The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A first-in-human trial evaluating an experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease has begun at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The Phase 1 clinical trial is examining the safety and tolerability of a single monoclonal antibody called mAb114, which was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, and their collaborators. Investigators aim to enroll between 18 and 30 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 60. The trial will not expose participants to Ebola virus.


Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and hemorrhage (severe bleeding). It was first discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and has caused periodic cases and outbreaks in several African countries since then. The largest outbreak, which occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, caused more than 28,600 infections and more than 11,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In May 2018, the DRC reported an Ebola outbreak, located in Équateur Province in the northwest of the country. As of May 20, health officials have reported 51 probable or confirmed cases and 27 deaths. There are currently no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease, although multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

“We hope this trial will establish the safety of this experimental treatment for Ebola virus disease—an important first step in a larger evaluation process,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Ebola is highly lethal, and reports of another outbreak in the DRC remind us that we urgently need Ebola treatments.”

“This study adds to NIAID efforts in conducting scientifically and ethically sound biomedical research to develop countermeasures against Ebola virus disease,” added Dr. Fauci.

MAb114 is a monoclonal antibody—a protein that binds to a single target on a pathogen—isolated from a human survivor of the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, a city in the DRC. Nancy Sullivan, Ph.D., chief of the Biodefense Research Section in NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), and her team, in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in the DRC and the Institute for Biomedical Research in Switzerland, discovered that the survivor retained antibodies against Ebola 11 years after infection. They isolated the antibodies and tested the most favorable ones in the laboratory and non-human primate studies, and selected mAb114 as the most promising. Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of INRB and one of the scientists involved in the original detection of the Ebola virus in 1976, played a key role in discovering mAb114.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
Researchers looking at slides of cultures of cells that make monoclonal antibodies.

In collaboration with the VRC, scientists at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, illustrated that the monoclonal antibody binds to the hard-to-reach core of the Ebola virus surface protein and blocks the protein’s interaction with its receptor on human cells. A single dose of mAb114 protected non-human primates days after lethal Ebola virus infection. The antibody was developed in partnership with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was manufactured for clinical studies by the company MedImmune based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“The discovery and development of this experimental Ebola treatment was a collaborative process made possible by Ebola survivors and the DRC scientists who first encountered the virus, as well as through collaboration with our colleagues in the Department of Defense. We are pleased to announce the start of this Phase 1 trial of mAb114,” said NIAID VRC Director John Mascola, M.D.

Martin Gaudinski, M.D., medical director in the VRC’s Clinical Trials Program, is the principal investigator of the new trial. The first three participants will receive a 5 milligram (mg)/kilogram (kg) intravenous infusion of mAb114 for 30 minutes. The study monitoring team will evaluate safety data to determine if the remaining participants can receive higher doses (25 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg). Participants will have blood taken before and after the infusion and will bring a diary card home to record their temperature and any symptoms for three days. Participants will visit the clinic approximately 14 times over six months to have their blood drawn to see if mAb114 is detectable and to be checked for any health changes.

Investigators expect that the trial, called VRC 608, will be fully enrolled by July 2018. For more information about the trial, please visit ClinicalTrials.gov and search identifier NCT03478891.

This article originally appeared on National Institutes of Health. Follow @NIH on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A major ISIS figure whom everyone thought was killed in Syria turned out to be living in a seaside town in Spain

The arrest in Spain of an infamous member of Islamic State from London who authorities thought had been killed in Syria has sparked fears among security officials that more foreign fighters survived the fall of ISIS-controlled territory than previously imagined.

Worse, sources tell Insider, he found a way to smuggle himself back into Europe by avoiding customs checks and biometric tracking at borders.


Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary and two unnamed associates were arrested Monday by Spanish police in the Mediterranean port city of Almeria after coordination with the UK domestic intelligence service MI5, which had been attempting to track him since he left the UK to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.

He once posed with a severed head

Abdel-Bary is the son of Adel Abdel Bari, who has been accused of killing 224 people in various bomb attacks across Africa. Some believe he is linked to the terror cell that committed the Bataclan massacre in Paris in 2015.

