There’s a common refrain in Germany, “This is the last Nazi trial.” The country keeps striving to hold Nazis from World War II, especially those who worked in concentration camps, accountable for their crimes against the world and against those Europeans that the Third Reich deemed undesirable. But as many camps were dismantled after the war and survivors of the camps are dying of old age, it’s hard to collect evidence against individuals for crimes perpetrated in the 1930s and 40s.
But now, forensic virtual reality is helping jury members and judges see exactly what crime scenes, including concentration camps, looked like, and that’s helping German prosecutors go after former concentration camp guards and staff. This could allow Germany to assign culpability to perpetrators of the Holocaust until the last accomplice has died.
Take the case of Reinhold Hanning. He was, undeniably, a guard at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During Hanning’s time at the camp, 170,000 people were killed, most of them Jewish, most of them in gas chambers. As an SS sergeant, Hanning would likely have been involved in the “selection” process, where some prisoners were sent to the chambers and some to hard labor.
But prosecutors had to prove that Hanning was involved in that process or that he knew the process resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. It wasn’t enough to prove that he was at the camp. It wasn’t enough to prove that he worked there. They had to prove that he knew his actions contributed to murder.
If that was proven, he could be convicted as an accomplice to 170,000 murders. But, how do you prove that he must have known about the gas chambers and that he must have known what the results of their use were? After all, he claimed that he had never seen a prisoner gassed and that he didn’t know people were being killed.
Prisoners in advanced state of starvation in a concentration camp liberated by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Sergeant Lucien Lapierre of the New Brunswick North Shore Regiment.
(Donald I. Grant, Library and Archives Canada)
And, nearly all the records from the time have been lost or destroyed. And most of the camp was either torn down or has fallen apart in the years since World War II. While some concentration camps survive today, that is because they’ve been maintained as museums and memorials to the atrocities. The camps were not designed or constructed to last 100 years.
But prosecutors had a modern tool in their arsenal for prosecuting murderers and other criminals in the modern day: forensic virtual reality. Experts went to crime scenes and imaged the site with lasers, digitally recreating the area in 3D down to the blood splatters on the walls. Prosecutors asked the experts if they could recreate a concentration camp, instead.
Engineers turned to maps of the camp and compared those to measurements taken over four days at what remains of Auschwitz. Then members of the jury and the court were given VR headsets and a tour of the camp, complete with the views from the areas where Hanning lived and worked.
If Hanning could see how the selection process sent people to the gas chambers to die, then the jury could convict. And when the jury saw Hanning’s views from the tower, it became clear that he must have known that the camp was used to kill people, that his actions contributed to that, and that his actions allowed it to continue.
Hanning was found guilty, thanks to a digital recreation of a long-lost site. It should be noted, though, that he appealed this decision and that he died while his case was on appeal. In the German system, that means his case ended on appeal; it did not end with a standing conviction.
But VR could help prosecutors make other convictions in the coming years for the atrocities of World War II, so the last Nazi prosecution might not come until the last Nazi accomplice has died.
The US Navy announced in May 2018, that it was restarting the 2nd Fleet to oversee the western Atlantic Ocean, including the North Atlantic and the US East Coast.
The decision comes after several years of tensions between NATO members and Russia — and several warnings from Western officials about growing Russian naval activity, including more sophisticated and more active submarines.
NATO has responded in kind, with a special focus on antisubmarine warfare — a capability that has waned among Western navies since the end of the Cold War.
For NATO members and other countries, augmenting antisubmarine abilities means not only adding ships but also advanced maritime-patrol aircraft to scour the sea. A number of aircraft on the market fill this role, but the US-made P-8A Poseidon is among the most sophisticated.
“What it can do from the air, and tracking submarines, is almost like Steven Spielberg,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early May 2018.
“I went up on a training flight,” he said, “and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above.”
