The Pentagon on July 20, 2018, announced it’s giving $200 million to Ukraine to bolster its defenses as its conflict with pro-Russian separatists rages on.
This move comes as President Donald Trump continues to defend his controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two world leaders met in Helsinki in July 2018, highlighting the disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies.
“The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The statement also said the US has given more than id=”listicle-2589292724″ billion to Ukraine since conflict broke out there following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Meanwhile, Trump on July 19, 2018 tweeted his meeting with Putin had been a “great success” while once again stating the “Fake News Media” was the “real enemy of the American people.”
The Trump administration this week also said discussions are “underway” to host Putin in Washington in fall 2018, a visit that could occur close to the 2018 midterms.
Trump and the US intelligence community’s Russian rift
The US intelligence community, which concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election under Putin’s guidance, has warned the Kremlin is also planning attacks on future US elections — including the midterms.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to be shocked when he learned Putin was being invited by the Trump administration to the nation’s capital after spending much of the week reiterating warnings about Russia’s dubious intentions regarding the US electoral process.
Trump sided with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference during a press conference in Helsinki, only to walk back on his statements upon returning to the US.
The president claimed he’d misspoke during his summit with Putin and agreed with the US intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election, though he added it could be “other people also.”
The White House on July 20, 2018, also said it was rejecting a proposal from Putin to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine, calling the Russian leader’s suggestion “illegitimate.”
The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of roughly 10,000 people, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced roughly 1.7 million.
Though Trump has long signified a desire to have a strong relationship with Putin and often complimented the Russian leader, his administration has maintained support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian-leaning separatists in the Donbass region.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Mattis: ‘Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior’
Defense Secretary James Mattis has maintained a hawkish stance on Russia but on July 18, 2018, urged Congress to waive sanctions on allies who purchase Russian arms over an apparent concern it could push these countries into the Kremlin’s arms.
“Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior as well as its continuing illegal occupation of Ukraine,” Mattis said in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.
The letter added, “[But] as we impose necessary and well-justified costs on Russia for its malign behavior, at the same time there is a compelling need to avoid significant unintended damage to our long-term, national strategic interests.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Five suspected members of a drug-trafficking ring were arrested in Argentina and Russia as part of a joint police investigation that was launched more than a year ago after 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentinian officials say.
Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that the probe led to the arrest, on Feb. 22, 2018, of a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires and another citizen of the South American country.
The investigation started in December 2016, when Russia’s ambassador to Argentina reported to Argentinian authorities that they had suspicions about luggage found in an annex of the embassy.
Once authorities confirmed that traffickers were trying to move 16 bags of cocaine from the embassy by way of a diplomatic flight, “a tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Bullrich told reporters.
The luggage was flown to Russia in 2017, and Bullrich said three Argentinian customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery.
The soldiers fighting at Little Bighorn in 1876 were facing long odds. The initial attack seemed to favor federal government forces, but they quickly found that the Native forces were much larger and stronger than originally suspected. Scout William Jackson, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, also known as Sikakoan, recalled the fighting in an Army historical document. It’s as dark as you might expect, but also (surprisingly) funny at times.
Let’s take a ride:
Reenactors near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.
(Leonard J. DeFrancisci CC BY-SA 3.0)
The story starts with the 7th Cavalry having already engaged the massive force of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors under Sitting Bull. Jackson was with Maj. Marcus Reno when they hit the first Native American camp with three companies of soldiers. The men were tasked with driving off ponies belonging to the Sioux, but the men spotted more camps further downriver and realized their assault was doomed.
Reno pulled the men back into a stand of timber and prepared for defensive fighting. They held well for a while, even as the Native forces began receiving reinforcements and eventually reached about 1,500 warriors.
But repeated charges by the Native forces eventually caused Reno to pull the men back, but the orderly retreat turned into a panicked rout as repeated attacks broke up the Federal formations.
Multiple men sacrificed themselves to protect the rest of the force. Bloody Knife, one of the scouts, a half Sioux-Ree, reportedly said, “Boys, try to save your lives. I am going to die in this place.”
Bloody Knife, an Arkira-Sioux Native American who worked with federal troops in the 1870s. He was killed during the battle, and Scout William Jackson claimed that he died protecting the federal withdrawal.
