Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”


A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.

While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.

Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.

“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.

Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.

She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”

Foreign reactions

Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.

 

 

Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”

More: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.

But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.

 

 

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.

Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.

“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.

“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.

Putin: ‘No new arms race’

The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”

Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.

Putin — who warned the West on March 1, 2018, that Russia had deployed or developed formidable new nuclear arms — vowed to decrease defense spending but said there will be no problem finding money for weapons and national defense.

The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.

Related: 10 hilarious times Russia trolled the West on Twitter

Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.

“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”

Putin and the seven dwarves

Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”

Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.

The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.

The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
One of the other four Russian candidates, Grigory Yavlinsky.

Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.

But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”

Reports of fraud

With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.

But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.

Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.

Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.

They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.

More: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.

While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.

Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.

Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.

Articles

This is the German general who inspired a terrifying ‘Wonder Woman’ villain

“Wonder Woman” hit theaters on June 2nd and has been a massive critical and box-office success. It’s a comic book/superhero movie, but it also happens to be a historical movie taking place in Europe during World War I.


So, while this movie’s main character is a bad-ass woman made of clay (she can also fly) who fights bad guys with a magical lasso, there are some things that are actually very real about who she’s fighting.

In the movie, General Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston, is a general in the Imperial German Army. He’s ruthless, ambitious, and will do whatever it takes to win the war for Germany, including using chemical weapons.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Gen. Erich Ludendorff. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

General Eric Ludendorff was a real German general in World War I. According to Uproxx, he was an advocate for “total war.” And from 1916 to 1918, he was the leader of Germany’s war efforts.

The real Ludendorff has been credited for coining the “stab in the back” myth. After World War I, right-wing Germans believed that the Germans didn’t lose the war on the battlefield, but instead that they lost the war because other Germans betrayed them on the homefront. Ludendorff blamed the Berlin government and German civilians for failing to support him.

In the 1920s, he became a prominent right-wing leader in Germany, serving in Parliament for the National Socialist Party. He also had associations with Adolf Hitler and other Nazis.

Ludendorff stood for war, and Wonder Woman stands for peace, so it makes sense that director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg turned to Ludendorff for their villain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un said to be crying about North Korea’s economy

A video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crying about his country’s terrible economy while surveying its coast is said to be making the rounds among the country’s leadership — and it could be a sign he’s ready to cave in to President Donald Trump in negotiations.

Japan’s Asahi Shinbun quoted a defector with contacts inside the country as describing a video in which a narrator explains Kim is crying that he can’t improve North Korea’s economy.


The defector reportedly said the video surfaced in April 2018, and high-ranking members of North Korea’s ruling party viewed it, possibly in an official message from Kim to the party.

In April 2018, North Korea had already offered the US a meeting with Kim and was in the midst of a diplomatic charm offensive in which it offered up the prospect of denuclearization to China, South Korea, and the US.

The defector speculated that the video was meant to prepare the country for possible changes after the summit with Trump.

Really strange video

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
(KCNA photo)

In North Korea, Kim is essentially worshipped as a god-like figure with an impossible mythology surrounding his bloodline. Kim is meant to be all powerful, so footage showing him crying at his own inability to improve his country’s economics would be a shock.

Kim’s core policy as a leader had been to pursue both economic and nuclear development, but around the turn of 2018, he declared his country’s nuclear-weapon program completed.

Experts assess with near unanimity that Kim doesn’t really want to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, as he went to the trouble of writing the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution.

Instead, a new report from the CIA says Kim simply wants US businesses, perhaps a burger joint, to open within the country as a gesture of goodwill and an economic carrot, CNBC reports.

Big if true

Trump has made North Korea a top priority during his presidency and has spearheaded the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. In particular, Trump has been credited with getting China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner, to participate in the sanctions.

As a result, doing business with North Korea became nearly impossible, and its trade deficit with China ballooned.

For a leader who is meant to be seen as the all-powerful resistance to the West, crying about Trump-imposed sanctions would be a big story signaling an about-face.

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

Articles

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend


On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.

About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.

“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”

“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”

Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.

Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.

After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.

“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”

When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.

“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”

The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”

“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”

“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”

Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.

“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”

“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump approves cash for missile upgrades aimed at China

President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed into law a $717 billion defense spending bill that puts China in the crosshairs of a host of new US Navy missiles and tactics.

Beijing heavily protested it and may have scored some small concessions, but the bill puts nearly $1 trillion behind the idea that great power strategic competition has returned and that the US seeks to win it.


The increase in spending comes as China has increasingly edged out the US Navy’s competitive advantage in open waters. The US suffers a missile gap with both Russia and China, meaning those countries have longer-range missiles designed to sink massively valuable platforms like aircraft carriers before they can get close.

