Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

The Cold War gave the world intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could carry nuclear weapons, and cruise missiles that could be launched from ships and aircraft.


Now, like a lot of Cold War-era military equipment, these weapons are getting a 21st-century tune-up. But it is not the payloads that are becoming more advanced — it’s the delivery systems.

Missiles that can fly at hypersonic speeds could render global missile defenses useless and, if left unchecked, could become the next global arms race amongst the nations of the world.

Related: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

There are mainly two types of missiles being pursued in this race: hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Both are being pursued by a number of nations, but China, Russia, and the US are leading the way.

Two types of weapons

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
A screenshot from a video about hypersonic missile nonproliferation made by the RAND Corporation that shows the two types of hypersonic weapons under development. (TheRANDCorporation Youtube)

HCMs are essentially faster cruise missiles and HGVs are basically replacements for conventional re-entry vehicles that are put on ICBMs.

Of the two, HGVs are the easiest to make, since they only have to overcome one of the three obstacles — material science.

HGVs are put on top of ICBMs. When they reach a maximum altitude, they separate from the missile and glide on top of the atmosphere to their target — in this case, at hypersonic speeds.

Also read: Watch the Air Force launch an ICBM in mid-air from the back of a C-5

Because of their hypersonic speeds, there may not even need to be any explosives on the weapons themselves, since the kinetic energy could be strong enough to cause damage in a limited area — although nowhere near the size of a nuclear blast.

What makes both weapons so threatening is the fact that they are maneuverable, meaning they can change direction at any moment and keep their intended target secret until the last few moments before impact.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
An image from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) showing how a hypersonic glide vehicle is launched. (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Current missiles can be intercepted because their flight paths are determined by momentum and gravity. Most, if not all, anti-ballistic missile defenses, like THAAD and Aegis Ashore, require a projectile to make physical contact for a successful intercept or be close enough so that shrapnel from a proximity explosion could damage an incoming missile.

Because HCMs and HGVs are maneuverable and fly at such high speeds, interception of such missiles is almost impossible.

Dangerous potential results of hypersonic weapons

Widespread proliferation of this technology could have results that increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, especially when these weapons are armed with nuclear payloads.

According to a report on hypersonic weapons that was published by the RAND Corporation, governments may be so concerned with maintaining first-strike capability, since the response time for these weapons is so short, that they may take be forced to take risky actions.

These include devolving the command and control of the weapons to the military instead of the national leaders, wider disbursement of the weapons across the globe, a launch-on-warning posture, and a decision to strike first.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Concept art of the WU-14, a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle.

The RAND report shows that at least 23 countries are active in pursuing hypersonic technology for commercial or military use. Currently, the US, Russia, and China are leading the race.

The report suggests that widespread proliferation of hypersonic technology could lead to militaries around the world, particularly those that have tense relations with their neighbors, having capabilities that could be destabilizing.

The RAND Corporation suggests that this could also spur changes or amendments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary agreement with 35 nations that aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

More: These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

RAND believes that the MTCR should include completed hypersonic delivery vehicles, scramjets, and other hypersonic components to the list of items that cannot be exported. At the very least, a trilateral agreement between the US, Russia, and China could be made to prevent hypersonic weapons from falling into dangerous hands.

RAND believes that hypersonic missiles will become operable on the battlefield in the next 10 years.

Obstacles preventing sustained hypersonic flight

Hypersonic technology allows cruise missiles and nuclear weapons to go as fast as Mach 5 or above — roughly 3,800 miles per hour, or 340 miles every six minutes.

Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as Mach 20 or 24 (Mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
A Pratt Whitney SJX61-2 successfully completes ground tests simulating Mach 5 flight conditions at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia, 2008.

Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight, overcoming three different challenges: material science; aerodynamics and flight control; and propulsion.

The problem of material science is relatively straightforward. Because the missile will be flying at such high speed, materials with high melting points are needed so they can absorb heat that would be gathered over a long period of time, so as to prevent the disintegration of the missile.

