What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

More details have emerged from a massive battle in Syria that is said to have pitted hundreds of Russian military contractors and forces loyal to the Syrian government against the US and its Syrian rebel allies — and it looks as if it was a mission to test the US’s resolve.


Bloomberg first reported in February 2018, that Russian military contractors took part in what the US called an “unprovoked attack” on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the US has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.

Also read: The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes

Reuters cited several sources on Feb. 16, 2018, as confirming that Russian contractors were among the attackers and that they took heavy losses. The purpose of the attack, which saw 500 or so pro-government fighters get close to the US-backed position in Syria, was to test the US’s response, Reuters’ sources said.

How the battle played out

US forces fire off artillery rounds in Syria. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Initial reports said pro-government forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks, and multiple launch rocket systems.

A source close to Wagner, the Russian military contracting firm, told Reuters that most of the troops were Russian contractors and that they advanced into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the US-led coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.

The troops reportedly sought to find out how the US would react to the encroachment into that zone.

Forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20 to 30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, which held some US troops, said Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the executive editor of Defense One.

More: Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

The US-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships, and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Lucas Tomlinson, a Fox News reporter. CNN also reported that Himars and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.

“First of all, the bombers attacked, and then they cleaned up using Apaches,” attack helicopters, Yevgeny Shabayev, a Cossack paramilitary leader with ties to Russia’s military contractors, told Reuters.

The Reuters report cites an unnamed source as describing Bloomberg’s report that 300 Russians died as “broadly correct.”

The US reported more than 100 dead. According to Reuters, Russia says only five of its citizens may have died in the attack.

The Pentagon says only one SDF fighter was injured in the attack.

What might the Russians have learned from the ‘test’?

Russia’s military aircraft at a base in Syria. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.)

The pro-government forces operated without air cover from Russia’s military. The US-led coalition apparently warned Russia of the attack, but it’s unclear whether Russia’s military passed on notice to the troops on the ground.

“The warning was 20 minutes beforehand,” a source told Reuters. “In that time, it was not feasible to turn the column around.”

Reports have increasingly indicated that Russia has used military contractors as a means of concealing its combat losses as it looks to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s flagging forces. Russia has denied it has a large ground presence in Syria and has sought to distance itself from those it describes as independent contractors.

Related: Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

According to the news website UAWire, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister of the self-described Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said that Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

As the US’s stated mission in Syria of fighting ISIS nears completion, others have taken center stage. The US recently said it would seek to stop Iran from gaining control of a land bridge to Lebanon, its ally, citing concerns that Tehran would arm anti-US and anti-Israeli Hezbollah militants if given the chance.

The US also appears intent on staying on top of Assad’s oilfields in the east both to deny him the economic infrastructure to regain control of the country and to force UN-sanctioned elections.

Articles

The Navy is developing rail gun rounds for Army Howitzers

An Army Howitzer is now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon,  an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.


Overall, the Pentagon is accelerating developmental testing of its high-tech, long-range Electro-Magnetic Rail Gun by expanding the platforms from which it might fire and potentially postponing an upcoming at-sea demonstration of the weapon, Pentagon and Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

Related: Need to put some warheads on foreheads? There’s an app for that

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft,vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

In this image, provided by the U.S. Navy, a high-speed video camera captures a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun, or EMRG, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Thursday | US Navy

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters last year.

Pentagon weapons developers with the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, are working to further accelerate development of both the gun launcher and the hypervelocity projectile it fires. While plans for the weapon’s development are still being deliberated, ongoing work is developing integration and firing of the projectile onto existing Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns or Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (a mobile platform which fires 155mm artillery rounds).

The Strategic Capabilities Office, a high-level Pentagon effort, is aimed at exploring emerging technologies with a mind to how they can be integrated quickly into existing weapons systems and platforms. Part of the rationale is to harness promising systems, weapons and technologies able to arrive in combat sooner that would be the case should they go through the normal bureaucratic acquisition process. In almost every instance, the SCO partners with one of the services to blend new weapons with current systems for the near term, Roper explained.

Also read: This company wants F-35-style helmets in future tanks

Part of the calculus is grounded in the notion of integrating discovery and prototyping, being able to adjust and fix in process without committing to an official requirement, Roper said.

Roper further explained that firing the HVP out of a 155m Howitzer brings certain advantages, because the weapon’s muzzle breach at the end of its cannon is able to catch some of the round’s propellant – making the firing safer for Soldiers.

