The US announced on March 14, 2019, that it would begin testing a whole new class of previously banned missiles in August 2019, but the US’s chief rival, China, has a miles-long head start in that department.
The US’s new class of missiles are designed to destroy targets in intermediate ranges, or between 300 and 3,000 miles. The US has many shorter-range systems and a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel almost around the world.
A 1987 treaty with Russia banned these mid-range missiles, but the treaty’s recent demise has now opened an opportunity for the US to counter China’s arsenal of “carrier-killer” missiles.
China, as it seeks to build up a blue-water navy to surpass the US’s, has increasingly touted its fleet of missiles that work within intermediate ranges and can target ships at sea, including US aircraft carriers — one of the US’s foremost weapons.
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)
China has suggested sinking carriers and threatened to let the missiles fly after the US checked its unilateral claims to ownership of the South China Sea.
Now, unbound by the treaty, the US can in theory counter China’s intermediate-range missiles with missiles of its own. But the reality is that China holds several seemingly insurmountable advantages in this specific missile fight.
Geography weighs against the US
China has a big, mountainous country full of mobile missile launchers it can drive, park, and shoot anywhere.
The US has a network of mainland and island allies it could base missiles with, but that would require an ally’s consent. Simply put, the US hasn’t even explored this option.
With the massive bomber and naval presence in Guam, it’s an obvious target.
“We haven’t engaged any of our allies about forward deployment,” a US defense official told Reuters. “Honestly, we haven’t been thinking about this because we have been scrupulously abiding by the treaty.”
The US could place missiles in Japan, but Japan hates the US military presence there and would face economic punishment from China. The same is true of South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
Furthermore, US missiles on a small island would act as a giant target on that patch of land, painting it as the first place China would wipe off the map in a conflict.
A floating target?
(US Navy photo)
Guam, for instance, could host US missiles as a US territory, but a few missiles from China, potentially nuclear-tipped, would totally level the tiny island.
While China would simply have to hit a small target-rich island, the US would have to breach China’s airspace and hunt down missile launchers somewhere within hundreds of thousands of square miles. US jets would face a massive People’s Liberation Army air-defense network and air force, and that’s if US jets even get off the ground.
Recent war games held at Rand Corp. suggests the US’s most powerful jets, the F-22 and F-35, probably wouldn’t even make it off the ground in a real fight in which China’s massive rocket force lets loose.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)
Can’t fix stupid
Ultimately, basing US intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific represents a massive political and military challenge for limited utility.
But fortunately for the US, there’s little need to match China’s intermediate-range forces.
With submarines, the US can have secret, hidden missile launchers all over the Pacific. Importantly, these submarines wouldn’t even have to surface to fire, therefore they would be out of the range of the “carrier killers.”
The US has options to address China’s impressive missile forces, but loading up a Pacific island with new US missiles probably isn’t the smart way to do it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The CEO of the Russian MiG corporation said on Aug. 17, 2018, that work on an experimental design for a MiG-41 fifth-generation interceptor will begin “in the immediate future.”
“No, this is not a mythical project, this is a long-standing project for the MiG and now we are carrying out intensive work under the aegis of the [the United Aircraft Corporation] and will present it to the public soon,” Ilya Tarasenko said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
Tarasenko, who previously claimed that the MiG-41 would be able to “operate in space,” a highly unlikely prospect, also said that the MiG-41s are expected to start being delivered to the Russia military in the mid-2020s.
But Vasily Kashin, a Russian defense analyst at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told The National Interest in 2017 that he thought the MiG-41 wouldn’t fly until the mid-2020s, and wouldn’t be delivered to the Russian Air Force until 2035-2040.
An SR-71B “Blackbird” over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1994.
“I don’t hold out much hope for an even less proven design concept to make it into series production anytime soon,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider in an email.
“The Mig-31BM is already a highly capable interceptor platform and there are plans for a second modernisation upgrade of what is a relatively new aircraft for a very specific Russian territorial defence requirement,” Bronk said.
And given that the T-14 Armata tank and Su-57 stealth fighter “have had series production cancelled recently,” Bronk said, “my take is, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ and will remain extremely skeptical until that point.”
But “never say never I suppose,” Bronk added.
