It’s no secret that this year is super strange for parents. Still reeling from months in quarantine, working from home and homeschooling, parents everywhere are now staring down the barrel of summer vacations with far fewer options than they had in previous years. Parents are navigating uncharted territory, and there’s no doubt it’s putting their parenting skills, their patience, their sanity to the test. But here’s the thing, you’re not alone, parents. We’re all in this together. All you can do is take it one day at a time, power through and find a way to cope. Someday this will all be a distant memory. In the meantime, they say laughter is good medicine, so here are a few parenting memes that will make you feel seen and perhaps LOL just a little. Enjoy!
Marine Corps Special Operations Command has decided to shelve its custom .45 pistols and outfit its elite Raiders with Glock 19s.
MARSOC has not yet responded to Military.com’s questions for the story, but a source familiar the effort said the command made the decision within the last month.
The move, first reported by Jeff Schogol of Marine Corps Times, follows a Marine Corps decision in February that a MARSOC operators to carry Glock pistols, since many of the elite outfit’s members prefer the popular Glock 19 9mm handgun over the custom .45 pistols the service bought them in 2012.
The reliable, easy-to-maintain 9mm pistol features a polymer frame and a 15-round magazine.
The Marine Corps just completed an exhaustive search for a new MARSOC pistol in 2012. The service awarded a $22.5 million contract to Colt Defense LLC., for up to 10,000 Close Quarter Battle Pistols.
The custom, 1911 design replaced the fleet of worn-out MARSOC M45 pistols. It features a rail for mounting lights, a custom trigger, a manual safety, improved ergonomics and glowing Tritium sights for low-light conditions.
The new .45s are nice, but many MARSOC troops prefer to carry Glock 19s instead.
One reason for the change is that 9mm ammunition and Glock replacement parts are available almost anywhere in the world, the source said.
The decision is not that surprising since U.S. Army Special Operations Command has also chosen the Glock 19 for its elite units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, the source said.
The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.
The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.
“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.
“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.
Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.
Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.
Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.
The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.
If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”
Receiving the nation’s highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, is an often bittersweet experience for those who receive the award. The medal represents extreme bravery in the face of insurmountable danger and almost always comes with the ultimate sacrifice from the recipient themself or their fellow servicemembers. However, the medal also represents the potential to do good.
Medal of Honor Recipient Leroy Petry leads the Seattle Seahawks onto the field.
Admit it, if you heard “Medal of Honor” mentioned in a meeting at work or during a football game, your ears would perk up, and that’s exactly the power that two Medal of Honor recipients have used with the NFL in preparation for the 2018 season.
Captain Florent “Flo” Groberg and Master Sergeant Leroy Petry are part of Mission 6 Zero, a management consulting company where veterans teach businesses and teams how to achieve peak performance. Now these two decorated veterans are using their experience to help train NFL teams.
Both Groberg and Petry received their Medals of Honor for valorous actions in Afghanistan. The conflict there is entering its 17th year as the 2018 NFL season begins with a new rule requiring players to stand during the National Anthem or remain in the locker room. The choice of some NFL players to kneel in protest last year resulted in consternation from members of the military and veteran community who believe the action disrespects the sacrifice and honor of countless service members who have paid the ultimate price for their country. Now some NFL teams are asking Groberg and Petry, who are living ambassadors of this sacrifice, to share their stories of combat and recovery with players across the league.
Medal of Honor Recipient Army Capt. Flo Groberg on patrol in Afghanistan.
In 2012, Captain Flo Groberg was on his second tour in Afghanistan, serving on the personal security detail for his commander, when he made a tackle that would humble even the best NFL linebackers. During a routine patrol, Groberg noticed a suicide bomber in the crowd and immediately rushed the threat. Flo pushed the bomber away from his fellow soldiers, but the bomber detonated the vest, throwing Groberg almost twenty feet in the air.
Groberg, who lost a majority of his calf and suffered from traumatic brain injury, spent the next three years recovering from his injuries. Today, Groberg has shared his story with thousands of businesses and even became a major part of the executive team at Boeing, but now the Medal of Honor recipient has a very clear message to the NFL players he has spoken to: The act of one individual can literally change the game and you must always be ready to act.
