This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind

It’s not uncommon in war movies to see a pilot heroically struggle to save the lives of wounded crewmen on board a damaged plane as he brings her to the carrier or base. At the end of the 1976 movie Midway, for example, Matt Garth (as played by Charlton Heston) dies as he ends up on the wrong side of this struggle and suffers a bad ramp strike. Thankfully, not all such stories are so grim. In a recent incident, then-Capt. Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell successfully brought a shot-up A-10 back to base during Operation Iraqi Freedom.


But here’s something you may not know: These heroic actions don’t just take place during times of war. In peacetime, there are similar emergencies that force a crew to bring a damaged plane back to base – and it requires some heroic flying. One incident that our loyal readers know about involved an AV-8B Harrier with a nose gear failure. Capt. William Mahoney received the Air Medal in 2015 for pulling off the landing.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
Capt. William Mahoney received the Air Medal for safely landing his AV-8B Harrier on USS Bataan (LHD 6) after its nose gear failed. (USMC photo)

Well, the crew of a Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft recently pulled off a much more impressive feat and were recognized with the Air Medal for their actions. Lieutenants Jason Hirzel and Sean Noronha of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine were flying their Growler from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station to the Navy’s test facility at China Lake on Jan. 29, 2018. Suddenly, their environmental control systems failed at 25,000 feet. They were blinder than proverbial bats after a mist filled their cockpit and temperature dropped to 30 below zero, causing the instruments and canopy to ice over.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
The Air Medal is awarded for heroism involving flight, and is considered the flying equivalent to the Bronze Star. (USAF illustration)

“This is a situation that absolutely would have justified ejection from the aircraft,” a Navy spokesman said. “But the aircrew persevered through the extreme conditions and risked their lives to ensure a safe recovery of the aircraft.”

This amazing feat was accomplished by using a Garmin watch and a big assist from the ground control team at Whidbey Island.

The two crewmen suffered minor injuries, including frostbite. One has returned to flight status, the other is expected to do so soon.

Articles

Army declares war on head injuries with motorcycle-style ballistic helmet

Three years from now, soldiers could be wearing a new ballistic head protection that resembles a motorcycle helmet as part of the Soldier Protection System under development at Program Executive Office Soldier.


The Integrated Head Protection System features a base helmet with add-ons such as a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “ballistic applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet.

Related: SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The base helmet on the IHPS will be similar to the polyethylene Enhanced Combat Helmet that some soldiers are already wearing. Eventually all deploying soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration, Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, in an Army press release.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
The Integrated Head Protection System is part of the Soldier Protection System. | US Army photo

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a soldier’s face but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

PEO Soldier has authorized soldiers to wear a special type of sunglasses the can transition from clear to shaded lens with a press of a button.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying soldiers,” Brown said.

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

Articles

White House wants $30B defense budget increase this year to rebuild military, fight ISIS

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan March 16, President Donald J. Trump asked for a defense budget increase of $30 billion for the Defense Department in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, to rebuild the armed forces and accelerate the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
Army Special Forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The fiscal 2017 budget amendment provides $24.9 billion in base funds for urgent warfighting readiness needs and to begin a sustained effort to rebuild the armed forces, according to the president’s letter.

“The request seeks to address critical budget shortfalls in personnel, training, maintenance, equipment, munitions, modernization and infrastructure investment. It represents a critical first step in investing in a larger, more ready and more capable military force,” Trump wrote.

The request includes $5.1 billion in overseas contingency operations funds so the department can accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIS and support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, he said, noting that the request would enable DoD to pursue a comprehensive strategy to end the threat ISIS poses to the United States.

At the Pentagon this afternoon, senior defense officials briefed reporters on the on the fiscal 2017 budget amendment. The speakers were John P. Roth, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense-comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, director of force structure, resources and assessment on the Joint Staff.

“Our request to Congress is that they pass a full-year defense appropriations bill,” and that the bill includes the additional $30 billion, Roth said.

