Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile - We Are The Mighty
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Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

The U.S. Air Force released test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile Feb. 25 in order to test the reliability of the Cold War-era, nuclear-capable weapons. The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.


“This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the nation’s fielded ICBM force,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team.”

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
A Minuteman III missile streaks across the sky in a 2013 test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The tested missile flew 4,000 miles over the Pacific to a test area in the Marshall Islands which opened up speculation that the missile test may have been a reminder to North Korea that the U.S. can hit it at any time. North Korea recently launched a failed satellite that some say was a camouflaged test of its own ballistic missiles and a threat to the U.S.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
A rocket lifts off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea (DPRK State Media)

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the test was necessary to remind rival nations that the aging U.S. nuclear missiles are still very capable, but he didn’t mention North Korea.

“We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable,” he told journalists at the launch. “And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Photo: US Air Force via Wikipedia

Each Minuteman III missile can carry up to three nuclear warheads which each strike different targets. Each warhead packs a 300-500 kiloton yield, about 20-33 times the strength of the bomb that struck Hiroshima. The missile tested Feb. 25 carried a test version of the re-entry vehicles which steer nuclear warheads.

The Air Force has had to reduce its number of ICBMs to meet the requirements of the New START treaty which caps the number at 400 armed missiles and 50 unarmed reserves. The Minuteman III missile is the only U.S. land-based ICBM currently in service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arizona is pushing to improve veteran employment

Over the last several years, a spotlight has been placed on employment challenges for transitioning service members, veterans, and Guard/Reserve members. Arizona is taking strides to combat these challenges for the 600,000-plus veterans in the state. In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed 2018 as the “Arizona Veteran Career Year.” Much of the state’s effort can be attributed to groundwork laid by the collaborative team efforts of the Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers (ACCVC), the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.


Hal Pittman, director of external communications for Arizona Public Service (APS) and the co-founder of the ACCVC, said the efforts have focused on developing a road map for reducing underemployment, career development and corporate investment in military service members. In 2016, the ACCVC collaborated with Arizona Public Service (APS) and USAA to develop a baseline for addressing these issues, along with providing a pipeline between the community, government agencies and corporations.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

Nick Caporrimo.

Nick Caporrimo, an Army National Guardsman involved with the ACCVC, says these programs and services are imperative for service members and veterans. Caporrimo began his military career in 2010 while he was searching for employment with companies that understand the needs of service members and their families. In 2011, he accepted an internship with APS, which led to a full-time career. Caporrimo got involved in the VETRN program at APS, an employee program geared toward supporting veteran needs within the company. He said APS supports military and veteran employees and understands specific needs. The company provides differential pay to reservists, job security while away at required training and military-related duties, and recognizes the value of hard and soft skills that service members and veterans offer.

Caporrimo said the ACCVC encourages employers to establish a company culture that values military experience and skills such as leadership, teamwork, loyalty, discipline, professionalism and determination. The council is taking this message to human resources professionals at major companies in Arizona through symposiums and trainings geared toward coordinating communication between the companies and the military. The council encourages employers to establish internships and apprenticeships for active duty military personnel prior to discharge. The council has relationships with more than 20 companies.

In 2017 the ACCVC, APS and the Department of Veterans’ Services hired an epidemiologist to develop and conduct a survey that was distributed state-wide to 5,000 participants to further investigate barriers to employment, as well as underemployment, retention and career advancement for service members and veterans. The ACCVC is analyzing this data to develop a statistically supported baseline to further their efforts to combat and reduce employment challenges.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

Nick Caporrimo.

One of the programs Caporrimo is excited about is the SkillBridge Program, which was piloted at Luke Air Force Base with more than 400 transitioning military service members each year. Companies involved in this program coordinate with transitioning military service members and their commanders to provide an internship or apprenticeship for the last 180 days of their service to allow the service member to gain access to skills related to the corporate career. Those in the program continue to receive their military pay, which provides stability during the transition as they learn new skills related to their civilian career.

Caporrimo described the critical role the ACCVC and collaborators continue to play in examining private sector employment challenges faced by service members, developing a road map and baseline for best practices to combat these issues, building programs to bridge the gap between the military and private sector, establishing corporate investment in service members, and increasing the availability of careers rather than jobs for service members and veterans.

“The active efforts of the ACCVC has led to vast improvements in many areas related to career retainment and hiring for veterans and service-members in the state of Arizona,” Caporrimo said.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Why airborne units are obsolete

This article originally appeared at The Havok Journal.


I recently read an article that posed an interesting question: Does the Army need airborne? The short answer is no. The long answer is we need the capability; there is a small fraction of operations where an airborne assault might be the only way to go, but we don’t need as much “airborne” as we currently have.

Bear with me. I know there are some seriously butt hurt people right now reading this. The tactic has value — limited, but still some.