Groberg told We Are The Mighty, “Over the course of the past three years I’ve had the privilege of supporting Kaleb Thornhill and the Miami Dolphins on the player development side. From culture to communication to goal setting, there are many parallels between the military and the NFL.”
Medal of Honor Recipient Master Sergeant Petry as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Master Sgt. Leroy Petry has a different story for the NFL, and it’s about one of the most badass incomplete passes in history. In 2008, Petry was on his seventh — yes — seventh deployment as a member of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, a unit known for its discipline and focus on teamwork. During a raid on a Taliban compound, Petry and his small element of Rangers came under fire from almost forty enemy fighters. Despite being wounded in both legs, Petry, a gnarly combat veteran, directed his team of Rangers to return fire.
As both sides took cover, the fight turned into grenade throwing contest to take each other out. When a Taliban grenade landed near the group, Petry instinctively picked up the explosive and attempted to throw it back at the enemy. The grenade exploded, taking Petry’s hand with it. Petry, who now only had one arm, used it to apply a tourniquet above his wound and kept going. In response, Petry’s fellow Rangers rallied and provided covering fire to evacuate their wounded noncommissioned officer.
Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, but he credits the response of the team with saving his life. After recovering from his wounds, Petry chose to stay in the Army until his retirement in 2014. Petry has worked with teams like the Minnesota Vikings in preparation for this season to help them understand that a play may fail during the game but a win requires teamwork always.
NFL teams from the Chicago Bears to the Miami Dolphins to the Minnesota Vikings have all taken the time to listen to Medal of Honor recipients before the 2018 season. Jason Van Camp, CEO of Mission 6 Zero, has seen the impact these veterans have made firsthand.
“Let me tell you something,” Van Camp said, “I am incredibly honored and humbled to work with Flo and Leroy. Above all else, they are unapologetically authentic, and I love them for that. When they share their experiences with our NFL clients, you can feel the atmosphere in the locker room change in an extremely positive way. Players and coaches are transfixed during their presentation and devour the life skills that Flo Leroy share with them. It’s a special thing to be a part of.”
Minnesota Vikings surrounding Leroy Petry (center) after a fundraiser for Warrior Rising executed by Mission 6 Zero.
Jason Van Camp, Leroy Petry, and Flo Groberg (not pictured) accept a donation from TickPick on behalf of Warrior Rising at the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Leroy Petry works with the Minnesota Vikings to raise support for Warrior Rising and Mission 6 Zero.
Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.
Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.
Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.
Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.
But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.
German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.
But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.
To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.
Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.
Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.
More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.
Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.
A Coast Guard member became the second woman in its history to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Mobile, received the medal for saving two swimmers off the coast of Long Island Sound, New York.
Vanderhaden received the medal in July. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
“It was 2018 and I had just moved to New York and was trying to hit every beach in the area. I hadn’t been to Fire Island yet but heard the sunset there was amazing. I have the surf report app on my phone and it said it was going to be six feet. There were people and beach deer everywhere. … But I saw two guys pretty far out in the water and it was like a washing machine out there [with the waves],” Vanderhaden said.
She says she slowly grew more alarmed as she watched and heard someone on the shore yelling “ayúdenme.” Although she couldn’t understand the Spanish word, Vanderhaden sensed something was wrong. Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Vanderhaden immediately headed to the water, instructing people to call the police and the nearby Coast Guard station. She took off her shoes, sweater and started swimming. The rip current was so strong, it pulled her to the first man pretty quickly. Since the other man in the water was in more trouble being further out, she let the first know she’d be back for him and to try to stay afloat.
“When I got to the next guy, he was freaking out and climbing on me a lot. I was propping him up on my knee, holding him and telling him it was going to be okay. I don’t even know if he could understand me. Finally, he calmed down and I started swimming with him, pulling and pushing him. Then, we got to the second guy and that’s when things got hard,” Vanderhaden said.
When she reached the second man in the water, he began grabbing at her in obvious terror. Managing him while also keeping the other man and herself above water was a struggle. It took about 10 minutes just to calm them down.
