Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will use AI in air combat platforms

The US Air Force is now accelerating a massive AI push to cyber-harden networks, improve weapons systems, and transform functions of large combat air platforms such as the B-2, F-15 and F-35, service officials said.

“The Air Force has over 600 projects incorporating a facet of artificial intelligence to address various mission sets,” Capt. Hope Cronin, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.


While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems and large platforms.

AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control.

When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.

For the F-35, B-2 and F-15, rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize targeting, ISR and sensor input such as navigation information, radar warning information, images or video.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

F-35A off the coast of Northwest Florida.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

The F-35, for instance, uses early iterations of artificial intelligence to help acquire, organize and present information to the pilot on a single screen without much human intervention. Often referred to as easing the cognitive burden upon pilots, the effort is geared toward systematically presenting information from a range of disparate sensors on a single screen. The F-35s widely-discussed sensor fusion, for example, is evidence of this phenomenon, as it involves consolidating targeting, navigation and sensor information for pilots.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves — without needing human intervention.

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine healh or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

F-35 cockpit.

As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

The prospect of using advanced algorithms and on-board computers to quickly perform a range of aircraft functions, while enabling human decision makers in a role of command and control, is further explored in a research paper from a London-based think tank called “Chatam House – Royal Institute of International Affairs.”

The 2017 essay, titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare,” explains how fighter and bomber pilot “checklists” can be enabled by AI as “cognitive-aiding tools.”

“…pilots rely significantly on procedures to help them manage the complexity of various tasks. For instance, when a fire-light illuminates or another subsystem indicates a problem, pilots are trained to first stabilize the aircraft (a skill) but then turn to the manual to determine the correct procedure (rule following). Such codified procedures are necessary since there are far too many solutions to possible problems to be remembered,” the Chatam House paper writes.

The Air Force’s stealthy B-2 bomber is yet another example; the aircraft is receiving a new flight management control processor which increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, Air Force officials said.

The upgrade is a quantum improvement over the legacy system, providing over a thousand times the processor throughput, memory, and network speed, according to senior Air Force leaders. The new processor will help automated navigation programs and expedite the B-2s “fly-by-wire” technology — all of which are designed to enable a pilot to expend energy upon the most pressing combat tasks with less intervention.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor Upgrade, also known as the Extremely High Frequency, Increment 1 processor upgrade, completed the final aircraft install in August 2016, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven in 2017.

Faster, more capable processors will enable the aircraft’s avionics, radar, sensors, and communications technologies to better identify and attack enemy targets. The sensor-to-shooter time will be greatly reduced, allowing the B-2 to launch weapons much more effectively, therefore reducing its exposure to enemy attacks.

Although built in the 1980s, the B-2 is a digital airplane which uses what’s called a “glass cockpit” for flight controls and on-board systems.

The upgrade involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now — because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Warrior.

Improved Processing capacity for the B-2 will enable the upcoming integration of digital nuclear weapons, such as the B61-12, service officials explained.

Also, the Air Force F-15 is now being engineered with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Warrior in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

Robot soldiers are coming! Robot soldiers are coming!

Boston Dynamics has come out with a new version of its Atlas robot that is more mobile, more agile, lighter, quieter, and doesn’t require a power tether.


The new robot was introduced in a YouTube video this morning where it was shown escaping a building and marching through the snow:

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Then it stacked boxes like some sort of Robo-POG:

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Like other POGs, the Atlas was bullied pretty harshly on the job:

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

The new generation Atlas weighs only 180 pounds, approximately half the weight of its 330-pound predecessor. It is powered by onboard batteries and can navigate obstacles that tripped up earlier Atlas robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Boston Dynamics has withdrawn from the DARPA challenge to focus on building commercially-viable robots, meaning they might try to sell the robot to the military or other buyers within the next few years.

Still, the Atlas is far from reaching the battlefield. The new improvements could get it ready to serve behind the lines, but it’s about as noisy as the BigDog robot which was shelved by the Marine Corps for being too loud. And there are no signs that it’s ready to carry its own weapon.