(U.S. National Archives)
Jackson and a few others were able to get away. And here is where we get our first bit of a comedic break. A Native leader walked up to the forces surrounding the Federal troops, and he chastised them for suffering the Federal soldiers for so long. According to Jackson, he:
“…came up and began to scold his people saying that there were only white people in the brush and that they were very easily killed. He urged the rest to follow him and armed only with a sword started to run into the brush, but when reached the edge of it he fell.”
Yeah, dude was talking mad sh*t right up until he got himself shot. But the Federal forces were still in a tough spot. They were outnumbered, surrounded, and out of water and food.
Luckily, the lieutenant had brought a bottle with him into the bush. Unfortunately, it was a bottle of coffee because of course, the LT was riding around with coffee. Probably telling everyone about how this “Go-Juice” had gotten him through junior year, too.
Reenactors near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.
(Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Still, the lieutenant was the hero for sharing his drink with everyone, so he tried to follow this up by making a cigarette with his rolling paper and loose tobacco. That was when one of the enlisted men pointed out that, when hiding from Native warriors in the brush, it’s generally best to not give away your position with smoke.
L-Ts gonna L-T.
As darkness came on, one soldier, Gerard, offered to ride for help, but the lieutenant shot it down. The men could still hear the sounds of the larger battle, and it was clear that it wasn’t going well for the 7th Cavalry, so it was unlikely anyone could help them. And the officer didn’t want to split up his tiny, four-man force on such a longshot.
Lt. De Rudio said, “Fight right here till you die and all stick together.”
About 11 o’clock, by Jackson’s estimate, the Native activity around the men had died down, and they decided to try and escape down the riverbank. They were able to slip past the sentries, but it was a close-run thing. The men did run into a war party, but Jackson could luckily speak Sioux and talked the way through.
The men made their way across a river and into another stand of timber. In these trees, they heard the sound of snorting horses and saw the light as someone raised a lit match to a pipe and the tobacco brighten as someone drew on it.
Gerard got hopeful and called out, “There! Didn’t I tell you the soldiers were in the timber? Hold on, boys, don’t shoot! It’s us; Gerard and De Rudio!”
Unfortunately for him, as well as Jackson; De Rudio; and Tom O’Neill, the other survivor, these weren’t federal troops. They were native warriors.
A painting depicting the Battle of Little Bighorn where famous U.S. Army officer George C. Custer, a brevet major general at the time, was killed.
The warriors gave chase, and the men were forced to split up. Jackson and Gerard got away while De Rudio and O’Neill were unable to. After a few minutes, Jackson and Gerard heard five to six gunshots and realized they would likely never see their friends again.
For the entire next day, the two men tried to get to friendly lines but kept finding themselves cut off by Native warriors maneuvering on the besieged federal troops. It wasn’t until after dark, over 30 hours after they were originally isolated, that Jackson and Gerard were able to return to federal lines.
After telling their story a time or two, they were given some hardtack. They were eating it when they got a pleasant surprise.
A sentry yelled a challenge to two people walking up the camp. When Jackson and Gerard looked for the source of the commotion, they were surprised to see De Rudio and O’Neill. Those men had killed three Natives pursuing them and then escaped into a woodline. They hid in a fallen, rotten tree for an entire day, even as Native warriors searching for them used that very log as a seat and then jumped their horses over it.
The four survivors were happy to learn that the camp they were in belonged to Maj. Reno who had also survived the fighting. Reno asked Jackson to please go get a doctor from Custer’s main camp.
It was during this mission that Jackson learned what had happened to Custer and the bulk of the men under his command. He found a slaughter on the battlefield. The survivors eventually made it out, but Federal forces had taken one of their worst losses in history.
(Scout William Jackson’s full statement is available here. It should be known that some accounts of the battle differ in the details. For instance, other accounts claim that Bloody Knife was killed near Maj. Reno before the retreat, and that Bloody Knife’s death may have been the event that pushed Reno to give the withdrawal order.)
A legendary chapter in Air Force history has come to a close.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, the last survivor of the “Doolittle Raid,” died April 9, 2019, in San Antonio.
“Lt. Col. Dick Cole reunited with the Doolittle Raiders in the clear blue skies today,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “My heart goes out to his friends and family as our Air Force mourns with them. We will honor him and the courageous Doolittle Raiders as pioneers in aviation who continue to guide our bright future.”
On April 18, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Doolittle Raiders attacked Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which boosted American morale in the early months of World War II.
