Soldiers from conventional and special operations units recently got the chance to test the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System.
Most soldiers who tested the MHS at Fort Bragg’s Range 29 on Aug. 27 were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said OTC’s Col. Brian McHugh in a recent Army press release.
Testers were pulled from across the military, including soldiers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Kentucky, and of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Some of the military occupational specialties involved include police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs.
“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said McHugh.
Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, Aug. 27.
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19 to make the service’s new sidearm. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the MHS competition.
Army weapons officials have selected the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS this fall.
Various service members will be at Fort Bragg over the next few weeks for testing of the MHS, which is based on the Sig Sauer P320, for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or OTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the press release. Testing will also be conducted by Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Capt. Christina Smith with the Army’s Product Manager Individual Weapons, has traveled to different testing sites to ensure the system’s quality.
“It’s worth it to make sure you get the right product to the right soldiers,” she said.
Maj. Mindy Brown, test officer for OTC, said it is important to bring the test to Fort Bragg because the installation has the ranges to support realistic conditions.
“You are using real soldiers in a realistic environment,” Brown said. “These are the soldiers who would be using the weapon every day, so getting their feedback on the pistol is really what is important for operational testing.”
Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Custer, of 160th SOAR, appreciated being able to participate in MHS testing.
“It’s good. We don’t really get the opportunity to test the equipment in the unit we’re in,” he said.
What’s interesting about the release is it makes it sound like the Army is still not certain about the M17 MHS.
“If fielded, according to officials, the new modular handgun system, also known as MHS, will offer improved durability and adjustability over the current M9, as well as performance improvements.”
Program Executive Office Soldier officials, however, told Military.com that MHS is being fielded beginning in October.
The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.
Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.
In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.
Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.
How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.
The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.
The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.
Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.
The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.
One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.
But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.
The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.
5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.
British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.
The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.
Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.
If there’s one thing the DoD can count on soldiers to be bluntly honest about, it’s the food. In 2005, 400 soldiers from Fort Greely, Alaska, were asked to taste test a new menu of Meals, Ready to Eat for anything that might stand out to them.
There were a lot of standouts.
Fort Greely’s finest filled out the evaluation forms, which were then compiled and sent to the DoD office that manages the procurement of field rations. Grunts don’t pull punches. That’s kinda the whole point of their job.
“Cheese spread with bread is never a liked mix. Anger is usually the result.”
2. The prophet:
“I noticed this meal # was 666…I will probably die of a massive heart attack thank you for feeding me possessed food.”
3. The skeptic:
“This donut is just a brownie in a circle with crappy “frosting” what are you trying to pull?”
4. The poet:
“I believe it was the dinner meal that caused this (Chicken and Dumplings), but it sounded like a flatulence symphony in my tent all night.”
5. The biographer:
“I have disliked cabbage since childhood.”
6. The drama queen:
“Oh my god what were you thinking… don’t give cabbage to a soldier ever again even POWs deserve better.”
7. The fortune teller:
“The entree will only be eaten if you haven’t eaten all day.”
8. The PR Rep:
“Maybe change the name ‘Chicken Loaf,’ [it] scares me.”
9. PFC Gung Ho:
“Put Ranch Dressing on everything! Airborne!”
10. The guy who’s wrong about everything:
“F*ck hot sauce [put] gummy bears inside.”
11. Sgt. WTF:
“Tabasco is good in your coffee.”
12. The Obvious Sapper:
“Change the Ranger bar name to ‘Sapper Bar'”
13. The Stream of Consciousness:
“5 Veg ravioli ‘friggin’ sucks. Spiced apple ‘friggin’ rock. Apple cinn. Pound cake taste like cheap perfume. (Friggin). Is chocoletto a foreign Name crap? Pizza anything friggin rocks! Gum is good.”
14. Staff Sgt. TMI:
“This new menu has me using the latrine 3x a day.”
15. Sgt. Maj. No Chance:
“Please bring back cigarettes.”
16. Pvt. Ungrateful:
“Jerky is very, very good. How many years did it take to figure that out?”
17. Sgt. Missing the Point:
“The name should be fiesta breakfast party. That would be funny.”
“The vanilla pudding is so good I ripped it open, Licked the inside and rolled around on top of it like a dog. I prefer not to eat anything called loaf but in this case I made an exception… thank god I DID.”