The US drifted from a focus on fighting near-peer adversaries like China and Russia after the Cold War, as military planners banked on continued US supremacy to limit potential adversaries to non-state actors and rogue states.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson and USS Pinkney, and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz operating in formation in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo)

But with the new defense bill comes a renewed focus on producing as many new missiles as possible to counter the high-end threats from those countries.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles while meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12 — also supersonic — approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boost into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles.

Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

US Navy submariners loading a Tomahawk cruise missile onto a sub.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Return to ship-sinking

To regain its status as the world’s premier ship-sinking force, the US has planned a few upgrades and set aside cash for them in the defense bill. It would pay for new long-range missiles for the Air Force and some Navy planes while bringing back a missile abandoned by the Navy after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, Tomahawk missiles have a massive range, of about 1,000 miles, but can hit only land targets, as they have in Syria recently. At the height of the Cold War, Tomahawks could strike moving ships, and now the Navy seeks to get that power back.

A modification in the works at Raytheon seeks to deliver 32 maritime versions of the Tomahawks by 2021 that would healthily out-range any Russian or Chinese missiles.

After a successful test of the upgraded Tomahawk in 2015, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, Bob Work, said (according to USNI News): “This is a potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile.”

“It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.

Full-court press

But not only will the Navy get increased power to fight adversaries like China — it’s scheduling in some more patrols that could lead to run-ins, as have become increasingly frequent.

With Beijing building up its military presence in the South China Sea and rolling out new warships at a dizzying rate, the US’s return to great power competition will also include training neighboring navies in India and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, it says Beijing will remain excluded from Rimpac, the world’s largest naval exercise, until it stops its efforts to take control of the South China Sea.

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

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USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

The missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was involved in a second incident with Iranian forces in as many weeks, this time with speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.


According to a report by BusinessInsider.com and Reuters, the speedboats came within 600 yards of the Invincible, forcing the ship to change course. Last week, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel, an action deemed “unprofessional” by the Department of Defense.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

Iran recently carried out a number of ballistic missile tests, drawing sharp criticism from Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Iranian government officials have openly called for the destruction of Israel in the past.

Related: Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

Iran has a history of provocative actions in the Persian Gulf region. Last summer, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) was harassed by similar speedboats while carrying out routine operations. The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at other speedboats that harassed the ship in the region.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

That fall, Iran also threatened U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and also pointed weapons at a Navy MH-60 helicopter. This past October, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired anti-ship missiles at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) multiple times, not scoring any hits.

The Nitze later carried out a Tomahawk strike on the rebels.

In January, less than two weeks before President Trump was sworn in, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

Also read: The US Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface fight since WWII

Iran was listed in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for “Restrictions on right of transit passage through Strait of Hormuz to Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and “prohibition on foreign military activities and practices in the EEZ.”

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World noted that Iran has over 180 speedboats of various types, armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, and multiple rocket launchers. When asked about the incident, a spokesman for United States Central Command said, “we do not comment on the movement and destination of U.S. Navy vessels in the AOR.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The American caught crossing the DMZ wanted to be a negotiator

The 58 year-old US citizen who attempted to cross the demilitarized border zone between North and South Korea into the communist dictatorship had political motivations and wanted to help Pyongyang and Washington negotiate.


The man, who has not yet been named, has been detained by the South Korean government and now will be deported, according to NK News.

The man crossed “with the judgment that he could contribute to the situation in the North,” Suh Wook, Chief Director of Operations at the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, told NK News.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

The man apparently thought he could help along the peace process between the US and North Korea, two nations still technically at war, authorities told NK News.

Related: These ax murders along the DMZ almost started another Korean War

The man had planned his defection on the internet and intended to simply walk across the ceasefire line, which is illegal under South Korean law. Most who enter or exit North Korea choose to do so through the country’s border with China, rather than crossing one of the most heavily guarded and militarized zones on Earth.

On Nov. 14, the same day the US man attempted his crossing, a North Korean soldier defected to the South while fleeing from a hail of gunfire and being shot five times. The North Korean is being treated for his injuries in South Korea.

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F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.


Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.

Related: The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.

Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.

“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.

The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.

Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.

F-35 to Control Drones

As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. | Lockheed Martin image

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission in Afghanistan, Sept. 31. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and in addition to its traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, is designed to attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

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Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

Lou Gehrig’s Disease – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – causes the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and muscles. As a result, the body experiences an eventual weakening of the muscles, respiratory failure, and death.


While the cause of the disease is not known in most cases. It affects military veterans twice as much, and no one knows why.

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From a 2013 ALS Association Report.

It doesn’t matter which era the veterans served. From World War II through the Gulf War and even in peacetime, multiple studies show that the rate at which vets develop the condition is still twice as high as non-vets. In fact the evidence is so convincing, the Department of Veterans Affairs has assumed since 2008 that a veterans’ ALS is automatically service-connected.

Harvard University, The National Institute of Health, DoD, the VA, and the University of Texas have all done studies that show the condition is twice as likely to occur in veterans. None of those studies show why.