“You can think of it as flying into this blow torch,” Rich Moore, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, said. “The faster a vehicle flies, the pressure and temperature rises exponentially.”

The problem of aerodynamics and flight control is somewhat related. In order to achieve hypersonic speeds, the body of the missile needs to be constructed so that air resistance is minimal. Furthermore, the shape of the missile must be structurally strong enough to prevent bending and flexing which would affect the flight performance.

“You’re under such high pressures, you are going so fast, that the body itself may not keep its shape all the time,” George Nacouzi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Business Insider in an interview.

Read next: Air Force developing hypersonic weapons by 2020s

Propulsion is probably the most complex challenge after material science. Once an object reaches Mach 5, traditional jet engines cannot generate enough power to maintain the speed or go faster. “It has been compared to lighting a match in a 2,000 mile an hour wind,” said Richard Speier, a political scientist at RAND.

Trying to keep the engine going is extremely complex.

“You have potential shockwaves, the combustion has to be just at the right rate, you have to have the right mixture of fuel and oxidizer,” Nacouzi said of the difficulties.

The result of trying to overcome this problem is a scramjet, an uncluttered, air-breathing engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for combustion. Though scramjets are currently in a testing phase, they have already reached hypersonic speeds.

Dr. Nacouzi believes that out of those three problems, flight control may be the easiest to overcome.

Articles

This is the real Sgt. Pepper from the Beatles album cover

Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.


Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Ringo was just happy to be there.

The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Sorry, fellas. There’s only one America.

After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.

From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Just Sgt. Pepper, doing Sgt. Pepper things.

When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you definitively rank challenge coins

Challenge coins have a special place in the hearts of many. Enlisted troops keep them as souvenirs to commemorate a specific moment while officers display them at every opportunity to build clout. It’s like a hardened war-fighter’s version of collecting trading cards.


But not all challenge coins are created equally. This is especially important when it comes to the military’s drinking game. If two troops or vets are in a bar and someone calls, “coin check,” whoever doesn’t have one must buy the drinks. If you want to take it to the next level (or if everyone pulls a coin), have the person with the worst coin buy while the troop with the best coin chooses what the group is drinking.

There isn’t a clearly defined ranking system, but here’s the generally accepted hierarchy if you want to call someone out.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Think of these are having a pair of twos in a game of poker.

(Coinsfornothing.com)

8. Any store-bought coin

At the very bottom are the “at-least-I-have-it” coins. There’s no challenge involved in getting these coins. There’s nothing unique about them and they cost a couple of bucks at the Exchange.

They often have just an installation marking, regimental crest, or a generic rank on them. But, hey, they’re better than nothing.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

It only counts if it was given on a military installation, at any military event, or from a military-related company.

(Gregory Ripps)

7. Promotional coins

An obvious but effective marketing gimmick popular among companies who’ve done their homework is to make a branded military challenge coin. Companies will often give these to troops and vets on a whim and it’s more about spreading brand recognition than displaying individual achievement.

Nonetheless, they’re usually pretty nice and we rank them slightly higher than a store-bought coin because you have to be at the right place at the right time to get one.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Some commanders put plenty of thought into their coins. See the exceptions below.

(Photo by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle)

6. Unit coins

This is the category under which most coins fall. Each unit commander can commission their own coin to be made with the unit insignia alongside the names of the senior enlisted and hand them to deserving troops.

Determining where each coin falls within this level is easy. Battalion coins beat company coins. Brigade coins beat battalion. Divisional coins beat brigade. Branch coins may beat divisional coins if and only if they weren’t just bought at a store and were actually given at the Pentagon level.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Some are generic, some are spectacular — hence why they’re in the middle of the list.

(Photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulvada Torres)

5. General officer coins

Each general officer has a coin made specifically for them. Fun side note: Officers who have coins made almost always pay out-of-pocket to have something to give to troops. Since generals have a nicer paycheck than captains, their coins are nicer and more prestigious.

