Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.
The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.
The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.
The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.
Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.
The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.
In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.
The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.
On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.
Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.
Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.
But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.
According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.
“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”
Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”
There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.
A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.
Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.
The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.
In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.
“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.
“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.
Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.
Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.
“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.
His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.
The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.
Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.
Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
While Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he was clear to point out he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35. In addition, many Air Force officials have cited a strong belief that the F-35 is the best fighter in the world.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of this year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials toldMilitary.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.
The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you’re already game, or maybe you have one but it’s not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.
If you aren’t the proud owner of a clearance, don’t despair: It’s an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you’re in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don’t require a clearance.
How, you ask?
With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.
Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.
Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.
With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company’s promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.
Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.
Maybe you aren’t interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don’t necessarily need to currently hold one.
Here’s some options:
Apply to Directly:
Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.
Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.
Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.
So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don’t require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.
The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.
The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.
Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”
“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.
In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.
The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.
(U.S. Army photo)
But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.
“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”
In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.
Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.
America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.
Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.
The killer robots debate
Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.
“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.
As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”
Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.
In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.
In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.
Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.
“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.
Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon’s research arm is now demonstrating an entirely new level of aircraft autonomy which blends the problem-solving ability of the human mind with computerized robotic functions.
The Defense Advance Research Project Agency, or DARPA, program is called Aircrew Labor in Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.
A key concept behind ALIAS involves a recognition that while human cognition is uniquely suited to problem-solving and things like rapid reactions to fast-changing circumstances, there are many procedural tasks which can be better performed by computers, developers explained.
ALIAS uses a software backbone designed with open interfaces along with a pilot-operated touchpad and speech recognition software. Pilots can use a touch screen or voice command to direct the aircraft to perform functions autonomously.
For instance, various check-list procedures and safety protocols such as engine status, altitude gauges, lights, switches and levers, can be more rapidly, safely and efficiently performed autonomously by computers.
“This involves the routine tasks that humans need to do but at times find mundane and boring. The ALIAS system is designed to be able to take out those dull mission requirements such as check lists and monitoring while providing a system status to the pilot. The pilot can concentrate on the broader mission at hand,” Mark Cherry, President and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.
The aircraft is able to perform a wide range of functions, such as activating emergency procedures, pitching, rolling, monitoring engine check lights, flying autonomously to pre-determined locations or “waypoints,” maneuvering and possibly employing sensors – without every move needing human intervention.
Developers explain that ALIAS, which has already been demonstrated by DARPA industry partners Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences, can be integrated into a wide range of aircraft such as B-52s or large civilian planes.
Initial configurations of ALIAS include small aircraft such as a Cessna 208 Caravan, Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 helicopters, Cherry explained. The ALIAS system is able learn and operate on both single engine and dual-engine aircraft.
Both Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences have demonstrated ALIAS; DARPA now plans to conduct a Phase III down-select where one of the vendors will be chosen to continue development of the project.
As algorithms progress to expand into greater “artificial intelligence” functions, computers with increasingly networked and rapid processors are able to organize, gather, distill and present information by themselves. This allows for greater human-machine interface, reducing what is referred to as the “cognitive burden” upon pilots.
There are some existing sensors, navigational systems and so-called “fly-by-wire” technologies which enable an aircraft to perform certain functions by itself. ALIAS, however, takes autonomy and human-machine interface to an entirely new level by substantially advancing levels of independent computer activity.
In fact, human-machine interface is a key element of the Army-led Future Vertical Lift next-generation helicopter program planning to field a much more capable, advanced aircraft sometime in the 2030s.
It is certainly conceivable that a technology such as ALIAS could prove quite pertinent to these efforts; a Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Army ST program is already underway as a developmental step toward engineering this future helicopter. The intention of the FVL requirement, much like ALIAS, is to lessen the cognitive burden upon pilots, allowing them to focus upon and prioritize high-priority missions.
The human brain therefore functions in the role of command and control, directing the automated system to then perform tasks on its own, Cherry said.
“Help reduce pilot workload and increase safety in future platforms,” Cherry said.
Aircraft throttle, actuation systems and yokes are all among airplane functions able to be automated by ALIAS.
“It uses beyond line of sight communication which is highly autonomous but still flies like a predator or a reaper,” John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.
