A top defense strategy think tank recently released a report hat looks at the implications of a possible war between the U.S. and China. The news is almost universally bad, but the assessment of a full-scale war between the U.S. and China in 2025 paints a dire picture of the aftermath of a conflict between the world’s two biggest superpowers.
While a war today would be costly for the U.S., China’s increasing anti-access, area denial arsenal as well as its growing carrier capability and aircraft strength could make it impossible for the U.S. to establish military dominance and achieve a decisive victory in 2025, the report by the RAND Corporation says.
“Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored,” RAND says. “Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other’s forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first.”
Instead, the two sides would fight until its home populations got fed up and demanded an end to hostilities, something that may not happen until the body counts get too high to stomach.
RAND declined to state a number of expected casualties in any potential war, but it estimated the loss of multiple carriers and other capital platforms for each side. Nimitz-class carriers carry approximately 6,000 sailors and Marines on a cruise. The loss of a single ship would represent a greater loss of life and combat power than all losses in the Iraq War.
The study predicts a stunning display of technological might on both sides, which isn’t surprising considering what each country has in the field and in the works. The paper doesn’t name specific weapon systems, but it predicts that fifth-generation fighters will be able to shoot down fourth-generation fighters with near impunity.
The U.S. recently fielded its second fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. America’s other advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has been in service since 2005. China is developing four fifth-generation fighters — the J-20; the J-32; the J-23; and the J-25.
The J-20 and J-32 will likely be in the field in 2025 and would potentially rival America’s fighters.
By 2025, China could have two more aircraft carriers for a total of three. It currently owns one functional carrier purchased from Russia and is manufacturing a second.
Despite America’s greater numbers of both fifth-generation fighters and total aircraft carriers, China’s growing missile arsenal would force America to act cautiously or risk unsustainable losses, RAND argues.
Outside of the conventional war, cyber attacks, anti-satellite warfare, and trade disruptions would hurt both countries.
Both belligerents have anti-satellite weapons that are nearly invulnerable to attack, meaning that both countries will be able to destroy a substantial portion of each other’s satellites. The destruction of the American satellite constellation would be especially problematic for the rest of the world since nearly all GPS units connect to American satellites.
Cyber attacks would cripple vulnerable grids on both sides of the Pacific, likely including many of the computer servers that maintain public utilities and crucial services like hospitals.
Trade disruptions would damage both countries, but China would be affected to a much greater extent, RAND says.
A lot of American commerce passes through the Pacific, but China does a whopping 95 percent of its trade there and is more reliant on trade than the U.S. For China, any large Pacific conflict would be very expensive at home.
While it’s very unlikely that China could win a war with the U.S., RAND says the fighting would be so bloody and costly for both sides that even average Americans would suffer greatly. Service members and their families would have it the worst.
“By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities,” RAND says. “China’s [anti-access weapons] will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war.”
There are two pieces of good news. First, leaders on both sides are hesitant to go to war. Even better, RAND’s assessment says that neither country is likely to risk nuclear retaliation by firing first, so the war would likely remain a conventional affair.
The bad news is that increasing tension could trigger an accidental war despite political leaders best intentions. RAND recommends that leaders set clear limits on military actions in the Pacific and establish open lines of dialogue.
The Marine Corps and Raytheon are developing a new precision-guided 120mm explosive mortar round so that forward deployed forces can more effectively target and destroy enemies from farther distances than existing mortars.
The weapon is designed to shoot up into the air in a vertical trajectory before identifying, tracking and exploding and enemy target upon decent to the ground. The vertical landing allows the weapon to achieve great precision, Raytheon officials said.
Called the Precision Extended Range Munition, or PERM, the program is test firing a GPS-guided mortar round able to extend the range of today’s mortar weapons from about seven kilometers to about 16 kilometers, Paul Daniels, Raytheon Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This doubles their range and gives them precision,” Daniels added.
The extended range could provide a key tactical advantage because 16 kilometers stand-off distance from the enemy could enable Marines to destroy enemy positions without themselves being vulnerable to incoming fire.
Raytheon was recently awarded a qualification and production contract by the Marine Corps, which plans to use the new weapon as part of its emerging Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
This system is put together to allow forward-deployed Marines to quickly maneuver into enemy territory with precision firepower and mobility. EFSS can deploy on board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter or travel from ship-to-shore as part of an amphibious operation, among other things. The new weapon will serve as part of the Corps’ fires triad which includes 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortars and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.
