclear weapons in case of a major clash between the alliance and the Soviet Union. That threat waned after the Cold War, as did the number of US nuclear weapons in Germany, but about 20 of the weapons are still there.


Germany is deciding between three US planes — the F-35 and variants of the F-15 and F/A-18 — and a version of the Eurofighter Typhoon being developed by a European consortium.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

A German air force Eurofighter Typhoon taxis to the runway at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska before a combat-training mission, June 11, 2012.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Berlin wants to replace the Tornado — which has been plagued by technical issues— by the mid-2020s. (Germany’s Typhoons have also had problems.) It is leaning toward the European-made Typhoon, but its desire to maintain that nuclear capability could mean the Trump administration will try to play politics with the purchase.

This spring, Berlin asked Washington whether it would certify the Typhoon to carry nuclear weapons, how long it would take to do so, and how much it would cost.

The certification process can take years. European officials working on the Typhoon have said they were confident it could be nuclear-certified by 2025, but US officials have said the process could take seven to 10 years, according to Reuters.

US officials have said that the F-35 and other aircraft must be certified for nuclear weapons first, and a Pentagon spokesman told Defense News that while Germany’s Tornado replacement was “a sovereign national decision,” the US believes “that a U.S. platform provides the most advanced, operationally capable aircraft to conduct their mission.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning, Aug. 22, 2016

(Photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

The Trump administration has pushed European countries to spend more on their own defense, and Trump’s broadsides against NATO have helped inspire European officials to do so. But the Trump administration has also sought to boost exports of US-made weaponry, and US officials have grown concerned about European defense initiatives reducing US defense firms’ access to that market.

Those latter concerns mean the Trump administration could try to nudge Germany toward a US-made aircraft.

But Trump’s contentious dealings with Germany have reinvigorated debate in that country about acquiring its nuclear weapons or developing them with other European countries — ideas that are still anathema for many in Germany, where memories of the destruction and division of World War II and the Cold War linger.

That aversion to nuclear weapons and wariness of Trump may mean Germany will continue doing what it has been doing — paying the financial and political price to keep the nuclear-capable Tornadoes in the air.

“That’s why they will keep flying the Tornados, despite the price tag and despite having asked about a Eurofighter nuclear certification in Washington,” Karl-Heinz Kamp, president of government think tank the Federal Academy for Security Policy, told Defense News.

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

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