“I started pushing one and pulling the other. I couldn’t see the beach because it had gotten dark and the waves were so high. We finally made it to shore and then the guys were hugging me and thanking me,” Vanderhaden said.
She found out later they were in the water almost 45 minutes.
Once she finished giving her statement to the police, she called her senior chief who was the OIC of her assigned duty station. Vanderhaden just briefly told them she had to talk to police but didn’t go into detail of what happened.
The police thought she was assigned to Coast Guard Station Fire Island but she was actually part of Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck. For about a week, they couldn’t figure out who she was and the sector jokingly started referring to her as the “Ghost Coastie.” It wasn’t until her mom happened to overhear some of the story that the dots finally got connected back to Vanderhaden.
“It was about a week before anyone knew it was me,” Vanderhaden said with a laugh.
Roughly two years later, she received the Silver Lifesaving Medal, with the presenting officer being a familiar face: her father. Vanderhaden’s father, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden, is the top senior enlisted leader for the Coast Guard. Her brother currently serves too.
“For me, the other military branches making fun of us is one thing but I feel people [the public] think we are just police officers on the water. But it’s so much more than that,” she said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden with her parents. Courtesy photo.
Vanderhaden’s father has served since 1988, making the culture of the Coast Guard all she’s ever known. She was asked if she thinks she would have jumped in to rescue the men if she hadn’t been a coastie.
“That’s a difficult question, because I don’t know anything but the Coast Guard. In my world and for all of people I live with and work around — all of us would do the same thing,” she said.
Then she added a recent conversation she had with a retired Coast Guard master chief who told her that some people think and some people do. He then said, the people who join the Coast Guard do.
The independent Bellingcat research organization claims to have more information that the two men suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal have links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.
Bellingcat said on Sept. 20, 2018, that a joint investigation with Business Insider “can confirm definitively” that the two suspects, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, have links to the GRU, “based on objective data and on discussions with confidential Russian sources familiar with the identity of at least one of the two persons.”
On Sept. 14, 2018, Bellingcat said it had reviewed Russian documents that indicated the two men had no records in the Russian resident database prior to 2009, a sign they may be working as operatives for the government.
“Crucially,” Bellingcat added at the time, “at least one man’s passport files contain various ‘top-secret’ markings which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives.”
In its latest report, Bellingcat said it and Business Insider obtained Petrov’s and Boshirov’s border-crossing data for several European and Asian countries. It said the men’s names are believed to be aliases.
“Their globe-trotting, unpredictably meandering itinerary is at times reminiscent of characters out of [film series and television program] Mission Impossible, yet a focus on the countries of Western Europe is clearly visible,” it said.
A handout picture taken in Salisbury of two Russian men who have been identified as Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.
Bellingcat said a source in a Western European law enforcement agency informed it that the suspects had been previously arrested in the Netherlands, but “no information has been provided as to the time and context” of the arrests.
Bellingcat said it discovered there were just 26 intervening passport numbers between Petrov’s document and the cover passport issued for Eduard Shishmakov, aka Shirokov, a former Russian military attache in Warsaw expelled by Poland in 2014 for espionage.
Shishmakov’s passport was issued in August 2016, the report said.
The finding suggests that the special authority that issued the passports had only granted 26 passports between April and August 2016, Bellingcat said.
It has been previously reported that the passport numbers of Boshirov and Petrov differed only three digits and that they held “Top Secret” and “Do Not Provide Information” markings.
The documents were allegedly issued by an authority normally reserved for intelligence officers and important government officials, it said.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but later made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.
His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.
Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’
But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.
Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.
Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”
While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.
After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.
“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.
Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….
“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”
The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.
I can’t write left handed
Would you please write a letter to my mother Tell her to tell the family lawyer Try to get a deferment for my younger brother
Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder
Boot camp we had classes You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses I must admit it seemed exciting anyway But something that day overlooked to tell me Bullet look better I must say Rather when they comin’ at you. But go without the other way
And please call up the Reverend Harris And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder
After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.
Gender integration is vital for the success of women in the military, the commander of US Southern Command said July 13 at the closing ceremony of the second Women in Military and Security Conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd made opening and closing remarks at WIMCON 17, a two-day conference on gender perspectives in force development and military operations co-hosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.