The unit as an organized structure that practices the airborne tactic has no value — zero, nada, and zilch. The reason is simply the risk; a new person jumping one time is just as much at risk as a veteran jump master on his 1,000th jump.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
(U.S. Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

The singular benefit of airborne operations is to get troops on the battlefield when there are no other means available and when those same troops might secure the means themselves.

WWII was a perfect example. The night of June 5, 1944, airborne operations began to place large numbers of troops behind German lines to tie up reinforcements trying to reach the Atlantic Wall fortifications and prevent the beach invasion.

Also read: Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

It was known and accepted that those airborne troops were effectively lost and might never be recovered as a unit. We routinely accept injury in airborne operations that would be unacceptable in other training, all for a tactic that has limited utility.

Had the beach landings failed, the airborne teams would have been cut off and without support. At best they could have surrendered; at worst, they would be dead. This was not an assumption. This was a specific and recognized outcome of the invasion.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena

For all the vaunted legend of the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne, the fact is that the units had little cohesion, fought mostly in small numbers, and took several days to re-form into fighting units. Unity of command was not lost; it was impossible to obtain from the beginning.

I am not denigrating the men of the 82nd and the 101st. I am saying any unit could have accomplished the same tasks without any special training involving parachute operations. The difficulties would have been the same.

Soldiers were intermingled between companies, battalions, brigades, and divisions as the confusion of the battlefield worked its magic. Fortunately Americans took advantage of the confusion and managed to win the day.

In that one demonstration on the field of battle, they proved that Airborne was not “all the way” and that the technique of vertical envelopment of the battlefield has a limited utility best used sparingly and only if you are ready to lose those involved.

Which is why for the next sixty years the activities in wartime were expressly limited. In part, we had other means, but ultimately it became clear that this is a tactic that only serves its use in specific operations or as an act of desperation.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
U.S. Army Airborne School. (Photo: U.S. Army Kristin Molinaro)

The operational characteristics, fully published in FM3-99 Airborne and Air Assault Operations, show the limitations clearly. Even during peacetime, the physical threat to personnel from the jump alone is high.

In fact, regardless of the number of jumps a person has, the risk to life and limb is the same each time they jump. The experience they receive does not affect the process once they exit the aircraft. The senior commanders are just as exposed to risk as the privates.

They are at the mercy of the weather. And that alone can render an entire operation a failure.

With the risk being the same for a jump master with 1000 jumps or the cherry on his first jump, we can say, from a risk management standpoint, we don’t need Army Airborne.

We can still, when the need arises, utilize airborne operations. All risk being equal, there is no difference to the mission to drop an entire unit using a small cadre of experienced personnel while the rest of the personnel just straps on the parachute and falls.

I know it works. This was also proven in WWII by the same units. Many of those men had no training in parachute operations. They were taught to put it on and they got in the plane and jumped into combat.

We don’t need units like the 82nd or battalions like the 1/501st. We need each unit to have a small cadre of jump masters and if the military decides to utilize personnel on an airborne operation, the cadre will ensure everyone is suited up and rigged, and then push them out the door.

There is no reason to have a specialized unit with nifty hats just to practice a tactic that is not really necessary. All they do is fall. They don’t have to open the parachute because the static line does that. While the appropriate parachute landing fall (PLF) might be worthwhile to prevent injury, it is not really worth the effort of a 3 week school just to teach that.

Airborne school teaches the PLF and weeds out those too scared to jump. Other than that, it does not teach you anything particular.

Putting on the parachute does not require training beforehand — the jump master is responsible for making sure you put in on right anyway. Rigging your equipment is not an experience-based skill. Just wrap it up using a pictogram and you are done.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Paratroopers jumping off C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

We don’t need specialized airborne units. Airborne, as practiced by the 82nd AA, was obsolete at the end of WWII.

The Army just doesn’t want to admit that because it looks good. But none of them want to admit that the casualties, from the jump and from war, would make any airborne operation a risky adventure.

They know it; they just don’t want to talk about it.

In combat, a unit that sustains 15% casualties is still combat capable but only marginally. What gain do we have from a military unit that could receive those losses from entering combat before they face the enemy?

The jump alone could cause that damage, and this does not include the fact that it could be the senior command leadership, key weapons vital to the mission, or any number of critical items lost on the drop.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

Those are the risks not once, but every time a jump occurs. It is not cost effective to maintain a unit that faces those risks every time just for practice. It would be better to only pull out this operation when necessary.

If we are going to accept the potential risk, it is not any more dangerous to accept a leg unit that did an airborne operation as a onetime act of desperation.

Airborne pride is an expensive attitude for a military tactic of desperation. It is time to close the books on that chapter.

We can still use the tactic — but we don’t need to enshrine the idea behind it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress wants to cyber attack countries who meddle in elections

As part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. to launch offensive cyber attacks in retaliation against Russia or any other country that tries to “significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government.”