To get a general officer coin, you have to do something outstanding enough to warrant a nice coin. This could be in addition to an official military decoration or officers may just feel like handing them out like candy. It depends on the general officer.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

And a coin from that school’s commandant is higher than just attending that school.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Eugene Christ)

4. School coins

Many military schools also hand a nice challenge coin to each graduate along with their diploma. The troop worked hard to get through it and the diploma will oftentimes end up forgotten in an “I-love-me” book.

School coins rank as high as they do because it takes far more effort to get one than just giving a proper salute to a general.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Impressing the most impressive men in military history at least gets you a beer.

3. Medal of Honor recipient coins

Not all, but many Medal of Honor recipients also have challenge coins that they can give to troops and vets.

Just shaking hands with one of America’s greatest is impressive enough. Getting a coin from one of them means that you will always choose the drink during a coin check.

There are also two exceptions to this ranking system that should also be taken into account should there ever be a tie or an appeal. A really cool unit coin can still beat a school coin if everyone in the group can agree that it meets these two criteria:

• Best design

If the coin is well-crafted and you can tell that the designer put plenty of heart into making such an outstanding coin, that person gets the boost.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
I’m personally a sucker for bottle opener coins, so if I had to pick… you know where my vote is going.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

• Best backstory

Every coin should have a story to tell. If your story is something lame like, “I met this person and they gave me a coin,” you don’t lose points but it certainly doesn’t earn you any.

If the coin has some major significance, then you’re clearly the winner.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Being a soldier in the 101st and receiving a coin from the commanding general is great. Being a Marine and receiving one from him is far more impressive.
(Photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Details on ‘missing’ sailor Peter Mims are unpleasant and kinda sad

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and U.S. Seventh Fleet dropped everything to search for the presumed “man-overboard” Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims on June 8. For three days, the search continued until it was called off and he was labelled lost-at-sea. By the 15th, they were planning the memorial service in his honor…until he was found alive and hiding. He faces court martial and admits to the charges of abandoning watch and dereliction.

As new details come to light into the Mims investigation, it becomes clear that Mims was not mentally well. Bear in mind: For a list of all the details released to the public, an exclusive on the Navy Times goes in greater detail.


Prior to being missing, Seventh Fleet wasn’t known for it’s high morale. Fat Leonard scandals, several collisions, and historically low morale just scratch the surface. Sailors of the Shiloh and Mims’ engineering department were no different. After the USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo, the missions of the Shiloh were reportedly multiplied and sailors were reporting three hours of sleep a night as normal.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

As for GSM3 Mims, his mother was sick with cancer and was asking his chain of command about leaving the Navy early to care for her. Caring for his family and being indebted to the Navy left his pay checks bone dry at $40 to $60. To top all of this off, shipmates claim that he believed in some wild ideas, like being able to shut down the engine room with his body’s electricity or shoot fireballs out of his hands, that he’d been to space, and that other sailors were going to poison him with needles.

He was seen at 6PM, prior to his watch shift, but failed to show up at 8PM. It was over 30 minutes before he was logged as missing. He was, however, seen during his hiding, but the unnamed sailor in the galley didn’t realize it was Mims at the time. It was later discovered that Mims squirreled away large amount of Pop Tarts and granola bars.

He was seen again, covered in rust and carrying a 34-gallon plastic bag filled with water. Mims told the sailor who spotted him that people were trying to kill him and that there were hidden messages in the movie titles listed in the plan of the day. Terrified by how erratic Mims was, this sailor also did not report it immediately. The crew later searched his last spotted locations. The entire ship had been cleared top to bottom except for the Main Engine room 2 catacombs, which was ignored because of the extreme heat and overwhelmingly putrid scent — believed to be fuel and oil, they later realized it was actually human waste.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

He was found covered in feces and urine, carrying a camelback, a multi-tool, a box of Peeps, and an empty peanut butter jar. His fellow sailors talked him into leaving the tight hiding spot and turning himself in. He was escorted to the command master chief’s cabin. Mims said that he had no plans of being caught, plans to reveal himself, or even plans to escape. He would be taken into custody at the USS Reagan.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Another week down, another 13 memes to get you to Libo brief.