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“There’s another hole in our formation,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Our last remaining Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and has reunited with his fellow Raiders. And what a reunion they must be having. Seventy-seven years ago this Saturday, 80 intrepid airmen changed the course of history as they executed a one-way mission without hesitation against enormous odds. We are so proud to carry the torch he and his fellow Raiders handed us.”
Cole was born Sept. 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. In 1938, he graduated from Steele High School in Dayton and attended two years of college at Ohio University before enlisting as an aviation cadet on Nov. 22, 1940. Soon after he enlisted, Cole received orders to report to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois, for training before arriving at Randolph Field, Texas and later, Kelly Field, Texas. He completed pilot training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941.
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
While Cole was on a training mission with the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon, word came that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
The 17th BG flew anti-submarine patrols until February 1942, when Cole was told he would be transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. While there, he and his group volunteered for a mission with no known details. Cole would later say that he thought his unit was heading to North Africa.
For weeks, Cole practiced flying maneuvers on the B-25 Mitchell, a U.S. Army Air Corps twin-engine propeller-driven bomber with a crew of five that could take off from an aircraft carrier at sea, in what some would call the first joint action that tested the Army and Navy’s ability to operate together. When the carrier finally went to sea to bring 16 bombers closer to maximize their reach, it wasn’t until two days into the voyage that the airmen and sailors on the mission were told that their carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet, and all of its bombers, were heading in the direction of Tokyo.
A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
In an age-before mid-air refueling and GPS, the U.S.S. Hornet weighed less than a quarter of today’s fortress-like aircraft carriers. With Cole as the copilot to then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, the B-25 Mitchell bomber #40-2344, would take off with only 467 feet of takeoff distance.
What made the mission all the more challenging was a sighting by a Japanese patrol boat that spurred the task force commander, U.S. Navy Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey, to launch the mission more than 650 nautical miles from Japan – 10 hours early and 170 nautical miles farther than originally planned. Originally, the Mitchells were supposed to land, refuel and proceed on to western China, thereby giving the Army Air Corps a squadron of B-25s and a commander. But now the aircrews faced increasing odds against them, in their attempt to reach the airfields of non-occupied China. Still, Cole and his peers continued with their mission.
Flying at wave-top level around 200 feet and with their radios turned off, Cole and the Raiders avoided detection for as much of the distance as possible. In groups of two to four aircraft, the bombers targeted dry docks, armories, oil refineries and aircraft factories in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe as well as Tokyo itself. The Japanese air defense was so caught off guard by the Raiders that little anti-aircraft fire was volleyed and only one Japanese Zero followed in pursuit. With their bombs delivered, the Raiders flew towards safety in China.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole answers question about the raid during a luncheon in honor of the event at the Army Navy Club in Washington.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)
Many airmen had to parachute out into the night, Cole himself jumping out at around 9,000 feet. All aircraft were considered lost with Cole’s own aircraft landing in a rice paddy full of night soil. Of the 80 airmen committed to the raid, eight were captured by Japanese forces with five executed and three sent to prison (where one died of malnutrition). All of the 72 other airmen found their way to safety with the help of Chinese farmers and guerrillas and continued to serve for the remainder of World War II.
The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese, who moved four fighter groups and recalled top officers from the front lines of the Pacific to protect the cities in the event American bomber forces returned.
After the Doolittle Raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater supporting the 5318th Provisional Air Unit as a C-47 pilot flying “The Hump,” a treacherous airway through the Himalayan Mountains. The USAAF created the 5318th PAU to support the Chindits, the long-range penetration groups that were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, with Cole as one of the first members of the U.S. special operations community. On March 25, 1944, the 5318th PAU was designated as the 1st Air Commando Group by USAAF commander Gen. Henry H. Arnold, who felt that an Air Force supporting a commando unit in the jungles of Burma should properly be called “air commandos.” Cole’s piloting skills blended well with the unconventional aerial tactics of Flying Tiger veterans as they provided fighter cover, bombing runs, airdrops and landing of troops, food and equipment as well as evacuation of casualties.
Lt. Col. Dick Cole smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole retired from the Air Force on Dec. 31, 1966, as a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft, more than 250 combat missions and more than 500 combat hours. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters; Air Medal with oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, First Grade. All Doolittle Raiders were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2014.