For now, developers will probably continue to target disaster response and similar missions.

Articles

Don’t pack a lip with that shrapnel-flavored snuff

Bring it in, take a knee, drink some water. You need to read this before you start popping that little can and getting a pinch — there’s a recall on Copenhagen, Skoal and Husky, which sucks, we know, but might save you some additional mouth pain.


It’s one thing to mix MRE instant coffee or Rip It powder in with your dip. But potentially mixing shrapnel in is quite another.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
Is there some JDAM in there? (DoD photo)

Since four to five times as many military members use smokeless tobacco as their civilian counterparts (and given an average DoD expenditure of more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care), we reckon this is a warning that oughta get out there.

The recall comes from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. It’s a voluntary recall, applying to all products coming out of its Franklin Park facility in Illinois. Among them are a number of the company’s most popular products, including Cope Long Cut Straight (overseas military only), Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen (overseas military only) and about three dozen other flavors.

According to Altria…

“USSTC initiated the recall after receiving eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. Complaints have been received from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.”

The FDA is apparently aware of the complaints and the voluntary recall and is investigating.

Chances are if you’ve ever served, you’ve either used “smokeless tobacco” — i.e. snuff — or worked alongside or deployed with someone who has. Its use is ubiquitous, in both line and support units. The Millenium Cohort Study of 2012 made the relationship between combat and smokeless tobacco use very clear.

Overall, troops who were deployed but did not see combat were almost one-third more likely to take up a smokeless tobacco habit than their non-deployed counterparts. Those odds were two-thirds to three-quarters higher for troops who were in combat or who deployed multiple times.

DoD wide tobacco use in the military has declined since an Iraq War high, but it’s still far higher than the general civilian population and continues despite numerous measures taken discourage or even forbid it. Such regs as AFI 40–102, SECNAV 5100.13E, Army Regulation 600-63, and numerous local regulations like the one below for gyrenes are in place, but their impact is fairly anemic.

(5) Use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited during briefings, meetings, classes, formations, inspections, and while on watch. (6) The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste is confined to heads within government buildings aboard this installation. The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste within or from government vehicles is not permitted.

The reasons for that are many, and doubtless require little articulation here…stress relief, boredom, a boost to stay awake during long hours and night operations are the most often cited.

As long as assorted chumps are shooting at us in faraway places, that’s not likely to change either.

You can find further details in this press release from Altria.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These night-vision goggles could let troops shoot around corners

US Army soldiers will soon be deploying with game-changing new night vision goggles as the service wraps up the final round of testing this week.

Troops will be putting the Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B), recognized as one of the most advanced night vision optics available, to the test at Fort Drum in New York at the last of ten limited user events. Once the testing is complete, the ENVG-B will enter full-rate production with fielding scheduled for this fall, PEO Soldier announced April 22, 2019.

An armored brigade combat team set to deploy to South Korea this fall is expected to be the first unit to deploy with the new system, according to Army Times.


Highlights of the new night vision goggles include dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception and increased situational awareness, white phosphorous tubes (a higher-resolution improvement over the traditional green glow), and improved thermal capabilities that allow soldiers to see through dust, fog, smoke, and just about anything else that might impair a soldier’s vision on the battlefield.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

(PEO Soldier)

But, the really impressive capability is the ability to wirelessly connect the new goggles to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. With the picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can fire accurately from the hip or point their weapon around a corner to observe or fire on targets effectively while remaining hidden.

This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” the Army explained.

“Now, if a soldier’s on a patrol, weapon’s down at his hip, all of a sudden a threat pops, instead of having to flip up a goggle, shoulder his weapon, reacquire, he has that aim point in his field of view, and he can actually shoot from the hip,” a BAE Systems spokesman previously told Business Insider. The FWS-I, along with the highly-capable monocular ENVG IIIs, were developed by BAE. The new ENVG-Bs were developed by L3.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

ENVG-B

(PEO Soldier)

Army officials have spoken highly of the new goggles and their improved capabilities.