“Its design traits were all based with dealing with extreme electromagnetic fields – that projectile could be fired out of an existing weapon system. Its whole role is to just keep the hot gas and propellant from rushing past. You dont want it eroded by the hot material,” Roper explained.

The goal of the effort is to fire a “sub-caliber” round that is aerodynamic and able to fly at hypersonic speeds. We can significanly increase the range and continually improve what powder guns can do, he added.

“We’ve been looking at the data and are very pleased with the results we are getting back,” Roper said.

One Senior Army official told Scout Warrior that firing a Hyper Velocity Projectile from a Howitzer builds upon rapid progress with targeting technology, fire-control systems and faster computer processing speeds for fire direction.

U.S. Army photo

“If you can destroy approaching enemy fire in a matter of seconds, it changes the calculus of fire support. You have really changed things,” he told Scout Warrior.

Adjusting for the higher-speed round also invovles managing blast overpressure released from the muzzle when the projectile leaves the cannon; the trajectory or guidance of the round also needs to be properly managed as it exits the cannon tube through the muzzle toward the intended.

“This is not just making sure you are not damaging the tube, but retaining accuracy for the projectile based on projectile stability,” he said.

Accomplishing this high-tech integration also widens the target envelope a Howitzer is able to destroy, expanding its offensive attack, ground defense and counter-air possibilities.

The senior official described the Army Howitzer as an “advanced countermeasure,” therefore underscoring the added combat value of firing a round with massively increased speed and lethality.

Meanwhile, the Navy intends to arm portions of its surface fleet with Rail Gun fire power; platforms include Joint High-Speed Vessels, Destroyers and Cruisers, among others.

On the ocean, a HPV be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon much faster than existing long-range weapons, Navy officials said.

One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego on July 8, 2014. | US Navy photo

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

High-Speed, Long-Distance Electromagnetic Weapons Technology

The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.

The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

YouTube

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.

The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.

While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.

Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers

Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.

The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.

The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year. Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.

Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.

It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.

For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the plan to take over ISIS’ final stronghold in Iraq

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said they welcome the commencement today of the Iraqi forces’ offensive to liberate Qaim district from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


Qaim is ISIS’ final stronghold in Iraq and approximately 1,500 ISIS fighters are estimated to remain in the immediate vicinity.

Iraqi forces are battle-hardened after their victories in Mosul, Tal Afar and Hawijah, and are a determined, professional force dedicated to ridding Iraq of ISIS, task force officials said.

Also read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

The coalition provides Iraqi forces with training, equipment, advice, assistance, intelligence and precise air support. The coalition will continue to support Iraq’s government “as we recognize together the importance of a unified Iraq to the long-term security and prosperity of the Iraqi people,” officials said.

Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

Rigorous coalition standards and extraordinary measures in the targeting process seek to protect noncombatants in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and the principles of military necessity, humanity, proportionality and distinction, task force officials said.

Qaim sits in the Middle Euphrates River Valley on the Syrian border where it connects with the Syrian town of Abu Kamal. Prior to ISIS’ control of the city, Qaim district’s population was around 150,000. “We anticipate a significant return of residents to the district upon Iraq’s liberation of [Qaim],” officials said.

Iraq’s government and the Iraqi forces, with the support of the global coalition, have liberated more than 4.4 million Iraqis and reclaimed over 47,769 square kilometers, approximately 95 percent of land once held by ISIS. Much work remains to consolidate gains as operations continue to destroy ISIS’ remaining capabilities, task force officials said.

Articles

This wounded cav scout saved his unit during an enemy ambush

Army Pfc. Craig H. Middleton was the Mk. 19 gunner on his convoy when it came under an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan. But despite his grievous wounds, Middleton was able to beat back the ambush and help save the lives of two wounded airmen — an action that earned him the Silver Star.


Middleton and his unit, Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, were making their way through a dry riverbed bordered by steep hills in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2011, when a series of rocket-propelled grenades rained down from the hills on one side.

Related video: Wounded soldier saved his unit from enemy ambush

The first RPG impacted a scout truck, the second hit the truck behind Middleton, and the third flew through the back window of Middleton’s Mine-resistant, Ambush-protected, All-Terrain Vehicle and exploded inside it. Middleton was instantly peppered with shrapnel up and down his legs, but he was still doing better than the two Air Force joint terminal attack controllers in the back of the vehicle. Both of them had received shrapnel and blast damage to their upper bodies.

