Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

The new Star Wars movies are pretty exciting. It freaked out the entire media landscape in a way unseen since the days before cable TV ensured we all didn’t watch the same episode of Friends on Thursday night. As each trailer brings the new, Jar-Jar free reality of an impending new saga upon us, the inner child of someone who once read the Star Wars Encyclopedia cover to cover bubbles to the surface, realizing some of the tech seen in the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have been really useful on some real-world deployments.


Rey’s Visor

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a human scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku (that’s not the desert world of Luke Skywalker’s Tattooine). Jakku is home to thieves and other criminals and someone like Rey must survive by salvaging old parts and reselling them. Having protection from the elements in the harsh, dry, dusty environment (sound familiar?) of Jakku is a real plus.

Rey’s eyepro is stripped from an old Stormtrooper helmet, giving her the same tactical advantage Imperial Stormtroopers had on the battlefield. Though it limits her field of vision, it does help her see in the dark, and through smoke, sand, and glare.

BB-8 “Roller Ball” Droid

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

As an Astromech droid in the line of R2-d2, the BB-8 droid can deftly work with electronic devices, which would do efficient work with deactivating explosive devices. The new droid comes with a number of improvements on the R2 unit’s original design, including a head which appears to float on a 360-degree base, giving the robot vastly improved maneuverability for the rocky slopes of Afghan terrain.

Luke Skywalker’s Cybernetic Hand

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Although in some sci-fi epics, cybernetic hands are more of a problem, in the Star Wars universe, cybernetic limb replacements allow for full range of motion, full use, and full sensitivity. These prosthetic replacements connect mechanical parts directly to the user’s brain via a neural net interface, covered by synthskin, to where no one would know the difference to look at it. This would be an excellent way to care for troops injured in Afghanistan, considering more than 1,000 lost limbs there. Good thing science already figured this one out. Thanks, DARPA.

Deflector Shields

What military unit wouldn’t want an invisible force field to protect them from harm while they destroyed their enemies. It may not be necessary in Afghanistan, but it sure would be nice to have. It’s much more necessary in the Star Wars Universe, where not having deflector shields looks like this:

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Honorable Mention: Rey’s Staff

It may not actually help in combat in Afghanistan, but if you want to see how Rey’s skills with that staff weapon might look onscreen, check out this video of Daisy Ridley’s stunt double, Chloe Bruce, working with one like it:

Close enough for government work, either with the U.S. or the New Republic.

And finally, we want lightsabers. Please, please make it happen, DoD.

NOW: Meet Adam Driver, Marine Vet and Star Wars’ Next Villain

OR: The U.S. Military wants to build Star Wars hover bikes

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Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

The Pentagon, on Aug. 30, sharply raised its estimate of the number of US troops currently in Afghanistan, ahead of a decision on adding thousands more under President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the war-wracked country.


Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said a comprehensive review showed that there were approximately 11,000 uniformed US servicemen and women in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said previously that there were roughly 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan, under a cap set during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Army Reserve photo by Tulara McCauley

Military officials have long quietly acknowledged there were far more forces in the country than the cap allowed, but commanders shuffled troops in and out, labeled many “temporary,” and used other personnel-accounting tactics to artificially keep the public count low.

“This is not a troop increase,” but rather an effort to be more transparent about the total size of the US force, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The new count, which includes temporary and covert units as well as regular forces, was made to establish the basis for an increase in troops — possibly by around 4,000 — under Trump’s revised strategy to better support Afghan troops in the fight against the Taliban.

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Top military leader at odds with Trump on ‘Islamic’ terrorism

It appears that the nation’s top military officer is not in sync with his commander-in-chief on the need to label America’s enemy in the conflicts that have persisted since the 9-11 terrorists’ attacks as “radical Islamic extremists.”


Throughout his campaign and since taking office, President Donald Trump has insisted on using the term radical or extremists “Islamic” terrorists to describe ISIS and the other groups spreading conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and their administrations’ officials, including Pentagon leaders, deliberately avoided use of the “Islamic” label in an effort, they said, to avoid bolstering the terrorists’ propaganda that America was at war with all of Islam. But many Republicans in Congress protested that policy for denying the true nature of the threat.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

During an appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Feb. 23, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly used the term “violent extremists” in talking about the “four plus one threat” the US military must face. That term refers to the possible future threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, plus the ongoing fights against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and many parts of Africa.

