Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom's final flight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

The following video was filmed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on Dec. 21, 2016, during the final flight with the U.S. Air Force of the legendary F-4 Phantom.


As explained by Skyes9, the user who posted it on YouTube, the long footage shows the start-up, taxi out, and flyby of the F-4s, followed by water cannon salute and then shut down of the USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.

Interestingly, it also shows (actually, it lets you hear) the double “sonic boom” caused by two Phantoms flying overhead.

Also read: The F-4 Phantom was inspired by this fighter

Lt. Col. Ronald King, the only active duty U.S. Air Force F-4 pilot flew AF 349, the last QF-4 Phantom II in the USAF story.

“This has been a humbling experience,” said King, the Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron commander in an Air Force release. “There is no way to truly understand what this aircraft has done without talking to the people who lived it.”

In 53 years of service, the Phantom set 15 world records, including aircraft speed – 1,606 miles per hour – and absolute altitude – 98,557 feet. Moreover, it has been the only aircraft to be flown by both the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight
A F-4 Phantom drops bombs on a target. (Photo by USAF)

Nicknamed Double Ugly, Old Smokey, and the Rhino, the aircraft was retired from the active service in 1997. However, it continued to serve with the flying branch: re-designated the QF-4 and assigned to the 82nd ATS, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, 53rd Wing, at Holloman, the QF-4 has flown as manned and unmanned aerial target until Dec. 21, 2016.

During its service as an aerial target, the QF-4 has helped test an array of weapons that have contributed improving 4th and 5th generation fighters and weapons systems.

Related: This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

It flew its last unmanned mission in August 2016 and will be replaced by the QF-16 in 2017.

Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for its replacement, the QF-16 full-scale aerial target, that has been flying with the 82nd ATRS, based at Tyndall AFB, Florida, since September 2014, on Sept. 23: therefore the QF-4 flown by the 82nd ATRS Det. 1 at Holloman AFB were retired on Dec. 21.

Whilst unmanned operations ended, the last unmanned mission in a threat representative configuration was flown on Aug. 17, 2016, “against” an F-35 Lightning II.

During that sortie, the Vietnam-era remotely piloted aircraft was shot at by the F-35 Lightning II with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles). However, the aircraft was not destroyed in the test.

More: This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

On Oct. 25, 2016, two USAF QF-4Es made flew through the famous “Star Wars Canyon” (Jedi Transition) in Death Valley, CA, during a transit from NAS Point Mugu, CA to Hill AFB, UT.

The final F-4 Phantom appearance at an airshow occurred during Nellis Air Force Base’s Aviation Nation air show, on Nov. 12 and 13, 2016.

 

Articles

This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the lightweight kit you need to brave the cold

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that will help you brave the cold with ease.

It’s time for a little adventure. Now, it’s not that you don’t love your significant other and respect your boss, but you’ve got to go out and get right with nature every once in a while. You’ve got to escape the day-to-day concerns that consume your mind. Thankfully, it’s not necessary to go out there weighed down with a collection of unnecessary gear.


Today, we’re going to teach you how to go light, but still be ready for anything nature throws at you.

This is the Propper Mission Kit: Cold-Weather Rescue.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Propper EdgeTec Tactical Pants (.99) & Polo (.99)

It all starts with your Propper EdgeTec Pants and Polo. The shirt is quick-drying and breathable, and the pants are water-repelling and come equipped with reinforced pockets and knees. They’re the kind of duds you could wear to work or to brunch, but you’ll want to wear into nature.

And those six reinforced pockets are going to come in handy, because this guide will arm you with more tricks than you can hide in your sleeves alone.

That being said, if you wanted to hide a few tricks up your sleeves, try out the…

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Propper 3-in-1 Hardshell Parka – (9.99)

Lightweight and waterproof, the Propper 3-in-1 Hardshell Parka is perfect for excursions out into nature, no matter the season. The removable fleece liner makes for perfectly fine wear on its own, but attaches to the hardshell parka to brave even the fiercest winters.

So, now you can go marching out into the woods, surrounded by tall trees, warmed and dry top and bottom, and smiling. But this is nature we’re talking about, so you better be prepared for what comes next.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Garmin fenix® 5S Plus – (9.99)

You’re hiking, hiking, hiking when, blammo, a snowstorm comes from out of nowhere. Sure, it was cold, but the grey clouds must’ve been hiding behind all the fir and pine needles. The trees will hold the worst of it off your head for a while, but you need to be ready in case the snow keeps coming.

