Soldiers in new cyber teams are now bringing offensive and defensive virtual effects against Islamic militants in northern Iraq and Syria, according to senior leaders.
“We have Army Soldiers who are in the fight and they are engaged (with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” said Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, the Army Cyber Command’s deputy commander for operations.
Once the cyber mission force teams stand up, McGee said they’re going straight into operational use.
“As we build these teams, we are … putting them right into the fight in contact in cyberspace,” he said at a media roundtable last week.
The general declined to discuss specific details, but said the majority of the effort is offensive cyberspace effects that are being delivered from locations in the United States and downrange.
The Army is responsible for creating 41 of the 133 teams in the Defense Department’s cyber mission force. Of the Army’s teams, 11 are currently at initial operating capability with the rest at full operational capability, according to Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of cyber for the Army’s G-3/5/7.
She expects all of the Army teams to be ready to go before the October 2018 deadline, she said.
The teams have three main missions: protect networks, particularly the DOD Information Network; defend the U.S. and its national interests against cyberattacks; and give cyber support to military operations and contingency plans.
This spring, Army cyber also plans to continue the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities support to Corps and Below pilot, which is testing the concept of expeditionary CEMA cells within training brigades.
The 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team is slated to take part in the pilot’s sixth iteration, being held at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
In the training, Soldiers discover how to map out cyber and EM terrain in a simulated battlefield in order to defeat the enemy.
“Where are the wireless points, cell phone towers? What does that look like? How do you figure out how to gain access to them to be able to deliver effects?” McGee asked.
In one example, McGee said that a CEMA cell could be used to shut down an enemy’s internet access for a period of time to help a patrol safely pass through a contested area. The internet access could then be turned back on to collect information on enemy activities.
“We’re innovating and trying to figure this out,” he said.
McGee also envisions cyber Soldiers working alongside a battlefield commander inside a tactical operations center, similar to how field artillery or aviation planners give input.
“A maneuver commander can look at a team on his staff that can advise him on how to deliver cyber and electromagnetic effects and activities in support of his maneuver plan,” he said.
Until then, the Army has created a cyber first line of defense program, which trains two-person teams to actively defend the tactical networks of brigades, Frost said. Each team consists of a warrant officer and NCO who are not specifically in the cyber career field, but who can still help brigades operate semi-autonomously in combat.
“[We] look at putting two individuals that will come with cyber education and tools to be that first line of defense,” Frost said. “It allows a brigade commander to be able to execute mission command.”
Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?
Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!
NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.
Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.
“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”
The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.
The odds are against you right?
Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.
If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.
People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.
It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.
As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.
If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?
Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:
Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.
Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.
Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.
Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:
International Space Station systems training
Extravehicular Activity skills training
Robotics skills training
Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
A 10-member South Korean delegation met face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on March 5, 2018 for the first time in history — and the talks could set the tone for later US engagement.
The meeting, which took place in Pyongyang, reportedly involved an elegant reception and banquet for the visiting diplomats, who will stay in what a representative of the South Korean president’s office told NK News was a “luxury resort” on the Taedong River.
“The North Korean side has been preparing a lot for warmly welcoming the South Korean delegation,” the representative said. North Korea is known to go all out when hosting foreign diplomats.
But while the South Koreans may have found a warm reception, the delegation’s leader promised they would talk about the most difficult topic at hand and most likely the elephant in the room: North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and ambitions.
Chung Eui-yong, the chief of South Korea’s National Security Office, told reporters at a briefing that, “more than anything,” the diplomats would “clearly deliver” South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s “firm will to achieve the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and create sincere and permanent peace.”
North Korea has consistently said its possession of nuclear weapons is non-negotiable; it’s even written into the country’s constitution. The US and South Korea maintain that their goal in engaging with North Korea is denuclearization and that any mutual talks must seek that end.
Since the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea, North Korea has been much more open to inter-Korean talks, with Kim even inviting Moon to Pyongyang to become the first head of state to meet him in person.