In his final years, he remained a familiar face at Air Force events in the San Antonio area and toured Air Force schoolhouses and installations to promote the spirit of service among new generations of airmen. On Sept. 19, 2016, Cole was present during the naming ceremony for the Northup Grumman B-21 Raider, named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.
“We will miss Lt. Col. Cole, and offer our eternal thanks and condolences to his family,” Goldfein said. “The Legacy of the Doolittle Raiders — his legacy —will live forever in the hearts and minds of airmen, long after we’ve all departed. May we never forget the long blue line, because it’s who we are.”
The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.
“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”
Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.
The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.
The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.
Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.
In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.
Picture the brown-water Navy of the Vietnam War and you probably picture Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard floating upriver on a PBR to “terminate Col. Kurtz’s command…with extreme prejudice.” The Patrol Boat, River was a small rigid-hulled patrol boat used extensively in the Vietnam War to navigate the country’s many waterways. Employed operationally from 1966 until 1971, PBRs were used to conduct patrols, disrupt enemy movement, and most notably, insert and extract Special Forces units like Navy SEALs and the fictional Capt. Willard.
As the war in Vietnam escalated, the U.S. military quickly saw the need for a small and agile watercraft that could move quickly on Vietnam’s many rivers. The Navy approached civilian shipbuilder Hatteras Yachts to convert their 41′ fiberglass recreational family boat by shortening it and fitting it with water pump-jets instead of propellers. The pump-jets would allow the boat to operate in extremely shallow water. Willis Slane and Jack Hargrave of Hatteras took on the challenge and delivered the prototype to the Navy for testing in just 7 days.
A modern version of the Hatteras 41 on which the PBR is based (Hatteras Yachts)
In 1965, the Navy awarded a contract to Uniflite Boats to build the first 120 PBRs. They were powered by two Detroit 6V53N engines producing 180 hp each (later increased to 216 hp), and two 14YJ water pump-jet drives manufactured by Jacuzzi. With this power, the boats could cruise between 25 and 31 knots. The later Mark II PBR was slightly bigger, increasing from 31′ to 32′ in length and 10′ 7″ to 11′ 7″ beam. Mark II PBRs were also fitted with improved drives to reduce fouling and aluminum gunwales to resist wear.
The PBR was extremely maneuverable, being able to turn within its own length. But the PBRs party piece was its stopping ability. Fitted with thrust buckets, the PBR could reverse its Jacuzzi water pump-jets and go from full speed to a dead stop within a couple of its own length. Because of its fiberglass hull, the boat was also extremely light. This meant that it had a draft of just 2′ when fully loaded and could be slingloaded by a helicopter.
A CH-54 Tarhe prepares to hoist a PBR (U.S. Army)
PBRs were typically armed with a twin M2HB .50-caliber machine gun turret forward, a single rear-mounted M2HB, one or two M60 7.62mm light machine guns on the port and starboard side, and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. However, PBR captains were known to augment their weapons suites with additional M2HBs and 81mm mortars. Some even swapped out their bow-mounted twin .50-cals for a Mk16 Mod 4 Colt 20mm automatic cannon. In addition to all this, the four-man crew was armed with a full complement of M16 rifles, shotguns, M1911 handguns, and hand grenades.
All this lethality came at the cost of protection. Though the .50-cal machine guns had some ceramic armor shielding and the Coxswain’s flat had quarter-inch thick steel armor plating, the fiberglass-hulled boats had little else in the way of armor. Rather, PBRs relied on their acceleration, maneuverability, and outright speed for their survivability. This made them extremely adept at hit and run attacks and special operations. In the latter, the PBR found great success. Not only did the boat serve as an excellent insertion and extraction platform, its heavy armament meant that it could provide direct fire support for special operations teams if necessary.
A PBR cruises down a river in Vietnam (U.S. Navy)
At the height of production during the Vietnam War, two PBRs were rolling off the assembly line every day. By the war’s end, over 750 had been built. Today, less than three dozen PBRs survive in conditions ranging from stripped hulls to fully operational, of which there are just seven. However, the PBRs legacy is greater than its surviving examples.
The most decorated enlisted sailor in U.S. Navy history, James “Willie” Williams, commanded PBR 105. During a patrol on October 21, 1966, Williams’ and another PBR engaged over 65 enemy boats and numerous well-concealed ground troops in a three-hour running battle. Williams’ actions during the battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His citation notes that he “exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol” and that he “demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle.”
