U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.

White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.

“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.

Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the US military’s only search-and-rescue dog

In 2010, airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Port-au-Prince, the capital and most populous city of Haiti, in response to a magnitude 7 earthquake that impacted millions.

“With the destroyed airfields, it was difficult for many government organizations to land aircraft and provide assistance,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, a pararescueman with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The airmen were able to get on the ground and assist in clearing the airfield thanks to their special capabilities, but they soon faced more complications.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons said.


“A team of special tactics airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.”

“It had been a couple days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives,” Parsons continued.

“It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Callie, a search and rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

In response to scenarios like the Haitian earthquake, Parsons spearheaded a new approach, developing the squadron’s Search and Rescue K-9 program. The effort, launched in 2018, is designed to increase the capabilities of disaster response teams in locating and recovering personnel through the use of specially trained canines.

After several months of preparation, the unit acquired its newest member, Callie, a 26-month-old Dutch shepherd, making her the first search-and-rescue dog in the Department of Defense.

She has now earned multiple qualifications to accommodate the specific skillset of the 123rd STS, including helicopter exfiltration and infiltration, mountain rescue (rappelling plus ice, snow and alpine maneuvers), static line and freefall parachute insertion.

“Callie is trained in live-find,” Parsons said. “She goes into wilderness, collapsed-structure or disaster situations. She’s trained to detect living people, find them, and alert me when she’s located them. We react accordingly, mark the spot and begin the extraction of those people.

“The unique function that we can provide by developing Callie is that we can get her to places that nobody else can get to,” Parsons added. “That’s the biggest benefit that we really saw value in. In the situation like the earthquake in Haiti, we can get her in there, and those days in difference could be the difference in somebody’s life.”

Before Callie’s introduction to the unit, the method of search and rescue in urban settings involved probing and digging with drills and cameras. According to Parsons, this slow and sometimes unreliable method only added tools, weight and difficulty to the process.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov.29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, complete a parachute insertion into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, during an exercise, July 16, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 15, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, alerts Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, her handler, after locating a simulated casualty during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Tech Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, rappel down a cliffside at Louisville, Kentucky, as part of Callie’s familiarization training, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The 123rd SAR K-9 program was funded by the Air National Guard innovation program, meant to enable Airmen to make positive, meaningful change and drive a culture shift toward innovation.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

6 reasons why it would suck to be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars

With release dates just around the corner for the new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and game, Battlefront II, it’s time to fill that Game of Thrones-sized hole in our hearts.


Related: This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition.

Out of all of the troops in the Star Wars canon, no one has it worse than the Stormtrooper. The Clones of the prequel saga were beloved across the Galactic Republic despite having numbers around the same as Eritrea’s military (both at 200,000). And the rebels had somewhat stable living conditions and maintained some form of identity.

But it’s the Imperial Stormtroopers and the First Order Stormtroopers that truly embrace the suck. Still, First Order Stormtroopers have been training since they were born, which is terrible in and of itself. The Stormtroopers of the original trilogy enlisted like troops today and would then realize their Imperial recruiter lied to them.

1. Loss of comrades

With 1,179,293 deaths on the first Death Star and 2,471,647 deaths on the second Death Star, roughly 120 on-screen deaths, and god knows how many Imperials have died elsewhere in the series, it’s fair to say that if you’re a Stormtrooper, death is all around you.

Troopers who would survive would be damaged by survivor’s guilt. The deaths of their comrades, best friends, and squad mates may not mean anything on the scale of the Galactic Empire, but it would devastate the surviving trooper.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
(Image via Funnyjunk)

2. No identity

Every Stormtrooper dons the signature white armor. Only differences would be by rank and position.

All of this would be more apparent when officers over you keep their identity and maintain far more privileges than the average buckethead.

The lost of one’s identity can be detrimental to their mental health. Being forced to work until exhaustion, training constantly (they’d have to, right? They’re formations are impeccable), constant control by higher-ups and other rigors of being a soldier without the benefit of “off-time” would be disastrous.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
I refuse to believe that every one of these Troopers avoided locking their knees and passed out. (Film by 20th Century Fox)

3. Chain of command would be at their throat

Speaking of constant control by higher-ups, the expression “sh*t rolls down hill” would take on a whole new meaning for Stormtroopers.

While in the novels and comics, Darth Vader is seen personally earning the loyalty of his troops, the same could not be said of the rest of a Stormtrooper’s chain of command.

