The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

VA scientists are working to create a 3D-printed artificial lung that they tout as having the potential to revolutionize the treatment of Veterans affected by lung disease.

One such lung disorder—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—is one of the most prevalent and costliest ailments in the Veteran population.

Dr. Joseph Potkay, a biomedical engineer at the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System in Michigan, is leading the VA-funded research. It calls for making a prototype of the 3D-printed artificial lung. Potkay and his team hope to build what they call the first wearable artificial lung that is compatible with living tissue and is capable of short- and long-term respiratory support.


The lung is seen initially as a temporary measure, a bridge to help patients awaiting a lung transplant or an aid for those whose lungs are healing. Future versions could have longer-term applications, the researchers say.

Potkay says this is the first time high-resolution 3D polymer printing is being used to create microfluidic lungs with three-dimensional blood flow networks.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Potkay’s artificial lung model relies on microfabrication to achieve highly efficient gas exchange and blood paths similar to those in a human lung.

(Photo by Brian Hayes)

Microfluidic artificial lungs, a new class of artificial lungs, mimic the structure of the natural lung better than conventional artificial lungs. Tiny blood channels, some thinner than a human hair, are closer in shape and dimension to those in a person, allowing for blood flow similar to that in the human body.

The biocompatible coatings on the lung’s surface are equally important. Anytime blood comes in contact with an artificial surface, an immune response leads to hardening of the blood and clotting. Biocompatible coatings will help curtail that immune reaction.

“We hope that these microfluidic flow paths and biocompatible coatings will be more compatible with living tissue, thereby reducing the body’s immune response and increasing the lifetime of the device,” says Potkay, who is also a researcher at the University of Michigan. “The flexibility in design afforded by 3D printing gives us more freedom and thus the ease to build artificial lungs with a small size and pressure drops that are compatible for operation with the body’s natural pressures.”

To read the full article, click here to visit VA Research Currents.

Featured image: Biomedical engineer Dr. Joseph Potkay, with the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System, displays a 2D prototype of an artificial lung. A 3D version is in production.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

2 Army Marksmanship Unit instructors just competed in the Olympic double trap

Two Army infantrymen and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit instructors competed in the double trap shotgun event on Aug. 10 in Rio de Janeiro where they placed seventh and 14th, failing to advance to the medal round.


Sergeants 1st Class Joshua Richmond and Glenn Eller are shotgun instructors for the USAMU and prior Olympians. Eller won gold in the Olympic double trap event in Beijing in 2008. Both NCOs competed in the Rio 2016 Qualifiers Aug. 10.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Staff Sgt. Glenn Eller, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and 2008 Olympic gold medalist, fires his shotgun during a competition. Eller placed 14th in the Double Trap at the 2016 Olympics. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

Double trap is a shotgun shooting sport where two clay targets are fired into the air at the same time, and the shooter has two shots to hit them.

Both athletes struggled in the early rounds of Rio qualification, but Richmond fought his way back up to seventh with a score of 135, just barely missing his chance to shoot in the semi-finals. Eller finished in 14th position with a score of 131.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Sgt. 1st Class Josh Richmond competes in the Double Trap event in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Richmond went on to place seventh in Rio. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

While the result is disappointing for U.S. military fans, they still have a lot to look forward to over the next few days. SEAL training graduate and Navy officer Edward King will compete in the rowing finals on Aug. 11.

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, and Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Sanderson will compete in shooting events Aug. 12, while Naval Academy Cadet Regine Tugade will race in the 100-meter dash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Kelly’s response to a lawmaker who called him a ‘disgrace to the uniform’ is priceless

White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly issued a stinging response to Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, after the Illinois lawmaker said Kelly’s position on DACA qualified him as a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear.”


“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly told Fox News Sept. 10. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say ’empty barrels make the most noise.'”

Gutierrez attacked Kelly in early September for serving the Trump administration as it moves to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

“General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders,'” Gutierrez said in a statement issued hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out.

The DACA program, implemented through executive action in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and provides temporary work visas for those who qualify.

Kelly defended the administration’s decision to roll back the program, suggesting the move was a response to the program’s dubious constitutional status, rather than a personal decision made by Trump.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Photo under public domain.

“Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional. Every other legal scholar – right and left – says the same thing. Trump didn’t end DACA, the law did. That said, I worked and succeeded to give the congress another six months to do something. I am not confident,” he said.

Gutierrez’s office took issue with Kelly’s characterization of the program’s constitutionality, arguing the program has never been challenged in court.