The Mk. 19 can hurl 40mm grenades like they’re going out of style.
(Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Phillip Steiner)

The wounded and embattled gunner opened up with his Mk. 19, firing 40mm grenades where the rockets had come from as well as any muzzle flashes or fighters he could spot. Out of targets, Middleton dove into the back of the MATV and applied a tourniquet to one of the JTACs.

While he treated the first JTAC, another RPG hit the vehicle, so Middleton rushed back up to engage the enemy.

He fired more 40mm grenades, but the nearby hills were too steep for that weapon to reach some of the enemy positions. Middleton switched to his M4 and fired over 100 rounds before going below once again to give the other wounded JTAC a tourniquet. Throughout all of this, Middleton was bleeding from dozens of shrapnel wounds. At some point he was also shot in the thigh.

The Army platoon inflicted an estimated 25 kills against the insurgents despite tough odds. As the fighters retreated, Middleton reassessed the casualties and spotted a severe groin bleed on the second JTAC which he treated with another tourniquet.

The truck then headed to the casualty collection point to get the two wounded airmen to medical care. It wasn’t until Middleton had helped prepare the other wounded for the MEDEVAC that he admitted that he was also severely wounded.

For his actions in Nangarhar Province that day, Middleton was awarded the Silver Star in a 2012 ceremony. Unfortunately, his wounds proved severe enough that he underwent a medical separation from the military. In an interview during that process, the cav scout told Army Staff Sgt. Elwyn Lovelace that he hoped to become a dentist and enjoy a nice, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work life.

We’re pretty sure he’s earned it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea scrambles to intercept Chinese fighters

South Korea scrambled fighter jets after five Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or KADIZ, on Dec. 18.


The deployment of two Chinese bombers, two fighters jets, and a reconnaissance plane follows South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said the Chinese planes entered Korea-claimed airspace from the southwest — and also flew into Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or JADIZ, South Korean newspaper Maeil Business reported.

An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

“After our military noticed the aircraft approaching the KADIZ from the west, we used a hotline with the Chinese military to confirm whether or not it was Chinese military aircraft, and to take countermeasures,” the South Korean official said.

South Korea scrambled F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets in response to the incoming flights — two Chinese H-6 fighter jets, two J-11 fighters, and one TU-154 reconnaissance aircraft.

Chinese aircraft last flew in Korea-claimed airspace on Jan. 9, when they deployed six H-6K bombers, a KJ-200, a propeller airborne early warning and control aircraft, and a Y-9 reconnaissance plane.

Also Read: China’s version of the F-15 Strike Eagle is a huge ripoff

The Chinese flights came as Beijing’s foreign ministry said the summit between Xi and Moon was a “success,” South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two sides agreed to “improve and develop the relationship” and to “respect the interests of our neighbors.”

The summit in Beijing was eclipsed by brutal beatings of South Korean photojournalists, which were met with protests in Seoul.

“Chinese security guards kicked Korean journalists in the face and engaged in a group attack,” protesters said Dec. 15. “It is a barbarous act, and it is hard to believe it could happen in a civilized country.”

Articles

Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.


Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.

Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.

The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.

The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.

Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Good news for knees: Army will test out lighter body armor plates

U.S. Army equipment experts plan to test lighter-weight, individual body armor plates by summer 2019, according to a recently released Defense Department test and evaluation report.

The Army’s multi-component Soldier Protection System body armor features hard-armor plates designed to stop rifle rounds. They’re known as the Vital Torso Protection component of the system.


Commanders can choose from the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, or the X Threat Small Arms Protective Insert, known as XSAPI, in addition to corresponding side armor plates of the same protection level. The XSAPI armor, which weighs slightly more, is for higher threats. All plates fit into the new Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV.

The Army has started fielding the MSV, which weighs about five pounds lighter than the older, Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

Sgt. Michael Graham, an intelligence advisor with the 4th Infantry Division Military Transition Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wears his Improved Outer Tactical Vest during a combined-battlefield circulation with the Iraqi Army.

(Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans)

The Army intends to test new, lighter-weight armor plates in third quarter of fiscal 2019, according to the Fiscal 2018 Annual Report from the Defense Department’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

The report offers very little detail about the plates the service intends to test, but Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who commands Program Executive Office Soldier, talked about ways the Army is trying to lighten plates in October 2018 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting.