“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress, according to Army Times. He said there had been been a marked improvement in marksmanship, explaining that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

ENVG-B

(PEO Soldier)


Referring to the Rapid Target Acquisition capability, Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality cross-functional team, told reporters last fall that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”

The new goggles are also suitable for augmented reality, an option that allows the Army, and later the Marines, to turn the optics into a virtual reality platform for synthetic training.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Meditation is like ‘Bicep Curls’ for your Brain

Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.


Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Trying to get enlightened real fast!

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)

This is how your brain works

When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.

When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.

This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.

US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation

youtu.be

Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.

That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.

Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.

(Photo by Iván Tejero on Unsplash)

What meditation can do in the most extreme cases

Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.

The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.

Meditation Improves Performance at Military University

youtu.be

What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.

The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.

Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.

(Photo by Amy Velazquez on Unsplash)

How you can implement a practice

Just like in the gym you can’t expect to reap the benefits of meditation after a 10-minute session. How long did it take you to finally bench 225? How are those abs coming?

Shit takes time.

You need to start somewhere though. Here are two methods to go from zero to hero on the brain training front.

Mindfulness Meditation in Military

youtu.be

Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.

Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘terrorist uniform’ you’ll probably wear this winter

Plaid fabric is fairly innocuous. It’s been borrowed by all sorts of groups in America, from hipsters to lumberjacks and punk rockers to professors.

But, in the 18th century, it was the semi-official uniform of Scottish rebels branded as terrorists by the Protestant King George II.


Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

King James II and his wife, Anne, before they were violently deposed and forced to flee to France and exile.

The problems started in 1688 when Catholic King James II was overthrown by a Protestant rebellion. In his absence, who, exactly, would be the legal holder of power in England was thrown up for debate. Would the Catholic king, who had cast away the Seal of the Realm while fleeing to France, or the Protestant William III and his wife, Mary, be the true authority of England?

Different political bodies in England and in other European capitols came down on different sides of the debate, but Mary was crowned queen and her husband became king. But the descendants of James II maintained their claim to the throne in exile. In 1745, James II’s grandson, Charles, made a play for the throne.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

“Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the world’s hardest pandering claimant to the English throne in 1745.

(John Pettie)

Boasting Scottish blood, Charles decided to start his campaign in Scotland in 1745. The Parliament of Scotland had initially acquiesced to the rise of Queen Mary and King William III, but the Scottish, as a whole, still supported Catholic rule. And Scotland had been angered by a series of acts by London and the Crown during the early 1700s, including the dissolution of the Parliament of Scotland.

To cement his political standing with the Scots, Charles arrived in the country in a plaid coat. Plaid patterns in Scotland are known as tartans, and they had been a popular part of Scottish identity for centuries.

The ploy worked, and many Scots, especially Highland Scots, decided to support the invasion, creating the Jacobites, as they were known. But, some Lowland Scots supported Mary and William, leading to fighting in Scotland even before Charles began his push south.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Soldiers of a Highland Regiment just before the Jacobite uprising. After the uprising, soldiers serving the British crown could continue to wear patterns like this, but it was banned for nearly all others.

The Highland Scots, often wearing their traditional garb made with tartan fabrics, delivered a number of victories to “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (Think Braveheart clothing but The Patriot weapons).

But popular support for Charles and the House of Stuart dried up the further the Jacobites marched south, and so they were soon forced to start pulling back north with his largely Scottish forces.

This led to the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, where Charles and the Scots attempted to score a defensive victory against government forces led by the Duke of Cumberland. Both sides were bogged down in the mud, but greater numbers on the Protestant side allowed them to pin down Scottish fighters with some units while others maneuvered. Their artillery advantage played a large role, as well.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Battle of Culloden, where a Jacobite uprising supporting a Catholic claim to the British throne was ended by government forces.

(David Morier)

But the real brilliance of the Protestant attack came in how they ordered men to attack with bayonets during hand-to-hand fighting. Rather than fencing with the man directly in front of them, as was normal, the men were ordered to thrust into the exposed right side of the enemy adjacent to them.