Richard L. Aboulafia, Vice President of Analysis at Teal Group, told Business Insider that Tarasenko’s announcement “keeps the idea alive, and you never know, even a chance in a 100 is better than no chance at all.”
“It also, of course, doesn’t hurt in sales campaigns for current generation planes, like the [MiG-29SM],” Aboulafia said. “In other words, people don’t like buying fighter planes from a company with no future.”
Aboulafia also said that the idea of creating a pure next-generation interceptor is like “living in the past” since surface-to-air missiles “are generally a better way of intercepting things.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The first World War was a horrific time to be a soldier on the frontlines. Nations were in a rush to quickly develop and implement the newest and most effective tools of destruction. Before the war, troops had no idea of the true devastation that a tank, fighter pilot, or the various gas canisters could bring.
Then, there were the flechette darts that — thankfully — never really took off. To be frank, they sound a little silly. They’re just oversized versions of the darts that troops would toss around at their local pub — what’s the big deal? In reality, they were more like something out of a freakin’ horror movie.
The darts were also mostly silent. One minute, you and your platoon are fine in the trenches. The next, you’re all being turned into pincushions.
(Illustration from the Petit Journal, August, 1915)
First, let’s talk about the physics behind these darts from Hell. They were roughly five inches long, weighed just over a pound, and were made of sharpened steel. When they were dropped from hundreds of feet above the ground, they’d strike the ground with enough force to pierce helmets and even vehicles.
If you filed grooves into the top or added a bird’s feather to the dull end, the dart would always land pointy-side down. Now consider the fact that a single pilot could release a canister filled with around 250 of these darts at a time and you can understand the sheer terror that these things wrought.
The Italians invented the darts before the war, but soon, countries on both sides of No Man’s Land were dropping them on opposing trenches. They were also extremely cheap to make and implement, which means they were used constantly — although the Royal Flying Corps felt they were “unsportsmanlike.” The Germans, on the other hand, were very keen on using the darts on the French. In fact, they had them specially imprinted with the text, “invention Française, fabrication Allemande.” Which roughly translates to, “a French invention, German made.”
The flechette darts didn’t last past the early years of the war when bombs were deemed more effective. But the design of sharp darts being used for war later resurfaced with the flechette rounds used in shotguns and the infamous Beehive artillery round used in the Vietnam War.
To learn more about the flechette darts, check out the video below.
The first 100 days of any new job is both exciting and potentially daunting. As the new executive director of Got Your 6, I’ve found this to be especially true as we work to empower veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the nation.
Here are six big lessons I have learned or have re-confirmed in my first 100 days:
1. Organizations are people (#OneTeamOneFight)
Over the past 100 days, I’ve assessed where Got Your 6 has been and where we’re headed. It’s clear that our success is the direct result of the people in our organization. The team is essential to achieving the goals we’ve set as we forge ahead in 2016. Having the right team is critical, and without the right people in the right places, it’s impossible to succeed. The Got Your 6 team is second to none and our success this year and beyond will be a direct result of their hard work and dedication. The team consists of three Post-9/11 combat veterans (Go Army!) and two amazing civilians who have participated in national service. Every member of the team believes in service over self and I couldn’t be more fired up to lead such a dedicated and talented team!
2. There is no substitute for victory (#BOOM)
With new leadership at the helm, it’s important to get early wins to build momentum. Simply put, everyone wants to succeed and success is contagious. Arguably the biggest honor for us early in 2016 was being presented with the Social Good Award from Cynopsis Media for best “Awareness Campaign or Initiative Category.” Matt Mabe, Senior Director of Impact, and I had the honor of attending the awards ceremony in New York City and when Got Your 6 was announced as the winner it crystallized the impact of our campaign. We beat out the likes of AE Networks, Discovery Communications, and Sony Pictures Television; giants in the awareness and perception shift causes. We also closed out the first quarter with a huge win coming out of our first Collaboratory of 2016 in Austin, Texas with our 30 non-profit partners where we created a roadmap to success for 2016 and beyond as a coalition and collective impact campaign.