Williams wields an M60 aboard his PBR (U.S. Navy)
To the unknowing tourist looking at a static display, the PBR might just be a greenish grey military boat. A cinephile might recognize it as the boat from Apocalypse Now. But, to the special forces teams that were pulled out of a hot extraction by one, the PBR was a guardian angel. To the sailors that crewed them, a PBR was home.
Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).
These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.
Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)
Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.
Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.
The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.
Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.
While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is cool. But it’s not real.
The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit was supposed to be a real version to protect America’s special operations forces when going into harm’s way.
The TALOS suit “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, Socom’s commander, said at the National Defense Industries Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here yesterday.
The joint acquisition task force for the suit was established in November 2013 and banked on breakthrough technology — or technologies — to protect special operators, Votel said. Socom, he said, put together an unprecedented group from industry, academia and government to develop the prototype.
A Holistic System
Future prototype suits have exoskeletons that augment the power of the operators, Votel explained. They will also feature helmets with heads-up display technology. Other future prototypes will feature cooling/heating systems and medical sensors to monitor an operator’s vital signs.
“It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” said a joint task force member speaking on background during a recent interview at Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “Survivability is our number-one tenet. We have to look not only at the integration of current systems for personal protective equipment, but also to augment the guy’s motion.”
This is serious science with risks and serious trade-offs, and the task force’s main effort this year was to “get as many smart people working on it as possible,” the task force member said.
A rapid prototyping event was held in Tampa from April to June 2014. “The idea of the event was to bring industry , Interagency [and] academia together with special operators to accelerate the development of the technology and accelerate the brainstorming of the ideas for the suit and the project,” said a task force member.
It worked. More than 200 people from a wide range of disciplines answered the open call. “Putting those people in one room enabled cross polinization and an incredible collaborative teamwork atmosphere,” the task force member said.
But the rapid prototyping event was more than simply charting the way ahead of theorizing on how the various parts would fit together, the task force member said. There were 3D computer modeling designers participating, he added.
“People could explore concepts by seeing what it would look like, how it would fit, how it would affect other aspects of the design,” an engineer said. “Usually in [Defense Department] contracting you don’t get that kind of immediate feedback. We could actually have a physical model of what we were thinking about.”
The team went from cutting designs from foam to sculpting it from clay to 3D printing the prototypes. “We were able to try a group of different ideas with the experts in the room,” a task force member said.
The suit sadly didn’t materialize as planned.
Going into the rapid prototyping event, the task force members had ideas of what the problems were going to be and the event confirmed them. “It also pointed to ways we can surmount those challenges and pointed out challenges we really didn’t think would be that tough,” the engineer of the group said.
An untethered power source was a big problem, officials said. The power will be needed to operate the exoskeleton, cool or heat the operator and fuel all the sensors in the suit. “Identifying an untethered power source for extended duration is one leap of technology,” one official said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist in that man-portable size technology. If someone has an arc reactor in their basement, I know how they can make a lot of money.”
The task force looked at novel materials and materials used in different configurations. “If you could make armor that was super, super light and is a leap in technology, that buys down some of our other problems,” an official said. “We wouldn’t need as much power, for example.
“We’re looking to get those leaps of technologies,” he continued. “Those leaps of capabilities to the guys so they can do their jobs better than they do now.”
Suit Sensor Challenges
Another challenge is with the suit’s sensors, officials said. One problem deals with latency — the time between when a sensor detects something and when it is transmitted to the brain. Night-vision goggles are immediate — there is zero-difference from when the sensor picks it up and it hits the eye.
“When I move my head, the picture is with me all the time,” the engineer said. “The problem with current visual solutions right now is when I move my head, it lags and takes a second to catch up.”
Today, even the best prototype sensor solution still creates nausea after being under it for 30 minutes.
The task force never forgets they are developing this suit for real people, for comrades in arms, and they have constant interaction with operators, officials said. “The last thing you want to do is build a suit that nobody wants to get inside,” said one task force member.
The task force has given various pieces of technology to operators to test. Recently, operators tested various heads-up displays. They also had user assessment of the first-year exoskeletons. “We had operators from all components strap them on and run through an obstacle course,” one task force member said. “We also did functional movement tests. It gives the operators the chance to come and tell us what they liked and disliked about the prototypes.”