Due to its technological promise and success thus far, ALIAS was given an innovation award recently at the GCN Dig IT awards.
It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.
Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:
5. Things could always get worse.
Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.
Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.
4. Cleanliness regardless.
If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.
In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.
3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.
In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.
The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.
2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.
Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong withburning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve monthsis called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”
With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.
1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.
Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.
Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.
The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.
Only wing nuts need apply.
Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.
After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.
Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.
The Air Force is set to acquire new wings for its A-10 Thunderbolts in order to keep the vaunted attack aircraft in operation until the 2030s.
The Air Force told Congress in 2017 that 110 of its 283 A-10s were at risk of being permanently grounded unless money was apportioned to restart production and rewing the remaining planes.
The service has already paid to replace the wings on 173 of its A-10s, but Boeing, which originally built the wings, has since shut down production, and the Air Force didn’t have funding for new wings for the remainder — 40 of which would have to be grounded by 2021, according to CNN. Those aircraft are still flying with wings from the late 1970s, according to Aviation Week.
The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump in March 2018, included $103 million requested by the Air Force to fund the rewinging. That is enough to cover the production of four new sets of wings, but going forward, Boeing might not be supplying them.
The program is considered a “new start,” and under it, the new wings will come with a higher price, as engineers work through the hiccups of the design phase.
Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, mentioned that the service was looking for a new partner on the A-10 early 2018.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said in January 2018. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”
Because of the potential for A-10s to be grounded if they don’t get new wings, “acquisition is being expedited to the maximum extent possible,” according to a draft request for proposal for A-10 wings, issued in February 2018.
US Air Force
According to the anticipated schedule included in the draft request, a final request is expected by April 3, 2018, a proposal due date on June 5, 2018, and the awarding of the contract by the end of the March 2019. (The 2019 fiscal year runs from October 2018 to September 2019.)
The service has committed to maintaining six of the nine A-10 squadrons it has, but the contract will ultimately determine how many wings the service can actually buy, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week, saying “the majority of the A-10 fleet will fly and fight for the foreseeable future.”
The hard-fighting A-10 emerged in 2017 from a debate between lawmakers and the Air Force over whether it would stay in service, and in recent years it has seen duty all over the world.
It was a workhorse in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, releasing 13,856 weapons between Aug. 8, 2014 and mid-2016 — second only to the F-15E Strike Eagle, which released 14,995 weapons over the same period.
The Thunderbolt has also seen duty in Afghanistan, where the government requested the A-10 return in late 2017. A squadron of 12 A-10s arrived in the country in January 2018, where it has taken part in an intensified air campaign against militants in the country — in particular the Taliban and its drug-producing facilities.
US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski
The venerable aircraft will soon face competition closer to home however, with comparison testing between it and the F-35— the plane originally meant to replace the A-10 — happening as soon as summer 2018, when the F-35 is scheduled for testing in close-air-support and reconnaissance operations.
Congress has said that the Air Force cannot shed any A-10s until that evaluation takes place. But whatever the results, the Thunderbolt looks likely to have vocal supporters.
“If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10,” Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France told The Aviationist. “Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well.”
“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden told Scout Warrior. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful, calculated, and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”
“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson, the Air Force secretary, told lawmakers in December 2017.
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.
Every branch of the military has a specific ranking system that takes time and effort to move up through. Although each branch has different names for their ranks, the Navy’s system is different in comparison to the Air Force, Army, and the Marine Corps.
You can look at any service member and clearly notice their rank either on their sleeves or collar devices. You can also imagine what experiences they’ve had based on that rank and the ribbons on their rack — but you wouldn’t have a clue on their specific job title.
If spot a modern era sailor walking around sporting his or her dress blues, look below that perched crow (E-4 to E-9) on their left sleeve, and you’ll be able to tell how they contribute to their country.
The image above showcases a rating badge consisting of three-inverted chevrons, one-inverted rocker, a perched crow, a five-point star (which makes the sailor an E-8), and the well-respected caduceus medical symbol (the specialty mark).
Only Hospital Corpsmen are allowed to wear the caduceus, as it applies to their distinguished military occupation.