3. Partnerships are Critical (#GenuineRelationships)
Got Your 6 has a world-class nonprofit coalition compiled of amazing people and inspiring organizations that empower veterans across the country. We have partnerships with the entertainment industry, a new area for me, that have inspired me in ways I didn’t think were possible. In one of the most competitive industries in the world, our entertainment partners have made supporting veterans a top priority. Effectively engaging the Got Your 6 coalition, along with remarkable supporters and partnerships, has been critical to settling into the role of executive director effectively. Likewise, exploring new partnerships in order to increase impact and effectiveness has been a key part of our “one team, one fight” strategy. And is needed to provide the team with necessary support as we move forward with our vision and goals for the year ahead. Without the right partners, with the right shared values, success isn’t possible.
4. Values-based leadership matters (#FollowMe)
Getting to know any new organization and a team can be a challenge. It’s important to understand the values of the organization you lead which is why the first thing we did as a team was gather offsite at The Bunker in Alexandria. We had an honest conversation about our personal values and how they translate to our organization. Together, we defined our values: Integrity, Positivity, Commitment, Courage, Trust. These values drive how we do business and act as our north star for every decision we make. Our team has gotten to know each other as individuals and now understand who we are as an organization and pride ourselves in choosing “the harder right over the easier wrong” in everything we do.
5. Where we’ve been is important; where we are going is critical (#CommunityMatters)
The history of an organization is important. We need to know where we’ve been and why. For Got Your 6, our founding was rooted in the spirit of service and pride in our nation. Got Your 6 is a campaign focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through perception shift and collective impact. Through the Got Your 6 coalition we’ve helped veterans get jobs, go back to school, find housing and many other critical areas. Now we are raising the stakes. Real problems exist across the nation that aren’t specific to the veteran community; suicide, unemployment, disconnected communities. These are American problems and Got Your Six is working to harness veteran skills to address these issues. Research shows our country is not as engaged as we used to be or could be. The Got Your 6 Veteran Civic Health Index shows us that vets are civic assets and more likely to be engaged. Given the decline in community and veterans as civic assets, our new focus will be empowering veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the nation. Veterans returning home aren’t the problem– we believe veterans and their unique skill sets are part of the solution. We can empower veterans to serve themselves by serving others; the nation we know and love.
6. If the work isn’t hard but fun and fulfilling, it’s not worth doing (#VetInspired)
I believe that improving the lives of others is not only fulfilling but also exhilarating. As a person and individual that is my purpose. I want to continue to improve the lives of others. When you can align your purpose in life with your purpose at work good things will happen. Enjoying what you do–and having fun while doing it–is important even when dealing with serious and life changing issues. When you meet a fellow veteran or hear their inspiring story you can’t help but smile (even if sometimes you’re smiling through a few tears). That’s why this work is so fulfilling. If you follow the work we do or see us around town we’ll always be working hard but having fun.
Now watch Chris Pratt and others in this GY6 video:
For more about Got Your 6’s mission and events check out their website here.
“You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.” – Anonymous
US Air Force Veteran Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, recently passed away at 83 years old. Over the years she wrapped her arms around more than 500,000 soldiers, according to the estimates of Army officials.
Initially, Laird volunteered to shake soldier’s hands. According to an interview with NBC’s Today Show, one soldier offered to give her a hug after she shook his hand. She went from handshakes to hugs from that moment on.
In 2003, she and Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing her mission: Laird was now officially authorized to hug every Fort Hood soldier departing or arriving. She was there with open arms – no matter the time, weather, how large or small of a group, family circumstances, or her own cancer diagnosis.
“[She] wanted to make sure someone here at home is interested and waiting for them to come home again,” Laird’s son Richard Dewee said.
Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, released a the following statement on Laird’s passing:
On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as “The Hug Lady.” She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed.
Laird’s niece Becky Triplett posted the following on her Facebook page:
“When I talked to her the last time, she had been invited to the Rachel Ray show. When I asked if she was going she said ‘No I don’t think so, it wouldn’t be fair to the soldier coming or going. They deserve that hug more.’ She left a very good legacy. RIP Aunt Betty.”
An online petition to name the Fort Hood Deployment Center in Elizabeth Laird’s honor can be found here.
A U.S. Navy Coastal Patrol ship intercepted an illegal arms shipment traveling on a small cargo ship in the Arabian Gulf, confiscating hundreds of AK-47 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades and .50-Cal. Machine Guns.
The shipment, originating from Iran, was believed to be bound for Yemen to support Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer, was called in to support the Coastal Patrol ship, the USS Sirocco, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th fleet, told Scout Warrior.