Charles fled the country, never to return. But the Scots he left behind found themselves in the unenviable position of being stuck in the kingdom they had just rebelled against.

They were branded as terrorists and insurgents, and many of those who took part in the rebellion were hunted and executed. Meanwhile, their traditional fabric had been outlawed for general wear. Only highlanders who joined the British military were allowed to wear tartan fabrics, and usually only in Scottish units.

The ban was lifted in 1782, but by then, many of the traditional patterns had been lost and weavers had died. Still, it slowly grew in popularity once again.

Oddly enough, its popularity had greatly grown among Lowland Scots who had fought against their tartan-wearing brethren. They collected tartan patterns like souvenirs of their fathers’ victories over the Catholics.

Finally, the Protestant aristocracy embraced the pattern after King George IV visited Edinburgh and led a tartan procession of Highland chiefs through the Scottish city.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Now, of course, its popular around the world, but known as plaid in the States. Scottish clans reclaimed their historic patterns or generated new ones that would be tied to families forever. It’s no longer the fabric of a military rebellion. It’s just a cool pattern, often woven of warm cloths, like flannel.

In fact, the rebellious nature of the pattern has been so degraded that one of the most recognizable and broadly used tartan patterns is that of the the Royal House of Stewart, the royal family of England which defeated the 1745-1746 Jacobite Rebellion and then outlawed the fabric for almost 40 years. Oddly enough, it’s very similar to the “Jacobite” pattern worn by the rebels.

So, enjoy your flannel, but maybe tip a Scotch whisky over for the tartan-wearing warriors in the sky while you do so.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Syracuse University just changed military education forever

For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.

Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.


In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.

With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.

It’s no wonder Military Times voted Syracuse the number one private school for veterans.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Syracuse University’s 2019 Veterans Commencement Graduates.

Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.

Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New holes in Russian claims about poisoning suspect

A photograph on display at a Russian military academy is adding to the growing evidence identifying a Russian military intelligence officer who was allegedly involved in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.

The photo, highlighted in an Oct. 2, 2018 report published jointly by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, builds on other recent reports that have used data from passport registries, online photographs, and military records to focus on a Russian man identified by British authorities as Ruslan Boshirov.

British authorities say that Boshirov and another man identified as Aleksandr Petrov were behind the March 2018 poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury.


The Skripals survived the poisoning, which used a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok.

Days after being publicly identified, the two Russians went on state-controlled TV channel RT and claimed they were merely tourists.

The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the poisoning, which prompted London, Washington, and other Western allies to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.

Passport information and other data compiled by Bellingcat, however, revealed that the two suspects had links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

Later research pinpointed Boshirov’s alleged true identity as Anatoly Chepiga, who graduated from the Far Eastern Military Academy and received a medal — the Hero of the Russia Federation — in 2014, and holds the rank of colonel in the GRU.

Several people from Chepiga’s hometown also corroborated his identity to Russian and Western media, and confirmed he had been awarded a medal.

Using social-media postings, RFE/RL’s Russian Service, along with Bellingcat, discovered a wall of photos at the military academy honoring famous graduates.

One of the photos, posted between July 2014 and March 2016, is identified as Chepiga. The photo shows a man resembling the man identified as Boshirov on the RT interview.

Bellingcat also obtained a higher-resolution version of the Chepiga photograph on the wall, showing a close resemblance to the man who was interviewed on RT.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has asserted that the allegations about Chepiga and the other man are part of an “information campaign” aimed at Russia.

In June 2018, two other British citizens were also exposed to the nerve agent, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress fixes ‘unfair’ rule that stopped service members from suing for damages

Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.


The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.

Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.

But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.

There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.

But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.

The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.

Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

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The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”

Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.

Later suits building on Feres limited soldiers’ rights even more – barring claims by a soldier allegedly raped by her drill sergeant and by members of the military harmed by their exposure to nuclear testing and the defoliant chemical Agent Orange.

Questionable doctrine survives

All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.

This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.

The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.

The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”

In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.

Green Beret goes to Congress

Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.

After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.

But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.

So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.

A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

Cup only half-full

The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.

And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.