In the real-world military, a threat from a General officer to the next echelon down is taken seriously, even if the consequence is a stern talking to. That rolls into more dire consequences until Article 15’s are tossed around like candy. Now imagine how that would multiply if the General knew he would be force choked in a board meeting for a slight mistake.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
This meme is true… from a certain point of view. (Meme via Twitter)

4. Acclimatization to new planets

Being deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Campbell, Kentucky can take some time to adjust for a U.S. soldier.

Now imagine going from Tatooine to Hoth to Endor. The suit may help with the weather, but the changes in gravity, atmosphere, and day length would still take its toll on a trooper. Expect to go to a new planet many times within the span of a few weeks.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
Yeah. Iraq could totally be Tatooine… wait… those brown marks… OH GOD! Please don’t tell me they had burn pits too! (Film by 20th Century Fox)

5. All of the ways physics would screw you over

Neil deGrasse Tyson would probably have a field day with this.

The science of Star Wars is still fairly vague. The series is more about the adventure than the theoretical physics. Throwing E=MC^2 out the window for a bit, allows nothing with mass to reach the speed of light (if not faster) without a power supply with infinite energy output — let’s keep this going.

The Galactic Empire governs the entirety of the galaxy, all 14,670 light years across. Because even if they could travel faster than the speed of light, everything on the planets would stay the same.

Getting from the capital of Coruscant to the other end of the galaxy on Tatooine would mean hundreds of lifetimes passed while you blinked. An order given on Hoth would take eons to reach Bespin.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Star Wars franchise, meaning everyone is traveling faster than scientifically possible. What would that do to a body? (The answer: nothing good.)

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
Good luck at the Imperial VA… (Image via Reddit)

6. Aiming

And the most commonly attributed trait among the Stormtroopers is their terrible aim.

The first moments we see them they can gun down the rebels on the cruiser with ease. Every battle shown with nameless rebel characters, they shoot perfectly fine. Even a former General in the Clone Army, Obi-wan Kenobi, says “These blast points… Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”

You miss shooting a princess one time — a princess who is also your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ daughter, who your orders are to capture alive, and needs to stay alive so the tracking device can lead your moon-sized planet destroyer over the entire enemy base — you’re forever labeled as having sh*tty aim. No respect for just doing your job.

Other than that moment, they have no problem shooting Princess Leia. Once with a stun laser at the beginning of New Hope and again at the Battle of Endor.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
Existence is pain to a Stormtrooper. (Image via Reddit)

popular

Watch this 92-year-old World War II veteran bring the heat at a major league baseball game

Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.


On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.

See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Friendship in Death: The Nimitz Plot at Golden Gate National Cemetery

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the World War II Commander of the Pacific Fleet, delivered remarks at Golden Gate National Cemetery on the 10th Anniversary of V-J Day, August 14, 1955. The remains of many men who died under his command had been repatriated and rested before him. Nimitz took the loss of life made by his decisions personally and carried the burden with him throughout his life. He spoke directly to his fallen men on this occasion and promised them that the survivors of the war would honor their memory by maintaining military strength to deter future calamity.

Over the next decade, Admiral Nimitz decided that, in death, he wanted to join his men at Golden Gate with a standard military funeral and regulation headstone. He took steps to assure that the shipmates closest to him during World War II could join him as well.


Admiral Nimitz was a humble and no-frills type of man; still, his funerary and burial decisions surprised some. He was the third of four admirals promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. All were entitled to a state funeral and three accepted.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s family standing outside of Golden Gate National Cemetery’s chapel, February 24, 1966. Mrs. Nimitz is seated in front of her son and daughters. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115073, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

When the Kennedy administration approached Nimitz—the last of the surviving Fleet Admirals—about planning his own state funeral and burial in Arlington, Nimitz balked. He told his wife Catherine that “He did not love Washington, he loved it out here, and all of his men from the Pacific were out here.”

Instead, Nimitz had only one special request: that the five stars of his Fleet Admiral insignia be placed in the space reserved for an emblem of belief on his headstone. His biographer, E.B. Potter, speculated that Nimitz, a religious man outside of denominations, made the decision to show that “He had done his best in life.”

There were spaces for six graves in Nimitz’s designated burial plot at Golden Gate. When asked if he had preference for who went into the other four graves, Nimitz said, “I’d like to have Spruance and Lockwood.”

Admirals Raymond Spruance and Charles Lockwood were two of Nimitz’s closest friends during the war and after. Their competency as warfighters and leaders contributed greatly to victory in the Pacific. Spruance delivered key victories, such as Midway, the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Lockwood commanded the successful U.S. submarine operations in the Pacific.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) gives a dinner party in Hawaii for First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on September 22, 1943. (L-R): Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. (NH 58521, Naval History and Heritage Command, WNYD)

As a bonus, another close friend and architect of all major Pacific amphibious landings, Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner already occupied a grave very close to the Nimitz plot. When Nimitz posed the idea to Spruance, he “took to the thing like a duck to water,” as Mrs. Nimitz recalled. Lockwood agreed with the plan as well.