Best first step is to prepare a shelter and a fire. And you need a good location. So, you look to pocket one where, for some reason, you were keeping your fēnix® 5S Plus. You can wear it right on your wrist, man. Shoulda been there all along. Anyway, strap it on, check the color topographical maps, and look for an area nearby with a good slope but no dangerous dropoffs.

Got it? Good. Now follow the GPS to get there, because the snow is really coming down, and it takes time to gather kindling and sticks and wood. You could use that old standby of packed dryer lint, but with space age clothes like these, your dryer won’t have much lint. So, grab handfuls of pine straw, tear bark to tiny shreds, and get it all packed loosely into a bundle of small sticks, branches, and even some broken limbs.

You’ve got a great start to a fire, but you gotta get it going.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Sparkie™ Fire Starter – (.73)

Pocket number two, boss. The Sparkie™ Fire Starter weighs less than an ounce but can get 100 strikes per flint-based bar. Before you know it, your cozy little fire is ready to go.

But there’s still snow. So, you’re going to want to improvise some sort of shelter. The frame is easy enough. Just lash together some good branches with more of that bark you’ve been peeling. Feel free to use some 550-cord if you’ve got it handy, but you still need something to stretch between the frame to hold the heat in.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Mylar Men’s Emergency Thermal Blankets (.05 / 10-pack)

You’ve got a few options out in Mother Nature to wrap your shelter, but the best one is something that reflects a little heat. You know, something like a Mylar Men’s Emergency Thermal Blankets or 10. You get the drill: pocket number three.

Use one or two of them as a backdrop for the shelter, setting it so it reflects the light from the fire onto you or onto the ground where you might be laying soon. Where the light is reflecting, the infrared light is reflecting, and that’ll help you stay warm. And that leaves eight more blankets that you can cover yourself with, or give to wandering woodland animals you’d like to make friends with.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Stanley GO Bottle with Ceramivac 36oz – (.00)

While you’re at it, this is a good time to refill that ceramic vacuum GO Bottle from Stanley that’s bulging in pocket four. Pack the slowly accumulating snow into the bottle and leave it in the reflection from the blanket. Melt it down. Get it as hot or leave it as cold as you like. Once it’s where you want it, cap it and tuck it away. The vacuum-insulation is going to keep it at that temperature for hours.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Goal Zero NOMAD 7 Solar Panel – (.95)

Before you drift off, you should unpack your NOMAD 7 Solar Panel from pocket five. That fēnix has the battery to go for hours, but you don’t want to risk running out of battery way out here.

We know, we know; you got out into nature to forget about all those flashing lights and digital beeps, but the fact is, there are some tools that make survival a heck of a lot easier that need juice to keep on giving. There aren’t any outlets out here among the pines, so it’s time to borrow a little assistance from that big ball of radiation in the sky.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

BONUS: 10th Mountain Rye Whiskey – (.00)

When you wake up, all toasty from the fire, watch charged, safely ensconced in thermal blankets, you can take a quick sip from pocket six before making your way back to civilization. Just remember to sip in moderation; 10th Mountain Whiskey has the flavor and punch you’d expect from a distillery that shares its name with the 10th Mountain Division and donates some proceeds from every bottle to America’s veterans, but you need to keep a clear enough head to get back safely.

So, pack your adventure back up into all six pockets of your Propper EdgeTec Pants and carry it back down to the city. You’re sure to find more time to come out to nature again, and you can wear the pants that made it so comfortable every day until you do.

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.

To make sure you’re prepared for any mission, check out the other Propper Mission Kits.

popular

This epic Slip ‘N Slide went from a C-130 to the ground

A team of skydivers funded by Canon experienced the world’s ultimate Slip ‘N Slide: One that goes out of a C-130 in flight and then picks up on the ground, with both ends covered in hilarious pool toys, like rainbow unicorns. The gap is the middle is a fall of at least a couple of thousand feet — yes, with parachutes.


 

World's Longest Slip and Slide From a C-130 Aircraft! – Filmed on Canon EOS R!

Warning: This video is amazing! Our latest project takes jumping out of a plane to the next level. Check out how we teamed up with talented videographer Devin Super Tramp and Canon to create the world's longest slip & slide out of our C-130 Hercules aircraft. For more details, please visit us at https://internationalairresponse.com/

Posted by International Air Response on Thursday, September 6, 2018

 

The C-130 was supposed to be a stopgap during the Korean War, a rushed design to give the Army the capability to put paratroopers and other soldiers on a plane, fly it a medium distance, and land it on the short airstrips available in the mountains and jungle.