“The constitutionality of DACA has never been challenged successfully in court and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, certainly never questioned its constitutionality at its inception or while hundreds of thousands signed up for it,” Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told Fox News.

The Trump administration repealed the program under threat of an impending lawsuit from a coalition of conservative state attorneys general. Trump seemed to soften following the announcement, expressing hope that Congress would codify amnesty for Dreamers through legislation before the six month reprieve period expires.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Artificial intelligence wasted a veteran fighter pilot in a bunch of simulated dogfights

Scientists have claimed that computers would replace humans in the cockpit for some time, but artificial intelligence simply hadn’t reached the point where it could compete successfully against a human opponent.


But now, at least in simulators, it has. ALPHA, the AI, bested a retired Air Force fighter pilot repeatedly while running on a tiny, cheap Rasberry Pi computer that is often used to teach children coding basics.

Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee helped guide ALPHA’s programming and flew against ALPHA in a series of air battles in a computer simulator, battles that he lost every time when flying against the mature version of ALPHA.

At first, ALPHA was being used as a tool to create better simulators for training pilots and testing tactics. ALPHA took control of “Red” fighters flying against a “Blue” force. Red typically held a numerical advantage while Blue typically had a technological advantage with longer range missiles, a larger payload, and an AWACS flying in support.

The AWACS is a radar system that gave Blue forces better situational awareness and targeting data.

In the initial matchups, ALPHA’s Red team won more than it lost but took heavy losses. Then Lee and the programmers at Psibernetix, the company that created ALPHA, began making adjustments to its programming and ALPHA begin to win. Soon, it won every engagement.

So, Lee decided to take control of a Blue fighter personally to try and give the other team an advantage. He flew engagement after engagement against ALPHA.

 

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Retired Air Force Col. Geno Lee flies against ALPHA in a simulator. Photo: UC Creative Services Lisa Ventre

 

ALPHA won every fight and, whenever Lee stayed in the air for a protracted period, Lee was shot down.

Lee told the researchers that ALPHA was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI (he’s) seen-to-date.”

Lee later told UC Magazine reporter M.B. Reilly that, after flying missions against ALPHA, “I go home feeling washed out. I’m tired, drained and mentally exhausted. This may be artificial intelligence, but it represents a real challenge.”

Now, ALPHA does have some advantages of its own. First, it utilizes a “Genetic Fuzzy Tree” system. GFT systems work closer to the way a human brain works than most computers. Rather than try to calculate every variable when computing a solution, it keeps track of key bits of data and forms generalities.

But it can form decisions based on those generalities 250 times faster than a human can blink. When controlling four aircraft, it can take in all available sensor data, create a new plan of action, and adjust each jet’s controls to implement that plan every 6.5 milliseconds.

 

This allows ALPHA to constantly choreograph the jets’ movements to cover one another. If one pair of Red planes are forced to evade and are in danger, ALPHA can direct a second pair to move into position on the attackers instantly.

Researchers believe that if ALPHA was split among two computers, one handling sensor data and the other computing actions, ALPHA could adjust its plans and adjust flight paths 1,100 times per second.

The success of ALPHA is impressive, but the system isn’t exactly ready for combat. While ALPHA receives sensor data with “noise” incorporated, errors and missing data that would occur in a real fight, it hasn’t flown in a situation where the signals between planes were jammed. This would make its coordination between planes more challenging.

In their paper in the Journal of Defense Management describing ALPHA’s success, the creators note that ALPHA would make a great wingman for human pilots. So, human pilots would fly lead and command the mission while sending AI controlled jets into the knife fight against enemy jets. This would match plans the Air Force has for the future.

The full paper on ALPHA, which goes into much greater detail about how ALPHA was created, how it works, and what its limitations are, is available in the Journal of Defense Management.

(h/t Popular Science)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honor Guard makes paratrooper’s final request come true

A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.

Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.


With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.

Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.

On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.

The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.

Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.

The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.

Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.

It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.

According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.

Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.

After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.

But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.

In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.

Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.

“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”

“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.

“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A look inside the secrets of Air Force One

Air Force One is a lot more than just the President’s plane. It’s also one of the most iconic symbols of America. So besides the President, what’s Air Force One carrying that makes it so special?

BLUF: Air Force One is a formidable flying bunker that probably has all kinds of high-tech, super-cool gadgets, and features that we, the lowly public, will never know. But there are some facts about the President’s bird that we do know. 