Warriors guard their hearts underneath a stoic resolve because showing emotion is often misunderstood as a weakness. Leaders often weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the few to build a brighter future for their people to live and prosper. Love is an unstoppable force that can influence the influencer or conquer the conqueror. What can those in command do when love is true but the world is wrong?
They change it.
Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World-GARDENS OF BABYLON PART 1
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Queen Amytis. He knew his queen’s happiness stayed in the green mountain valleys of her childhood home in Media. In order to make his wife happy, he built one of the seven wonders of the ancient world between 605 and 562 BC in what is now known as modern day Iraq.
The word ‘hanging’ that gave the wonder its name sake comes from trees planted on elevated balconies. The wonder used raised platforms, aqueducts, and a system of irrigation centuries before their time to water the vast collection of plants and trees.
He literally built his wife a mountain.
Archaeologists debate whether the wonder was built in Nineveh (back then called New Babylon) instead of Babylon itself. The ruins shared the same fate as Cleopatra’s Tomb of being lost in the sands of time.
Emperor Hongzhi seen here not cheating on his wife with 10,000 options.
They refused concubines and consorts — Emperor Hongzhi of China
High status men in late imperial China over the age of forty were encouraged to take on a second wife or a mistress. It was also common that your mistress would try to kill your first wife and all your children. In the case of Emperor Hongzhi, he had his mother killed by one of his father’s mistresses.
The death of his murdered mother by a mistress was enough to highlight the advantages of monogamy. He had no children outside of his one marriage to his empress and had no extramarital affairs.
He loved his wife and five children so much that he did not want to risk their safety over loose women and swore them off completely. The importance he placed on monogamy was seen as out of place since most emperors during those times had a man-cave harem with 10,000 available women, empire wide, determined to show you the privileges of being a ruler.
Dr. Kenneth Swope, of the University of Southern Mississippi describes Hongzhi as the “most uninteresting and colorless of all the Ming emperors.”
He chose to have his life be seen as a model of morality and his morals as the center piece for his anti-corruption campaign. He used his love for his one and only wife to shape his empire in peace.
“That was still an expensive divorce, Henry.”
They changed religions — King Henry VIII of England
Marriage and religion are touchy subjects, especially when conversions are involved. Henry VIII had fallen in love with with a young woman named Anne Boleyn, but there was a problem: he was already married. He became convinced his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was cursed because she was his brother’s widow. The king commanded asked the pope to annul his marriage.
However, Catherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and he commanded urged Pope Clement VII to not annul the marriage.
The king then decided that he didn’t need the pope’s permission to do anything so he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, changed England’s religion, decreed his daughter Mary illegitimate, and got a divorce. In 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn were married.
She then bore him a daughter so he had her beheaded.
If it weren’t for every man and woman competently doing their jobs, our country’s military wouldn’t be as badass as it is today. However, the military is unofficially divided into two distinct sections: those who serve in the infantry (grunts) and people other than grunts (POGs).
Although everyone works hard at the same mission — eliminating the bad guys — their roles are distinctly different.
On most military bases, the infantry and the other guys are usually separated by distance or by commands. For instance, if you’re at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, the division side (infantry) is separated from the “mainside” (POGs and pilots) by a 25-minute drive down Basilone Road.
Once a grunt leaves the division side of the base, they’ll encounter Marines from another distinct culture on mainside. Sure, they’re “good-to-go,” but they’re not grunts.
Infantry life is tough, and many grunts who proudly served decide their time is over and make a lateral move to a different job. It’s all good. Just be sure to take the knowledge you learned in the infantry and keep it to yourself.
We wouldn’t want anyone knowing our secrets.
2. The “buster”
There’s a guy or gal like this everywhere you go, to be honest. This person is looking to bust other service members for random reasons, like uniform issues or a lack of military bearing.
3. The one who should have been a grunt
There’s always someone that you run into on the mainside who looks, talks, and walks like they should have earned the infantry MOS. Some say it’s because “the job wasn’t available during recruitment.” *cough* Sure, buddy.
Regardless, every hard charger who thinks they can handle the pressure of being a grunt should at least look into it.
4. The bodybuilder
Some military occupations have more time to go to the gym since they don’t spend five days a week eating MREs in the field — just sayin’.
Military working dogs — MWDs for short — have long partnered with Americans in war. These four-legged troops have seen a lot of action in the Global War on Terror, including the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. The dogs have long been loyal companions, and the military returns that loyalty in spades — from when they join the service to when they say farewell to the military.