He is one of the best-known of European ISIS members to have been arrested after returning to Europe from Syria since the arrests of members of the “Molenbeek Cell” in Brussels that conducted terror attacks across France and Belgium from 2014 to 2016.

Abdel-Bary grew up in a council house in Maida Vale, North London. His address was not far from that of Mohammed Emwazi, better-known as “Jihadi John.” When video footage emerged of three ISIS suspects putting a knife to the throat of American journalist James Foley, officials initially suspected Abdel-Bary might be “Jihadi John” before later attributing the identity as Emwazi. Abdel-Bary did, however, once pose with a severed head.

Intelligence sources said they were shaken that such a major figure could make his way back into Europe undetected.

“This is a major problem,” a counter-terrorism official in Belgium told Insider.

“Abdel-Bary isn’t some Syrian guy nobody has ever heard of. He’s a well-known jihadist from a well-known jihadist family who was active on social media from Syria and was closely linked to both the cyber-caliphate activities of Junaid Hussain and the cell of UK fighters who controlled the Western hostages in Raqqa. Now it turns out he’s not dead but rather living in a rented apartment on the Spanish coast.”

‘Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?’

Spanish police did not identify the men beyond a statement that claimed, “One of the most sought terrorists in Europe, both because of his criminal trajectory in the ranks of [ISIS] and because of the high danger that he represented.”

UK officials subsequently identified one of the men as Abdel-Bary to the British media, a claim confirmed by EU intelligence officials.

The official said the immediate suspicion was that Abdel-Bary was able to make his way back to Europe at some point in the last few years amid the ongoing flood of civilian refugees. More than 1.5 million people fled the region through Turkey and Greece in 2015. Tens of thousands more arrived in 2019 alone.

“There was an Interpol Red Notice on him, he could not have used his legal paperwork from the UK to enter the Schengen Zone and his biometric data was available because of previous drug arrests so if he tried to enter as a refugee since the new standards were implemented by Frontex that should have quickly flagged him,” said the official. The Schengen Zone is the area of 26 countries in mainland Europe through which citizens are allowed to move without passports.

“Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?” asked the Belgian official, who had tracked both the Molenbeek Cell and then assisted French and Belgian special forces in targeting Francophone fighters during the fighting in Mosul and Raqqa from 2016 to 2019.

His name should have been flagged the moment he entered Europe

A source with the Greek Interior Ministry told Insider that there was no biometric data that showed Abdel-Barry passed through Greece at any point, and that his name would have been flagged if he tried to enter Schengen on his UK passport.

While the UK targeted several of its own high-profile ISIS jihadists — Junaid Hussain and Mohammed Emwazi were both killed in drone strikes in 2015 — the French and Belgians, who had more than 1,000 suspects leave to join ISIS, were much more specific and aggressive. They targeted high-value French-speaking jihadists during the campaigns to retake Mosul and Raqqa.

The French intelligence services concluded around 2016 that there was little value in accumulating more defectors from the group, and switched to a policy of targeting French-speaking groups of fighters as they were detected in Iraq and Syria.

“The Brits sent troops to assist with the overall effort and they were very effective,” said one French official, who said he considers Abdel-Bary to be part of the same cell that did the 2015 Bataclan attacks, “But we specifically worked with the Belgians to make sure that most of ‘our’ guys couldn’t come home because they were dead. This is why we see more UK fighters detained by the Kurds than French of Belgian fighters. We worked very hard to kill as many as we could.”

They thought he had been killed in a drone strike

Abdel-Bary, 28, was involved in drug dealing and had a small star turn as a jihadi inspired rapper. He was influenced by his Egyptian-born father’s yearslong detention in the UK while awaiting extradition to the US on charges he was a member of al Qaida who helped plan the 1998 East African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

His family links to al Qaida, short career as a mediocre rapper, and heavy social media presence in 2015 made him one of the most visible UK members of ISIS before he disappeared, He was believed to have been killed as the group lost stronghold after stronghold in Syria and Iraq from 2016, until last year’s final collapse of the proto caliphate in Baghuz.