“It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
‘The best ASW … platform in the fleet’
In 2004, the US Navy picked the P-8A Poseidon to succeed the P-3 Orion, which had been in operation since the 1960s. The first Poseidon entered service in 2013, and more than 60 are in service now.
The jet-powered P-8A is based on Boeing‘s 737 airliner, but it is specialized to withstand more strain, with aluminum skin that is 50% thicker than a commercial 737. Every surface is equipped for deicing.
A commercial 737 can be built in two weeks, but a P-8A takes roughly two months.
(U.S. Navy photo)
It has a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and, unlike the P-3, is designed to do most of its work at high altitude, where it has better fuel efficiency and its sensors are more effective. The Poseidon’s top speed of 564 mph is also 200 mph faster than the older Orion, allowing it to get to its station faster and reposition more quickly.
Among its sensors is the APY-10 radar, which can detect and identify ships on the surface and even pick up submarine periscopes. It can also provide long-distance imagery of ports or cities and perform surveillance along coasts or on land.
An electro-optical/infrared turret on the bottom of the plane offers a shorter-range search option and can carry up to seven sensors, including an image intensifier, a laser rangefinder, and infrared, which can detect heat from subs or from fires.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The Poseidon’s ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure acts as an electromagnetic sensor and can track radar emitters. Its Advanced Airborne Sensor can do 360-degree scans on land and water. Other electronic surveillance measures allow it to passively monitor a wide area without detection.
The original P-8A design did not include the Magnetic Anomaly Detector that the P-3 carried to detect the metal in sub’s hulls. The MAD’s exclusion was controversial, but the P-8A can deploy sonar buoys to track subs, and recent upgrades allow it to use new buoys that last longer and have a broader search range.
It also carries an acoustic sensor and a hydrocarbon sensor designed to pick up fuel vapor from subs. The P-8A’s cabin can have up to seven operator consoles, and onboard computers compile data for those operators and then distribute it to friendly forces.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Kofonow)
The P-8A carries its own armaments, including Harpoon antiship missiles, depth charges, MK-54 torpedoes, and naval mines. It can also deploy defensive countermeasures, including a laser and metallic chaff to confuse incoming missiles.
A dry-bay fire system uses sensors to detect fires on board and extinguish them, a P-8A pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.
“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” the pilot said.
‘The next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft’
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
Russia’s submarine fleet is a fraction of its Cold War size, but its subs are more sophisticated and have been deployed as US and NATO attention has shifted away from antisubmarine efforts.
“We have found in the last two years we are very short of high-end antisubmarine-warfare hunters,” Royal Navy Vice Adm. Clive CC Johnstone, commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, said in January 2018.
Along with interest in buying subs, “you see an increased focus on other types of antisubmarine, submarine-hunter platforms, so frigates and maritime-patrol aircraft and stuff like that,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider earlier this year.
In 2016, the UK announced it would buy nine P-8As. In 2017, Norway announced it was buying five.
Those purchases are part of efforts by the US, UK, and Norway to reinvigorate the Cold War maritime-surveillance network covering the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK, known as the GIUK gap, through which Russian subs are traveling more frequently between their Northern Fleet base and the Atlantic.
In June 2017, defense ministers from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey agreed to cooperate on “multinational maritime multimission aircraft capabilities.” The US Navy has increased its antisubmarine activities in Europe, leading with the P-8A.
The US’s 2018 defense budget included $14 million to refurbish hangers at Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland, where antisubmarine forces hunted German U-boats during World War II and patrols scoured northern latitudes during the Cold War.
The US Navy decided to leave Keflavik in 2006, but recent modifications would allow P-8As to be stationed there, though the Navy has said it doesn’t currently plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)
Poseidons operate over the Black Sea to track the growing number of Russian subs there. P-8As based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy have reportedly helped hunt Russian subs lurking near NATO warships and taken part in antisubmarine-warfare exercises around the Mediterranean.