A look inside the secrets of Air Force One 

For decades, Air Force One has been volleying Presidents around the country and the world. So, what kinds of secrets does it hold? Well, for one thing, there’s a lot of planning that goes into every trip the aircraft takes – even short jaunts. That’s because each flight requires several contingency plans. Crew members are highly training and always on alert for something out of the ordinary to happen. So they spend countless hours exploring what-if scenarios.

But it turns out that a flying Air Force One is actually safer than a sitting Air Force One. That’s because the air space around the presidential plane is always secure. And, since the aircraft has been modified to repel airborne missiles and jam enemy radar. On the other hand, parked on the runway opens Air Force One up to all kinds of possibilities – all the more reason for the President’s flight crew to remain vigilant.

But what about those secrets?

No one will ever totally know what the aircraft can do or what deep secrets it holds. But there are some really wild features that the President’s plane has that you won’t find anywhere else. 

For example, Air Force One comes equipped with an emergency room. The medical annex is a fully-stocked, ready-to-go operating room. There’s even a fully stocked pharmacy onboard, too.

Two fully equipped kitchens can serve 100 people at any given time. To ensure that the President’s food isn’t tampered with, undercover Air Force chefs go on shopping trips to local markets and then vacuum seal meals ahead of time. 

If that’s not wild enough, the President and other passengers enjoy 4,000 square feet of space. And just to make sure everyone knows where the President’s rooms are, the carpet is different. In the Presidential Quarters, the carpet has stars on it. 

Bonus fact

Air Force One is completed waxed by hand before the President flies in it. Of course, the engine and other operational devices are checked too. But can you imagine how long it must take to hand wax a Boeing 747? 

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun 2’ will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, not the F-35

The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.

The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.

A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.

Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”


Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.

The F-35 community was not thrilled.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.

“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”

While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.

The F-35B had its first operational deployment in 2018 in the Pacific, but the F-35C remains a ways off from adoption onto the US Navy’s fleet of aircraft supercarriers. Persistent problems with launching the sophisticated airplane off a moving ship have pushed back the schedule and resulted in huge cost overruns.

Meanwhile, the F-18 Super Hornet continues to do the lion’s share of combat-aviation work aboard aircraft carriers, and its maker, Boeing, has even offered an updated version of the plane that President Donald Trump entertained buying instead of the F-35.

In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.

“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”

He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”

Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.

The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.

“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.

But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens ‘horrible conflict’ if Georgia joins NATO

Ten years after Russia and Georgia went to war, the West on August 7 condemned Moscow’s continued military presence in the Caucasus country’s territory and reiterated support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a stern warning to NATO that Georgia’s joining the Western military alliance could lead to a “horrible” new conflict.

Medvedev said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station on August 6 that NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to Georgia are “absolutely irresponsible” and a “threat to peace.”


The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

(TASS)

Late on August 7, 2008, Georgian troops rolled into the Russia-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to reclaim the territory from what Tbilisi said was growing Russian militarization.

The conflict erupted into a five-day war in which Russian forces drove deep into Georgia before pulling back in the wake of a European Union-brokered peace agreement.

The conflict, which Tbilisi and Moscow accuse one another of starting, left hundreds dead and drove thousands from their homes.

After the war, Russia left thousands of troops in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, and recognized both as independent countries.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the conflict, Georgia and the United States on August 7 condemned Russia’s continued “occupation” of Georgian territory.

“This is a war against Georgia, an aggression, an occupation, and a blatant violation of international law,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said during a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he added.

The “aggression” against Georgia did not start in August 2008, but much earlier, in 1991-1992, the Georgian president also said, when “Russia detached two regions from the Georgian central authorities by means of hybrid war.”

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili

​’Georgia’s Sovereign Choice’

In a joint statement, the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Ukrainian ministers called on the international community to continue to demand that Russia “fully and without any further delay implements its international commitments and starts honoring international law and the right of sovereign neighboring states to choose their own destiny.”

They also expressed “strong support for Georgia’s sovereign choice to pursue the ultimate goal of membership in the EU and NATO.”

Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, reiterated support for Georgia’s membership at a meeting in Brussels, but did not mention when that could happen.

Before the Russia-Georgia war, Russian officials had made clear that they vehemently opposed Georgia’s efforts to achieve NATO membership.

“Ten years of occupation is ten years too long,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement.

“We will continue to work together with the Government and the people of Georgia and with our friends and allies to ensure the world’s continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” it also said, adding, “Georgia, we are with you.”