1. Salute what now?

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Since they’re facing four different directions, there’s still something wrong.

2. And people say Marines aren’t romantic (via Military Memes).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
It’s really just that they’re in love with different things.

SEE ALSO: 17 photos that show why troops absolutely love the .50 caliber machine gun

3. Nothing like a little stroll before flight ops . . . (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Straight lines go faster.

4. When civilians stage military photos (via Coast Guard Memes).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

5. When you realize enlisting is not like being a character in a video game (via Air Force Nation).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

6. When Coast Guard wants to dance but the party is in international waters (via Coast Guard Memes).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

7. Nothing like a corrosion control shop with a sense of humor (via Air Force Nation).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Warning: Right after the pilot freaks, the maintenance chief might lose his sh-t.

8. Why 0331s and 11Bs have to be supervised (via Pop Smoke).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Luckily, grunts are also very accomplished cleaners.

9. The CO doesn’t get lost during field exercises …

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
… he led you to that diner on purpose.

10. The Navy has been building an corps of elite sailors capable of the most challenging missions (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
That little ribbon is a mark of excellence.

11. Don’t worry Active duty, the reserves are ready to back you up (via Military Memes).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
They’ve got your uniforms mostly right and they’ll start studying tactics once deer season is over.

12. The guys with the missiles need to be properly supervised (via Air Force Nation).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
One bender could really mess everything up.

13. Your new lieutenant is an expert (via Pop Smoke).

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
We’re just not sure in what.

NOW: Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

OR: Here’s what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

A new program offsets costs associated with remote education for military kids.

Army Emergency Relief announced the financial assistance program earlier this year after evaluating the needs of Army families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It provides up to $500 per family to defray the costs of supplies purchased for students in K-12. The program is retroactive to March, when many schools started going offline.


Examples of items covered under this program are “traditional educational materials such as pens, paper, and books as well as educational technology including computers, tablets, and software,” according to the AER website. Assistance may be provided as a zero-interest loan, grant, or combination.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of AER, said the idea for the program came after a discussion with partners from sister relief societies about COVID-19 support for military families. Eligible soldiers can apply for assistance directly on the AER website.

“We have an online application and that’s the first place to start. Once we work the assistance case — usually 12-24 hours, depending on how complicated it is and several other situations — we then send an electronic funds transfer from our bank account directly to the soldier’s bank account,” he said.

Soldiers from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve who have been mobilized in support of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply, but they must go through their chain of command.

“The chain of command can validate their status, as in they are mobilized in support of COVID-19, and then work it back in through the electronic process,” Mason said.

All of the new COVID-19 related programs created by AER — of which there are roughly three dozen — will exist at least until the end of the year, Mason said, and new programs are constantly being added as needs come to light. To date, AER has distributed 2,000 in COVID-19 assistance, and Mason hopes more soldiers will request support.

“What keeps me up at night is that there is some need out there and it isn’t coming to us, either because of a communication problem or they are experiencing something that we haven’t thought of. We’ll always look at exceptions to a policy, so just because you go to our website and it isn’t there, don’t let that stop you. Come on in,” Mason said.

The most common ranks requesting AER assistance are E5s and E6s, but soldiers of any rank are eligible. And Mason is aware that service members can be hesitant to ask for help, which is why AER put a direct access program in place almost four years ago to achieve multiple objectives.

“It [the direct access program] allows soldiers to come to AER without chain of command involvement. It was really two reasons: One, it was the stigma, that survey data supports about asking for help, and secondly it was to get soldiers to come to us and not go to predatory lenders.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19/ to apply for assistance and to learn about additional AER programs.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Most soldiers do not think much about what happens to improvised explosive devices once they are found and disarmed by friendly forces. Some may believe that IEDs are taken somewhere in a controlled environment to be safely detonated or disposed of properly.