Moon has not yet accepted the invitation, and US President Donald Trump has said talks must happen only “under the right conditions.”
But North Korea may be feeling pressure to engage diplomatically with the US and South Korea, as a new wave of sanctions and an aggressive policy by the Trump administration of policing North Korea’s exports threaten to hamstring the country’s economy.
Additionally, the US and South Korea are expected to return to normal military exercises in mid-March 2018 after the Paralympic Games; such exercises serve as a major irritant to North Korea, which often responds with missile tests. Experts calculate that Pyongyang still needs several tests to ensure the functionality of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile systems.
Al Qaeda asked its aspiring recruits to fill out an application in order to join, according to documents the US government seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released on May 20th.
The application asks for basic information (name, age, education level, criminal history), but includes more terrorism-specific queries, like “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?” and “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?”
The form was released as part of the declassification of a trove of documents seized during the May 1st, 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
When Al Qaeda was first created, the group noted in a memo that there were four requirements for membership — swearing allegiance to the emir and being obedient, obtaining a personal referral from a member of Al Qaeda’s inner circle, and displaying “good manners,” according to the recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” which also discusses Al Qaeda’s origins.
It took 104 years, but the Marine Corps Reserve has grown from just 35 personnel to more than 40,000. To celebrate the USMC Reserve’s August 28 birthday, here’s a look at Marine heritage and culture.
USMC-R History and Origins
The Marines’ reserve component dates back to the Civil War when military and civilian readers recognized a need for a Naval Reserve to augment the fleet during wartime.
Leading up to WWI, individual states tried to fill the need through state-controlled naval militias, but the lack of a centralized national force limited combat effectiveness.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the need for an operational Reserve Force, and on August 29, the USMC Reserve was born. The organization grew from just 35 Marines on April 01, 1916, to 6,467 by the time Germany surrendered in November 1918.
Reserve Marines fought on the sea and land in major battles during WWI, and as the Marine Corps began expanding its horizons during WWII, the Reserve component continued to grow. The USMC Women’s Reserve was activated in July 1942, and in 1943, the USMC WR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter.
However, by 1947, it seems like the Marine Corps and the Reserve component were going to be disbanded. Fortunately, the Armed Forces Unification Act created the Department of Defense, which helped standardize pay for Marine Corps Reserve service members, along with creating a retirement pay program.
At the end of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the USMC-R would grow to be almost 40,000 members strong.
Celebrating the USMC-R Birthday
This internal observance isn’t a widely known date or public holiday, but Reservists don’t mind. To honor and celebrate the history of the USMC Reserve on its birthday, you might consider flying the Marine Corps flag alongside the American flag this week.
Consult the Marine Corps Flag Manual to learn how to properly display a USMC-R service flag alongside the national colors. Fair warning, and in true USMC nature, this flag-flying manual is no less than 50 pages long, so be prepared for a long and thorough read.
TL;DR: The flag represents a living country and is considered a living thing. The right arm is the sword arm, and so the right is the place of honor, so the edge of the flag should be toward the staff. Flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a “patriotic effect is desired for specific occasions,” the flag can be displayed for a full 24 hours if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.
Famous USMC Reservists
Like the other branches of the military, being a part of the USMC-R can significantly impact civilian careers. For Reservists, being a Marine often means being able to also continue with life’s other passions. Take a look at the most famous Marine Reservists. You might not know they were Leathernecks, but we’re pretty sure you know their work!
After enlisting in the Reserves in 1980, Carey went on to serve a total of six years. The comedian says that he adopted his trademark crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses because of his time in service. During his time in the Reserves, Carey was always looking for new ways to make money. Someone in his unit suggested using his jokes. Of his big break in Hollywood, Carey has often remarked that he would still be serving if he hadn’t made it big.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cory W. Bush/Released)
Retired Lt. Col. Riggle served in the USMC Reserve as a PAO from 199-2013. He served in Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He joined the Marines after getting his pilot’s license with the intent of becoming a Naval Aviator but left flight school to pursue his comedy career. He has appeared on the Daily Show and had a running role on The Office.