The European Union praised the truce deal putting an end to the fighting and called the continuing Russian military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a “violation of international law” and the agreement.

“The European Union reiterates its firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” a statement said.In an interview with Current Time TV on August 6, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s president at the time of the 2008 conflict, said that Russia’s motive in the war was to attack “Georgian statehood.”

Saakashvili said that Moscow was concerned because reforms had made the South Caucasus country a “role model” for others in the region.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

Articles

How watching movies helped this sniper achieve record-breaking kill shots

Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan.  Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.


The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients
Photo: Wikipedia

But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.

Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.

An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.

Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”

Harrison later had both arms broken by a roadside bomb, but after he healed he returned to the fight in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 killed in Afghan helicopter crash

An Afghan National Army helicopter carrying senior officials has crashed in bad weather in the western province of Farah, killing all 25 on board, a local official says.

Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the mountainous Anar Dara district in the morning of Oct. 31, 2018, heading toward the nearby province of Herat.

He said the copter crashed in bad weather. A Taliban spokesman said the militants shot it down.


Mehri said the passengers included the deputy corps commander of Afghanistan’s western zone and the head of the Farah provincial council.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed the militants had downed the helicopter but failed to provide evidence. Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed rejected the Taliban claim of responsibility as “totally wrong.”

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck outside Afghanistan’s largest prison on the eastern edge of Kabul, killing at least seven people, including prison workers and security personnel, officials said.

The VA is researching 3D-printed lungs for respiratory patients

Afghan Col. Mahmoud Shah oversees the transfer of more than 30 detainees from Parwan Detention Facility to the Afghan National Detention Facility in October 2008.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the attacker targeted a bus carrying prison workers early on Oct. 31, 2018. The sprawling Pul-e Charkhi prison houses hundreds of inmates, including scores of Taliban militants.

According to Abadullah Karimi, a prison official, the attack occurred near the prison gate where a number of visitors were waiting to pass a rigorous security check before entering.

Another five were wounded in the blast, the officials said.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s massive Air Force is a joke

North Korea has a massive air force that outnumbers the South Korean and US jets it’s meant to counter mostly with Russian-made fighters and bombers, but in reality the force is basically a joke.

According to a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report on North Korea’s conventional military, the air force has 110,000 officers and enlisted personnel taking care of approximately 1,650 aircraft. That force includes about 820 combat aircraft, 30 reconnaissance aircraft, and 330 transport aircraft.

“During wartime, the force likely has the capability to conduct a limited, short-term strategic and tactical bombing offensive and to launch a surprise attack,” IISS assesses.

Because the jets are spread out across a wide swath of the country, North Korea is most likely able to “conduct strike missions against command and-control facilities, air-defence assets, and industrial facilities without rearranging or relocating its aircraft,” the report says.


The IISS says North Korea’s best jets are its MiG-29 fighters, which it probably only has a few dozen of, its 46 MiG-23 fighters, and its roughly 30 Su-25 ground-attack aircraft. “The remaining aircraft are older, and less capable MiG-15s, MiG-17/J-5s, MiG-19/J-6s, MiG-21/J-7 fighters and Il-28/H-5 light bombers,” the report says.

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A MiG-29 of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence.
(Photo by Srđan Popović)

But all of those planes are from the 1980s, and IISS says they can’t hang in today’s environment of electronic warfare.

This is something the US would be sure to exploit, as almost all of its jets have jamming capabilities and its aircraft carriers can transport specialty electronic-warfare planes.

Additionally, the US and South Korea’s abilities to monitor North Korean planes via satellite and recon drones severely blunts any surprise attacks they could pull off.

Even worse for North Korea than the age of its planes, however, could be its pilots’ lack of training. Because North Korea relies on China for almost all of its jet fuel, and that item has long been under sanction, it has to preserve the precious little fuel it does have.

This means less flight time for pilots and less time training in the real world, and it almost certainly precludes realistic training against adversarial jets.

A video in 2015 showed North Korean pilots walking around with toy planes in front of Kim Jong Un, who observed their training. Another shot shows the pilots at flight simulators, a tool commonly used by air forces around the world.

For this reason, North Korea relies heavily on building hardened, bomb-resistant ground structures for its jets and using surface-to-air missiles to fight any prospective air wars.

North Korea’s air force actually has modest capability impressive for a country of its size and income, but it simply could not contend with South Korean and US jets.

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

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This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.


The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.

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Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.

The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.

The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.

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Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.

Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.

Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

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