Two reconnaissance Marines and a military working dog take security positions during a reconnaissance and surveillance mission at a Marine Expeditionary Unit field exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Devan Gowans
Now, deployed Marine Expeditionary Units have also gone to the dogs. And for good reason: Dogs can take down a bad guy that you want to capture alive, locate improvised explosive devices or drugs, and, of course, they make for great travelling companions. They cheer up grunts and accountants alike: they gladly work for some Purina Dog Chow, a few Milk-Bones, and a game or three of fetch.
Like all Marines, these canine Leathernecks need to keep their skills sharp, even when deployed. To that end, they seen some type of training or patrol everyday. This is the case even when serving aboard a ship, like the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Just as with any other troop, readiness is the key to success.
In short, MWDs are excellent warfighters with an inherent, priceless loyalty. So, naturally, MEUs, in addition to multi-role fighters, helicopters, tanks, artillery, mortars, and snipers, have some MWD teams assigned.
Below, watch one team demonstrate to fellow Marines what a MWD can do.
We’ve got one last question, though. Since dogs usually like to go on the grass… where do the MWDs go to the bathroom when at sea? The lack of grass does sound like a complication…
That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, including broader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.
The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide “red air,” or adversary training, support.
According to a release issued on August 25, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.
The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.
“Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation’s enemies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We continue to swing away at this issue and we’re looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots.”
Two other initiatives were announced on August 25.
Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.
Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.
The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.
“The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.
“The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired,” Grosso added.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.
“We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers,” Wilson said in the release.
In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force’s loss of pilots.
With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.
A Marine who last year became the first woman to reach the end of Phase One in MARSOC’s assessment and selection course is planning to return for a second attempt early next year.
The woman, then a corporal, reached the conclusion of the 19-day course in August 2016, but did not have the minimum academic and physical training scores to move on to the secretive second phase.
She is planning to reattempt Phase One in January, Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, told Military.com.
The command declined to identify her to protect her privacy.
To date, two women have attempted to join the elite ranks of MARSOC Raiders as critical skills operators since the previously closed jobs opened to women in early 2016. Both women, the corporal and a staff sergeant, came from administrative backgrounds.
Both women began assessment and selection, or AS, in early August 2016. The staff sergeant left the course a day in after failing to meet the minimum time requirement on a ruck march.
All Marines who attempt the first phase of AS are given multiple opportunities to pass, Mannweiler said.
Demands of the course are physical and mental. Marines are required to complete a 12-mile march carrying a pack weighing more than 45 pounds within three hours, to swim 300 meters wearing their camouflage uniforms, and to pass classroom exercises during the 19-day phase.
For Phase 2, the requirements and trials that MARSOC candidates face remain a closely guarded secret.
The three-week phase “is a mentally and physically challenging evaluation that enables MARSOC to identify Marines that have attributes compatible with special operations missions and the MARSOC way of life,” according to official informational materials.
Once Marines begin Phase 2, Mannweiler said, they do not have the chance to re-attempt it.
To date, no other women have identified themselves as candidates for AS, Mannweiler said, although recruiters continue to publicize the opportunity.
“We go out and send recruiting teams to all the bases,” he said. “It’s gender agnostic — here are the requirements we’re looking for, here’s the fitness program.”
Few women in any service have attempted to enter the elite and demanding field of special operations since previously closed jobs became available.
Earlier this year, Military.com broke the news that the Navy had its first female candidates for SEAL officer and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, or SWCC. But the SEAL candidate for dropped out of the training pipeline in August.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.
“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.
Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.
“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.
In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.
He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.
“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.
Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.
This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.
Networking and AI
The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.
The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).
Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.
LCS & AI
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.
CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Chinese & Russian Threat
While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.
“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.
Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.
Chinese Naval Threat
A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.
Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.
Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.
“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation
The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.
April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”
Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”
In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.
Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.
By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).
This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.
“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.
The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.
A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.
Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.
The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.
Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.
Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier
Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.
9. He was described as “Squared Away”
During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off. When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”
7. There were some red flags
In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.
Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.
Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.
In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”
4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog
During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.
The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.
By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.
War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.
The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.
The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.
1. People sniffers
The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.
So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.
However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.
Gross dog poop. …or is it?
It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.
What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.
An X-ray view of that same “poop.”
The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.
3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes
Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.
A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.
Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.
Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.
A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.