A friend in death

Nimitz died February 20, 1966, with his wife Catherine at his side. He was laid to rest on the cold and blustery afternoon of February 24 (his 81st birthday). Admiral Spruance, recovering from the flu, respectfully stood at attention in his uniform throughout. Mrs. Nimitz found some humor in the day when an uninvited sailor who had served in the Pacific Fleet arrived at the grave dressed in his best cowboy boots and hat. He refused to leave because “This was his commander, [and] he was going to be there come hell or high water.”

While this circumstance would likely have annoyed many, this type of admiration from those who served under him embodied the leadership style of Nimitz. Two nineteen-gun salutes, a 70-plane flyover, and the playing of “Taps” concluded the service.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Funeral of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Procession about to begin journey from the chapel to the gravesite at Golden Gate National Cemetery, February 24, 1966. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115072-B, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants its flag to be raised at a consulate it doesn’t run

The Russian Embassy in Washington has demanded that a flag removed from the now-closed Russian Consulate in Seattle be put back.

The embassy claims that the U.S. removal of the flag “under the cloak of night” in late April 2018, violated international law and was “unacceptable treatment” of the Russian national symbol.


But U.S. State Department officials countered on May 2, 2018, that the Russian flag was lowered “respectfully” from the Seattle consul-general’s residence after it was vacated in April 2018, under orders from the department.

While the Russian Embassy said the mansion is still its property and the flag should still be flying there, the department countered that the house was built on U.S. government-owned land.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home
The building that housed the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

The State Department said it asked Russian consulate personnel to take the flag down themselves before they vacated the premises.

U.S. officials say that U.S. diplomats took down an American flag flying at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg with a brief ceremony when they were similarly ordered to leave by Moscow.

“Since the Russians chose not to treat their own flag with such respect, we have done so for them,” the department said, adding that it will return the flag removed in Seattle to the Russian Embassy.

The Seattle Consulate was shut down in response to allegations that the Russian government poisoned a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom with a nerve-agent in March 2018.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This amazing body armor is made from spider silk

Ten years from now, you might be on patrol with new super lightweight body armor. If you feel something tingling, cool it – you aren’t Spider-Man, but your vest might be made from spider silk – and you probably just need to drink more water. The latest armor under consideration by the U.S. Army isn’t a new kind of porcelain or chemical composition over kevlar. It’s spider stuff.


Making clothing from spider stuff isn’t necessarily new, but mass-producing it might be. The photo above is of a vest made of silk from the Golden Orb Spider, native to Madagascar. It took the designers eight years and a million spiders to make the vest, but the designers of the new body armor aren’t going for anything so intricate.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Ballistic spider silk panels.

Spider silk is a protein-rich liquid that dries into a solid filament that can vary in composition depending on what the spider is doing with the web, such as weaving a web for food or creating an egg sac. It’s flexible, able to stretch well beyond its original length, stronger than steel, and most importantly, can create a mesh able to stop a bullet. But until recently, no one has been able to create enough of the stuff to actually make and test viable options for stopping bullets.

Researchers from Utah State University were able to program the DNA of silkworms to integrate spider proteins into their own silk. Silkworms even spin the silk into threads on their own. The result is twice as strong and elastic as silkworm silk and can be created on an industrial scale. The result was able to stop a slow-moving .22-caliber round with only four layers. Standard Kevlar armor uses 33 layers.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

A bullet can penetrate 29 layers of kevlar.

In 2018 Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced it was creating panels like those shown above in large quantities for the United States Army. The fabric, called “Dragon Silk,” was also created without using entire colonies of spiders, who were more likely to eat one another than live in peace and create fabric. Kraig Biocraft created silkworms similar to those created at Utah State, using patented genetic proteins. Beyond standard body armor, the company may be the first to create real, popular protection for the groin area.

“After years of research and investment, developing this ground-breaking technology, we are very excited to now see it in the hands of the U.S. Army,” stated Jon Rice, COO. “For me, personally, and for the Company, the opportunity to help protect the brave men and women whom dedicate themselves to our protection is a great honor.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force needs more ‘bird cannons’ to protect bombers

Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crew members. The cause: a flock of geese.

Birds and wildlife pose a deadly threat to American military aircraft and their crew. Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Defensive technology has improved, reducing the number of incidents, but destructive accidents continue to occur. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in $182 million in damages, according to Military Times.


Canadian Geese alone cost the USAF almost 0 million between fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 2016.