“The Poseidon is becoming the next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft,” Nordenman said. “Not only for the US, but increasingly for our allies in Europe, too.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more US rotations to Keflavik and deeper cooperation between the US, the UK, and Norway on maritime-patrol-aircraft operations in the Atlantic,” he added. “I would say this is just a first step.”
‘There is a requirement need out here’
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Like Russia, China has been investing in submarines, and its neighbors have growing interest in submarines and antisubmarine-warfare assets — including the P-8A.
India made its first purchase of the P-8I Neptune variant in 2009, buying eight that deployed in 2013. New Delhi bought four additional planes in 2016, and India’s navy chief said in January that the service was looking to buy more.
In early 2014, Australia agreed to buy eight P-8As for $3.6 billion. They are expected to arrive by 2021, and Canberra has the option to buy four more.
India and Australia are the only buyers in Asia so far, but others, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are interested. South Korea said in February 2018, it would buy maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign buyer — Boeing and Saab are reportedly competing for a contract worth $1.75 billion.
“There is a requirement need out here in the Asian region for P-8s,” Matt Carreon, Boeing’s head of sales for the P-8A, said in February 2018, pointing to the high volume of shipping, threat of piracy, and the “current political climate” as reasons for interest.
But overall sales have been underwhelming, likely in part because the Poseidon and its variants are relatively expensive, and their specialized features require a lengthy procurement process.
US Navy P-8As have also been more active around Asia, where their crews work with non-US military personnel, take part in search-and-rescue operations, and perform maritime surveillance over disputed areas, like the South China Sea, where they have monitored Chinese activity.
As in Europe, this can lead to dicey situations.
In August 2014, a P-8A operating 130 miles east of China’s Hainan Island had a close encounter with a Chinese J-11 fighter jet, which brought one of its wings within 20 feet of the P-8A and did a barrel roll over the patrol plane’s nose.
The jet also flew by the P-8A with its belly visible, “to make a point of showing its weapons,” the Pentagon said.
“I think the maritime mission is going to be as big as the land mission in the future, driven by Asian customers like Australia, India, Japan, Korea, and … other countries will certainly play a role,” Joseph Song, vice president for international strategic development at General Atomics Aeronautical, told Reuters.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During Operation Enduring Freedom, American troops weren’t just tackling the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A number of them were part of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The term was a bit of a misnomer – in some cases, they weren’t reconstructing things, they were building things in one of the poorest countries in the world.
One of those troops in a provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, was Staff Sergeant Jason Fetty of the United States Army Reserve who was a pharmacy technician in West Virginia before he was called up and deployed to Khost province. According to a 2007 American Forces Press Service release, he had spent ten months working to build a new emergency room when he would have a fateful confrontation on Feb. 20 of that year.
“We build roads, build bridges, improve health care. The Afghan government doesn’t really have the means to fix itself by itself,” Fetty explained about the PRT’s mission.
Fetty had gotten to know many of the medical professionals at the time, and while on guard duty that day for the opening of the emergency room, he noticed an unfamiliar face. And that person “definitely didn’t look right,” Fetty later said.
“Every Soldier who has been in combat or been downrange knows when something is not right,” he later explained to reporter Donna Miles. “You can feel it. You can see it. It’s a general sinking feeling that things are not going to go right. You feel it in your gut.”
Fetty attempted to use verbal commands to force the intruder away, but the man grabbed his rifle by the barrel. At that point, Fetty began to maneuver the would-be murder-suicide bomber away, while others evacuated the assembled VIPs, including the governor of the province.
“It was either going to be me or 20 other people back there. …suicide bombers are next to impossible to stop. All you can do is limit the damage that they can do,” Fetty said. But after he got the would-be killer around the corner, things escalated. Accounts differed as to whether Fetty tackled the bomber or struck him with the end of his rifle, but there was a violent encounter that included Fetty shooting the terrorist in the lower legs.
Other troops soon started firing, and eventually, Fetty took three steps away and then made what he would call “a Hollywood dive” as the bomber’s explosives detonated. Fetty was peppered with shrapnel, as were some other American troops, but the bomber had been kept from his primary target – as well as the doctors who would staff the new emergency room.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.