Sometimes properly disposing of IEDs is the only thing to do.

However, most times, IEDs are sent to specialized laboratories where they can be analyzed and researched to help counter enemy forces.


The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command here is one of the many facilities where enemy weapons such as IEDs are analyzed by highly trained and educated professionals in various disciplines of forensic science.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Denise Myers, a DNA analyst assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, labels containers that hold samples recovered from an item that will generate a DNA profile for a person of interest at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018. The capabilities of the FXL-C provide critical intelligence to combat forces on ground.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Dedicated technicians

“The great thing within our laboratory is that everyone is really passionate about the work we do,” said Roman Aranda, the supervisory chemist and laboratory manager for the FXL-C.

“The laboratory takes the anonymity away from the adversary,” he added.

Removing anonymity from enemy forces is a crucial advantage for any combatant commander in any area of responsibility. “The lab is a culminating point for everything that comes off the battlefield in order for the intelligence community to get those products and information distributed out to those that are on the ground,” said Army Maj. Allen Spence, the officer in charge of the laboratory operations, assigned to U.S. Army Central and attached to the FXL-C.

Flexibility

A forensic lab can adapt and move more quickly compared to stateside and other federal laboratories, Aranda said. The FXL-C networks with explosive ordinance device units, Special Forces and often with partner nations to protect and support U.S. forces.

They work closely with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and the Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit, Spence said. They also work with the FBI and the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol, to push out information to 192 countries.

So far in 2018, the FXL-C has closed more than 440 cases, processed more than 45,000 exhibits, documented almost 650 latent prints and found more than 70 biometric matches.

The FXL-C’s accomplishments have come through modernization and research efforts that help support its four core principles: firearms and tool marks, DNA, chemistry, and electronics exploitation.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Timothy Kesterson, a latent print examiner assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, inspects a recovered piece of metal used as a pressure plate in an improvised explosive device uncovered in Centcom’s area of responsibility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Being deployed and closer to the battleground is an additional capability the FXL-C provides to ground forces.

“Working directly with the submitters, we can provide them what they need to know as fast as we can,” said Mark Chapman, an electrical engineer assigned to the FXL-C.

“This mission is critical to the Army, and it’s the focal point where everything meets,” Spence said.

“Our main goal is to find the smart guy that is developing these tools such as IEDs and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Chapman said. “Not so much that guy that is using them — they are still a target — but if we can find that smart guy and eliminate him, that’s the main challenge.”

The men and women of the FXL-C deployed to these forward laboratories put in long work days and sometimes nights. They also work every day of the week during their six-month tour, because they recognize the contribution it makes on the battlefield by exposing enemy forces new and old tactics.

“If it’s a new device that’s come out, we will find it and figure out how it works and we will get that information back out to the [intelligence] community,” Spence said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 7th

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.

It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.

It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.


But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Not CID)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY TRENDING

US denies involvement in drone attacks on Russian bases

The Pentagon has rejected Russian insinuations that U.S. forces were involved in recent drone attacks against Russia’s air base and its naval facility in western Syria.


Spokesman Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Jan. 9 that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”

The comments come after Russia’s Defense Ministry noted in a statement the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility at the moment of the attacks.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Alhamrat Street in Tartus, Syria, where Russia keeps a military air base. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

“Hardly anyone could have obtained the exact coordinates [for the attacks] based on space-based reconnaissance,” it also said.

The statement came a day after the Defense Ministry said that 13 armed drones were used to attack its facilities in Hmeimim and Tartus overnight on Jan. 5-6.

The ministry said seven of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down and the six others were forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage.

‘Rebel Faction’

A monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attacks were carried out by an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia Province, where the Hmeimim base is located, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Russia has given President Bashar al-Assad’s government crucial support throughout Syria’s civil war and has long been at odds with U.S. support of certain rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.

Also Read: These elite Russian special forces want to take over Aleppo

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes since it began with a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

More than 40 Russian military personnel died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.