But the thing defied every expectation and proved itself capable of operating everywhere from the Himalayas to aircraft carriers. The U.S. uses it for jobs from firefighting to airborne command and control to bombing (yeah, the C-130 can drop bombs). Lockheed Martin has made over 2,500 of them in 70 variants for militaries across the globe.

But it’s still most often used for moving cargo and troops. Turns out, however, that it’s also pretty good for allowing skydivers to do some sweet tricks. Canon wanted to advertise their new line of mirrorless cameras and, apparently, they decided the best way to do so was to teach the C-130 new tricks.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight
A C-130 Hercules taxis on the runway in Wisconsin in 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)

 

Since C-130s have already been used as flying radio stations to support ground commanders in combat and disaster relief in Haiti, finding a new angle was a tall order.

The resulting video is pretty great, and will almost certainly make a bunch of jumpmasters start wondering what they could get away with in flight. (Hint: There’s probably a reason the skydivers didn’t use a military C-130. The Air Force probably won’t like this idea.)

MIGHTY MONEY

How to make $1 million with your military pay

Getting your first paycheck on active duty is awesome — because getting paid is the best. But most of us don’t know what to do with that money. Buy a Camaro? Stuff it in a mattress? Maybe…but what about turning it into a million dollars?

It might sound too good to be true, but it actually isn’t. Let’s talk about a simple financial product for beginning investors: the Roth IRA.


Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

First: Some good news for service members. America’s new tax plan combined with a military pay raise is giving troops a nice little bump in their wallets.

Pay grades E-1 to E-6 are now in a new, lower Federal tax bracket.

This could be add up to 00 a year in savings — and that’s before you start making those deductions, so your newfound wealth might even be higher.

PLUS you got a pay raise of up to 00 so that’s an extra two grand a year right off the bat. Baller.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

But before that wad of cash burns a hole in your pocket, consider the smart way to spend this money – money you won’t even miss. The Roth IRA is one easy way to do it — and it could make you a millionaire.

You can take that post-tax income and make non-taxable money while you sleep. This is literally the least you can do for retirement — and again, it’s super easy.

With a Roth IRA, you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) after taxes (meaning there is no tax benefit) BUT you are not taxed when you withdraw the funds. And those funds are going to growwwwww.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

That’s an investment of 8.33 per month.

Nerd Wallet

So if you max out your Roth IRA from age 18 to 65, you’ll be taxed against the 0,000 you invest…but you’ll retire with id=”listicle-2626415708″.5 million that you can withdraw tax-free.

Here’s how it works.

The Roth IRA is an account that holds your investments — you can select the investment options and risk strategies yourself or seek advice from the brokerage entity you’re investing with.

Each year, you can max out the yearly contributions the government allows, which in 2018 is ,500 (It’s ,500 if you’re over the age of 50, but for now, we’re just going to do the math for the fifty-five hundred dollar bracket).

So you select your investment options, probably with higher risk if you’re younger, and set up an automatic contribution of 8 per month.

Do this from age 18 to 65….

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

…with a decent compounded interest rate of… say …. 6 percent (the market actually did 8.3 percent in the last ten years but just to be safe…)

…and you will make 1.59 million dollars over your lifetime.

The most important thing to remember when investing is compound interest.

Investing consistently over time means you are increasing the amount invested AND earning interest on what you’ve invested AND earning interest on your interest.

This is why it’s critical to start early and be consistent. Even a small amount invested over time can yield greater results than a large amount invested later with no time to grow.

So if you’re getting a later start, don’t panic. If you begin at age 30 and max out your Roth IRA until age 65, you can still end up with 0,000 at retirement — and again, that’s just with a 6% rate of return, which is a conservative estimate based on lower-risk options.

The bottom line is to start as early as you can and be disciplined about it.

Spending 8 per month to max out your Roth IRA might seem like a lot when you’re an E-1 earning about 00 a month — but remember, that income is discretionary. The military has benefits like BAH and health insurance — it’s got the big stuff covered, so be wise with how you budget the rest of your income.

And again, if you set up automatic payments, you won’t even miss that money.