“We are now approaching the end of our sixth month under a continuing resolution,” he added, “one of the longest periods that we have ever been under a continuing resolution.”

The continuing resolution run for the rest of the fiscal year, Pentagon officials “would find that extremely harmful to the defense program,” Roth said.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry East, loads an M203 Grenade Launcher during a live fire exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. Marines are evaluated in field craft and military occupational specialty tasks under the leadership and supervision of Combat Instructors in order to provide the Marine Corps basically qualified infantry Marines prepared for service in the operating forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

“We are essentially kind of muddling along right now in terms of … borrowing resources against third- and fourth-quarter kinds of finances in order to keep things going,” he said. “But that game gets to be increasingly difficult as we go deeper into the fiscal year.”

Under a continuing resolution, the department has to operate under a fiscal 2016 mandate, creating a large mismatch between operations funds and procurement funds, Roth explained. The department can’t spend procurement dollars because there’s a restriction on new starts and on increasing production, he said, “but we have crying needs in terms of training, readiness, maintenance … and in the operation and maintenance account.”

The continuing resolution expires April 28, “so before then, we would want a full appropriation and, of course, a full appropriation with this additional $30 billion,” he said.

Roth said much of the money in the fiscal 2017 request is funding for operations and maintenance.

“We’re asking for additional equipment maintenance funding, additional facilities maintenance, spare parts, additional training events, peacetime flying hours, ship operations, munitions and those kinds of things,” he told reporters. “This is the essence of what keeps this department running on a day-to-day basis. It keeps us up and allows us to get ready for whatever the next challenge is.”

The officials said full support from Congress is key to improving warfighter readiness, providing the most capable modern force, and increasing the 2011 Budget Control Act funding cap for defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US used two new weapons in the latest strike on Syria

Massive missile strikes conducted by US, UK, and French air and naval assets on April 13, 2018, hit three targets that were allegedly related to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program. The strikes appear to have been largely successful.

US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, described the operation as “precise, overwhelming, effective,” and said that it “significantly crippled” the Syrian government’s chemical weapons capabilities.


In all, 105 weapons struck the Barzah Research and Development Center outside of Damascus, the Him Shinshar bunker, and a storage site near Homs.

“Taken together … these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense systems,” he said.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
A News Briefing Slide from the US Department of Defense showing how the April 13, 2018 strikes on Syria played out.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

McKenzie also said that Syrian air defenses fired up to 40 surface-to-air missiles “without guidance,” and that they were “largely ineffective” as they had not managed to shoot down any US aircraft or prevent the intended targets from being destroyed.

Often overlooked in the assessment of the operation is the fact that two new weapons, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, known as the JASSM-ER, and the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine both made their combat debuts during the operation — and appear to have performed perfectly.

The JASSM kept bombers out of Syrian airspace

The JASSM is a standoff air-launched cruise missile made by Lockheed Martin. It is usually dropped from a bomber like a B-1B Lancer or B-2 Spirit, but can also be carried by F-15s and F-16s.

Its standoff capability enables it to be launched well away from its target, meaning its carrying vehicle may not even need to enter hostile airspace. This appears to be what happened in Syria, as Air Force spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told Military.com that the B-1B was able to “launch stand-off weapons from outside Syrian airspace.”

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
A B-1 bomber dropping a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

The JASSM has a range of 200-500 nautical miles, a 1,000 pound penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead that can strike within 10 feet of its target, and a stealthy airframe that, in Lockheed Martin’s words, make it “extremely difficult to defeat.”

The missile has been in service since 2009, and at least 2,000 of them were delivered to the US Air Force. They are also in service with Australia, Finland, and Poland.

A total of 19 JASSMs were launched from B-1 bombers on April 13, 2018, all of which struck the Barzah Research Center. The bombers flew from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar with an escort of EA-6B Prowlers that are designed for electronic warfare.