PERM can fill what’s called a needed “capability gap,” because there may be some targets that are not suitable for larger 155mm artillery rounds and are better attacked by 120mm mortars.
Precision mortar fire could bring tactical advantages for Marines in combat, particularly in condensed urban areas or mountainous terrain where elevation might separate attacking forces from the enemy.
“Mortars are particularly useful. They have a very high angle and rate of fire. They can fire almost straight up,” Daniels said.
For instance, the precision targeting technology integrated into PERM could allow forces to attack enemy positions in urban areas without risking damage to nearby civilians; this kind of attack would not be possible with today’s unguided 120mm mortar rounds.
“It will be ready within a couple of years,” Daniels said.
“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country. […]
“Quite simply my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”
Williamson added that British fighters who flee the UK for other countries would be hunted down and prevented from returning home or finding havens in other countries.
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)
He said: “Make sure there is no safe space for them, that they can’t go to other countries preaching their hate, preaching their cult of death.”
This could mean seizing their passports if they try to cross international borders, the Daily Mail said.
In October, Fallon said British nationals who have chosen to fight for ISIS in Iraq or Syria have made themselves “a legitimate target” and “run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile,” according to The Telegraph.
Williamson’s Wednesday remarks echoed those of Rory Stewart, an international development minister, who said last month: “The only way of dealing with them [foreign fighters] will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”
Meanwhile, Max Hill QC, the UK’s official anti-terror watchdog, has said that teenagers who joined ISIS “out of a sense of naivety” should be reintegrated into British society so as to avoid “losing a generation.”
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Air Force went deeply into its history to name its proposed new strategic bomber, announcing Sept. 19 that it will be the called the B-21 “Raider” in honor of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raiders from World War II.
The name was announced by retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s copilot and is the last surviving member of the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb multiple targets in Japan.
The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole, now 101, said he was “humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the raider. I wish they were here.”
The announcement came in the opening session of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference here. Cole was introduced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said “the legacy of Air Force strategic air power continues” with the proposed stealthy bomber, which is to be built by B-2 Spirit bomber builder Northrop Grumman.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole, a B-25 Mitchell bomber co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, answers questions in the Airman’s Hall at the Pentagon, Nov. 5, 2105. Cole toured the Pentagon and met with service members to share the history of the Doolittle Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)
The Air Force has said it wants at least 100 B-21s at a projected cost of $550 million each. It would replace the B-52Hs, which are approaching 50 years old, in the nuclear deterrence missions. Later, it also could replace the 1980s-vintage B-1Bs, which are limited to conventional bombing.
But the program already has come under attack from arms control advocates and from other defense critics who argue that the nation cannot afford another hyper-expensive aircraft while still struggling with the fifth generation F-35 fighters.
James listed the B-21 among the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs, along with the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 and the KC-46A aerial refueling plane, being built by Boeing.
In a panel session later in the day, Gen. Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command which would employ the new bomber, said the B-21 was necessary to keep the nation’s long-range strike capabilities reliable and effective.
Rand said he has set 100 B-21s as the absolute minimum required, based on the current and projected requirements from the geographic combatant commanders. And, Rand noted, the Air Force currently has 158 combat ready bombers. “I cannot imagine the nation or the Air Force having one less than we have now.”
Although the actual buy would be determined after the first of the new bombers are delivered, Rand said, “I’m going to stick to my guns, that 100 is the minimum.”
The panel was asked how they could expect the B-21 coming in on time and at the estimated cost when every major weapon system in decades has fallen behind schedule and run well over projected price.
Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said they were doing a base lining study with the contractor, but had a cost-plus contract for research and development that has incentives for Northrop “to deliver on cost and on schedule. The contract also sets a fixed price for the first five blocks of bombers, “which normally are the most expensive,” Holmes said.
“All indications are we will beat the $550 [million] estimated cost,” he said.
The B-21 program also is being managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with procurement.
Randall Walden, director of that office, said the B-21 was being designed with “open architecture” requirements, which make it easier to upgrade technology, particularly in the sophisticated electronic systems that drive up much of the cost of new high-tech weapons. He estimated that could save “upward of 50 to 80 percent of the cost” over the life of the bomber.
Holmes was asked how the Air Force could afford its top three procurement program along with all the other expenses it had and the limited budgets expected. He said that because the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 were the top priorities, they are funded first when the Air Force crafts its budget and the other programs are funded with what is left.