He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.
A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.
After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.
initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.
“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.
But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.
After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.
“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.
By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.
“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.
Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.
“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”
George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.
“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”
Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.
Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.
A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.
“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”
Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.
“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.
Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) — the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent — and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.
The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.
“We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.
Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies, which built on the foundational work of co-author and JPL chemist Michael Russell, looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.
Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.
This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.
Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets — worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes — may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.
“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”
This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s JPL Icy Worlds team.
Featured image: An image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon’s icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.
A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.
James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.
See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.
Some uniform changes are welcome in the U.S. military (goodbye, ABUs!) and some are very much not. There are uniform features troops love because it actually makes their jobs easier. There are fabrics that are easier to wear, and there are styles that just became iconic over time. For instance, imagine if the Marine Corps suddenly changed their dress blues to an all-white uniform to match the Navy whites – there would be rioting from Lejeune to Pendleton.
That’s almost what happened when the Navy ditched the bell-bottoms on its dungarees.
That just does not look like a good work uniform.
The U.S. Navy had been sporting the flared cuffs on its work uniforms since 1817. The idea was that sailors who would be working on the topmost decks, who were presumably swabbing it or whatever sailors did up there back then, would want to roll their pants up to keep them from getting wet or dirty. Sailors were also able to get out of their uniforms faster in the event that they had to abandon ship for some reason.
When in the water, then-woolen pants even doubled as a life preserver. Now, that’s a utility uniform. In 1901, the fabric of the uniform was changed to denim, and the Navy’s dungarees were born. They still sported bell-bottom pants.
The Navy will still find ways to look absurd to the other branches, don’t you worry.
Bell-bottoms even appeared on the sailors’ dress uniform as far back as the early 19th century. The Navy got rid of the bell-bottom on its dungarees at the turn of the 21st Century, some 180 years later. In 1999, the Navy phased out the pants with flared 12-inch bottoms for a utility uniform that features straight-legged dark blue trousers. Sailors were not thrilled.
“They are trying too hard to make us look like the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Petty Officer Chad Heskett, a hospital corpsman on the frigate USS Crommelin. “It’s taking too much away from tradition. It will cost the Navy more to buy these new uniforms.”
By 2001, the bell-bottoms were gone.
Heskett wasn’t alone in his disdain for the new uniforms. The loss of “tradition” was echoed throughout the Navy, as is often the case with new uniforms. The Navy was adamant about the change, however, and the new utility uniforms were phased in on schedule. It turned out to be a good decision.
For tradition, the Navy will always have its crackerjacks.
The battle to justify the need for a Space Corps rages on in Washington, but the war may soon be upon us, according to the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein. The waiting list to sign up as a Space Shuttle door gunner, sadly, isn’t yet available, as the actual battle will be satellite defense primarily.
Space isn’t just a vast nothingness outside of our planet. The placement of satellites in orbit has played a key, strategic role in combat. Historically, satellites in orbit were fairly hard to reach, so the need to defend them hasn’t been a concern. That was until an increasing number of nations gained the ability to knock them out.
The Air Force has kept their eyes on fighting in Space since before 1963. Following the Air Force’s lead, the Department of Defense has made many advancements to America’s space program, such as the Space and Missile Systems Center and free access to GPS satellites. In 2007, China took steps toward being able to shoot down satellites and, in 2008, America proved it could. Recently, Russia claimed to have a plane-mounted laser that can take out satellites.
Gen. Goldfein told the press we need “to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.” To do this, the United States needs missile-detection satellites in place to watch over our orbiting assets.