He was believed to have traveled to Syria with Hussain, a UK born ISIS member who was considered a top computer expert for the group before being killed in a joint UK-US drone strike in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2015.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What you need to know about the banned missile the US is developing

Thirty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground launched-surface-to-surface missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,417 miles). This treaty held through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but in recent years, there have been allegations of Russian non-compliance.


According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the United States has begun development of a ground-launched cruise missile. The last such system the United States had in service was the BGM-109G Gryphon, a version of the Tomahawk cruise missile still used by the United States Navy. It was one of three systems scrapped by the United States in compliance with the INF Treaty.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
A BGM-109G Gryphon is launched. (DOD photo)

Details on the new missile are scarce, as the system’s development has begun. One likely option would be to try to bring back the ground-launched version of the Tomahawk. Another option could be to launch Tomahawks from an Aegis Ashore base. The Tomahawk can be launched from the same vertical-launch cells as the RIM-161 Standard Missile, or SM-3, used in Aegis Ashore. A 2016 release from Lockheed Martin noted that an Aegis Ashore base in Romania is active, and one in Poland is under construction.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the Pentagon’s intention is to hopefully force Russia to comply with the 1987 treaty. However, should Russia not go back into compliance, a source told the paper that the United States is determined to be ready if the Russians choose to “live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want,” as one official put it.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

The Hill reported that during meetings with other NATO defense ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Secretary of Defense James Mattis states that Russia’s violations raise “concern about Russia’s willingness to live up to the accords that it’s signed, the treaties it’s signed.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Zombie cicadas in the US lure victims with promises of sex before passing on a deadly, mind-controlling parasite

A parasitic fungus can control the minds of cicadas, leading them to act like the undead.

Researchers at West Virginia University first discovered these “zombie cicadas” last summer. They found that the bugs douse other cicadas with spores that cause the same infection, so the scientists nicknamed the cicadas “flying salt shakers of death.” But they didn’t fully understand how the psychedelic fungus — named massospora — tricks cicadas into spreading the disease to so many healthy counterparts.

The possessed cicadas reemerged in West Virginia in June, giving the researchers a chance to answer that question.

In a recent study, scientists describe how massospora manipulates male cicadas into flicking their wings in a pattern that imitates females’ mating invitations. That sham siren call then lures in unsuspecting healthy males.

When the healthy males wander over and try to mate to with their infected brethren, the parasite gains a new victim.

The fungus tweaks cicadas’ behavior against its best interest

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatmentA swarm of cicadas take over a bush near Trenton, Ohio. Pat Auckerman/The Journal/AP

The most sinister aspect of massospora is that the fungus eats away at infected cicadas genitals, butts, and abdomens, replacing them with fungal spores.

The insects’ bodies “wear away like an eraser on a pencil,” Brian Lovett, a coauthor of the new study, said in a press release.

Lovett and his team found that even though infected cicadas can lose up to one-third of their bodies to the fungus, they continue to roam, fly, and fornicate as if nothing’s wrong. That maximizes the parasite’s spread.

To make matters worse, the infection causes cicadas’ libido to skyrocket — they “try to mate with everything they encounter,” the researchers said.

“It’s very clear that the pathogen is pulling the behavioral levers of the cicada to cause it to do things which are not in the interest of the cicada, but is very much in the interest of the pathogen,” Lovett said.

He added that this type of behavioral tweak is similar to how the rabies virus modifies its hosts’ behavior.

“When you’re infected with rabies, you become aggressive, you become afraid of water and you don’t swallow,” Lovett said. “The virus is passed through saliva and all of those symptoms essentially turn you into a rabies-spreading machine where you’re more likely to bite people.”

Zombie cicadas aren’t dangerous to people 

The study also pinpointed when during their life cycle the cicadas may get infected.