The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the quietest submarines in service

Made by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the newest classes of submarines in the US Navy, and is considered by some to be one of the quietest submarines in service.

It has 12 vertical launch missile tubes that can fire 16 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles, as well as four 533mm torpedo tubes.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
(U.S. Navy photo)

A Virginia-class submarine, the USS John Warner, was one of four US Navy vessels that took part in April 13, 2018’s operation, firing six Tomahawks. The other vessels were the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Monterey, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Higgins and USS Laboon.

USS Laboon and USS Monterey fired 37 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea, while USS Higgins fired 23 from the Persian Gulf.

The Warner was notably the only US Navy vessel firing weapons from the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia reportedly has a considerable naval presence. Before the strike, a former Russian navy admiral said the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the Mediterranean, if it carries out a strike on Syria.

In the end, the Cook didn’t fire, and the Warner, a submarine, fired missiles while submerged, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface.

The Navy released footage of USS John Warner launching its cruise missiles, which you can see here:


MIGHTY TRENDING

Our short, national nightmare is over – get back to work

President Donald Trump signed a short-term funding bill Congress passed on Jan. 22, officially ending the three-day federal government shutdown.


The key vote came in the Senate, where most members supported a key procedural vote to let the funding bill proceed without a filibuster. The cloture vote easily cleared the 60-vote threshold with a final vote of 81 to 18. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, voted against the measure, as did 16 Democrats.

The deal will keep the government funded until Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the date in the House-passed funding bill that the Senate rejected on Jan. 19.

The final bill passed in the Senate a few hours later with the same vote as the cloture measure. The delay between the cloture vote and the final vote was due to members working out language that will allow federal workers to receive back-pay for the days the government was closed, per reports.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

The House then agreed to the deal, passing the measure shortly after the Senate by a vote of 266 to 150. 45 Democrats voted for the funding bill, while six Republicans crossed party lines to vote no.

Trump weighed in on the deal following the cloture vote with a statement partially committing to an immigration deal.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

Given Trump’s wild change of hearts during the immigration discussion, it is unclear what exactly a deal that is “good for our country” would look like.

The impasse was broken after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to hold an open debate process on a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Securing a vote on DACA was a key priority for Democrats, but the deal with McConnell appears to have fallen short of the party’s original request.

Despite McConnell’s commitment, there is nothing binding the House to the deal. A 2013 immigration bill received bipartisan support in the Senate but never made it to the floor of the House.

Also Read: The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

McConnell previously promised Republican Sen. Jeff Flake there would be a DACA vote by the end of January, which does not look likely.

Schumer said that if McConnell did not hold a good-faith vote on the DACA issue by Feb. 8, the Republican leader “will have breached the trust” of Senate Democrats.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to keep the Dreamers from being deported,” Schumer said, referring to DACA recipients.

The program will expire on March 5, potentially leaving nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minors at risk of deportation.

The Senate funding bill will also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. CHIP funding technically expired in September.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ top tech CEO says AI is more dangerous than nukes

Elon Musk, the tech billionaire who wants to colonize Mars, is seriously worried about advances in artificial intelligence.


Speaking during a QA at the SXSW film festival and tech conference in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, Musk said the two things that stress him most in life right now are production difficulties with the Tesla Model 3 electric car and the dangers of AI.

“I’m really quite close, very close to the cutting edge in AI. It scares the hell out of me,” Musk said. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone on Earth, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”

Musk cited Google’s AlphaGo, a software powered by AI that can play the ancient Chinese board game Go, as evidence of the rise of the machine. In early 2017, AlphaGo clinched a decisive win over the number-one player of Go, the world’s most demanding strategy game.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
AlphaGo. (Photo by Kenming Wang)

Musk also predicted that advances in AI will let self-driving cars handle “all modes of driving” by the end of 2019. He said he thinks Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 will be “at least 100 to 200%” safer than human drivers within two years. Musk imagines drivers can sleep at the wheel someday.