I know you want to buy video games and an 80-inch big screen for the barracks…but resist that urge and set yourself up to be a ballin’ millionaire later.

Articles

How this ‘dog’ blasted Axis subs to smithereens

Just before America’s official involvement in World War II, Fido was born. It took a while for Fido to be ready to serve, though. Only 4,000 were fielded – down from a planned 10,000 — largely because Fido was so effective.


For Fido, though, the mission was a one-way trip.

Now, you dog lovers out there, don’t go flying off the handle. Fido wasn’t some poor canine conscripted for use in war to be blown to bits while killing the enemy. No, this “Fido” — as the sailors who used it against enemy subs took to calling it — was purely machine. A torpedo, to be exact.

Okay, technically Fido’s designation was as the Mk 24 Mine, but this torpedo was unique in that it could sniff out enemy submarines.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight
Diagram of the Mk 24. (US Navy graphic)

According to UBoat.net, Fido’s “nose” consisted of four hydrophones placed at equidistant points around the body of the Mk 13 aerial torpedo. These gave the torpedo steering directions as they detected the skulking submarine and guided the torpedo to a direct impact on the hull. That’s when a 100-pound high-explosive warhead would do its job. The result should be a sunken enemy submarine.

Fido could go at a speed of 12 knots and its batteries would last for 15 minutes. It could be dropped from up to 300 feet high by planes going as fast as 120 knots. Submarines could increase their speed to try to outrun it, but their batteries would run out very quickly, forcing them to the surface, where they’d be sitting ducks to American guns. If they didn’t go fast, the torpedo would catch them.

Fido was used on anything from a TBF Avenger to the PBY Catalina. It took a little less than a year and a half for Fido to make it from the drawing board to its first enemy kill. Fido claimed 33 Axis submarines in the Atlantic (32 German, one Japanese), and four more in the Pacific (all Japanese).

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight
USS Roosevelt (DG 80) launches a Mk 54 MAKO torpedo, the evolutionary descendant of the Mk 24 Fido. (US Navy photo)

Fido was, in one sense, the progenitor of today’s advanced air-dropped anti-submarine torpedoes, the Mk 46, the Mk 50 Barracuda, and the Mk 54 MAKO. Such is the legacy of a torpedo that sniffed out Axis subs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Putin the richest person in the world?

While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.

Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?


To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Putin in the KGB.

The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.

She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”

That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.

The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.

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A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.

As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.

Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”

As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.

Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.

On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.

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Giphy

On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)

Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.

That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”

However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.

Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.

Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.

That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.

Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.

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Giphy

Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.

But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.

Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.

Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.

But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.

So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”

Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.

Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions… ?

For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”

The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”

Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.

So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.

So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”

Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.

Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.

Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.

Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee

I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.

On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.

As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.

Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”

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(Kremlin.ru)

As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”

Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.

On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.

From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.

As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.

Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.

As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.

That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.

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Giphy

On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”

Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.

For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.

Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”

As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.

Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…

In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.

Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”

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Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”

So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.

For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.

But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.

And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…

Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.

In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.

Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX is launching satellites that will hunt down smugglers and pirates

SpaceX hopes to fire off its next Falcon 9 rocket mission on Nov. 19, 2018. If the launch goes well, Elon Musk’s aerospace company may not only break spaceflight records, but also help fight nefarious behavior on the open ocean.

The goal of SpaceX’s upcoming mission, called SSO-A, is to put 71 satellites into orbit all at once. A company called Spaceflight Industries organized the mission, and it claims this is the largest-ever rideshare mission in US history, as spacecraft from 35 different companies and organizations will fly aboard the rocket.


However, three microwave-oven-sized spacecraft on the mission — a cluster called Pathfinder — are particularly worth noting.

The trio of spacecraft belong to a startup called HawkEye 360, and they’re designed to “see” radio signals from space. The company’s software will take unique radio signals coming from ships to “fingerprint” vessels, track them over time, and even forecast future movements.

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An illustration of the SSO-A payload deploying CubeSats and microsatellites.

(Spaceflight Industries)

If Pathfinder works, authorities around the world could gain a major leg up in hunting “dark ships”: vessels that turn off GPS location transponders, often to hide their whereabouts and engage in illicit activity.

Such activity includes illegal fishing, smuggling, drug trafficking, and piracy, and it amounts to roughly trillion each year, says John Serafini, the CEO of HawkEye 360.

“We care about the folks that are not doing the right thing. We care about the vessels that don’t want to be found,” Serafini told Business Insider. “We’re focused on detecting those and stopping them.”