Photo courtesy of Southcom
In attendance were US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd D. Robinson, Guatemala Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Juan Perez, and regional leaders.
The first WIMCOM was held last year in Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the past two days, Tidd said, “we’ve shared insights and observations and learned from one another’s experiences. We’ve celebrated our progress and identified the obstacles that still remain in our paths. And we’ve reinforced … a commitment to equality, a commitment to equity, a commitment to opportunity.”
The admiral said the Western Hemisphere offers a potential model for regional cooperation on gender integration and advancing gender perspectives.
“This week we’ve seen how much we have to share with one another, and I know this is only the beginning of setting the standard for the rest of the world,” Tidd added.
Community of Interest
The Southcom commander proposed two ideas for the group going forward, the first being to commit to establishing a formal community of interest to further the topic.
“Southcom will happily take on the task to find the best tool for continuing this vitally important conversation,” he said, “and we will use the contact information you provide today to share this forum once we create it.”
Gender advisors — subject matter experts attending the conference — are ideal members, Tidd added, but other personnel also will add value and over the next year the community can work on issues identified at WIMCOM 2017 as focus areas for improvement.
Second, the admiral said, is a need to collect better data to document progress.
“We have a term in English called baselining — determining a minimum starting point to use for comparisons,” he explained. “There’s clearly a lot more work to be done on [the kinds of] data we need to gather and share, but we’ve all heard this week about the importance of using data to further this message.”
Southcom, he said, offered to serve as a regional observatory to help keep track of integration progress by country, regional advances and obstacles to advancement.
Tidd added, “If you will get us the data and research, we’ll help collate it and make it available for our collective use.”
Other highlights from the meeting included the idea that equality for women in the military requires male acceptance and collaboration; that qualification and advancement for everyone should be based on capability, competency and character; and that fair standards should be set and all should be required to meet them.
The admiral also asked for ideas or recommendations for the focus of WIMCOM 2018.
“I sincerely hope that you’ll seek to replicate the face-to-face, candid conversations we sought to foster in this conference,” the admiral said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning, not the end, of those types of conversations.”
Japan’s TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea’s northeast.
In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.
Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.
North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.
Using the slider below, you can see the affects of the test detonations, especially along the mountain ridges:
The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.
If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.
If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.
The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.
When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.
James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.
“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.
At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21 stealth bomber, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.
With the Islamic State group almost defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria and its territorial hold dramatically reduced, the terror group and its sympathizers continue to demonstrate their ability to weaponize the internet in an effort to radicalize, recruit and inspire acts of terrorism in the region and around the world.
Experts charge that the terror group’s ability to produce and distribute new propaganda has been significantly diminished, particularly after it recently lost the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital and media headquarters.
But they warn that the circulation of its old media content and easy access to it on social media platforms indicates that the virtual caliphate will live on in cyberspace for some time, even as IS’s physical control ends.
“Right now we have such a huge problem on the surface web — and [it’s] really easy to access literally tens of thousands of videos that are fed to you, one after the other, [and] that are leading to radicalization,” Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College and adviser for the group Counter Extremism Project (CEP) in Washington, said Nov. 20.
Speaking at a panel discussion about the rights and responsibilities of social media platforms in an age of global extremism at the Washington-based Newseum, Farid said the social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have tried to get radical Islamist content off the internet, but significant, game-changing results have yet to be seen.
Farid said social media companies are facing increasing pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates to remove content that fuels extremism.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had developed new artificial intelligence programs to identify extremist posts and had hired thousands of people to monitor content that could be suspected of inciting violence.
Twitter also reported that it had suspended nearly 300,000 terrorism-related accounts in the first half of the year.
YouTube on Nov. 20 said Alphabet’s Google in recent months had expanded its crackdown on extremism-related content. The new policy, Reuters reported, will affect videos that feature people and groups that have been designated as terrorists by the U.S. or British governments.
The New York Times reported that the new policy has led YouTube to remove hundreds of videos of the slain jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki lecturing on the history of Islam, recorded long before he joined al-Qaida and encouraged violence against the U.S.