Baby cicadas — called nymphs — spend the first 17 years of their lives underground, feeding on plant roots. According to Matt Kasson, another study author, some nymphs could encounter the fungus as they dig their burrows.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatmentBrian Lovett holds up a cicada infected by massospora, a parasitic fungus. WVU Photo/Angie Macias

“The fungus could more or less lay in wait inside its host for the next 17 years until something awakens it, perhaps a hormone cue,” Kasson said in the release.

Alternatively, the nymphs might also get infected in their 17th year, on their way up to the surface.Either way, these infected cicadas are harmless to humans.

“They’re very docile,” Lovett said. “You can walk right up to one, pick it up to see if it has the fungus (a white to yellowish plug on its back end) and set it back down. They’re not a major pest in any way.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

US has been losing simulated war games against Russia & China

In war games simulating a high-end fight against Russia or China, the US often loses, two experienced military war-gamers have revealed.

“In our games, when we fight Russia and China, ‘blue’ gets its ass handed to it,” David Ochmanek, a RAND warfare analyst, explained at the Center for a New American Security on March 7, 2019, Breaking Defense first reported. US forces are typically color-coded blue in these simulations.

“We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he said.


US stealth fighters die on the runway

At the outset of these conflicts, all five battlefield domains — land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — are contested, meaning the US could struggle to achieve the superiority it has enjoyed in the past.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

An F-35A joint strike fighter crew chief watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, July 14, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In these simulated fights, the “red” aggressor force often obliterates US stealth fighters on the runway, sends US warships to the depths, destroys US bases, and takes out critical US military systems.

“In every case I know of, the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense and an experienced war-gamer, said March 7, 2019. “But it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

Neither China nor Russia has developed a fifth-generation fighter as capable as the F-35, but even the best aircraft have to land. That leaves them vulnerable to attack.

US warships are wiped off the board

“Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said.

Aircraft carriers, traditional beacons of American military might, are becoming increasingly vulnerable. They may be hard to kill, but they are significantly less difficult to take out of the fight.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

USS Enterprise is underway with its strike group in the Atlantic Ocean.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)

Naval experts estimate that US aircraft carriers now need to operate at least 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland to keep out of range of China’s anti-ship missiles, according to USNI News.

US bases burn

“If we went to war in Europe, there would be one Patriot battery moving, and it would go to Ramstein [in Germany]. And that’s it,” Work explained, according to Breaking Defense. “We have 58 Brigade Combat Teams, but we don’t have anything to protect our bases. So what difference does it make?”

Simply put, the US military bases scattered across Europe and the Pacific don’t have the anti-air and missile-defense capabilities required to handle the overwhelming volume of fire they would face in a high-end conflict.

US networks and systems crumble

In a conflict against a near-peer threat, US communications satellites, command-and-control systems, and wireless networks would be crippled.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

Marines participate in Hatch Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System training on an MV-22B Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Feb. 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gumchol Cho)

“The brain and the nervous system that connects all of these pieces is suppressed, if not shattered,” Ochmanek said of this scenario. Work said the Chinese call this type of attack “system destruction warfare.”

The Chinese would “attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and they practice it all the time,” Work said. “On our side, whenever we have an exercise, when the red force really destroys our command and control, we stop the exercise and say, ‘let’s restart.'”

A sobering assessment

“These are the things that the war games show over and over and over, so we need a new American way of war without question,” Work stressed.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

Six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems conduct a live-fire exercise as part of pre-deployment training at Ft. Bliss, Texas.

(Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Baum)

Ochmanek and Work have both seen US war games play out undesirably, and their damning observations reflect the findings of an assessment done from fall 2018.

“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts picked by Congress to evaluate the National Defense Strategy — said in a November 2018 report.

The report called attention to the erosion of the US’s military edge by rival powers, namely Russia and China, which have developed a “suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.”