Of huge benefit to the USAF’s Space Program is the advancement of civilian space programs, such as SpaceX, and their ongoing innovations, such as the reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle, Falcon Heavy. The USAF and SpaceX have worked hand-in-hand on all things space. SpaceX helps research and foot part of the bill while the USAF helps by providing equipment and certifications. Combined, they’re about to launch the Deep Space Atomic Clock. While this might not sound as impressive as an all-out war in space, it will help give an absolute measurement of time in Space — which, because of time dilation, is a pain in the ass to keep accurate.
Needless to say, the final frontier is going to get much more interesting in the next few years.
The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.
“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”
“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”
“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.
The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.
While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.
Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.
Lasers, Railguns, Robotics
While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.
So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.
The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.
“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”
Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.
Iran threatened to respond to economic sanctions against its oil exports imposed by the US with military action to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the sea passage into the Persian Gulf that sees around 30% of the world’s oil supply pass — but if they did, the US would shut them down in days.
“As the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, (Iran) has been the guarantor of the security of shipping and the global economy in this vital waterway and has the strength to take action against any scheme in this region,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Reuters.
But Iran’s military wouldn’t last more than a few days against the US and its allies, and according to experts, Iran must know this, and is likely bluffing as they have in past threats to close the strait.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” former Adm. James Stavridis told CNBC on July 23, 2018.
Stavridis, who served as NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, said that Iran would likely try to mine the waterway to ward off traffic, and may also resort to sending out its small, fast attack craft on suicide runs against US Navy ships that could do some damage.
But the US wouldn’t go it alone, and Iran would quickly find the waterway unmined, its fast attack craft at the bottom of the strait and its coastal missile batteries destroyed.
This map shows maritime traffic along the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil experts pass through.
Former US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, now an expert at the Washington Institute, told Business Insider that it’s “highly unlikely” Iran would move on the Strait of Hormuz, “but just the threat of doing that sent oil prices up.”
President Hassan Rouhani, in warning Trump about the “mother of all wars” tried “to warn not so much Trump, but all of the customers of Iranian oil that if they all stop buying Iranian oil when US sanctions take effect on Nov. 4, 2018, it will hurt prices,” said Jeffrey.
Manipulating oil prices and wielding its massive oil production infrastructure represent “the weapon that the Iranians can most easily use,” in combatting US sanctions, Jeffrey said. Rather than violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran deal, Iran prefers to force nations to trade with it in spite of US sanctions by putting pressure on overall supply.
“If they would have violated the JCPOA,” said Jeffrey, “they’d lose the support of western Europe.”
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” of Iranian oil, said Jeffrey.
“If the Iranians want to escalate” tensions into fighting along the Strait of Hormuz, “we saw that movie in ’88 and in the end they lost their navy,” said Jeffrey, referring to the Operation Praying Mantis, when the US responded to Iran mining the strait with an aircraft carrier strike group that decimated its navy.
Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.
In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.
When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.
Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.
In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.
Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.
This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.
It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.
Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)
All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.
In the military, sometimes things just get lost in transit. Gear goes adrift, paperwork gets filed wrong, and soldiers with no training in parachuting from a perfectly good airplane end up getting thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. It was bound to happen, and frankly, we should be a little surprised it took so long.
On Feb. 22, 2000, U.S. Army Spc. Jeff Lewis made his first ever parachute jump from a C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, N.C. The only problem was that no one had ever trained Specialist Lewis on how to jump from an airplane with the Army. Lewis was with the 82nd Airborne, so his unit was correct, it just turns out he wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a supply clerk. The then-23-year-old never mentioned anything to the jumpmaster because he wanted to do what the Army expected him to do.
“The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it. I had a job to do, and I had to believe in what I was doing.”
A Jumpmaster can be held responsible for any training accident.
Lewis did eventually go to jump school, becoming airborne qualified just a few weeks after jumping out the airplane door for the first time. He was also promoted in that timeframe. But Lewis didn’t go out the door entirely unprepared. He took the 82nd’s one-day refresher course for those soldiers who are already airborne-qualified, and it might have saved his life. After stepping out of the airplane on the wrong foot, his equipment apparently got tangled. He was able to open the canopy by kicking with his feet, as instructed in the class.