Dunford also used that term in explaining the purpose of the review Trump ordered the Pentagon to conduct on ways to accelerate the fight to defeat ISIS and similar groups.

When challenged by a reporter on whether he does not feel the need to use the “Islamic” label used by Trump, Dunford carefully avoided the term.

“You ought not to read anything into my use of ‘violent extremism’ other than really trying to articulate exactly the point I’m trying to make now… It involves al Qaeda, it involves Hezbollah, it involves ISIS and other groups that present a trans-regional threat,” he said.

“If you ask about a specific group I could give you a more specific descriptor,” Dunford added. “I was using the term ‘violent extremism’ to refer to all of those groups,” that exist “as the result of individuals who take up arms to advance political and/or religious objectives through violence.”

In an earlier discussion about the complex situation the US is trying to deal with in Syria, Dunford noted there are issues with Sunni and Shia groups, the two main divisions of Islam, plus Kurds, Turks and others.

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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 TRENDING

Court ruling: VA now considers pain to be a disability

From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.


Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.

Pain is now a VA disability

For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.

Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.

Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Senior Airman Joseph Suarez, 99th Medical Operation Squadron physical therapy journeyman, connects Master Sgt. Jeramie Brown, 99th Air Base Wing broadcast journalist, to an electrical stimulation machine Sept 21.
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)

Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.

The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.

What the ruling means for veterans

The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. Rebecca Gaither, physical therapy NCOIC, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), helps Soldiers get back on their feet at Combat Operations Base Speicher, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)

Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.

This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.

Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.

This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.

This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.

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A 93-year-old WW2 vet just showed what compassion in victory looks like

Deep within the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in a small farming village hidden away from the fast-paced city life, the family of a fallen Japanese soldier eagerly waited for the return of a precious heirloom. For the first time in 73 years, the Yasue family can finally receive closure for the brother that never came home from war.


World War II veteran Marvin Strombo traveled 10,000 miles from his quiet home in Montana to the land of the rising sun to personally return a Japanese flag he had taken from Sadao Yasue during the Battle of Saipan in June 1944.

The USMC veteran carried the flag with him decades after his time serving as a scout sniper with 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division. He cared for the flag meticulously and never once forgot the promise he made to Yasue as he took the flag from him in the midst of war.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
USMC photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas

As a young corporal, Strombo looked up from his position on the battlefield, he noticed he became separated from his squad behind enemy lines. As he started heading in the direction of the squad’s rally point, he came across a Japanese soldier that lay motionless on the ground.

“I remember walking up to him,” said Strombo. “He was laying on his back, slightly more turned to one side. There were no visible wounds and it made it look almost as if he was just asleep. I could see the corner of the flag folded up against his heart. As I reached for it, my body didn’t let me grab it at first. I knew it meant a lot to him but I knew if I left it there someone else might come by and take it. The flag could be lost forever. I made myself promise him, that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.”

As years went on, Strombo kept true to his promise to one day deliver the heirloom. It was not until the fateful day he acquainted himself with the Obon Society of Astoria, Oregon, that he found a way to Yasue’s family.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
USMC photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas

Through the coordination of the Obon Society, both families received the opportunity to meet face-to-face to bring what remained of the Yasue home.

Sadao’s younger brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said his brother was a young man with a future to live. When Sadao was called upon to go to war, his family gave him this flag as a symbol of good fortune to bring him back to them. Getting this flag back means more to them than just receiving an heirloom. It’s like bringing Sadao’s spirit back home.

Tatsuya was accompanied by his elder sister Sayoko Furuta and younger sister Miyako Yasue to formally accept the flag. As Tatsuya spoke about what his brother meant to not only his family, but the other members of the community, he reminisced over the last moments he had with him before his departure.

Tatsuya said his family received permission to see Sadao one last time, so they went to him. He came down from his living quarters and sat with them in the grass, just talking. When they were told they had five more minutes, Sadao turned to his family and told them that it seemed like they were sending him to somewhere in the Pacific. He told them he probably wasn’t coming back and to make sure they took good care of their parents. That was the last time Tatsuya ever spoke to his brother.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Soldiers at the battle of Saipan. Photo from US National Archives.

As Strombo and Yasue exchanged this simple piece of cloth from one pair of hands to the next, Strombo said he felt a sense of relief knowing that after all these years, he was able to keep the promise he made on the battlegrounds of Saipan.

The reunion also held more emotional pull as it took place during the Obon holiday, a time where Japanese families travel back to their place of origin to spend time with loved ones.