While Rep. Speier still thinks that military claimants “deserve their day in federal court,” this would not be the first time a legislature provided a remedy for personal injury through an administrative process outside the courts. Workers’ compensation and the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund are examples of the use of administrative processes to determine compensation for injury.

Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.

Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy is ‘under cyber siege’ from Chinese hackers; hemorrhaging national secrets

An internal US Navy review concluded that the service and its various industry partners are “under cyber siege” from Chinese hackers who are building Beijing’s military capabilities while eroding the US’s advantage, The Wall Street Journal reported March 12, 2019.

Chinese hackers have repeatedly hit the Navy, defense contractors, and even universities that partner with the service.

“We are under siege,” a senior Navy official told The Journal. “People think it’s much like a deadly virus — if we don’t do anything, we could die.”


Are Cyber Attacks Acts of War?

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Breaches have been “numerous,” according to the review. While China is identified as the primary threat, hackers from Russia and Iran have also been causing their share of trouble.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Sailors stand watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer launched the recently concluded review in October 2018, warning that “attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication.”

“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.

In one high-profile incident lin 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post reported in June 2018, citing US officials.

That and a second breach led Navy leadership to order the review.

The Journal described the findings of the internal Navy cybersecurity review as “dire,” adding that the report “depicts a branch of the armed forces under relentless cyberattack by foreign adversaries and struggling in its response to the scale and sophistication of the problem.”

The Navy and the Pentagon reportedly “have only a limited understanding of the actual totality of losses that are occurring,” meaning the situation could be even worse than the Navy fears.

Last week, The Journal reported that Chinese hackers have targeted more than two dozen universities in the US and elsewhere in an attempt to steal military secrets, particularly those related to maritime technology.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

(US Navy Photo)

The Navy is not the only US military service branch in China’s crosshairs.

Adm. Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is snatching anything not nailed down — “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage,” Stars and Stripes reported.

A US defense official previously told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” saying that cybersecurity breaches are “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”

China has repeatedly denied engaging in cyberattacks against the US or other countries.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Step aside, Apache – this is the new armed scout helicopter from Airbus

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter was retired in early 2017 — ending four dozen years of service that started in 1969. Over 2,200 of these helicopters were built and they served as scouts. With their retirement, that role has been passed on to the AH-64 Apache.


Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Don’t get us wrong, the Apache is an awesome helicopter, with excellent sensors that can handle the mission. The “problem” is that the Apache also has a lot of payload, notably the M230 cannon with 1,200 rounds of ammo and the ability to carry 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or four 19-round pods for the Hydra 70mm rockets, or a mix of Hellfires and Hydra rockets.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile. Enemy troops on the receiving end of this missile will be unavailable for comment. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

Now, let’s face it, if the Apache comes across some enemy troops while scouting, such firepower means that the Apache crew will likely be the only ones telling tales of the encounter. But firefights and explosions tend to attract unwanted attention. Or, if you’re out of weapons, you need to go back to base and re-arm.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
A UH-72 Lakota Helicopter of the National Training Center’s Aviation Company provides air superiority cover for the opposition forces engaged with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division’s ground forces during an encounter in the Siberian Flats at the National Training Center, June 15, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)

Ironically, the solution to the “problem” of using the Apache as a scout helicopter may be here, and it’s from Airbus in the form of the H145M. Think of the H145M as a more potent version of the EC145 that formed the basis for the Army’s UH-72 Lakota helicopter.

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat
Airbus H145M, showing a gun pod on the left and a 12-round rocket pod on the right. (Photo from Airbus Helicopters)

According to a handout provided by Airbus at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland, the H145M has two pylons that can carry rocket pods, gun pods, air-to-ground missiles like the Hellfire, or air-to-air missiles like the FM-92 Stinger. The H145M also retains a lot of the capabilities of the EC145, including the ability to medevac troops, to carry up to 10 troops, or to carry out search-and-rescue missions.

The H145M has a top speed of 143 nautical miles per hour and a range of 345 nautical miles, It also can carry up to 3,900 pounds of cargo.

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