The language appeared in the committee’s newly released conference report of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” a week after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized President Donald Trump for not taking a hard stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.


The NDAA “authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in cyberspace.”

“Defense committees have long expressed concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyberspace and electronic warfare,” the document states.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

President Donald Trump

(Photo by Michael Vadon)

To assist the Defense Department in this challenge, the NDAA “establishes a policy that the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” the document states.

Lawmakers became increasingly vocal in their concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections after Trump appeared to question his own intelligence agencies’ findings on the issue and take Putin’s word at the Helsinki summit that Russia had no part in interfering with the 2016 election.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.


“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.

“He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be,’ ” Trump said.

He later clarified his comments, saying he told Putin the U.S. won’t tolerate any election interference in the future.

“I let him know we can’t have this,” Trump said, according to an AP report. “We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

In addition to the new language, Senate lawmakers increased research and development spending on cyber, and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy, by more than 0 million, the document states.

If signed by Trump, “the FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world,” according to a recent Senate Armed Services Committee press release.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US maintains strategic advantage in the Arctic

In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.

Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.

As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.

Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.


Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”

The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.

As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.

While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.

The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine vet took his sick dog on a life-changing road trip

Marine veteran Robert Kugler traveled with his dog, Bella, across the country and throughout the East Coast after doctors told him that Bella’s bone cancer would kill her within a year.


Now, 16 months after that notice, Kugler and Bella have proved the doctors wrong and are still moving together and making the most of what time she has left.

My ball now, suckas!! #GoBellaGo #JustKeepSwimming #LiveNowTour

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:59pm PDT

Kugler was getting ready to graduate college on the GI Bill in 2015 when he heard the news that Bella had bone cancer. A May 2015 amputation of Bella’s front left leg bought her some time, but veterinarians were still pessimistic about her chances. That’s when Kugler decided that he wanted to give her a proper send-off.

“I just was kind of looking at her, and just imagining her being gone when I came home from work,” he told WATM. “I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s take off for a little while.'”

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 28, 2016 at 7:59am PDT

Since that decision, Bella and Kugler have been traveling together around the country. Like Kugler, Bella loves being in nature.

“We were in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York,” Kugler said. “That has been some of our best nature time together during this period. … Our hikes in the Adirondacks are probably some of my favorite times that we’ve had together, like near Lake Placid.”

Bella, who Kugler adopted in 2007 with his then-wife, is great with people and is known for enthusiastically greeting almost anyone she meets.

“Bella’s still very independent,” Kugler said. “She wants to meet new people, but she’s also just very curious about how they smell, if they have food for her. ‘You got food? Who’s got food? Do you have food for me?’ She gets a little spoiled.”

This has allowed Kugler to meet and help encourage people he wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

“We meet a little girl in a wheelchair that just falls in love with Bella before she even realizes that she has three legs. Bella stands up, and the girl is like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s like me,’ ” Kugler said.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT

As Kugler describes it, he and Bella are just, “Out exploring the world with my dog, and encouraging people to get outside and drop their social barriers and their boundaries, to just live on this tiny blue speck together as one.”

While Bella has done brilliantly on their trip, staying active and outgoing despite her cancer, Kugler says that traveling with Bella has helped him nearly as much as it has helped her.

“When I’m with her, and I’m paying attention to her, I’m outside myself, and I’m focusing on giving her the best life, I feel at that point in time that I am the best version of myself,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I like really spending time with her and doing our thing.”

Kugler is overjoyed that Bella has been able to fight for so long and has helped so many people, but he keeps people updated on her progress in his Instagram feed where he acknowledges that Bella is still facing death.

Our adventures in the western slopes were a great refresher of what we love to do and see. Get out into the wild, be a little wild, and meet a few more wildlings along the way. Now, today’s adventure begins. We’re on our way back to Ft. Collins to visit with Vets at CSU Animal Cancer Center for a consult for the CT scan. The plan is to actually get 2. One, focused on her mouth to see exactly where the cancer is and how far it’s spread. The second, a full body scan to see if she’s healthy enough for treatment. Though I’m not abandoning hope, I am prepared to hear the words “there’s nothing we can really do.” See, Bella started coughing recently. It’s a cough that starts from the chest and ends with a hack. Usually it doesn’t produce anything. This morning, and one other time last week, she actually hacked up some bloody phlegm. Again, my first and utmost priority is her quality of life, her comfort, and her happiness. We will be okay, as we have each other. Obviously I won’t have her in the flesh form forever, but she’ll have me by her side until the moment she closes her eyes for the last time. Again, I’m not abandoning hope, rather preparing for reality. I’d like to share a perspective that helps me with the grief associated with death. What can keep my spirits up and prevent me from being a blubbering indecisive mess. See…impending death isn’t the “worst news.” Bella has lived an incredibly adventurous and joyous life that should be celebrated. The end shall not define her legacy. Death is a chapter in all of our books, but definitely not the last. It is this perspective, that allows me to appreciate every day with her and to walk into CSU today without the fear of losing her, because I never will. She is mine, and I am hers, forever.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Sep 21, 2016 at 6:31am PDT

Hopefully, Rob and Bella have a lot of great adventures left together. But Bella has made a lasting impact on plenty of people either way.