The commission concluded the US is “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a new generation can make the same, great soldiers

Generations are evolving faster these days and are palpably different in culture and norms than the World War II-era soldier, the oldest living veteran group. Culture progresses rapidly, adapting to trends and reflective of the times. The military, however, remains steadfast in many of her ways out of necessity and tradition. Her ways hold a standard, to which all who raise the hand are meant to uphold, to adapt to and strive for. Today, when individuality and acceptance reign supreme, it is more important than ever for young service members to look far beyond the benefits package, and into the legacy they are inheriting through their service.


When all the noise, distractions and selfish human tendencies are removed from view, the life of a service member hasn’t strayed too much historically. It looks a lot like mere humans foregoing themselves for the greater good. If today’s soldier can merely tap into the deep river of pride which they’ve inherited, the hardships begin to feel a little less hard.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

Disconnection serves a purpose

It takes a minute to remember that connectivity to the world is not a foundational human right. It may be deeply ingrained in our habits, and feel hopelessly cruel to remove, but is not essential to life. Adapting to a life of disconnection is a requirement, not a suggestion in raising successful soldiers.

Today’s battlefront is both visible and invisible, as cyber warfare has become a real and formidable threat. At the most obvious level, a connected soldier on mission poses a risk for operational security. Another layer in comes the mental preparedness it takes to obtain the highest level of situational awareness, which cannot come from a constant buzz of social media feed disrupting your focus. Complacency on the battlefield is deadly. A momentary loss of focus may be the difference between life and death, and it might not be yours.

It may cause you to miss today’s viral video, or even to fall a few steps behind in the life you’re used to living. But remember, you signed up to answer a different call, one which forces you to leave the world at home behind to fight for its protection.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

It’s a dark and violent world

Humanity is making strides towards kindness. Towards accepting that some are more sensitive than others, and that sensitivity should not be met with ridicule. While everyday-America seems to have more and more designated safe places to avoid unpleasantries popping up, she’s sending her youth into the same old horrors of the dark world.

When it comes to preparing mentally to not just operate but to survive what may come, the success or failure of a soldier lies in the ability to remove oneself from humanity. To walk adjacent to reality, viewing the enemy as a target, the one your training prepared you to face. Getting comfortable with uncomfortable is the first step. Reading firsthand accounts, interviews or books written by veterans who lived it may prove to be a valuable memory to recall when seeing war with your own eyes.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

It’s really not personal

There’s a reason why giving up individuality is essential, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do when it goes against today’s culture. You’ll have to forget everything you’re used to- from saying “no” or “why” to standing out. Full-spectrum warfare relies on the success of interdependent and individual units carrying out mission orders with minimal disruption.

While there remains a time and place to innovate or prove your intelligence, carrying out orders, should for the most part, be without question. A service member must be able to walk the fine line between following lawful orders of their leaders and being able to decipher if those orders become immoral or unethical. Stopping in the middle of the street to question your Squad Leader about why you are clearing a building is not appropriate, but one must be able to judge the situation and circumstance prior to asking.

It’s important for any new service member to truly adapt to their new life. To do the job that few could, means living a life like few could either.

Articles

7 revolutionary ideas the British Navy wants to use in its new warship

From the Ship of the Line to the Dreadnought battleship, the British have been advancing the art of naval warfare for hundreds of years. 2015 was no different.


This past summer, the Combat Systems Team at BMT Defence Systems unveiled Dreadnought 2050, a multifunctional stealth submersible design that, as the company puts it, “maximizes naval effectiveness while mitigating risks to British sailors.” Here are seven new ideas the BMT team is bringing to the high seas:

1. The “Moon Pool”

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A floodable pool area the ship can use to deploy Marines, divers, drones, or other special operations.

2. Drone Launcher

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A flight deck and hangar used to remotely launch drones, all of which could be 3D printed on board the ship.

3. Quad-Copter

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A hovering device to give the ship a 360-degree view of the battlespace around the ship, complete with electromagnetic sensors to detect enemy ships. The quad-copter itself could be armed for fights in close quarters around the ship.

4. “Smart Windows”

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

An acrylic hull, coated in graphene that could turned semitransparent by applying an electric current.