Interested in joining the USMC Reserves?
The USMC-R is a critical component to being able to provide a balanced, ready force. There’s no telling that you’ll end up a famous comedian like Drew Caret or Rob Riggle, but chances are you’ll grow as a person and learn something in the process, too. Find out more here.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.
North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”
Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.
North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.
According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.
Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.
Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater
Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.
“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.
(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)
Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.
“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.
Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.
“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”
‘A natural at military strategy’
While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.
NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”
He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”
But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.
“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.
“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.
Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.
“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”
Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.
“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”
In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”
NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.
In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.
“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.
The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.
All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.
While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.
“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.
“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.
“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”
The Battle of Stalingrad is widely considered the turning point for the Soviets on World War II’s Eastern Front, and maybe the entire war. From the rubble of Stalingrad came hundreds of small stories each more difficult to believe – yet, still true.
Another eerie, true story to come from the fighting there was the music the Red Army played as propaganda as the two sides fought over the now-infamous city.
In “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943,” Antony Beevor describes how the NKVD, the Soviet secret police and forerunner to the KGB, set up loudspeakers throughout the city. For weeks, the Soviets played a tango they believed conveyed a sinister mood: “The Tango of Death”
Interspersed with the music was the sounds of a ticking clock and messages in German about how hopeless their position in the city really was or that a German soldier died every seven seconds.
These musical programs were also driven around on vans throughout the city streets. They began with quotes like “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” then go into the music, clock, and demoralizing quotes. Often times, the ends would be punctuated by the firing of Katyusha rockets at Nazi positions.
The propaganda effect may not have worked the way it was supposed to, but the constant bombardment of audio sure did. The Nazis became increasingly exhausted in “Counting Sheep, the Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams,” Paul Martin quotes German soldiers at Stalingrad, who suffered from extreme exhaustion waiting for the Soviet broadcasts to end.
Doing the math, if a song is roughly four minutes, it will play 15 times in an hour, 360 times in a day, 2,520 times in a week – or 58,680 during the 163-day Battle of Stalingrad. Beevor also notes that the Red Army’s favorite song to play for the visiting Germans was “Zemlyanka” by Aleksey Surkov.
Just in case the Germans found “Tango de la Muerte” more than a little upbeat, that is.
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.
How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.
In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.
Engaging with small arms
In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.
With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.
Meeting tank warfare
American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.
Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.
Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.
Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”
Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.
(British Army photo)
Naval power for combat and transport
All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.
A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.
In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”
A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.
(US Navy photo)
Taking to the skies
Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.
An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.
Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.
Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.
The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.
It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.
“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.
(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)
“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”
The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.
“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.
Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.
“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.
Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”
“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”
Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.
Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.
“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.
If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.
“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.
“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.
“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”
The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.
“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.
Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.
“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”
Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.
“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The IAEA deal is a “roadmap” to Iran providing the disclosures needed to establish an inspection baseline for the country’s nuclear program. The Agency needs to know the state of Iranian expertise, infrastructure, and research related to nuclear weapons in order to formulate an effective inspection regime.
But the deadline for these disclosures is late 2015, well after the presumed lifting of UN sanctions authorizations. The “roadmap” also makes the following, brief mention of how inspectors will deal with the Parchin facility, the suspected site of nuclear-weapons-related ballistics tests in 2002: “Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.”
Disclosures and access related to Parchin could be crucial to getting a full view of Iran’s nuclear program. And a major point of verification is being put off for months after the actual agreement is signed.
Furthermore, the compromise suggests that inspector access to even military sites with a strongly suspected past connection to nuclear weaponization — even Parchin, which at one point may have been one of Iran’s key nuclear facilities — won’t be absolute.
The second ambiguity has to do with Iranian acceptance of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Additional Protocol (AP) is a series of country-specific nuclear-energy regulations that are binding under international law. The AP is a huge part of what gives the Iran nuclear agreement teeth.