Although Strombo never fought alongside Yasue, he regarded him almost as a brother. They were both young men fighting a war far from home. He felt an obligation to see his brother make it home, back to his family, as he had made it back to his own. Strombo stayed true to his word and honored the genuine Marine spirit to never leave a man behind.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the Space Force actually aimed at restraining China?

When Vice President Mike Pence on Aug. 9, 2018, set forth the US’s vision for the future of space exploration and combat, he took a not-so-subtle shot at China, signaling a coming space race between the world’s two biggest powers.

First, Pence brought up a 2007 episode in which China shot down one of its own satellites as a “highly provocative demonstration of China’s growing capability to militarize space” (though the US has satellite-killing missiles too).


But the real dig at China that hints at the future of space conflict came in a more subtle fashion.

“While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law,” Pence said. “So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom into this new frontier.”

Pence also mentioned Russia, but one of the “other” nations at the top of Pence’s mind is China, where space exploration has boomed and Beijing has already started talking about celestial bodies as if they’re a birthright.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

(NASA photo)

Here’s Ye Peijian, the head of the Chinese lunar-exploration program, 2017:

“The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island. If we don’t go there now even though we’re capable of doing so, then we will be blamed by our descendants. If others go there, then they will take over, and you won’t be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough.”

Ye’s mention of the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese also claim and contest, and of Huangyan Island, which the Philippines also claim and contest, recall Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea.

China unilaterally, and in violation of international law, claims 90% of the South China Sea, a resource-rich shipping lane and maritime chokepoint. China has heavily militarized artificial islands it built there at tremendous cost to the environment. If Beijing locked down the South China Sea, it could consolidate much of Asia’s lifeblood under the de facto control of its authoritarian government.

Space works in much of the same way.

“What appears at first a featureless void is in fact a rich vista of gravitational mountains and valleys, oceans and rivers of resources and energy alternately dispersed and concentrated, broadly strewn danger zones of deadly radiation, and precisely placed peculiarities of astrodynamics,” Everett Dolman, a professor of comparative military studies at the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, wrote in his book on astropolitics, as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has highlighted.

In other words, the pushes and pulls of gravity cause space to work much like the sea. While it lacks physical terrain, it has its own kind of chokepoints, high ground, runways, and thoroughfares.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Xichang Satellite Center, China.

‘Totally at war with China’

As China ramps up its space program, it stands accused of stealing technology from the US on a massive scale. The space race of the 1960s proved that countries with the strongest industrial base and manufacturing excel in space. China has done everything in its power to match the US in those areas.

“Make no mistake about it that we are — we are totally at war with China right now,” said Jim Phillips, the CEO and chairman of the nanotechnology firm NanoMech, as Brietbart notes. “It’s not a war of bombs. It’s a war of cyberwarfare, and it’s also a war of GDP and jobs. And the one that has the most GDP and the jobs is going to be the clear winner.”

Phillips said nanotechnology, which could aid in manufacturing the advanced materials seen as vital for future space travel, will determine the next space race’s winner. He accused China of aggressively stealing nanotech secrets.

“At that point, China will have the new world,” he said. “America will no longer have a disproportionate financial advantage that gives it the moral, economic and the leadership authority it has now. When this happens, America loses; the world changes. Everything changes.” China, he said, “won’t have to use its military.”

But the US, for now, appears unwilling to let China have its way in either the South China Sea or space.

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said in June. “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s communist party might be cracking under trade pressure

The intensifying trade war between China and the US has caused a massive rift between the countries, but sources say tension is also rising internally among elite members of the Communist Party of China.

Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has worked diligently to consolidate power and cement his rule over China, claiming control over the country’ military and government and cracking down on all forms of political dissent.


In the process, Chinese propaganda has pushed hard on the portrayal of China as a strong, nationalistic country, with Xi at its core.

Several sources close to the government told Reuters that this aggressive branding had backfired, further provoking the US as it ramps up tariffs in one of the largest trade wars in economic history.

An anonymous government-policy adviser told Reuters of a growing concern among leadership that China’s economic outlook had “become grim” as its relationship with the US deteriorated over trade.

“The evolution from a trade conflict to trade war has made people rethink things,” the policy adviser said.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“This is seen as being related to the exaggeration of China’s strength by some Chinese institutions and scholars that have influenced the US perceptions and even domestic views.”

Two additional sources told Reuters that disapproval was being felt among senior government members and that backlash might hit the close Xi aide and chief ideological strategist Wang Huning, who has been widely credited for crafting Xi’s strongman image.