The Army has been working with industry to reduce the weight of body armor plates by as much as 30 percent, Potts said.

One way to do this is by adjusting the standard of allowable back-face deformation, or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

The Army is changing the allowance to 58mm standard instead of the conservative 44mm standard it has used for years, Potts said, who added that there is “no significant” risk to soldiers.

The change allows companies to adjust the manufacturing process, which could lead to a lighter plate, he said.

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

Articles

SEALs punished over Trump flag

The consequences have come for Navy SEALs who flew Trump flags from their vehicles earlier this year.


According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, the unidentified personnel, who were assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two, were reprimanded for flying blue Trump flags off their vehicles while they were convoying between training locations.

A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (YouTube screenshot)

“It has been determined that those service members have violated the spirit and intent of applicable [Defense Department] regulations concerning the flying of flags and the apparent endorsement of political activities,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell told Newsline.com.

At the time, We Are The Mighty covered the incident, noting that in July, 2016, the DoD had reminded military and civilian personnel, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

Video of the event spread rapidly over social media, and was picked up by a number of media outlets in addition to We Are The Mighty, including the Daily Caller. One of the videos is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbOd-gnWLt8
MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA held a contest to identify evil propaganda robots on Facebook and Twitter

We Are The Mighty | YouTube


The US military has enlisted academics to fight a new enemy: Twitter bots.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a special contest last year to identify so-called “influence bots”  — “realistic, automated identities that illicitly shape discussion on sites like Twitter and Facebook.”

The fascinating 4-week competition, called the DARPA Twitter Bot Challenge, was detailed in a paper published this week.

The paper minces no words about how dangerous it is that human-like bots on social media can accelerate recruitment to organizations like ISIS, or grant governments the ability to spread misinformation to their people. Proven uses of influence bots in the wild are rare, the paper notes, but the threat is real.

The contest

And so, the surprisingly simple test. DARPA placed “39 pro-vaccination influence bots” onto a fake, Twitter-like social network. Importantly, competing teams didn’t know how many influence bots there were in total.

Teams from the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Georgia Tech, Sentimetrix, IBM, and Boston Fusion worked over the four weeks to find them all.

A Twitter bot post | Twitter

With 8.5% of all Twitter users being bots, per the company’s own metrics, it’s important to weed out those bots who go beyond just trying to sell you weight-loss plans and work-at-home methods, and cross the line into politics.

But actually making that distinction can be a challenge, as the paper notes.

Sentimetrix technically won the challenge, reporting 39 correct guesses and one false positive, a full six days before the end of the four-week contest period. But USC was the most accurate, going 39 for 39.

How to detect a robot

DARPA combined all the teams’ various approaches into a complicated 3-step process, all of which will need improved software support to get better and faster going forward:

  1. Initial bot detection — You can detect who’s a bot and who’s not by using language analysis to see who’s using statistically unnatural and bot-generated words and phrases. Using multiple hashtags in a post can also be a flag. Also, if you post to Twitter a lot, and consistently over the span of a 24-hour day, the chances you’re a bot go up.
  2. Clustering, outliers, and network analysis: That first step may only identify a few bots. But bots tend to follow bots, so you can use your initial findings to network out and get a good statistical sense of robot social circles.
  3. Classification/Outlier analysis: The more positives you find with the first two steps, the easier it is to extrapolate out and find the rest in a bunch.

A key finding from the DARPA paper, and very important to note, is that all of this required human interaction — computers just can’t tell a real human from an influence bot, at least not yet.

We Are The Mighty | YouTube

The good news, say the authors in their paper, is that these methods can also be used to find human-run propaganda and misinformation campaigns.

The bad news is that you can expect a lot more evil propaganda bots on Twitter in the years to come.

“Bot developers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Over the next few years, we can expect a proliferation of social media influence bots as advertisers, criminals, politicians, nation states, terrorists, and others try to influence populations,” says the paper.

MIGHTY HISTORY

There was a special word for Confederates who joined the US Army

Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.

So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”


By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.

So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.

Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 percent of inmates never returned.

Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.

For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.

Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be.

The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.

In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why one Russian outlet is arming its journalists


  • The editor of Russia’s most prominent opposition newspaper says he plans to arm his staff.
  • He made the announcement two days after Russian journalist Tatiana Felgenhauer was stabbed.
  • Multiple Russian opposition journalists have been attacked and killed since at least 2006.