In 1886, the Navy authorized sailors to wear these rating badges and created 15-specialty marks to recognize various fields of expertise.
Up until the late 1940s, it was up to the sailor on which sleeve they wore the rating badge on if they had issues deciphering which side was port (left) or starboard (right) as a reminder.
After the time period, the Navy established the rating badge be worn on the left for uniformity purposes. That same tradition is followed today.
Since the ultra-new and always-correct rules of social correctness have dictated that the only acceptable thing we can discuss or see online from now until election day is voting, we thought it only appropriate to create an article on everything the military wishes they could have some say in, but in reality, never will.
Appropriate labels for MRE sides and snacks.
It is probably a good thing that MRE ingredients will always remain a secret. There is a big difference between assuming you are eating flame retardant and knowing it. If nothing else, soldiers should be allowed to suggest and vote on accurate MRE snack labeling.
Crackers to be re-labeled “desert sand molded to resemble inedible wafer.”
Bread to read “crust flavored chew toy similar to what you give your dog.”
Teriyaki beef sticks are really “tastes nothing like meat but we’ll fool you with the looks.”
All Captains must run for office
Enlisted ranks everywhere cannot wait to stand at attention for a “short” speech on what is inevitably to be an hour-long retelling of your life’s story. Imagine a world where Company Commander’s have to depend on how well they convinced Private I-just-want-to-go-play-XBOX-in-my-room of their ability to lead the Company.
All we’re asking is a choice between two, maybe three twenty-somethings in charge of telling a 40-year-old First Sergeant how “in their experience” the Company should fix bayonets for every field problem and assault across that open field like it’s 1918.
In the movies, every soldier carries top-of-the-line gear straight out of a Bond film. Yet, actual soldiers know this could not be farther from the truth. Try driving your 1970’s vehicles into battle with a Desert Strom-era issued carbine with night-vision goggles straight out of the Cold War instead. The job definitely lacks sex appeal when you realize that the Army is nothing like Call of Duty.
While opting for a vintage-looking dress uniform (the second change and counting in less than a decade) seems to be the most pressing thing to spend money on up at the top, we’re betting the Infantry may have other suggestions. After all, uniforms don’t kill the enemy, weapons do!
Warning labels for MRE consumption
You will only make the mistake once of consuming a new MRE flavor without first asking your veteran peers of the inevitable side effects unique to each meal. We think every soldier would benefit from putting up to date feedback on the packet. Besides, who wouldn’t love to vote on the year’s best review?
Beef taco Severe explosive diarrhea is likely. Best consumed within crawling distance of a latrine.
Chili with beans Days long blockage likely, leaving consumers with walking-fart syndrome. Public shunning period necessary due to lung health of the platoon.
Mandatory “fun day” funds
Nothing says fun like mandatory fun. To kick off the only free day you will have in the foreseeable future, Company Commanders seem to think that there’s nothing better than a day full of mandated activities and awkward bonding over low-quality meat and the local grocery’s prepared foods section.
Ah, yes, much better than an actual day off. Especially when you are forced to spend it with the same group of people you see all day for five days straight every single week for years on end. Year after year the idea that soldiers possess the ability to have fun outside what is regulated continues to perplex leadership. Is this the year to hear the will of the people?
Term limits for CIF staff
“This is dirty. Clean it and make an appointment to come back another day,” says the CIF employee with a shit-eating-grin about the still factory sealed part you just turned in. Good thing it was the last item you needed to turn in so you can clear CIF and PCS from the seventh circle of Hell you currently call home.
We’re not sure what the Training Manual on CIF Operations reads like, but find it likely that any study would show a correlation between the years a human spends at CIF and an increase in unrealistic, even psychopathic expectations. Save a soul, impose CIF term limits.
Holding a new private draft like schoolyard dodgeball
It’s no secret that standards at basic have slipped with each passing decade, resulting in Privates showing up to companies expecting amenities straight out of the Ritz. Nothing would bring more joy to sadistic Sergeants everywhere than to line up and publicly select incoming Privates to their unit like it’s the NFL draft. Perhaps a more accurate welcome to the company than what is currently in place would help the poor darlings adjust a little better.
The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.
Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.
No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM
We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.