In addition to his Instagram feed, Kugler posts photos of his road trip with Bella and other adventures at his website, RKLifeIllustrated.com.

Articles

This defense contractor wants to ‘grow’ drones in high-tech liquid ooze

A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.


The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.

The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.

Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.

The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.

“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”

For more information, check out BAE’s video above or read their article on the program here.

Articles

The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Army Maj. John Spencer, a scholar at the Modern War Institute, argued Wednesday the Army needs to create a school of urban warfare as soon as it possibly can.


Global trends make conflict in urban areas much more likely in the future, but Spencer noted in an opinion piece for the institute at West Point that the Army has not adequately prepared its soldiers to fight in this environment, which means that the service is violating one of its ten core principles.

For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.

As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”

And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.

Related: The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”

As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Soldiers from the 19th Engineer Battalion react to a simulated rocket-propelled grenade attack at Zussman Urban Combat Training Center. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael Behlin

Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.

Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.

A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”

“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”

Articles

See how the Sri Lankan navy rescued this cute elephant

On July 11, 2017, the Sri Lankan navy was conducting operations nine miles out to sea and spotted something surprising: an elephant swimming in the deep ocean.


Elephants are actually excellent swimmers for land animals, using their powerful legs to propel themselves forward and breathing through their trunk. But they aren’t true endurance swimmers or deepwater experts.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
(Photo: Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to Avinash Krishnan, a research officer for conservation group A Rocha who spoke to the Guardian, swimming out nine miles isn’t horribly rare for elephants. But saltwater bothers their skin and they burn a lot of energy while swimming, making rescue necessary.

Luckily for the little pachyderm, the Sri Lankan sailors were happy to assist. They used ropes, divers, and their ships to pull the elephant close to shore over the course of a 12-hour rescue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVZPLVkzt-c
Oddly enough, this wasn’t an isolated event. The very next week, the navy spotted two elephants in distress 1.5 miles from the coast. The animals were barely keeping their trunks above water when a patrol craft spotted them. They were also rescued by boats pulling them to shore with ropes attached by divers.
Articles

General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

President-elect Donald Trump often asserted that “torture works” on the campaign trail. But one meeting with legendary Marine Gen. James Mattis appears to have made him rethink that stance.


On Saturday, Trump met with the retired four-star general at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course for about an hour to discuss the possibility Mattis could be tapped to serve as defense secretary.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Details about the private conversation are hard to come by, but Trump did reveal an interesting bit Tuesday to reporters at The New York Times when asked about waterboarding.

From the Times:

“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,'” Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.'” He added: “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Torture, Mr. Trump said, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”

It amounts to a “remarkable” reversal for the president-elect, as the Times put it. It also somewhat contradicts the position of  Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has said that “all options are on the table.” Before he campaigned for Trump, however, Flynn criticized the practice.

If indeed Trump has changed his tune on the use of torture, that’s good news to a number of national-security experts who expressed concerns in light of Trump’s election win.

“I don’t think it’s going to come back,” Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College speaking of his personal views, said recently. “But that’s more hope than anything else.”

Mattis appears to be the frontrunner for the job of defense secretary. Trump told the Times he was “seriously considering” the retired officer for the position.

The debate over waterboarding in enhanced interrogations has a larger legal barrier than what President George W. Bush faced in the past. While Bush authorized the practice after the 9/11 terror attacks through legal memos, President Barack Obama ordered the practice to stop through an executive order. That order was later codified into law in 2015.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in March that the use of waterboarding is “inconsistent with the values of our nation.” Dunford previously served as Mattis’ deputy at 1st Marine Division.

Articles

Britain is looking to robots for resupply under fire

Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.


Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.

But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.

To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
British forces may be able to asks robots for more ammo in the not-so-distant future. (Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

There are guidelines for the competition, but the Ministry of Defence also put forward two vignettes to show the battlefield challenges it wants technology to overcome.

In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
A new technology competition out of Britain wants to find ways to get supplies to troops under fire, making sure they always have enough ammo and medical supplies to get the job done. (Graphic: Crown Copyright)

The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.

The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.

For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans everywhere agree: You can mourn Kobe Bryant

Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?

An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.

Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.


We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.

And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.

Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile


Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

Rest in Peace, Kobe.

Articles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

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The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

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Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

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Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

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