“Intelligence led us to determine we might find something,” Stephens added. “They talked over maritime radio and sent a boarding team over.”
The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns, a Navy statement said.
“This seizure was the third time in recent weeks international naval forces operating in the waters of the Arabian Sea seized a shipment of illicit arms which the United States assessed originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The weapons are now in U.S. custody awaiting final disposition,” the statement continued.
Citing the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Stephens added that sending illegal weapons to an insurgent group will only make a difficult problem works.
“The Houthis are an insurgent group which seized control of the country and ousted the legitimate government. It is a disastrous humanitarian situation,” Stephens explained.
A potential factor behind the US support for the legitimate Yemeni government is their collaboration with the US on counterterrorism activities fighting Al Qaeda in the country.
Alongside efforts to support the ongoing air attacks against ISIS from the Arabian Gulf, the Navy is also invested in protecting what they call the “global commons.” This includes a series of strategically significant waterways essential to trade, shipping and other maritime activities. With this in mind, the Navy routinely conducts anti-piracy and counterterrorism operations in the region.
Within the Army’s military police is the Criminal Investigation Command. They’re like NCIS for the Army (the real one — not the TV show). They conduct investigations, collect criminal intelligence, provide forensic laboratory support, and, occasionally, they’re assigned to a unit if they suspect something is wrong.
If CID catches wind of serious misconduct, they’ll insert an agent into a unit through which they’ll observe what’s really going on. The chain of command might know what’s going on, but no one in said unit is aware.
Now, we’re not telling you this to put you on guard at all times — that’d be crazy. You should only suspect someone is secretly a CID agent if they show any or all of these signs.
Then you should absolutely be suspicious.
1. They’re optimistic about the unit.
It’s impossible to show up to morning PT both sober and ready for the day to begin. Anyone upbeat and cheery is not an organic piece of your unit.
Only warrant officers are authorized to smile — mostly because no one can find them and tell them they can’t. (Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)
2. They claim they don’t know how to print out their ERB (or don’t want to).
Their ERB is a dead giveaway. Every soldier loves bragging about themselves. At every possible moment, we love to remind people that, “actually, I have four certificates of achievement, not three.”
Anyone who’s not willing to engage in a proverbial pissing contest is clearly a 31D and not an 11B.
If they show off their challenge coin collection, it’s not their ERB — thus proving they’re an agent. (Photo by Spc. Tracy McKithern)
3. They don’t brag about their previous unit (or claim they didn’t have one).
Speaking of bragging, everyone also sh*t talks their current unit because the last one is always better.
Beware if you ever hear the phrase, “well, I mean, my last unit was okay. Nothing bad, but nothing special.” Obviously, their previous, nondescript unit was CID.
Everyone’s last unit was better — but their next unit will definitely be best. (Photo by Sgt. Thomas Crough)
4. They’re unwilling to do dumb sh*t with you — but want to watch.
What kind of grunt isn’t willing to throw their entire career away at a moment’s notice because their buddy said, “hey, bro. Watch this”? CID agents, that’s who!
Chances are, they’ll be sitting there with their beer, taking mental notes to use against you in court.
Don’t worry, it’s not the soldier taking “notes” on a clipboard — they’re just trying to get out of work. (Photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich)
5. They’re always asking how your weekends were.
Immediately after a four-day weekend, normal people will make small talk by saying, “how was your weekend?” We’re not here to burst your bubble, but this isn’t because they actually care about what you did. It’s a hollow gesture. Nobody actually cares that you just stayed drunk in the barracks, playing video games.
If there’s even the slightest note of sincerity in their voice, it’s a CID Agent trying to get you to spill the beans about what you did.
6. They’re a lower enlisted who actually knows regulations (other than the loopholes).
If pressed on the spot, every response to any regulation should be, “Ah, crap. It’s, uh… AR-6… One sec…” followed by an immediate Googling of the answer. The only time a troop should be able to spout off regulations off the top of their head is if they’re an NCO.
If they know the regulation, they’re trying to pinch you on that law.
7. They actually pay attention to safety briefs.
No one cares about what is being said at the safety brief before the weekend starts — not even the person giving the safety brief. That’s why it’s the same stuff repeated week in, week out.