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A HawkEye 360 data visualization that shows every instance over a month in which a boat turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) for more than 8 hours.

(HawkEye 360)

Hunting ‘dark ships’ with radio waves

HawkEye 360 claims it’s unique not only for its radio-signal-detecting technology, but also artificial-intelligence-powered software the startup has developed to process data.

“You couldn’t have started this company 10 years ago,” Serafini said. “The costs were too high, and the technology wasn’t there.”

He added that HawkEye 360 exists today because of the increasing miniaturization of electronics, SpaceX’s lower-cost rocket launches, and advancements in machine learning.

Pathfinder, like the other satellites SpaceX is launching, will sweep around Earth from pole-to-pole in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit — hence the “SSO” in the mission’s name. (The “A” signifies that it’s the first of multiple rideshare missions.) This orbit keeps sunlight drenching a spacecraft’s solar panels while allowing it to fly over every square inch of the planet.

The antennas of Pathfinder can detect a wide range of radio signals above about 1 watt in power. (“Cell phones are well below a watt in power,” Serafini said. “We don’t have the ability or the focus to do that.”)

This means the cluster can triangulate normally hard-to-pinpoint signals from satellite phones, push-to-talk radios, and marine radar. Ships need these and other radio-emitting tools to navigate the seas, the thinking goes.

This is especially true for “dark ships,” since those vessels turn off a mandatory device called an automatic identification system, or AIS. The AIS broadcasts a ship’s GPS location to avoid collisions, but turning it off is a common trick vessels use if they’re slipping into unapproved fishing zones or trafficking illegal drugs, wares, or people.

Serafini said that may soon cease to be an effective way to avoid getting noticed.

“If you’re turning on and off the AIS, we’re going to track your other emitters. If you try to turn them all off, you’re effectively negating your operation. You need to use them to navigate and communicate,” Serafini said. “If you do that, we’ve won. You can’t be effective.”

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HawkEye 360’s three microsatellites that will form its Pathfinder constellation.

(HawkEye 360)

How Pathfinder works

The Pathfinder system relies on the fact that every radio transponder on Earth is built differently, even if it’s made by the same person in the same factory. Minor variations in parts and assembly lead to subtle differences in radio emissions that HawkEye 360 says it can detect and exploit.

More importantly, by tracking a mix of radio emissions on a ship and pairing those with AIS signals (when the devices are turned on), the company can “fingerprint” every ocean vessel on Earth. That way, even if a ship is “spoofing” its AIS data, the company says it will know; AIS data will report one location, but the vessel’s radio fingerprint will reveal its true location.

HawkEye 360 says it has already proved that its system works by equipping three Cessna jet airplanes with Pathfinder technology, flying them over the Chesapeake Bay, and detecting ships that were spoofing their AIS data.

“We were able to not only detect the AIS spoofing but also geolocate the ships using their other radio signals,” Chris DeMay, the founder and CTO of HawkEye 360, told Business Insider. “We were able to map where the ship actually was and compare that to where the ship said it was.”

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Data from HawkEye 360’s airplane-based test of its core technology. Blue dots show reported locations, based on automatic identification system (AIS) data, while orange dots show radio-frequency-based locations. Red circles indicate a zone of 95% certainty.

(HawkEye 360/ESRI)

In addition to fingerprinting such vessels, HawkEye 360’s machine-learning algorithms will also be able to determine typical activity patterns for a ship and flag any unusual deviation.

Over time, the company says, it could even forecast the future locations of individual vessels based on their past behavior.

“Because we’ll be the first ones to do this, we’ll be the first ones to bring it to the commercial market,” Serafini said.

The future of tracking radio signals from above

The Pathfinder satellite cluster will give HawkEye 360 a global view of certain radio transmissions on Earth once every four to six hours. But DeMay and Serafini say that’s just the beginning.

According to them, HawkEye 360 is backed by about million in funding (enough to operate for 18 months), has 31 employees, and has secured 0 million in contracts. In the future, they aim to launch six more three-satellite clusters, which will create a constellation that can map Earth’s radio signals once every 30 to 40 minutes.

Launching larger and more capable satellites will also improve the company’s ability to detect weaker signals.

“Trucks use radio emitters that we could detect and track,” Serafini said. “If a truck is known to have a history of illegal border crossing, we might want to track that particular object.”