To counter the threat posed by birds, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota installed an automated bird deterrent system — special cannons designed to keep the animals away.

The 0,000 bird abatement system consists of a rotating cannon and a propane tank. The cannon produces a loud sound similar to a shotgun blast to scare the birds away. Some units, the Associated Press reports, are equipped with speakers able to blare the distress calls of several different bird species.

“Birds are a huge problem for our aircraft operations,” James McCurdy, a 28th Bomb Wing flight safety officer, explained to the AP. “In the middle of our migration season (October, November, April and May), it’s not abnormal for us to hit and kill a bird at least once a week. They cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

The bird cannons only require around ,000 a year to maintain, which could mean significant savings for the base.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

Bird strikes are problems the world over. This photo shows an Israeli Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk after a bird strike.

Some of the other tools, outside of manpower, that have been used to keep birds away from US aircraft in the past include the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), a weather radar that can keep track of flocks of birds, and a bird detection radar for monitoring individual birds.

Not every Air Force base is equipped with these defense systems though. At Ellsworth, which is home to one of the two Air Force B-1 Lancer bomber wings, the previous approach to dealing with wildlife was to send someone out with a shotgun.

Ellsworth now has 24 bird cannons installed along the runway to protect the bombers, each of which reportedly costs around 0 million.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s longing for former Soviet Union hits 14-year high

More Russians regret the breakup of the Soviet Union than at any other time since 2004, an opinion poll shows.

In a survey whose results were published on Dec. 19, 2018, two-thirds — or 66 percent — of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they regret the 1991 Soviet collapse.

That is up from 58 percent a year earlier and is the highest proportion since 2004, the last year of President Vladimir Putin’s first term, Levada said.


One-quarter of respondents said they do not regret the Soviet breakup, the lowest proportion since 2005, and 9 percent said they could not answer.

Putin, president from 2000-08 and 2012 to the present, has often played up the achievements of the Soviet Union while playing down some of its darkest chapters.

In 2005, Putin called the Soviet breakup the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, citing the large numbers of Russians it left outside Russia.

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

In March 2018, when asked what event in the country’s history he would like to have been able to change, he named the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Levada said that Russians’ concerns about their economic security today were among the main reasons for the increase in the number voicing regret.

A highly unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by five years has stoked antigovernment sentiment and pushed Putin’s own approval ratings down in 2018.

The peak of regret over the Soviet collapse came in 2000, when 75 percent of Russian polled by Levada answered “yes” to the same question.

In 2018, Levada surveyed 1,600 people nationwide in the Nov. 22-28, 2018 poll.

The pollster said that 52 percent of respondents named the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “single economic system” as the main thing they regretted.

Worries about their current economic situation and prospects were a major factor for many of those respondents, Levada said.

At the same time, 36 percent said they miss the “feeling of belonging to a great power,” and 31 percent lamented mistrust and cruelty in society.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leaked audio of Russian mercs describe beat down by US artillery

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February 2018 involving US forces and Russian nationals.


Published by Polygraph.info — a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government — the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.

Also read: Russia’s explanation about drone attacks keeps getting stranger

The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.

The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.

Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died.

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The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 — if not more — Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response.

Related: Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military — experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces.

The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.

Here are the translated transcripts from Polygraph:

First clip:

“The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f— army and — well … to make it short, we’ve had our asses f— kicked. So one squadron f— lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating … The Yankees attacked … first they blasted the f— out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f— merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f— out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that … So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f— Russians … Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it … We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up, it sucks, another takedown … Everybody, you know, treats us like pieces of s— … They beat our asses like we were little pieces of s— … but our f— government will go in reverse now, and nobody will respond or anything, and nobody will punish anyone for this … So these are our casualties.”

Second clip:

“Out of all vehicles, only one tank survived and one BRDM [armored reconnaissance vehicle] after the attack, all other BRDMs and tanks were destroyed in the first minutes of the fight, right away.”

Third clip:

“Just had a call with a guy — so they basically formed a convoy, but did not get to their f— positions by some 300 meters. One unit moved forward, the convoy remained in place, about 300 meters from the others. The others raised the American f— flag, and their artillery started f— ours really hard. Then their f— choppers flew in and started f— everybody. Ours just running around. Just got a call from a pal, so there are about 215 f— killed. They simply rolled ours out f— hard. Made their point. What the f— ours were hoping for in there?! That they will f— run away themselves? Hoped to f— scare them away? Lots of people f— so bad [they] can’t be f— ID’d. There was no foot soldiers [on the American side]; they simply f— our convoy with artillery.”