He also said the Air Force plans to push through some of the lesser programs, such as replacing the Vietnam-vintage UH-1 helicopters that provide security and mobility at its Minuteman III missile bases, before the big spending starts on the B-21 and the Minuteman replacement.
The panel also was asked about whether the B-21 would be manned or remotely piloted. Rand and Walden both said current plans were to have it manned.
Rand said some future systems could be unmanned. “Personally, I like the idea of having a man, or a woman, in the loop,” he said.
The term “gear porn” might conjure up visions of late-night SkinaMax movie shorts, but this time we’re not talking about adult flicks after dark.
Instead, we’re talking about three new pieces of kit recently announced by their manufacturers that might just find a home in your gear locker: An adapter to attach a night vision monocular to your camera, a very interesting new multi-tool, and…
TNVC (@tnvc_inc) has re-released its SLR camera adapter for PVS-14 NVGs. This thing will allow you to place any NVG that uses the PVS-14 eyepiece assembly and retaining ring on a DSLR or SLR camera, providing a 46 mike-mike step ring for the camera lens. It will also work on Sony e-mount lenses with the proper step-up or -down from the 46mm. The three piece ring mounts and optically aligns the AN/PVS-14 monocular to the camera by clamping around the NVG’s ocular. It is secured with a threaded ring.
TNVC, a veteran-owned and -operated company, describes it as the best way to take photos through the tube. As they tell it, “It works especially well with high magnification capable lenses for running surveillance at night, or just taking photos of landscapes, animals, stars, or your neighbor.” That sounds legit to us. It damn sure beats an old school weapon mount with a camera adapter ring. It’s manufactured from machined aircraft aluminum finished in Type III anodized hard coat.
Gerber Gear Center Drive Multi-Tool
This is the Center Drive, a multi-tool built with a full-size driver on the center axis with a standard bit. It hails from Gerber Gear (@gerbergear), built in the company’s Portland facility with American steel and will be available November 2nd. Sliding jaws open with one thumb, allowing access to spring-loaded pliers or a liner-locked, full-size knife blade with reverse thumb support. The replaceable bits include a Phillip’s and flat head and 12 others. All are magnetic.
Gerber describes it as, “Not for posers, slackers, hipsters, or momma’s boys.”
The tools ship with a nylon and elastic sheath that can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.
The Center Drive’s 14 tools include the folowing:
Magnetic 1/4″ Bit Driver
Fine Edge Blade
Cats Paw Pry Bar
Rotatable Carbide Wire Cutters
Ruler (stamped into handle)
Optional Standard Bit Set
EDCCB – Every Day Carry Concealment Belt
From Tactical Jay and Silent Bob from US PALM (@uspalm) down in Phoenix comes the US PALM EDCCB (Every Day Carry Concealment Belt). Designed in collaboration with The Wilderness, the EDCCB is a low profile belt that holds your britches up and hides assorted goodies inside a lengthwise zippered compartment.
It’s built from Frequent Flyer belt Delrin, double rings and a polyethylene-insert CSM (Combat Shooters Model) to support IWB or OWB holsters. It’s available in S, M, L, and XL sizes, and in either black or ranger green colors.
The EDCCB is just one of several pieces of kit in the new US PALM deep concealment lineup. Check out their Ankle-FAKs, LowProGear Urban Havok Bags and other bits of sneaky fightin’ goodness.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth.
If there’s one thing military personnel are taught from their time in service it’s to improvise, adapt and overcome.
This mentality keeps our troops flexible and inventive in the absence of modern comforts. But for all their ingenuity, the following five military hacks have no place outside of the military:
1. The “everything” sandwich.
Troops are fast eaters — it’s a habit formed out of necessity. Whether it’s being allotted a few minutes in boot camp to process divisions through the chow hall or out in the fleet with a few minutes between a hectic schedule, troops eat with urgency. Some troops save time by putting everything on their plate between two pieces of bread to make an everything sandwich. Hey, it’s all going to the same place anyways.
2. Cooking with C4.
During the Vietnam war, troops would use C4 explosives to heat their C-rations. In fact C4 is almost harmless without the detonator; you can shoot it, cut it, and light it on fire without it exploding as demonstrated by the guys on Mythbusters. Although warm meals are nice, they still ate their food cold after sunset to avoid being spotted.