The editor of Russia’s most prominent opposition newspaper says he intends to arm his staff with guns that fire rubber bullets amid growing concern about attacks on journalists.

Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov discussed his plans two days after Tatiana Felgenhauer of Russia’s only independent news radio station, Ekho Moskvy, was stabbed in her studio.

Also read: This is the reason Russian and Western tactics are changing

Muratov told the station on Oct. 26 that the newspaper is buying “traumatic weapons” for its journalists, providing courses on how to use them and taking other unspecified security measures.

“Traumatic weapons” usually refer to pistols that fire rubber bullets.

“I will arm the newsroom,” Muratov said on Russian radio, according to AFP. “We will also supply journalists with other security means that I don’t want to talk about … I have no other choice.”

This reporter got punched just for talking about paratroopers in Russia on their special day. (GIF: YouTube/Euronews (in English))

“Do you want people to fight, stab [journalists] and know that these [journalists] are defenseless and unarmed? Neither the authorities nor law enforcement will stand up for them,” Muratov said, according to The Moscow Times.

Several Novaya Gazeta journalists have been killed or died under mysterious circumstances, including renowned Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in 2006.

Related: This classic video clip highlights the struggle journalists face in covering war

In September 2016, journalists Yelena Kostyuchenko and Diana Khachatryan were beaten and dragged across the ground during a memorial service, The Moscow Times reported. Khachatryan said police on the scene did not try to stop the attack.

In September 2017, Novaya Gazeta columnist Yulia Latynina fled Russia after feces were thrown in her face and her car caught fire, according to The Moscow Times.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Oct. 26 that citizens can take security measures they think are necessary.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Guard teams up with Hungarian forces in successful live-fire exercise

National Guard units joined with the U.S. Army and Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF), who partnered for a live-fire training exercise as a part of Breakthrough 2019 in June.

Breakthrough 2019 aims to identify the capabilities and limitations of the U.S. Army and HDF on a tactical level while in theater. During the exercise, firing systems are tested to demonstrate multi-echelon interoperability between both the U.S. and Hungarian military forces. This provides an opportunity to observe the synchronization and execution of both manned and digital firing upon specified targets within a tactical environment.

“We are grateful to our strong NATO ally Hungary for hosting this outstanding training event,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe.” We appreciate the coordination and planning conducted by all of our allies and partners in the Balkan peninsula that ensured the success of this exercise.”


Breakthrough 2019 promotes regional stability and security while increasing readiness.
Units such as the 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion from Ohio and New Hampshire National Guards worked along with Hungarian Defense Forces.

Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, salute the raising of the American flag during the opening ceremony of Breakthrough 2019

(Photo by Spc. Joseph E.D. Knoch)

“The exercise brings together the Ohio Army National Guard and other National Guard units from four other states to exercise with U.S. Army Europe’s 2d Cavalry Regiment,” Lt. Gen. Cavoli said. “We are strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. Our combined training grants an opportunity to greatly improve interoperability among participating allies and partners such as the HDF.”

All of Breakthrough 2019 is set up as a joint training exercise which is designed to afford U.S. and Hungarian military units of similar skill set the chance to work together in a field environment.

“One of the Army’s top priorities is training with allies and partners to improve multinational cooperation,” said Lt. Col. Davis Ulricson, 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard. “I don’t think we’ve ever waged a war on our own. So if we don’t exercise together, we don’t understand each other, how we work together, or what our capabilities are, then we can’t be effective. So it’s important that we come together and exercise these things by really working together and understanding each other.”

Ulricson expressed his support for the opportunity that Breakthrough 2019 is affording his soldiers who brought, M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) all the way from New Hampshire in order to shoot with the Hungarian cannon unit.

“That’s pretty exciting,” Ulricson said. “It’s good for my Soldiers to understand cultures in other nations, meet other people and really just get to know people outside of their neighborhood, It makes them feel comfortable and fosters a trust that allows us all to do our jobs better.”

The Hungarian Defense Forces were quick to affirm Breakthrough 2019 in a positive light.

“It’s very important, the cooperation between the Americans and the Hungarian Defense Forces,” said Brig. Gen. George Sandor, Artillery Battalion, Hungarian Defense Forces.

Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, calls for fire during Breakthrough 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Nyatan Bol)

Cavoli said that no nation can confront today’s challenges alone, and Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the U.S. resolve to stand side-by-side with our NATO allies and partners.