Even though the troopers were doing a static line jump, the jump was only half the instruction necessary. The other half is, of course, the landing. Paratroopers are trained to land safely using certain techniques that redistribute the energy from the force of their fall. Even with the chutes, they can hit the ground as fast as 15 miles per hour. The untrained or new paratroopers can snap their legs when landing incorrectly and taking the brunt of the fall.
This could have been his first jump.
There’s a reason paratroopers train for weeks to learn to properly stick the landing. The chutes used by the Army aren’t like civilian chutes. They’re designed to get the trooper to the ground faster. While the Army could definitely afford safer, easier-to-use parachutes, the entire point of paratroopers is to get them on the ground and fighting as fast as possible. The more time they spend suspended in mid-air, the more opportunity enemy troops have to light them up.
Dating a service member or veteran can be challenging for a civilian unfamiliar with the world of military life. And it can even throw veterans dating other veterans into unfamiliar ground.
Whatever your background, here are nine things you’re going to have to get used to if you decide to date a servicemember or veteran.
1. Understanding dark humor
Learning a new sense of humor is something that has to happen when you date a veteran. They cope with things with a dark sense of humor, and this can be a little off-putting.
Thing is, you just have to learn to laugh when he takes his leg off at dinner, sets it on a chair and asks the waiter for another menu.
2. The things they carry
When you’re dating a civilian, they might sometimes leave a shirt or socks behind after a late-night visit. But if you’re dating a veteran, you may have to deal with a forgotten piece of their prosthetic, a utility knife, or something else you might not expect.
3. Bobby pins are everywhere
Just like dating a civilian woman, military women will leave bobby pins behind. To keep the crisp, clean bun many women in uniform rely on, it can take 15 or more bobby pins to make it work. Occasionally, they get left behind on night stands and kitchen sinks as an accidental territory marker.
4. Opening up takes a little longer
Any relationship is built on trust and understanding – a relationship with a vet is no different. Special importance has to be put on trust, though. When someone’s ready to open up, you have to be ready to listen and try to understand things you may have never experienced and couldn’t begin to comprehend. Many veterans are used to losing the people who are closest to them, whether from failed relationships, in combat, or to suicide. They may not want to get attached for fear of losing you, but you have to work to build their trust.
5. Inter-service rivalry is all in good fun
If you’re a veteran dating a veteran of another branch, you have to get used to the good-natured teasing of your service coming into all aspects of your life. Whether you forget something at home on a trip and hear “man, that’s why you can’t trust an Airman!” or if you’re late to a date and get a “sailors, always on their own time,” you have to learn to dish it back with a smile.
6. You learn to love listening to stories
Any veteran, young or old, loves to tell stories from their service. Whether they fought the Nazis in 10 feet of snow with an ax handle and a pocket knife, or they battled al-Qaeda as a member of Delta Team Six, the stories are always an interesting look into the way the military works. Whether they’re 100 percent true or a little embellished, you’ll learn to revel in the stories of your veteran significant other — especially over a few drinks.
7. You learn to give your all and try new things
Veterans can be intense people. They’re used to giving a mission their all and take that passion into the things they love most. Learning new things may include backpacking or kayaking or it could be a sport like football or basketball. No matter what, you have to learn to give 100 percent to anything you try.
8. Not every vet has post-traumatic stress, but some do
Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. While visible wounds may make people stare, the invisible wounds can be harder to deal with in a relationship. Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress are big hurdles modern veterans face, and they can affect their closest relationships dramatically. Patience is key in a time where your significant other is facing something they may not want to – or be able to – talk about.
9. Commitment is more than a ten-letter word
Each branch of the military focuses on commitment, duty, honor, sacrifice, and service and others before self. This bleeds into their life outside of the military – dating and marrying a veteran can be one of the most rewarding things someone can do. It isn’t for everyone, but if you meet and fall in love with a veteran, you can be assured their service will be an asset in your life together.