“He’s in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much,” a source tied to China’s leadership and propaganda system said.

And discontent has echoed through the ranks of China’s Communist veterans.

Sources told the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun that several party elders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao sent a letter in July 2018 to Communist leadership urging a review of economic and diplomatic policy and noting the party’s tendency toward personality-cult leadership.

A veteran member of the Communist Party who was said to be close to Hu told Sankei Shimbun that signs of waning support for Xi’s “dictatorial regime” had been emerging since June 2018, as Xi’s prominent presence in state propaganda was beginning to diminish. In July 2018, Xi’s name was noticeably absent from the front pages of the state mouthpiece People’s Daily — twice in one week.

July 2018, Xi swiftly called for a meeting with the powerful Politburo decision-making body, made up of the party’s 25 most senior members, reportedly outlining plans to stabilize the economy hit hard by US tariffs.

Xi was most likely gearing up for the annual Communist summit at the resort of Beidaihe, where top party leaders gather to discuss party policy behind closed doors.

The retreat, which is often kept secret, is said to be underway, and Xi’s leadership and US-China trade are likely to be high on the agenda, according to Taiwan News.

China and the US have kicked their trade war into high gear, as the US announced it would impose 25% tariffs on billion worth of Chinese goods starting August 23, 2018.

In response, China announced 25% tariffs on billion worth of US goods meant to take effect the same day — though critics have suggested China is running out of cards to play as the US imports more Chinese goods than the reverse and can deal far deadlier blows to China’s economy.

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

Articles

Marines temporarily ground planes in wake of Hornet crash

The Marine Corps has ordered all non-deployed aircraft squadrons to observe a 24-hour “operational pause” after a Miramar-based squadron suffered a third F/A-18C Hornet crash in 12 months — two within the span of a week, one fatal.


Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Military.com there would be an operational pause for all Marine Aircraft Wings, exempting deployed units.

“This operational pause is to happen within the next seven business days,” she said in an email. “Operational pauses are routine and are a time to align, discuss best practices and look at ways to continue to improve.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
US Marine Corps photo

The news of this grounding throughout Marine Corps aviation was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

Burns said the timing of the pause was at the discretion of the wing commanders. Investigations into the most recent crashes are still ongoing, she said.

Pilot Maj. Richard Norton of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 was killed July 28 when his F/A-18C Hornet went down during training near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.

A second pilot attached to the squadron, who has not been identified, is being treated after ejecting from his F/A-18C Hornet on Aug. 2 over Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, during a training flight.

That aircraft had been temporarily assigned to Fallon’s Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment, officials said.

In October 2015, a Marine pilot also attached to VMFA-232, Maj. Taj Sareen, was killed when his Hornet crashed near Royal Air Force Airfield Lakenheath in England during a flight from Bahrain to Miramar at the completion of a six-month deployment to the Middle East.

No cause has been publicly released for any of these three crashes.

Officials said recently they have wrapped up an investigation into a deadly Navy F/A-18C crash that happened earlier this summer. Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a soloist with the Blue Angels demonstration team, was killed June 3 when his aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff in what was supposed to be a rehearsal flight ahead of an airshow in Smyrna, Tennessee. The results of that investigation have yet to be released.

In a discussion at a think tank in Washington, D.C., on July 29, the Marines’ head of aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, said he did not believe diminished flight hours for Hornet pilots had contributed to the tragic July 28 crash.

“I track [flight hours] each week. This particular unit was doing OK,” he said.

Davis added he did not believe that reduced flight hours, a function of limited resources and available aircraft, were making Marine Corps squadrons less safe, but added the Corps was “not as proficient as we should be.”

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The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.

According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.

Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Egyptian Mi-17. (Wikimedia Commons)

By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.

The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.

Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.

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Meet the sailor who served with the Axis and the Allies and survived three sinking ships

Nicknamed “Unsinkable Sam,” this German sailor served with the Nazi Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy during world War II. Three of the ships on which he served were sunk and he miraculously survived all three.


Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Seen here, with another sailor.