Articles

The 4 biggest stories around the military right now (July 27 edition)

Attention to orders: It’s Monday. Here’s what you need to know to get the week started right:


 

MIGHTY GAMING

How this video game stunt will predict the future of war

Top video game players are currently playing for a pool of almost $25 million’s worth in prizes in a game called DOTA 2, but one event that will take place on the main stage will be the most public display yet of a growing technology that will likely re-shape warfare in the way that the maturation of gunpowder or military aviation once did.


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A team of artificial intelligence bots from OpenAI will take on a team of five professional human players and the AI will likely win. It will likely be the closest thing AI gets to a Billy Mitchell bombing the Ostfriesland moment.

The details of the game aren’t super important for this discussion, but you can read about it here if you care. Basically, the game is much more complex than the board games that AIs have been taking on in the last few years, and requires a much more complex system of evaluations and executions to win against humans, especially in team play.

Last year, the AI from OpenAI trained on one-vs-one matches and went from barely being able to control units in game to defeating the single-best human player in the world in less than six months. This year, it’s targeting team battles and has already defeated a team made up of players in the top 0.5 percent of the world.

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Fans watch the proceedings during the 2014 DOTA 2 invitational.

(DOTA 2)

So, what does this all have to do with war? OpenAI doesn’t exist to win video games. It’s a nonprofit started by big names like Elon Musk in order to advance safe AI (Artificial intelligence restricted to working for the benefit and safety of humans). In fact, most of OpenAI’s projects have nothing to do with video games. They just use DOTA 2 as a flashy way to get and keep people interested in their AI work.

What OpenAI really cares about is fueling breakthroughs in AI research and development for use in everything from managing cities to controlling factories. And while they don’t pursue military research, it’s not hard to see how a computer that can control a mage throwing fireballs across a digital battlefield might be taught how to control cruisers firing artillery shells across the water.

Other researchers have already created an AI that can outperform humans in small aerial dogfights. If an AI created with OpenAI’s deep-learning was aimed at that milestone, it could be expected to take on human opponents within a few months of creation, then win against teams within another year or less, and be able to dominate most human teams soon thereafter.

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The U.S. Navy’s unmanned X-47B jet aircraft.

(U.S. Navy)

And that’s while we make the computer fly jets designed for humans and if it’s forced to treat its planes as assets it can’t sacrifice. But jets flown by humans don’t need to be constrained by the limits of the human body, meaning they can take tighter turns at higher speeds. And we don’t have to treat losing jets the same as we would losing jets with humans on board. The computer could treat them like DOTA 2 heroes: valuable, but ultimately disposable for the right gain.

And the U.S. and Chinese militaries, among others, know about these advantages of AI, and are pursuing AI technology for just that reason. And it won’t just apply to jets, but also submarines, armored vehicles, and potentially even infantry. After all, OpenAI has helped AIs train each other for controlling human-like bodies in everything from digital sumo matches to high winds.

So it’s easy to imagine that, in the next war, China and America will start turning more and more to their robot partners for help against their enemies, potentially each other.

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For at least the next few decades, larger ships will still need human crews, which means that hundreds or thousands of sailors will still be at risk while fighting.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)

But this will create an even more frightening change in warfare than aerial bombing did. Sailors and soldiers will be asked to go forward either knowing that the decision has been made by an unfeeling machine or knowing that there was a chance the decision was made by a machine, and that they will be fighting a mix of machines and humans.

And AIs will likely be better at strategic decisions eventually, but it will still carry an added moral weight for troops knowing that they aren’t executing the will of a senior human, but a robot.

But, of course, it won’t be all bad. In isolated areas with little need for humans to safeguard against collateral damage, entire battles could be fought with little or no human losses.

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A U.S. Marine leads a robot on a simulated patrol.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kyle J. O. Olson)

Imagine a few decades into the future, one where robots can control warships and planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. Now imagine the historic Battle of Midway where Japan lost five ships and 292 aircraft while suffering 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost two ships and 145 aircraft while suffering 307 casualties.

Now, combine those two visions, a Battle of Midway where two of the world’s largest navies clash with almost no sailors having to fight at the front. Yes, the ships and planes would still be lost, and control of vast swaths of the world would still be decided by violent clashes, but the human sacrifice would be in the single or double digits.

And the victory for the winner will still be complete. After all, if the U.S. fleet survives at Midway, whether it is crewed by robots or humans, that’s still a physical fleet that can move towards the Japanese home islands.

So, yes, AI will almost certainly revolutionize warfare, and it will happen in the secrecy of classified labs until exploding into the open in a large war.

Until then, if you want to see the progress AI is making, watch the OpenAI Twitter and YouTube streams. Robots may prove their supremacy this week, if only in digital space…

…for now.

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