During a visit to the airbase on Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over “the most combat-capable international terrorist group” — a reference to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) — and announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops.

‘All Necessary Means’

Western officials say that the Russian campaign, particularly in its earlier stages, focused heavily on targeting rebels seeking Assad’s ouster rather than IS militants.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Russia President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. (Photo by Moscow Kremlin.)

Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have “all the necessary means” to counter any challenge.

Putin said on Dec. 28 that more than 48,000 Russian military personnel had served in the operation in Syria, and that Russia’s presence at Hmeimim and Tartus would be “permanent.”

On Dec. 29, Putin signed a law ratifying an agreement enabling Russia to expand operations at its naval facility in Tartus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This flawed government report triggered nuclear panic in Cold War

Anyone who survived the Cold War likely remembers the fear that, with almost no notice, an endless rain of Soviet missiles and bombs could begin that would end the war. Even if your city wasn’t hit, the number of nukes that America and Russia would have exchanged would have ended the war. But there was a problem: the Soviet Union had a tiny fraction of the missiles necessary. The confusion can be traced back to one flawed report.


In the early 1950s, rumors were growing that the Soviet Union was developing better ballistic missiles, massive weapons that took off, reached a high altitude, and then fell on or near a specified target. Early ballistic missiles were used in World War II, and they were unguided and crude weapons.

But the U.S. and Russia had seized as many German scientists as they could in the closing days of World War II, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were each suspicious of what the other was doing with the co-opted scientists. If the Soviet Union was concentrating on missile research, they could beat America to space, and they might get a massive missile arsenal that could deliver nuclear warheads by the dozens.

And then the Soviets launched a missile test, sending a ballistic missile 3,000 miles across Siberia and other Soviet territories.

Worried about the possibility of Soviet attacks, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assembled a panel to try and figure out how many nuclear warheads, bombs, and ballistic missiles the Soviet Union might have, as well as how to defend against them. Two brilliant scientists led the research into the ballistic missile numbers.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a highly inefficient way to deliver warheads, but they’re also hard to defend against and you don’t have to risk the lives of your own troops to attack your enemy.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

Herb York was part of the scientific director at Livermore Laboratory, a nuclear research lab. And Jerome Weisner was a science adviser to the president. They were both capable men, but they had to do their research with very little information.

They figured out how much factory floor space the Soviet Union had and then tried to work out how many rockets they could build per year. But they didn’t know how much of that factory floor space was actually dedicated to rocket production, whether sufficient quantities of materiel was dedicated to the cause, or how efficient the Soviet’s manufacturing methods were.

So York and Weisner prepared a worst-case number to the president. Basically, if the Soviets were as efficient as America in rocket production, dedicated most of their available factory space to the effort, and gave sufficient labor and materiel to the project, they could produce thousands of missiles in just a few years. That was at least one new missile a day, and potentially as many as three to five missiles, each capable of taking out an American city.

Now, this wasn’t a complete stab in the dark. York and Weisner had looked at Soviet factory output, and there was a curious gap between America and the Soviet Union on the production of consumer goods and some war materials. Basically, Soviet factories were either drastically under producing, or else they were producing something hidden from America.

And what America did know of Soviet re-armament after World War II indicated a nation that was preparing for war. They had rapidly developed an arsenal of atomic and then nuclear bombs, produced hundreds of heavy bombers, then developed capable jet engines and re-built their air force for the jet age, all while churning out thousands of radar systems and armored vehicles and tanks.

So, if you thought the Soviet Union had a lot of unused factory space and wanted to create a massive missile capability, you would probably assume that they were going to churn them out by the thousands, just like they had with radar and other capabilities.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Explosions like this, but in American cities. It’s a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

And York and Weisner’s numbers were included in the document Deterrence Survival in the Nuclear Age, better known as the Gaither Report in November 1957. It was supposed to be secret, but it quickly leaked, and the American people suddenly learned that the Soviets might already have hundreds of missiles with thousands on the way.