3. Filling a mop bucket with a dust pan.
Deck sailors do a lot of swabbing (mopping) but have few options to fill up their water buckets. In most cases they use a shower head, but in situations where there aren’t any around – such as on decks without living quarters – they improvise by using a dustpan to direct water into a bucket.
4. Going commando
Going without underwear is erotic and sexually stimulating to some people, while it’s considered immodest and socially unacceptable to others. Grunts, on the other hand, go without underwear for practical reasons; to increase ventilation and reduce moisture in the crotch area. They also go through long periods of time without being able to do their laundry.
5. Using condoms to protect equipment.
While condoms were invented to prevent pregnancies and STDs, service members also use them to protect equipment. Grunts us condoms to prevent rifle barrels from clogging and flight deck sailors use them to make their radio microphones waterproof.
Whether you call them silkies or Ranger panties, the overly-tight short-shorts of the military are here to stay.
Just about every military member has experienced either wearing — or much worse, viewing — troops in silkies. They are so well known, some Marines even have a Facebook page dedicated to them. So it was quite amusing to see one of the uninitiated discover the shorts at the tech website Gizmodo.
“Clearly all you need is a fresh pair of Ranger Panties and a patriotic spirit and you’re ready to take on the world,” writes Adam Clark Estes.
After finding his black Ranger Panties on Amazon, he reads some reviews. The top one, which he cites in his decision to buy, comes from a reviewer who claims to be a U.S. Marine stationed in Cairo: “If you love bald eagles, freedom, and flexing your quads at strangers for the simple pleasure of gauging their reaction, then I highly encourage you to hop on the freedom train and purchase these shorts,” the reviewer writes. “They do not disappoint.”
“If you have not experienced these shorts, they will change your life,” writes another reviewer. For the record, I’ve worn silkies and my life was not changed. Still, that’s besides the point.
Estes orders a medium-sized pair (dude, don’t you know they are supposed to be way tighter than that?) and tests them out. Turns out, even civilians can love them. What comes next is an 1100-plus-word explainer and review of the Soffe-brand classics.
Now, the review — much like silkies — could have been much shorter, in my opinion. Something like: The military silkie-shorts, also known as “Ranger Panties,” are physical training shorts that are so short they belong only on NBA basketball players in the 1970s. But people still wear them anyway.
But I digress.
After his girlfriend doesn’t allow him to leave the house to test the shorts out in social engagements, he does get a chance to take them on some athletic endeavors. Estes writes:
Nevertheless, I was able to try my Ranger Panties out in various athletic environments. While the shorts are ideal for running, they’re less than ideal for a crowded yoga class. Just as I’d read on Amazon, the inner liner is a thin shield between being appropriately clothed and “[wanting] the world to see your twig and berries.” I appreciated the presence of the lining in my first yoga class, but I definitely double bagged it in public after a few close calls there.
In the end, Estes says he loves his Ranger Panties and urges you to buy some too. But he does concede that the danger of your “twig and berries” popping out is a legitimate concern.
And frankly, that’s enough for me to urge you not to buy them. Because that’s not a world I want to live in.
I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.
There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.
We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.
Quarantine and Retirement
I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.
It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?
Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.
Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.
2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet
I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.
What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?
Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.
Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
Walks through the neighborhood
Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
Noise-canceling headphones while writing
Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence
3. Open communication makes all the difference
Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.
One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.
All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.
The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.
Is it an absolute? Is it to be avoided at all costs? Obviously, it’s an undesirable outcome when lives are on the line.
In horseshoes and hand grenades, failure exists on a suckiness sliding scale, from “Finish your beer” on one end to the Ultimate Oh Sh*t on the other.
In training, though, failure is a teacher, a mentor that can take you to levels of preparedness you never imagined attainable by your puny, mortal self.
“I don’t know, why would
you say your ass is candy?” is what shrugging makes Max think. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)
When Max “The Body” Philisaire is leading your PT, failure is a
directive. As in, “execute as many repetitions as you can until failure.”
In the Army, Max earned the nickname “The Body,” not because he had a good one, but because he was first recruited as an incorporeal Warrior Spirit, until Mighty Zeus came down in the form of a Lightning Eagle and lightning-sculpted Max a body out of mountain granite, saying “Go Forth, Max, And Enlighten The People As I Have You. With Lightning!”
(Max uses kettlebells these days, and he GETS BETTER RESULTS.)
And here is what Zeus looked like. Exactly. Like. This. (Gif by
Jaybyrdamw78)In this episode, Max takes issue with an important set of muscles, those responsible for executing high-speed, high-stakes ammo resupply in the field, a situation in which failure will land you on the sh*t end of the sliding scale. Make these exercises part of your regular routine, though, and nothing short of an anti-tank round will be able to stop you.