Also read: This is what Elon Musk had to say at a Marine ball

The rate of improvement excites and worries Musk. He expressed a need for regulating AI development to ensure the safety of humanity, but he didn’t say who should regulate it.

“I think the danger of AI is much bigger than the danger of nuclear warheads by a lot,” Musk said. “Nobody would suggest we allow the world to just build nuclear warheads if they want, that would be insane. And mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”

Musk wants to create a Plan B society on Mars

Musk has a backup plan in case nuclear war — or AI — wipes out the human race.

The SpaceX founder wants to put 1 million people on Mars as a sort of Plan B society. He told the crowd at SXSW that it would be ideal to get the base operational before a World War III-type event happens.

Related: What life will be like for the first colonists on Mars

In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

Musk has yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new tool shows what nukes would do to your home

Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.


Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.

“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.

To help the world understand what might happen if a nuclear weapon exploded, Wellerstein created an interactive browser app called Nukemap.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
This is what a ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested would look like in NYC, according to Nukemap. (Image Nukemap)

“Some people think they destroy everything in the world all that (sic) once, some people think they are not very different from conventional bombs,” he wrote. “The reality is somewhere in between.”

Also read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.

Preset options let you pick historic and recent blasts, including North Korea’s latest test explosion and Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated. The tool can even estimate fatalities and injuries for a given weapon yield, altitude, and location.

The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.

Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.

“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.

Picking a bomb and a target

We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.

Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.

We started with San Francisco, since according to Missilemap — Wellerstein’s companion tool to Nukemap — the city is within the estimated range of Hwasong-14, North Korea’s newest and farthest-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile.

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
Nukemap shows the impact of an air detonation over San Francisco, CA. (Image Nukemap)

Blast effects

By default, Nukemap assumed a 150-kiloton-yield warhead would explode 1.03 miles above the city.

An aerial detonation maximizes a nuclear bomb’s destructive power by allowing the blast’s energy to spread. If a bomb were to detonate on the ground, the soil would absorb more of that energy.

More reading: How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:

  • Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
  • Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
  • Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
  • Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”

Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”

This aircrew landed their Growler flying totally blind
Nukemap’s projection of the impact of a San Francisco ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested. (Image Nukemap)

Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones

When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.

We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.

Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.

According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.

“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”

Google Earth’s view

We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.

For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.

But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.

You can create your own nuclear-blast scenario and explore Nukemap 2.5’s options here.

Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.

Articles

Mattis shows his ‘no worst enemy’ side in warning to North Korea

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned on Sept. 3 of a “massive,” and “overwhelming” military response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs after a small group meeting with President Donald Trump in response to Pyongyang testing its sixth and largest-ever nuclear device.


Mattis stressed that the US has “many” military options for dealing with North Korea, but that the US does not seek the annihilation of any country.

Mattis was most likely referring to the US military’s roughly 28,000 troops located in South Korea and its massive presence in Japan and in the Pacific. At the time of Mattis’ speaking, the US does not have an increased naval or military presence in the region, though the US and South Korea did just complete a joint war-gaming exercise.

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Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2009. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

Earlier on Sept. 3, Trump floated the idea of cutting off trade with China, North Korea’s treaty ally and main trading partner, in response to North Korea’s greatly increased provocations. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and stressed military might represents a part of that package.

Historically, China has agreed to UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea following nuclear tests, but despite sanctions, loopholes remain that allow Pyongyang to finance its weapons programs.

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Photo from Rodong Sinmun.

The nuclear device tested by North Korea on Sept. 3 had a yield of hundreds of kilotons, meaning it was most likely a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, according to expert estimates and North Korea’s own statements.

The completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a thermonuclear warhead represent North Korea achieving its ultimate goal of building a credible deterrent against invasion and regime change. Experts assess that North Korea’s main goal in developing nuclear weapons is to secure its regime, and that it will not use the weapons offensively, unless provoked.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia trashes J-15 fighter, a plane based on its design

Although Beijing and Moscow recently forged a military partnership, there still appears to be some animosity over their checkered past.

Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik recently ripped China’s J-15 fighter jet for its many failings.

In 2001, China purchased a T-10K-3 (a Su-33 prototype) from Ukraine and later reversed engineered it into the J-15 fighter jet.

And Moscow, apparently, is still a little sour about it.

The J-15 is too heavy to operate efficiently from carriers, has problems with its flight control systems, which has led to several crashes, and more, Sputnik reported, adding that Beijing doesn’t even have enough J-15s to outfit both of its carriers.

The Sputnik report was first spotted in the West by The National Interest.


“The J-15’s engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters,” Sputnik reported, adding that “The US Navy’s F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons.”

The Su-33 is about as heavy as the J-15, and Moscow is currently upgrading it’s troubled Admiral Kuznetsov carrier to launch the Su-33.

“The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways,” Sputnik added, “including referring to it as a ‘flopping fish’ for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship.”

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Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Kuznetsov-class carrier like the Admiral Kuznetsov, and both use short-take off but arrested recovery launch systems.

Sputnik then piled on by interviewing Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin.

“Years ago the Chinese decided to save some money and, instead of buying several Su-33s from Russia for their subsequent license production in China, they opted for a Su-33 prototype in Ukraine,” Sputnik quoted Kashin.

“As a result, the development of the J-15 took more time and more money than expected, and the first planes proved less than reliable,” Kashin added.

But as The National Interest pointed out, the former Soviet Union regularly copied Western military concepts and products.

“Considering that China has the same habit, there is a poetic justice here,” The National Interest’s Michael Peck wrote.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

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Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

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MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
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USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
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The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


Articles

This company can ‘hack’ enemy drones for the US military

A Maryland-based company claims it can take control over an enemy drone while in flight without the use of jamming, a potential game-changer for the US military, prisons, and airports.


Started in 2010, Department 13 came out of DARPA-funded research into radio frequencies and Bluetooth technology. That was when CEO Jonathan Hunter realized his work could have real effects in mitigating radio-controlled drone aircraft — a frequent, and growing nuisance to militaries as well as the private sector.

“We’ve learned how to speak drone talk,” Hunter told Business Insider. Though D13’s technology has often been described as “hacking” a drone, he likes to describe it differently. Instead, his black box of antennas and sensors, called Mesmer, is able to take over a drone by manipulating the protocols being used by its original operator.

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Drone technology. (Photo: DARPA)

Let’s say someone is trying to fly a commercial drone over the walls of a prison complex to drop off some goodies for inmates — a problem that is increasing as off-the-shelf drones get better and less expensive. The prison can use Mesmer to set up an invisible geofence around its physical walls that stops a drone in its tracks, or takes complete control and brings it into the prison and lands it.

“If I can speak the same language as the drone, I don’t need to scream louder, i.e. jamming” Hunter said.

D13 was one of eight finalists last year in a counter-drone challenge at Quantico, Va., where it stopped a drone out to one kilometer away, though the company didn’t win first place (the winner, Skywall 100, uses a human-fired launcher to shoot a projectile at a drone to capture it in a net). D13 also demonstrated the ability to safely land a hostile drone with its technology at a security conference in October.

Besides setting up an invisible wall for drones, Mesmer can sometimes tap into telemetry data the drone would normally send back to the operator, or tap into its video feed. In some cases, Hunter said, it could even track down the person flying it.

The system does have its drawbacks: It only works on “known” commercial drones, so the library of drones it’s effective against only covers about 75% of the marketplace, according to Scout. That number is also likely much less for non-commercial drones made for foreign militaries.

Also read: New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Still, once a commercial drone makes it into Mesmer’s library, it’s unlikely that a future software update would help it overcome D13’s solution. That’s because Mesmer focuses on the radio signals, not the software.

“There is not a single drone that we haven’t been able to crack,” Hunter said. “We’re working our way through the drone families.”

The company plans to have the system on the market this month.

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