5. Stealth Propulsion

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

Highly efficient turbines would drive electric motors on what would be the first surface ship to have parts of its structure below the water line, making it difficult to detect.

6. Holographic Command Center

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

A holographic command table will offer a 3D rendering of the battlespace in real time.

7.  Next-Level Naval Weapons

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment

Hypersonic missile systems, rocket-propelled torpedoes, and an electromagnetic rail gun round out a definitive “don’t mess with me” message to the enemies of Great Britain.

Articles

This is the ‘steel rain’ the US could unleash if things get hot in North Korea

This article was originally written by Kevin Wilson for The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are his own. 


There are many military occupational specialties that could make the argument that they’ve been underutilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could argue, for instance, that there hasn’t been much need for ADA since the initial invasions, since our enemies in both countries are, for all practical intents and purposes, little more than exceptionally lethal cavemen.

They might be hell on wheels for making bombs and guerrilla warfare, but they don’t fly without a little bit of help, usually in the form of the high explosive warhead.

The same argument could be applied to our fighter pilots, for much the same reason. If the enemy has no fighters of their own, then they’re little more than glorified close air support. Sure, they get to stay on nice bases and have shirtless volleyball games, but that’s a poor substitute for life in the danger zone.

However, there is one very particular specialty who, I would argue, has the bluest balls of them all, and that’s the crews of the Army and Marine Corps’s MLRS and HIMARS launchers.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
A US Marine with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, directs the loading of 227mm rockets into the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Morrow.

The MLRS, or Multiple Launch Rocket System, is the single most badass artillery piece in the US arsenal, and possibly the world. Its little brother, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a very close second. Nicknamed “Steel Rain,” the MLRS and HIMARS represent a quantum leap in ground-to-ground destructive capability, above and beyond anything the world has seen before and since. Sure, cannon artillery might have its place on the battlefield, but that place isn’t wiping out grid squares with a single fire mission.

And yet, for all their awesome destructive power, they’ve seen very limited use over the last decade and a half. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed firsthand. My unit, a HIMARS battery in the North Carolina Army National Guard, has deployed multiple times since the start of the Iraq war, and we’ve yet to fire a single rocket in anger. We spent the better part of a year staring at the Sinai desert, but no shooting rockets.

It’s to the point where the 13Ms, the MLRS and HIMARS crewmembers, were nicknamed 13 Miscellaneous. If there was a job that needed bodies, chances are, they’d get sent to do it, because the chances of them doing the jobs they were trained for were less than nil.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
Firing a M142 HIMARS. Photo by Sgt. Toby Cook.

Why, you ask? One could argue that the rockets were overkill, or that they were too expensive. Me, I’ve got another theory.

See, there’s this little country in Asia, you might have heard of it. You know, the one run by a fat little kid who keeps saber rattling? Starts with an N, ends with -orth Korea? Yeah, that one.

It’s no secret that the Hermit Kingdom is ratcheting up tensions in a big way. Tensions are as high as they’ve ever been, and if the manure hits the air circulator for real, it’s going to be the single greatest conventional conflict of the new millennium. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not their nukes are worth a damn, we can count on a vast wave of troops rolling over the DMZ and riding like hell for Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

And what stands in their way?

Well, aside from a whole lot of angry South Koreans, the US has a substantial troop presence over there, and with them, a whole lot of artillery. And the biggest and baddest of them are Steel Rain.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
A US Marine with Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, guides the rotation of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System after training on Range G-5, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Photo by Cpl. Judith Harter

Stopping that initial onslaught is going to be a lot like stopping an avalanche with fire-hoses: doable, but you’re gonna need one hell of a hose, and an awful lot of water. And brother, it’s hard to find a bigger fire-hose than the Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Now, I’m not saying I’m in favor of war in the Korean Peninsula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a terrible idea, but I’m also pretty sure we don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If it happens, it happens.

If North Korea steps over the line, however, I’m kinda hoping they do it in a big way, on behalf of all the 13M and 13P out there. Because, you know, it’s been a while, and we have needs that just haven’t been taken care of.