TALOS has a number of civilian uses as well, officials said. Firefighters may find the initial prototype passive load bearing exoskeleton suits handy, as would other people working in extreme environments. The results of tests will be seen not only in the special operations community, but in improved ballistic protection for all service members.
On the wall of the task force building is a countdown calendar. The day of the interview, the number read 877 — the days left before the Mark 5 first prototype suit must be ready for testing.
“We know why we’re doing this,” one member of the task force said. “This is life-saving technology. There are challenges, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.” The suit design was eventually declared a bust in 2019. Will a new version be attempted one day? Who knows, but it would be cool if it was!
No matter how hard you try and avoid it, vehicles get stuck in the mud. It can even happen to an Abrams tank. Sometimes, as with the case of the Abrams, the vehicle is able to escape the sticky situation on its own, but what happens when the vehicle can’t manage to get free on its own devices?
Thankfully, there’s a way to handle that situation. The United States Army (and the United States Marine Corps) has a vehicle designed to help others get out of the mud and get the supplies it is hauling to the troops. That vehicle is the M984 Wrecker, part of the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck family.
According to OshKosh Defense, the latest version of this tactical tow truck is the M984A4. It has a crew of two, a top speed of 62 miles per hour, and can go 300 miles on a 155-gallon tank of gas. You read that right; it gets really sucky gas mileage — a bit less than two miles per gallon.
But here’s the capability that you get in exchange for guzzling gas: The M984A4’s recovery winch can haul 30 tons, which is enough to get most vehicles out of a muddy situation. Its crane hauls seven tons. It can retrieve objects weighing up to 25,000 pounds. This truck is a tactical, AAA-roadside-assistance machine, and it weighs less than 55,000 pounds, meaning it can be hauled by C-130 Hercules transport planes.
Check out the video below to watch an M984 crew practice getting a vehicle out of the mud at Fort McCoy:
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that the U.S. “military and political role” in Europe is crucial to regional security and emphasized that he does not want a Russian military base in his country.
Lukashenka, who frequently mixes praise and criticism of both the West and Belarus’s giant eastern neighbor, Russia, was speaking to a group of U.S. experts and analysts in Minsk on Nov. 6, 2018.
“The Belarusian armed forces are capable of providing security and performing their duties much better than any other country, including the Russian Federation,” Lukashenka said.
“That is why today I see no need to invite some other countries, including Russia, to the territory of Belarus, to perform our duties. That is why we are absolutely against having foreign military bases, especially military air bases,” he said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to station warplanes in Belarus in 2013, but they have not been deployed and the issue remains under discussion.
In January 2018, media reports in Russia and Belarus said that a Russian Air Force regiment that Moscow had planned to station in Belarus would instead be located in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad.
Lukashenka told his audience that Belarus was “a European country” that is interested in “a strong and united Europe,” adding that Europe today is “a major pillar of our planet.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“God forbid somebody ruins it…. We are certain that regional security [in Europe] depends on the cohesion of the region’s states and preservation of the United States’ military and political role in the European arena,” Lukashenka said.
“Belarus is eager to build an equal dialogue with all sides via reinstating normal ties with the United States, supporting good neighborly ties with the European Union, and widening partnership with NATO,” he said. “We support more openness and development of mutual understanding in order to strengthen regional security.”
An authoritarian leader who has ruled Belarus since 1994, Lukashenka has sought to strike a balance between Russia, which he depicts as both an ally and a threat, and the EU and NATO to the west. He has stepped up his emphasis on Belarusian sovereignty and expressions of concern about Moscow’s intentions since Russia seized Crimea and backed armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The EU eased sanctions against Belarus in 2016 after the release of several people considered political prisoners, but has criticized Lukashenka’s government for a violent clampdown on demonstrators protesting an unemployment tax in March 2017.
Belarus and Russia are joined in a union state that exists mainly on paper, and their militaries have close ties — though Lukashenka has resisted Russian efforts to beef up its military presence in Belarus, which lies between Russia and the NATO states.
The countries have held joint military exercises including the major Zapad-2017 (West-2017) war games.
Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, regional groupings observers say Russian President Vladimir Putin uses to seek to bolster Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet Union and counter the EU and NATO.
North Korea broke its silence March 21, 2018, on its surprise peace overtures, including a tentative summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, while denying that U.S. pressure led to the breakthrough.
The Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean propaganda outlet, said the sudden conciliatory moves were an “expression of self-confidence” by a regime that already “has acquired everything it desires,” a possible reference to the buildup of its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals.