His first cruise was on the legendary German dreadnaught battleship Bismarck. He boarded with his best friend in 1941 as it departed Germany to wreak havoc on British shipping in the Northern Atlantic. Bismarck was sunk after a fight against an aircraft carrier, three battleships, three cruisers, and six destroyers. Only 118 of the ship’s 2,200 survived. Oscar (the real name of “Unsinkable Sam”) was found floating on a board by the HMS Cossack, and was put to work immediately by the British crew.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
The Bismarck

After serving on the Cossack for months, Oscar was accepted by the ship’s crew. One day on escort duty near Gibraltar, Cossack was torpedoed by a German U-boat and was heavily damaged. Oscar survived. Although attempts were made to tow the ship back to port, the weather made it impossible and the ship was abandoned and sank near Gibraltar.

Now having earned his “Unsinkable” moniker, he was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which was itself torpedoed off of the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, and sank thirty miles offshore. Only one member of the crew was lost because the ship sank at such a slow pace.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
The Ark Royal, slowly sinking.

Sam survived, but his days at sea were over. He spent the rest of the war serving the governor of Gibraltar and would live for another decade after the war’s end. He died in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1955.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Thanks for your service, Sam

MIGHTY CULTURE

Have a good idea for the Army? Here is your chance to shine

Think you have a great idea that will revolutionize Army readiness and resilience? The Army wants to boost your chance at making it happen.

Starting in June 2019, the Army implemented a formal process to capture and evaluate grassroots, personal readiness, and resilience initiatives, before considering the idea for potential Army-wide use.

The new process, outlined in the just released Initiative Evaluation Process technical guide, is designed to ensure ideas can demonstrate results, have applicability Army-wide and avoid duplication or unintended consequences.


“Not every good idea, even if it’s a great idea, may hit the mark,” said Joe Ezell, a Management and Program Analyst at the Army’s G-1 SHARP, Ready and Resilient (SR2) Directorate. “Sometimes people don’t quite understand the second and third order effects associated with their good idea … and the execution of that idea might not quite evolve into what they are looking for.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

(U.S. Army photo)

Previously, the Army may have implemented ideas sent by local installations, but without thorough analysis or resourcing, those initiatives fell by the wayside. The new technical guide, developed jointly by SR2 and the Army Public Health Center (APHC), requires that proposed initiatives undergo a five-step screening process to assess effectiveness and Army-wide applicability.

Army program managers, Army leaders or anyone with a great idea to improve soldier, civilian, and family member personal readiness and resilience can begin the process of fielding it by reaching out to their Commander’s Readiness and Resilient Integrator (CR2I).

This first step in the process provides the individual leader or organization proposing an idea with the backing of a work group that will help them gather effectiveness data, walk them through the other steps in the process and, if the idea has merit, put together the proposal package for submission to the local installation commander. The initiative will then undergo review at several echelons before it is potentially forwarded to the Army G-1 level.

Although the process may seem cumbersome, it is not intended to inhibit innovation, instead it is meant to refine it, said David Collins, Evaluations Branch Chief at SR2.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

“As with any good ideas, it has to be well thought out,” Collins said. “It forces people to think about outcomes. Oftentimes we just think about execution, we never really think about the impact.”

The end result will be that the best ideas will rise to the top and get pushed through up to the highest levels for evaluation and possible implementation Army-wide, Collins said. Other ideas may work better at the local or regional level, and commanders can still count on the IEP process to validate those initiatives.

The proposal package the CR2I puts together is intended to show the quantifiable impact an idea has, and gather objective evidence that will reinforce the value of the idea so that when a new program is presented to senior Army leaders, they will be able to make evidence-based decisions. The IEP will “save time, energy and effort across the board,” Ezell said.

Grassroots efforts have traditionally driven innovation in the ranks, so if you are ready to submit your idea, download the technical guide and reach out to your local CR2I now.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Watch this modern-day Samurai slice a BB pellet traveling at 217 miles per hour

42-year-old Isao Machii is a Japanese Iaidoka, master of Iaido. Iaido is martial art focused on controlled movements in drawing a sword, striking an opponent, cleaning the blood from the blade, and then re-sheathing the sword. Iaido started during the Japanese feudal system and is the foundation of modern Japanese swordsmanship.


Machii holds Guinness World Records for the most martial arts sword cuts to one mat (suegiri), the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts, the most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes, and the fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword.

“This is about processing it at an entirely different sensory level because he is not visually processing it,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was on hand for the BB pellet event. “This is a different level of anticipatory processing. Something so procedural, something so fluid for him.” Machii agreed, saying he doesn’t use his eyes, but can instantly visualize the trajectory of the object in his mind.

He is now headmaster of his own samurai school. See more of his swordsmanship, and enjoy the reactions of people watching him:

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