But like the April Lausanne framework, Tuesday’s nuclear deal says Iran will “provisionally” accept the AP. “Provisional” acceptance is a treaty law term referring to the implementation of an agreement’s terms during the time period between when a treaty is signed and when it is officially ratified.
Even so, per the nuclear agreement, the AP enters into only du jour legal force when it is approved by the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. And there’s no apparent, fixed timeline for the official Iranian accession to the AP. Iran is obligated to “seek ratification of the AP.” But it will not enter into actual legal force until some later date — and possibly after UN sanctions authorizations are lifted.
The deal certainly sets the stage for Parchin access and Iranian AP ratification. It’s just not clear how either will work — at least not yet.
North Korea’s new show of force follows an ICBM test launch in July and a powerful thermonuclear test blast in September.
Officials in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea confirmed that North Korea launched the new missile, called Hwasong-15, from Sain Ni, North Korea. Its payload soared about 2,800 miles into space before falling back to Earth, ultimately landing in the Sea of Japan some 53 minutes later and about 620 miles away from the launch pad.
Launching a missile nearly straight up and so high may seem strange, if not unbelievable. For reference, the International Space Station orbits Earth from about 250 miles above the planet’s surface.
But David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said this arc avoids flying over Japan and other nearby nations — limiting political fallout — and represents a “very impressive” feat.
This is because the new missile, if tilted toward the U.S. during launch, could achieve a top speed of more than 17,000 mph — and a target radius of roughly 8,100 miles.
“This missile could reach all of the United States,” Wright told Business Insider, adding a critical caveat: “But it doesn’t mean much without considering the payload.”
ICBM nuclear threat
The intended payload for North Korea’s ICBM program is a nuclear warhead (although chemical weapons like VX nerve agent, which the nation allegedly possesses and has used, are another option).
Wright said ICBMs burn rocket fuel for about three to five minutes before deploying a warhead on top. The warhead continues coasting through space for another 30 minutes or so, falling toward Earth under the force of gravity until it reenters the atmosphere, reaches its target, and detonates.
This alarms North Korea’s adversaries because the nation recently detonated a thermonuclear device that yielded the energy of perhaps 300 kilotons of TNT — about 20 times as much as the bomb the U.S. detonated over Hiroshima in 1945.
But Wright doubts such a weapon, also known as a hydrogen bomb, will be miniaturized into a missile-ready warhead by North Korea anytime soon. Rather, he thinks the first type of warhead North Korea may be capable of launching is a less powerful, Hiroshima-style atomic weapon.
Being able to deliver such firepower “is still a big deal,” he said, but is by no means a proven capability.
“There’s a big debate going on in the technical community that works on these things, and it’s exactly about how heavy the warhead would be that North Korea could build, and what capabilities they can get out of their rocket engines,” he said.
‘This is not a fluke’
For now, experts such as Wright assume North Korea’s recent ICBM launched with a very lightweight dummy payload to give the missile alarming show of range. An actual warhead built by North Korea might weigh “several hundred kilograms,” or more than 600 pounds.
“That’s going to significantly reduce the distance,” Wright said, likely enough to keep an armed missile payload from striking American cities.
What’s more, the current estimated accuracy of North Korea’s weapons may be as poor as six to 12 miles. (U.S. and Russian missiles can hit a target within a couple of hundred feet.) If North Korea targeted San Francisco, for example, there’s a chance the bomb could miss the city entirely and detonate over the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s kind of like throwing a baseball,” Wright said. “The farther away your target is, the harder it is to hit. If the speed or aim is off by a tiny amount, those small errors add up to big distances over intercontinental ranges.”
Wright said the Nov. 28 test launch is an incremental step for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but emphasized that it’s important not to dismiss.
“It shows this is not a fluke, that they’re continuing this progress toward something more and more capable,” Wright said. “If things continue along they way they’re going, I think there’s little doubt North Korea will eventually have the capability to hit targets in the U.S. with nuclear weapons.”
By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.
The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.
In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.
These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.
So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.
Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.