Oh, and Sputnik had just launched, so it was clear to the public that Soviet missile technology was ahead of American. Eisenhower tried to play down the report, and might have comforted some people, but plenty of others saw it as a sign that he was hiding an American weakness.

And so the idea of a “missile gap,” that the U.S. was far behind the Soviet Union in terms of missile technology and numbers was born. This set off a short-lived panic followed by years of anxiety. It also underlined the importance of two other aspects of the Gaither Report: deterrence by America’s nuclear arsenal and survival through shelters and, later, civil defense.

America would drastically increase its missile development and other aspects of its nuclear arsenal, seeking to close the gap from the Eisenhower through the Kennedy administrations. But, under Kennedy, the U.S. would learn through improved spy satellite and plane imagery that the missile gap actually went the other direction.

America’s arsenal was massively larger than the Soviets’. At the time of the Gaither report, the Soviet Union only had four intercontinental ballistic missiles, the really capable ones.

And, instead of building thousands by 1960, they constructed about 100 more in the first few years after 1957.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous pilot once dangled from his plane by the machine gun

Louis A. Strange was a British Pilot who would lead aerial forces in World War I and World War II, eventually rising to the rank of wing commander and earning top British awards like the Distinguished Service Order and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, which is lucky, because he almost died as a young pilot when he fell out of his plane and was left hanging from the machine gun.


Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Royal Flying Corps Lt. Louis A. Strange was a pioneering pilot and officer for Britain in World War I and II, but he nearly died in 1915 when he accidentally flipped his plane and barely hung on to a malfunctioning machine gun drum.

(Imperial War Museums)

It happened during World War I when the young pilot became a pioneer by being one of the first pilots to strap a machine gun to his plane in 1914 (he might have even been the first allied pilot to do so). But early aviation machine guns were literally just machine guns designed for the trenches, and they didn’t always lend themselves well to aerial combat.

In 1915, Strange was flying his Martinsyde S.1 scout plane with a machine gun mounted when he spotted a German observer and began trading fire with it. Strange quickly ran through the ammo in his weapon’s drum and attempted to reload it, but the drum was jammed on the weapon.

He attempted to pry it off to no avail, and finally stood up to get better leverage on the drum. He was attempting to keep the plane steady in the process, but made some mistake. The plane flipped upside down, and Strange slipped out of his seat and found himself dangling from the machine gun, high in the air.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

A Martinsyde scout biplane from World War I.

(Royal Engineers)

In John F. Ross’s Enduring Courage, Strange is quoted as saying:

Only a few seconds previously, I had been cursing because I could not get that drum off, but now I prayed fervently that it would stay on forever.

But that wasn’t the only problem for Strange. His plane’s engine wasn’t designed to run upside down with no pilot at the controls, and so the engine quickly shut off.

So he was dangling by a faulty machine gun drum from a slowly crashing airplane in an active combat zone. But he kept a cool head, watching for where he might crash while also attempting to get his feet back into the cockpit. He managed to hook an ankle on the plane and then get a leg on the stick and flip the plane back over.

He fell back into the plane, which was welcome, but he also fell too hard and fast, crashing through his seat in a way that jammed the stick, making it impossible for him to steer, a big problem since he was still heading for the ground. And then the engine turned back on, speeding his descent.

He had to shove the remnants of the seat out of the way, but was then able to move the stick and raise the plane’s nose, gaining altitude with little room to spare over the trees. He headed back for home and slept for 12 hours.

But, as mentioned before, the survival of Strange would prove to be a great boon to Britain. He had previously earned one award for valor in World War I, and he would go on to earn three high medals over the rest of World War I and II.

Articles

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.


Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.

“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.

Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless
Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham | U.S. Navy

The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.

“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”

It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.

The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.

To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.

Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer.  There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.

The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.

They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.

Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.

Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.

But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.

While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.

It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.

“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”

The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.

Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.

The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.

The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.

“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.

Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.

“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.