The typical CID agent probably just wants to get home to watch their copy of Jack Reacher for the 7th time this week, but they’re still trying to blend in with the unit and pretend like they’re not breaking any rules themselves.
Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”
Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.
He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”
“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.
These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.
“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.
The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.
“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.
Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.
Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.
“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.
“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.
US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.
(US Coast Guard photo)
‘Era of experimentation’
Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.
They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.
“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”
The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.
“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”
There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.
The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.
Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.
The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.
Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.
Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.
(US Southern Command)
‘A drop in the bucket’
The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.
“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.
“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”
“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.
Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.
A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.
(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)
Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.
“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)
Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.
“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”
Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.
The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has been the backbone of the US Navy’s carrier air wings for just over a decade, following the retirement of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Reliable, versatile and thoroughly adaptable, the Super Hornet is everything the Navy hoped for in a multirole fighter and more.
But its age is starting to show quickly, especially thanks to increasing deployment rates due to a need to fill in for unavailable older “legacy” Hornets being put through service life extension programs. This has resulted in more wear and tear on these big fighters than the Navy originally projected.
So to keep its fighter fleet relevant and as sharp as ever, the Navy has finally decided to give the go-ahead on picking up brand new Super Hornets from Boeing’s St. Louis, MO plant, while simultaneously upgrading older Super Hornets currently serving. However, these new fighters will come with a few new features that their predecessors don’t have, making them even more potent than ever before in the hands of the Navy’s best and brightest.
While Boeing previously pushed the Navy to consider buying a smaller amount of F-35C Lightning II stealth strike fighters in favor of more F/A-18E/Fs, the aviation manufacturer’s new plan is to develop a Super Hornet that’s capable of seamlessly integrating with the F-35C, making the combination extremely deadly and a huge asset in the hands of any Navy task force commander while underway.
Though the Super Hornet was originally designed in the 1990s to be able to fly against comparable 4th generation fighters, this new update, known as the Advanced Super Hornet or the Block III upgrade, will keep this aircraft relevant against even modern foreign 5th generation fighters today.
Boeing has hinted at the Block III upgrade for the past few years, pitching it constantly with mixed results. Earlier this week, Navy brass confirmed that a plan to buy 80 more Super Hornets was in the works, fleshed out over the next five years.
These new fighters will likely be the first to carry the Block III upgrade, while older Super Hornets will enter overhaul depots between 2019 and 2022, returning to the fleet upon completion of their updating.
Among the most drastic changes these new Super Hornets will come with, as compared to the ones the Navy currently flies, is a completely revamped cockpit, similar to the one used in the F-35. Instead of smaller screens, a jumble of buttons, switches and instrument clusters, Advanced Super Hornets will have a “large-area display” which pulls up every bit of critical information each pilot needs to successfully operate the aircraft onto one big screen, reducing workload and strain.
Additionally, a new networking system will allow Advanced Super Hornets to communicate data more efficiently with Lightning IIs, EA-18 Growler electronic attack jets, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
It’s likely that the Advanced Super Hornet will include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. (Photo from Boeing)
Block III will also include new infrared search and track (IRST) sensors that’ll allow Super Hornets to detect and engage low-observable threats from longer distances. Given that stealth has become an important factor in modern fighter design, it’s likely that the Block III update will also include some kind of stealth coating, painted on the surfaces of the aircraft to absorb or deflect radar waves. The US Air Force and Marine Corps already use similar coatings on F-22 Raptors, F-35s, and select groups of F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The upgrade will also give Super Hornets the ability to fly with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) for the very first time, providing an extension in operating range without sacrificing space on weapons pylons beneath the aircraft’s wings. With more flexibility in terms of weapons carriage, the Navy hopes that Super Hornets will not only be able to fly air superiority missions, but will also function as a flying arsenal for F-35s, which (through data links) could launch and deploy munitions from F/A-18E/Fs while on mission.
The program cost for upgrading currently-active Super Hornets will be around $265.9 million, between 2018 and 2022, while the cost of the 80-strong order for new Super Hornets will come to around $7.1 billion. This massive upgrade also signals the Navy’s interest in investing more into assets it currently fields over developing brand new next-generation fighters as broader replacements, generally to save costs while still maintaining the ability to deal with a variety of potential threats America’s enemies pose today.