The interoperability of Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the realistic challenges of multi-domain exercises, which are orchestrated in order to learn how these armies are capable of fighting together.

“Breakthrough 2019 showcases the U.S. Army’s ‘Total Army’ concept,” Cavoli said. “Breakthrough demonstrates our ability to conduct combined field artillery operations with the Hungarian Defense Forces, which builds our interoperability and collective readiness.”

Exercises like Breakthrough involve the U.S. Army’s ability to move units and their equipment from the United States, offload them into European ports and then move them quickly throughout the region.

“In coming to Breakthrough 2019, readiness was our priority,” Ulricson said.

In sharing the real aspects of preparing a unit for an undertaking such as this, Ulricson said that a large portion of the work comes down to paperwork and online training for his soldiers. But he also shared that there are many aspects to preparing such as cultural awareness training, equipment inspections and tactical training, among other things.

“The movement here from New Hampshire lasted most of the year,” Ulricson said.

The 197th first had to prepare every piece of equipment, and every vehicle for the trip. Then a long series of events had to unfold. The vehicles were placed on a train to Charleston, then put on a boat and shipped to Slovenia, where they offloaded and driven by the unit the rest of the way to Hungary.

“It was an amazing effort. All in all, this is a lot of coordination and work from the people who keep this unit moving.” Ulricson said.

That same dedication and work ethic remained evident.

U.S. Army Lt. General Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe, receives a briefing from Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, while observing a live fire exercise as part of Breakthrough 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph E. D. Knoch)

“One of the biggest challenges was getting into the vehicles after having not seen them for so long and running communications checks to make sure that everyone was up and ready so that vehicles didn’t break down on the road.” said 2nd Lt. Taylor Mitchel, Platoon Leader, Bravo Battery, 3rd 197th Field Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard.

On the day of the live fire, Lt. Col. Ulricson explained that part of that day’s mission was to shoot one M142 HIMARS round each out of four separate MLRS within a tight time frame of just several seconds. The rockets would then travel close to the speed of sound to an impact area.

Mitchel said one of his favorite parts of this mission was the opportunity to plan and strategize.

“Especially in situations like where our launcher chiefs are coming out and finding places to hide, engage and deploy,” Mitchel said. “It showed a lot of the new guys, especially myself, who haven’t deployed, the process that is behind the deployment; moving an element of individuals as well as the equipment out to a battlefield area so that we can operate in that environment.”

He said another personal highlight to working in the POC and directing fires was finally seeing the HIMARS, that he helped call out, go off right next to him.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling as well as very humbling because of the power and teamwork that goes behind getting that rocket down range where it needs to be, it’s awesome,” Mitchel said.

As breakthrough 2019 came to a close Brig. Gen. Sandor shared his thoughts on the overall success of the training.

“Breakthrough 2019 was very useful,” said Sandor. “This exercise provided an opportunity to address differences between Hungarian and American military weapons, which has resulted in a more unified tactical preparedness between the two countries.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Zimbabwe is the first African country to reject China’s influence

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has pledged to rid the country of investment from China if he wins the nation’s upcoming July 2018 elections.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told crowds at a rally in the capital city of Harare on May 1, 2018, that China was “asset-stripping” the country’s resources.


“I have seen the deals that Ngwena [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] has entered into with China and others, they are busy asset-stripping the resources of the country,” he said.

Chamisa promised to change the country’s current relationship with China pending a victory.

“I have said, beginning September 2018, when I assume office, I will call the Chinese and tell them the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country.”

The 2018 elections will be the first since the relatively-peaceful coup and subsequent resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in 2017. Mugabe was effectively ousted as president after serving for more than 30 years, with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa stepping in to take his place.

Robert Mugabe

Chamisa took lead over the opposition party following the February 2018 death of their former leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and will challenge Mnangagwa in July 2018.

China and Zimbabwe have maintained strong economic ties under Mugabe’s rule.

Since 2003, Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy has focused on expanding bilateral trade with Asia, and it has become increasingly focused on China over time.

China is Zimbabwe’s largest source of investment, investing billions into the country’s economy over the last decade.

China has also heavily invested in projects including extensions to airports, construction of a new parliament building, and repairing water supplies between Harare and surrounding town, according to The Herald.

But China has faced growing criticism for its foreign investments projects.

China has spent billions in Africa as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and often seeks collateral in the form of natural resources.

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