Watch as Max shows you how to go from finishing beers to banishing fears, in the video embedded at the top.
Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”
I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.
But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.
The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.
And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”
“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”
At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.
But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.
In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed “denial of service” attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours. They had disabled Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name System (DNS) services — the web’s directory of addresses, basically — to much of the internet.
“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes
Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.
Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers
Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.
“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”
The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”
CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.
2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”
The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.
Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.
Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”
A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon
Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).
During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.
The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.
Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.
“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”
“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”
“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”
But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.
Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.
National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”
So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.
France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.
“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”
A French Dassault Rafale.
France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.
France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.
But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.
France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Tech. Sgt. Wayne Cowen, an 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads ammunition into a .50 caliber machine gun on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 4, 2017. As a special missions aviator, Cowen is a jack-of-all-trades; he conducts pre-flight inspections, maintains the aircraft systems while airborne and employs the aircraft weapons systems in the event of an attack.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Will Andreotta, F-35 Heritage Flight Team Pilot, performs during the New York Air Show at Stewart International Airport, N.Y., July 2, 2017. Andreotta and his team perform at approximately 16 air shows a year, showcasing the Air Force’s newest fifth-generation aircraft to millions of spectators.
U.S. Army veteran Jhoonar Barrera wins gold medal in cycling event for the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Chicago, Ill., July 6, 2017. The DOD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball.
Members of 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment fire from their howitzers to represent each of the 50 states during the Fourth of July Spectacular, July 4, 2017. The event was open to the public, included games, rides, entertainment and food.
Sailors provide security as family and friends prepare to watch a 4th of July fireworks show over San Diego from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is pierside in its homeport of San Diego.
Lt. Miranda Krasselt and Lt. Chris Williams signal for the launch of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Zane Ashby assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/6) uses a M40A6 sniper rifle to shoot at a simulated target during an integrated team exercise aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) July 1, 2017. The ship is deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations.
A Marine with 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment fires the M4-A4 rifle on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) during a deck shoot July 3, 2017. Marines with the 24th MEU conduct annual training while deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group to stay mission ready and maintain Marine Corps standards. Bataan and its ARG are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
A rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco is on display at the inaugural Coast Guard Festival in Alameda, California July 4, 2017
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Katherine Walker watch the fireworks in New York City during the Macy’s Day Fireworks show on July 4, 2017. The Katherine Walker is a 175-foot Buoy Tender based in Bayonne, New Jersey.
In these days of compulsive social media scrolling, email refreshing, and COVID-19 news updating, most of us are on our phones a bit more than we really want to be. Here to save us from ourselves and our over-connected online lives is the Light Phone II, an elevated offering in the so-called “dumb phone” product space.
Billed as “the phone that actually respects you,” this second iteration of the Light Phone is designed to give you back some of your time and attention. It’s incompatible with apps that have anything resembling a feed (email, social media, YouTube). What you can do with it is what some would argue is all you need to do: receive and make text messages and calls from your imported contacts, use a calculator, set alarms, and use it as a hotspot. (The company is developing tools to enable users to play music or hail a cab.) In partially disconnecting you from your digital world and its distractions, the idea goes, it can help you simplify your life.
Unlike the first Light Phone, which was a pared-down phone designed to be a secondary, feature-free device, the update includes a few more bells and whistles so that you can use it as your primary — and potentially only — device. Imagine a life without push notifications, invasive ads, and constant headlines. It’s like a mental detox. Alternatively, it can still be used as a secondary device if you want to balance out your desire to be present with your need to update your socials.
The most minimalist smartphone you can buy.
If you have T-Mobile, Verizon, or ATT service, you can switch the SIM card from your smartphone to the Light Phone II and you’re all set (the phone runs on 4G LTE connectivity). For others, you can subscribe for service through Light itself for a low monthly fee, though your Light Phone will have a different phone number from the one on your primary device. Note that the Light Phone II is an unlocked phone and ships to you without a SIM card.
In never serving up feeds, social media, ads, news, or email, the phone effectively discourages you from using it. That frees parents up to, well, talk to our kids. Or read a book. Or take a walk without being tethered to Instagram. By short-circuiting your screen time through the Light Phone II, you can focus on being present with your partner and children right now. Which is truly a bright idea.