Articles

Missile defense test reportedly fails after sailor presses wrong button

A missile defense test went awry last month after a Navy sailor accidentally pressed the wrong button, an investigation into the matter revealed.


The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor in late June. A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, the MDA explained in a statement at the time. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked the missile using the on-board radars and launched an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which ultimately failed to intercept the target.

An MDA investigation into the failure revealed that a sailor pressed the wrong button, causing the missile to self-destruct. The MDA reported that there were no problems with either the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor or the Navy’s Aegis combat system, according to Defense News.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
A Standard Missile-3. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

A tactical datalink controller mistakenly identified the incoming ballistic missile as friendly, causing the missile to unexpectedly self-destruct mid-flight, according to sources familiar with the recent missile intercept test.

The test in late June was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint missile defense project between the US and Japan. The new interceptor was developed to counter the rising ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

North Korea has tested a batch of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles this year, increasing the threat to its neighbors and extending the danger to targets in the US.

The US is now testing an experimental Ebola treatment
US Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the THAAD to South Korea. Photo courtesy of DoD.

The failed test was preceded by a successful test in May of the ground-based, mid-course defense system, which defends the US against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Earlier this month, the US successfully tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a THAAD unit in Alaska eliminating a target missile launched from an Air Force Cargo plane to the north of Hawaii.

The failure of the SM-3 Block IIA, which was tested successfully in February, initially represented a setback. That the cause of the failure was likely human error may come as a relief for those involved in the weapon’s development.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Service members could see big tax returns this year

Recent changes in tax law mean that many in uniform could see big returns when they file their 2018 taxes.

“This last tax year has been quite exciting with all of the changes that occurred to it,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018.”


One way service members can maximize their tax refund is to log onto Military OneSource and take advantage of MilTax, a free suite of services designed specifically for service members. MilTax includes personalized support from tax consultants and easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software.

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(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

• MilTax is available to active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members. Additionally, thanks to new language in the National Defense Authorization Act, “service” has been expanded to included transitioning service members — those who have separated or retired will be able to make use of MilTax for up to a year after leaving the military.

• MilTax is available through www.militaryonesource.mil and includes online tax preparation software designed specifically for military personnel and the unique circumstances that surround military life.

• Through Military OneSource and MilTax, service members have access to expert tax consultants specially trained to address tax issues related to military service. During tax season, consultants are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone at 800-342-9647.

• Using MilTax, eligible individuals can file one federal and up to three state tax returns through the Military OneSource website. The service is available now through Oct. 15, 2019, for extended filers.

• At some installations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, allows service members to sit down face to face with a tax professional to help prepare their tax forms.

• All service members are required to pay taxes. Military service doesn’t mean service members don’t have to pay. Fortunately, MilTax is free to those eligible to use it.

“One of the worst things we can hear is a military service member went out and paid for tax services that we provide for free through the DOD,” said Erika R. Slaton, program deputy for Military OneSource. “We want to ensure our service members and families know they are supported and we provide the best possible support for them in completing their tax services.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The low-tech, fun way the Air Force is improving cyber defenses

As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.

Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.

To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.


“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”

In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.

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The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.

The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.

“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”

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The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.

Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.

As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The future flyoff between the Cold War-era A-10 ground attack aircraft and the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter will be “very interesting,” a general said.


The A-10 Thunderbolt II is set to go up against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a series of weapons tests as early as next year under a stipulation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy and spending bill.

The legislation also prohibits retirement of the lumbering, low-flying, snub-nosed aircraft popularly known as the Warthog until the Air Force can prove the F-35’s ability to conduct close air support missions on the battlefield.

“It’ll be a very interesting test,” said Pleus, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program’s integration office for the service.

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F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. | Lockheed Martin photo

“The A-10 was built to deal with tanks in Europe,” he said. “A low, slow, big cannon on the front of it meant to destroy tanks and assist troops in contacts and do [close-air support]” a mission the aircraft has flown more recently in the Middle East against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Pleus added, “CAS is a mission, not an airplane.”