The company expects the US military to be increasingly interested in the technology, especially considering that HawkEye 360 can deploy its sensors on airplanes and high-altitude balloons (in addition to satellites). That feature could allow for real-time tracking of drones and weak signals on a battlefield.

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An illustration of a cell tower transmitting data.

(HawkEye 360)

Another planned use of Pathfinder is more down-to-earth: The technology could detect improper use of the radio-frequency spectrum, including interference between cell-phone towers. Such interference can cause data loss between mobile devices and towers, leading to slow and unreliable internet, among other problems.

Ground crews with trucks typically drive around towers to search for and identify such problems, but such teams and equipment can expensive to deploy, especially on a nationwide scale.

“It’s like that Verizon ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy, but in space,” DeMay said — and possibly a lot cheaper and more effective.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. increases focus on Russia, but Europe is unimpressed

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.

In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.

“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.


His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.

Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”

To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.

“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)

The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”

Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.

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

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Iranian cruise missile test fails

North Korea is not the only rogue state that is testing missiles. Iran recently carried out a missile test, and just like North Korea, they couldn’t get their missile up.


According to a report by the Washington Times, an Iranian midget submarine attempted to launch an unidentified cruise missile. The test, part of an Iranian military buildup, failed.

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A C-802 missile in front of a JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistan Air Force on static display at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that that Iran has Chinese-designed C-802 missiles, as well as a home-built version of the C-802 called the Noor, as well as the C-704, and an indigenous missile called the Qader.

Combat Fleets of the World also notes that Iran has at least 16 North Korean-designed mini-subs, which are locally called the Ghadir-class. These subs each have two 21-inch torpedo tubes and a crew of 20.

One of these subs in North Korean service, which they refer to as Yono-class, is believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010.

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The North Korean Sang-O submarine ran aground in South Korean waters near Gangneung, in 1996. (Public Domain photo)

The Washington Free Beacon has reported that Iran is carrying out a major buildup since the July 2015 nuclear deal, increasing its defense budget by 145 percent and seeking to turn the Iranian Army into a force capable of offensive operations as opposed to supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Washington Times noted that Iran has reportedly taken delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, and is seeking a license to build the Russian-designed T-90 main battle tank locally. Iran has also been building indigenous fighter and surface-to-air missile designs.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

Iranian naval vessels have repeatedly harassed U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The most recent incident involved the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). Over the last year, a number of other incidents occurred, including multiple attacks on the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.

“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.


He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.

The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.

Watch this great 4K video of the F4 Phantom’s final flight

In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.

Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.

Moscow and Minsk said the joint maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials have said the true number may have been around 100,000.

Featured image: Marshalls Nikolay Ogarkov, Dmitry Ustinov, and Alexey Yepishev pose with airborne troopers during exercise ZAPAD-81.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

An Argentinian submarine is missing at sea.


The ARA San Juan, with 44 crew members on board, disappeared on Nov. 15, about 270 miles off the southern tip of South America.

NASA has been trying to help find the 216-foot sub from the sky. And now the U.S. Navy is sending support to locate and rescue the ship from the sea.

The U.S. Southern Command said Nov. 19 it’s sending a Submarine Rescue Chamber, designed during WWII, which can reach a submarine submerged up to 850 feet, and bring up to six people at a time back to the surface. A Pressurized Rescue Module, which can rescue up to 16 people at a time, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle are also on their way.

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Personnel assigned to the Portuguese navy submarine SKS Tridente climb down to their submarine after mating with the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s Pressurized Rescue Module, Falcon, during the NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011. Bold Monarch is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise with participants and observers from more than 25 countries. The 12-day exercise supports interoperability between submarine rescue units. (Image DVIDS)

On Nov. 18, the missing crewmembers tried to make seven satellite calls, Argentine defense minister Oscar Aguad said. But stormy weather in the southern Atlantic likely blocked the calls from going through.

Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the crew should have enough food and water aboard, in order to wait out the choppy seas and 20-foot waves until they are found, according to Reuters.

The working theory is that an electrical outage knocked out the ship’s communications. Submarines are supposed to surface if that happens.

Also Read: Microsoft’s co-founder just helped find this long-lost Navy cruiser

The families of the crewmembers are anxiously awaiting news of the missing submarine.

“Yesterday’s news was something of a respite for us, to know that there is life,” Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother is on the San Juan, told local TV channel A24 Sunday morning.

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

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A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

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The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.