The North Korean statement came amid reports that the annual Foal Eagle military exercises in South Korea could be cut short to avoid coinciding with the tentative Trump-Kim summit at the end of May 2018.
South Korean media reported March 21, 2018, that the exercises could run for just a month, rather than the traditional two, in what may be an effort cut a wide berth around the proposed dialogue.
Air Force senior leaders are aware of the need to not only adapt, but retain the service’s competitive edge over our enemies.
“All of us have to come together to understand the threat and be clear-eyed on the competition that we face,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “A changing world environment, strategic competition and peer competitors are the catalysts that make this change so immediately important.”
Part of this change is the emphasis on Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the internet of the joint warfighter that connects all platforms and people and accelerates the speed of data-sharing and decision-making in all five domains: land, air, sea, cyber and space.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett says JADC2, “more seamlessly integrates the joint team in a battle network that links all sensors to all shooters.”
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett delivers remarks during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. The three-day event is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops with defense industry professionals.
With the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force is showing intent to dominate space, allocating .4 billion from the 9 billion budget proposal to ensure superiority in space, provide deterrence and, if deterrence fails, provide combat power.
“Space is essential in today’s American way of life,” Barrett said. “Navigation, communication, information all depend on these aging, vulnerable, though brilliant, GPS satellites.”
The Air Force has already begun replacing these older satellites with new, defendable GPS satellites.
With the budget proposal comes a continued effort to increase the number of squadrons in the Air Force to 386, ensuring the ability to generate combat power and improve readiness.
“This budget moves us forward to recapitalize our two legs of the [nuclear] triad and the critical nuclear command and control that ties it all together,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
Gwynne Shotwell (center), SpaceX Chief Operating Officer, briefs Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (left) and David Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense, on SpaceX capabilities during the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 18, 2019. During this week’s first demonstration of the ABMS, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders. The collection of networked systems and immediately available information is critical to enabling joint service operations across all domains.
During her speech at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February, Barrett stated, “Our priorities can be summed up simply. We need a modern, smart, connected, strong Air and Space Force to deter and defend against aggression and preserve precious freedom and peace.”
The Air Force is changing, but as Wilson puts it, “The threat has changed; now we’re looking through a lens that is an existential change, and an existential threat out there.”
We like to make fun of the Golden Globes. With awards given out by a voting body of around 90 people, it’s easy to take shots when it comes to its relevancy during award season. But one thing we can’t dispute is the award show can be a huge marketing tool, and that was evident this weekend with “1917.”
Universal’s World War I drama from director Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”), that is told in stle that resembles the look of having continuous shot (in reality there were multiple shots), won the Globes’ top prize, best motion picture — drama, and that catapulted it to must-see-status this weekend.
The result: “1917” dethroned “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” from the number one spot at the domestic box office with its estimated .5 million take.
Mendes’ movie had been in limited release since Christmas (to date, “1917” has brought in .39 million, worldwide), building awareness as well as award season buzz, but this weekend was its coming out party. Clearly moviegoers wanted to catch a glimpse of the movie that beat out the likes of “The Irishman” and “Joker” at the Golden Globes (Mendes also won the best director Globe). They also wanted to see for themselves how in the world Mendes and the movie’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, pulled off the one-shot look of the movie.
We’ll find out Monday morning how “1917” will be received by Academy voters, as Oscar nominations are announced then. But for now, you have to tip your hat to Universal for how it has released its latest original title.
That’s the other element of this box office win. Universal has cracked the code when it comes to getting top dollar out of its non IP/sequel titles. In 2019 it did better than any other studio by having three original titles top the box office their opening weekends (“Us,” “Good Boys,” and “Abominable”), and it’s continuing that in the new year.
There are only so many weekend slots on the calendar that are not gobbled up by big tentpole titles, but recently Universal has been the king of finding those spots where its original titles can shine. And in the case of “1917,” with its big Golden Globes night, that just amplified things. Its .5 million take tops its early projections of million to million, andupdated projection of million.
Disney’s “Rise of Skywalker” came in second place with .1 million. The movie’s global cume to date is just under id=”listicle-2644736909″ billion, 9.6 million. But Disney also had to deal with a dud this weekend, too, with its release of Fox’s “Underwater.” The thriller starring Kristen Stewart only took in million on over 2,700 screens.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.