Related: Here’s how Boeing’s updated F/A-18 may compare to the F-35

The cannon the general referred to is the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger in the nose of the Warthog. The weapon can hold as many as 1,174 rounds and is configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute.

The F-35 also features a gatling gun, albeit a smaller and lighter one.

The GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F-35A version of the aircraft and hold 182 rounds. It’s slated to be externally mounted on the Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier version and hold 220 rounds.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“The A-10 is a great CAS platform in a no-threat environment,” Pleus said, adding it was never meant to be a fast, high-flying aircraft that could maneuver in a contested environment — like in current parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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US Air Force / WATM

The test between the A-10 and F-35 will be structured and certified by the Defense Department’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, Pleus said. “That plan is something they are still developing” for the comparison testing “to start undergoing in 2018,” he said.

Citing his F-16 experience, Pleus said he would bet the A-10 comes out “as the better CAS platform” in a no-threat environment against the F-35, which performs similarly to the Fighting Falcon. But “as you now start to built the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles within the target.”

In that case, the F-35 would be the only aircraft left flying — even against more current versions of fighters.

Pleus said the argument isn’t over whether the A-10 has and can still perform close air support missions. The decision for Air Force leadership and lawmakers going forward, however, is how to distribute the resources to platforms that can do the mission, he said.

“Where are you getting your bang for your buck?” he said. “A single-platform A-10 that only does CAS and can’t do anything else and it has to be in an uncontested environment is probably not a realistic place for us to be continuing funding…for the future.”

The general continued, “If I were to develop that plan you have to show that the close air support is not just in a no-threat environment, because CAS is not always in a no-threat environment.

Pleus said, “When we get to the actual testing I think that’s where you’re going to see the differences.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian hackers almost caused massive blackouts in 2017

Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017 in a major, long-running campaign that enabled them to gain control over some U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported on July 23, 2018 that the Russian hacking campaign has likely continued in 2018 and involves a state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear.


The hackers broke into supposedly secure networks owned by utilities with relative ease by first penetrating the networks of vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies, the Journal reported.

“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, Jonathan Homer, a department analyst, told the Journal.

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‘Hundreds’ of victims

The department has been warning utility executives with security clearances about the Russian threat to critical infrastructure since 2014.

But on July 23, 2018, the department gave out detailed information about the intrusions publicly for the first time at an unclassified briefing for the industry. It did not provide the names of alleged victims, but said there were “hundreds.”

It also said some companies still may not know they were compromised, because the attacks used credentials of actual employees to get inside utility networks, potentially making the intrusions more difficult to detect.

“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, who is now a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Journal. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”

Russia has denied targeting critical infrastructure.

Homer told the Journal that the long-running cyberattack, which surfaced in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, exploited relationships that utilities have with vendors who have special access to update software, run diagnostics on equipment, and perform other services that are needed to keep millions of pieces of gear in working order.

He said the attackers began by using conventional tools — spear phishing e-mails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on malware-infected websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were small companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.

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Automated attacks?

Once inside the vendor networks, they pivoted to their real focus: the utilities, officials told the Journal. They said it was a relatively easy process, in many cases, for the intruders to steal credentials from vendors and gain direct access to utility networks.

Then they began stealing confidential information. For example, the hackers vacuumed up information showing how utility networks were configured, what equipment was in use and how it was controlled.

The hackers also familiarized themselves with how the facilities were supposed to work, because attackers “have to learn how to take the normal and make it abnormal” to cause disruptions, Homer told the Journal.

The department said it plans three more industry briefings and hopes to determine whether there are any new network infections, and whether the hackers have figured out ways to defeat security enhancements like multifactor authentication.

In addition, the department is looking for evidence that the Russian hackers are automating their attacks, which investigators worry could presage a large increase in hacking efforts.

It isn’t yet clear whether the hackers used their access to prepare for some future, devastating blow to the U.S. electric grid, investigators told the Journal.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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