Anecdotes compiled by CNN tell the stories vets from different eras and different branches.

David Masters, an airman serving in Kuwait in 2004, was training to be a bodybuilder. Six years later, he had full-blown ALS and was in a wheelchair. Carlo Russo, a Marine photojournalist in the Vietnam era was stationed in Hawaii. By age 55, he was diagnosed with ALS. Tim Hoyt, another Vietnam era veteran, spent two years in Germany and he was diagnosed at age 65.

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David Masters in Kuwait in 2004. (Family photo via CNN)

The prognosis for someone diagnosed with ALS is to survive two-to five-years after their diagnosis, depending on the spread of the condition. No known cure exists and what doctors and researchers do know about the disease is very little. Risk factors include smoking, and being a white male over age 60. The Harvard study shows a 60 percent increased risk of ALS for military veterans.

The ALS Association also noted that the condition is rare, occurring in 2 of every 100,00 people. Even though veterans are twice as likely to develop the condition, ALS still strikes a small minority, even among veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and three wounded as a result of clashes with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said on Oct. 16, 2018, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 37 times during the previous 24 hours by firing machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces killed two separatists and wounded six.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
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USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
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The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Vice President Pence delivers commencement address to Air Force Academy class of 2020 and first cadets to join Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivered on Saturday the commencement address to the 62nd class of Air Force Academy graduates, which was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America is being tested,” Pence said. “While there are signs we are making progress in slowing the spread, as we stand here today, more than 700,000 Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and tragically, more than 30,000 of our countrymen have lost our lives.”


He added: “But as each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, American comes together. We rise to the challenge and the courage and compassion and generosity of the nation you will defend are shining through every day.”

Pence’s remarks came the same day as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in New York, the US state hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, was “past the plateau” as the number of hospitalizations resulting from the novel coronavirus has continued to fall.

The vice president told the graduates they would now “commence [their] duties to defend this nation against all enemies foreign to us,” evoking President Trump and calling the novel coronavirus the “invisible enemy.”

“Class of 2020 – this is your day,” VP tells graduating cadets, seated 8 feet apart in accord with social distancing.pic.twitter.com/WAcCsbpago

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Pence addressed the academy’s 2020 class in person at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which occurred on US Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado despite past reports that the vice president had considered sending pre-taped video remarks in lieu of an in-person appearance, according to CNN.

All gatherings in Colorado are currently prohibited under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order.

To comply with social distancing, the Air Force Academy graduates marched into the ceremony six feet apart and were seated eight feet apart. No family members or other spectators were allowed to attend the closed ceremony. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, was previously scheduled to occur on May 28 but occurred Saturday — six weeks earlier than scheduled.

“You know your family couldn’t be here because of the extraordinary times in which we live,” Pence said. “We know they’re watching from afar.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube so spectators could tune-in.

United States Air Force Academy Graduation 2020

www.youtube.com

Pence brought attention to the 86 graduates who would become the first Air Force Academy graduates to work as part of President Trump’s Space Force, which was officially established at the end of last year.

“We are a nation of courage,” the vice president said. “With the courage strength and compassion of the American people, we will get through this. We will protect the most vulnerable and we will heal our land.”

He added: “The American people are doing their duty now comes your turn to do yours: to defend the people of this nation, and this we know you will do. For long after the coronavirus is defeated, your mission will go on.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s Navy flexed its muscle in a very stupid way

Featured Image: Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018, shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. (Planet Labs)


Beijing put on a massive show of force on March 26, 2018, with more than 40 of its navy’s ships sailing in formation with its sole operational aircraft carrier for one of the first times ever in the South China Sea, but a close look at the exercise shows something way off.

Satellite imagery of the event, provided by Planet Labs, shows the incredible scale of the exercise, which mostly consisted of rows of two ships lined up neatly.

Also read: Beijing vows ‘stern measures’ after US ship sails near South China Sea islands

The formation makes a good photo opportunity, but it’s not practical for battle.

China showed off frigates, destroyers, aircraft, submarines, and an aircraft carrier, but a few US bombers could likely smoke the whole formation in a single pass.

“While impressive view, they would be a rich target pool for four B-1s bombers with 96 newly fielded long-range anti-ship cruise missiles,” Hans Kristensen, a military expert and the Director of the Nuclear Information Project tweeted, referring to the US’s B-1B Lancer bomber.

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An Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The ships were not in a usual combat formation and left exposed to air attacks that could devastate a large portion of the force outright in a battle.

Related: This US warship just teased Beijing in latest South China Sea maneuvers

Though the huge formation “highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the [Chinese Navy’s] combat readiness,” Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Reuters.

China has worked hard to improve the practicality and capability of its navy in recent years, but as a force with virtually no combat experience, it still lags a long way behind the US Navy and other tested forces.