The World Economic Forum’s human rights council issued a report last month, warning tech companies that they might risk tougher regulations by governments to limit freedom of speech if they do not stem the publishing of violent content by Islamic State and the spread of misinformation.
IS digital propaganda has reportedly motivated more than 30,000 people to journey thousands of miles to join IS, according to a report published by Wired, a magazine published in print and online editions that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy and politics.
An ongoing struggle
Experts say measures to restrict cyberspace for terrorist activities could prove helpful, but they warn it cannot completely prevent terror groups from spreading their propaganda online and that it will be a struggle for some time.
According to Fran Townsend, the former U.S. homeland security adviser, terrorist groups are constantly evolving on the internet as the new security measures force them onto platforms that are harder to track, such as encrypted services like WhatsApp and Telegram and file-sharing platforms like Google Drive.
She said last month’s New York City attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, used Telegram to evade U.S counterterrorism authorities.
“This guy was on Telegram in ISIS chat rooms. He went looking for them, he was able to find them, and he was able to communicate on an encrypted app that evaded law enforcement,” Townsend said during the Nov. 20 panel on extremism at the Newseum.
U.S. officials said Saipov viewed 90 IS propaganda videos online, and more than 4,000 extremism related images were found on his cellphones, including instructions on how to carry out vehicular attacks.
As the crackdown increases on online jihadi propaganda, experts warn the desperate terror groups and their lone wolf online activists and sympathizers could aggressively retaliate.
Last week, about 800 school websites across the United States were attacked by pro-IS hackers. The hack, which lasted for two hours, redirected visitors to IS propaganda video and images of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Similar attacks were also reported in Europe, including last week’s hacking of MiX Megapil, a private radio station in Sweden where a pro-IS song was played for about 30 minutes.
A global response
Experts maintain that to counter online extremism and terrorism, there is a need for a coordinated international response as social media platforms continue to cross national borders and jurisdictions.
Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Google and the Group of Seven advanced economies joined forces against jihadi online propaganda and vowed to remove the content from the web within two hours of its being uploaded.
“Our European colleagues — little late to this game, by the way — have come into it in a big way,” Townsend said.
She said the U.S-led West had given more attention to physical warfare against IS at the expense of the war in cyberspace.
“We have been very proficient in fighting this in physical space. … But we were late in the game viewing the internet,” she said.
Townsend added that the complexity of the problem requires action even at the local level.
“The general public can be a force multiplier,” she said, adding, “As you’re scrolling through your feed and you see something … it literally takes 50 seconds for you to hit a button and tell Twitter, ‘This should not be here and it’s not appropriate content.’ And it will make a difference.”
Mashal Saad al-Bostani of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, who was named by pro-government Turkish media as one of 15 suspects in the alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, has reportedly died in a car accident on return to the kingdom.
An article titled “Riyadh Silenced Someone” on Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper that strongly supports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cited anonymous sources as saying Bostani died in a car crash, without giving a specific time or location.
Yeni Safak has proven a major voice in coverage of Khashoggi’s disappearance, with daily scoops from unnamed Turkish officials giving gory details to what they allege was a murder within the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018.
Saudi Arabia flatly denies any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts or disappearance, but US intelligence officials have started to echo the view that the prominent Saudi critic, who recently took residence in the US, was murdered.
In particular, Yeni Safak has reported having a audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder, but Turkish intelligence has not turned over the tape to the US. The US and Turkey are NATO allies with extensive intelligence-sharing agreements.
“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said of the tape on Oct. 17, 2018. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”
Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
“Let’s be honest,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Business Insider on Oct. 17, 2018, “the Turks have leaked some pretty serious allegations through the press that they have not been willing to make public. There are not a lot of clean hands.”
“We should acknowledge that most of what we know is through leaks from the Turkish government,” he continued. “At some point the Turks have to give us exactly what they have instead of leaking all of this to the press.”
The Daily Beast on Oct. 16, 2018, cited “sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington” as saying Saudi Arabia would try to pin the murder of Khashoggi on “a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”
This holds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “rogue killers” took out Khashoggi, and not the Saudi monarchy itself.
CNN and The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2018, also reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing an alibi that would acknowledge Khashoggi was killed.