Every November the halls of the Pentagon are torn apart in one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy Game. While the outcome of the game may no longer affect who will win the College Football National Championship, it will affect the interpersonal relationships within the Department of Defense for days, maybe weeks after. It also may affect who gets the biggest prize of all, The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and a trip to the White House to have it presented personally by the President of the United States.
So yeah, it’s about a lot more than pride.
The game is a spectacle, full of more than 100 years of traditions, pranks, and the best military showmanship the two service academies can muster.
Ranging from the highly-polished, well-produced masterpieces like the video above to simple iPhone-shot music videos, West Pointers and Annapolis midshipmen shoot, edit, and publish numerous videos about how their school is going to beat the other school, how their school is superior to the other school, and how their culture is more fun. It’s not just students and staff, either. All over the world, troops and graduates make their own videos and upload them to YouTube, DVIDS, and anywhere else someone might see their work of art.
The prisoner exchange
For one semester every year, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy choose select members of their classes to attend the rival school. At the beginning of the annual Army-Navy Game, these students are returned to their proper academy. The swap at the beginning of the game is known as “The Prisoner Exchange.”
The march on
If you’re into watching military formations on the march as a military band plays on, be sure to catch the pre-game events before the Army-Navy kickoff. One of these events is called “The March On,” and features the entire student bodies of both service academies marching in formation across the open field. It’s really quite a sight.
The Army-Navy Game always starts with a huge show of military power, either in the form of Blue Angels flyovers, Army helicopters, the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Navy’s Blue Angels, or who-knows-what-else. This pre-game display is always an awesome sight.
Every year, both Army and Navy take the field in their newest digs, ones designed to honor a part of their individual histories or traditions. Past uniforms have honored Army World War II Paratroopers, the 10th Mountain Division, and types of Navy ships.
When the Commander-In-Chief is present at the Army-Navy Game, he has traditions of his own he needs to follow. Of course, the POTUS is the person in charge and can do whatever he wants, but is always expected to cross the field at the 50-yard-line at halftime and watch the game from the other side, a tradition dating back to President Woodrow Wilson.
Honoring the fallen
No matter who wins or who loses, both teams will not leave the field without singing both schools’ alma maters. The winners go to the losing team’s fans and sing to them, taking the sting out of such a rivalry loss (at least a little bit). Then the two teams will sing the winners’ song.
A decade ago, Russia’s Defense Ministry closed down a military base in Pskov Oblast, leaving hundreds of people unemployed. Without income or investment in infrastructure, the town began to collapse around its residents. (Current Time)
A user on Quora asked the following question: “Do some troops really wear ball caps and berets into combat instead of helmets? Why?” It might sound surprising, but the answer is actually yes, yes sometimes they do.
It seems counterintuitive, given that a helmet is worn to protect against bullets, collisions, and shrapnel while a ball cap is…not, but enough troops weighed in with their own experiences to confirm this activity.
The reasons varied, but legendary sniper Chris Kyle probably gave the most honest answer:
Bradley Cooper portraying Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’
“Why a ball cap? Ninety percent of being cool is looking cool. And you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap,” Kyle wrote in his autobiography American Sniper.
Before Kyle’s death, ‘American Sniper’ screenwriter Jason Hall had the opportunity to work closely with him to maintain the authenticity of the film. Here, Bradley Cooper plays Kyle in a close-quarters scenario.
But one of the most important reasons service members will don a ball cap or beret in lieu of the helmet is to appear less intimidating to the local population. When dealing with low level insurgencies, appearing more friendly can help reduce tension and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians.
Still, at the end of the day make no mistake, in combat a protective helmet is the best protection against traumatic brain injuries and death.
The man who would construct American armored units in France in World War I and lead combined arms units, with armor at the forefront, in World War II got his start leading cavalrymen and cars in Mexico. In fact, he probably led the first American motor-vehicle attack.
Pancho Villa, 5, Gen. John J. Pershing, 7, and Lt. George S. Patton Jr., 8, at a border conference in Texas in 1914.
He attended West Point, became an Army officer, designed a saber for enlisted cavalrymen, and pursued battlefield command. When Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing was sent to Mexico to capture raiders under Pancho Villa, Patton came along.
Patton was on staff, so his chances of frontline service were a bit limited in the short term. But he made his own opportunities. And in Mexico, he did so in May 1916.
U.S. Army soldiers on the Punitive Expedition in 1916.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Patton led a foraging expedition of about a dozen men in three Dodge Touring Cars. Their job was just to buy food for the American soldiers, but one of the interpreters, himself a former bandit, recognized a man at one of the stops. Patton knew that a senior member of Villa’s gang was supposed to be hiding nearby, and so he began a search of nearby farms.
At San Miguelito, the men noticed someone running inside a home and Patton ordered six to cover the front of the house and sent two against the southern wall. Three riders tried to escape, and they rode right at Patton who shot two of their horses as the third attempted to flee. Several soldiers took shots at him and managed to knock him off his horse.
An Associated Press report from the 1916 engagement. Historians are fairly certain that this initial report got the date and total number of U.S. participants wrong, believing the engagement actually took place on May 14 and involved 10 Americans.
(Newspapers.com, public domain)
It was a small, short engagement, but it boded well for the young cavalry officer. He had made a name for himself with Pershing, America’s greatest military mind at the time. He had also gotten into newspapers across the U.S. He was his typical, brash self when he wrote to his wife about the incident:
You are probably wondering if my conscience hurts me for killing a man [at home in front of his family]. It does not.
Patton’s bold leadership in Mexico set the stage for even greater responsibility a few short years later.
Lt. col. George S. Patton Jr., standing in front of a French Renault tank in the summer of 1918, just two years after he led a motor-vehicle charge in Mexico against bandits.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)
When America joined World War I, Pershing was placed in command of the American Expeditionary Force.
Patton, interested in France and Britain’s new tanks, wrote a letter to Pershing asking to have his name considered for a slot if America stood up its own tank corps. He pointed out that he had cavalry experience, experience leading machine gunners, and, you know, was the only American officer known to have led a motorized car attack.
Pershing agreed, and on Nov. 10, 1917, Patton became the first American soldier assigned to tank warfare. He stood up the light tank school for the AEF and eventually led America’s first tank units into combat.
DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “gremlins.”
Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.
A recent flight test at Yuma Proving Ground provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.
“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
In addition to preliminary flight tests, the team has focused on risk reduction via extensive modeling and simulation. The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate gremlins in higher risk areas. The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages by reducing payload and airframe costs, and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.
The C-130 is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Modularity has made Gremlins attractive to potential transition partners.
“We are exploring opportunities with several transition partners and are not committed to a single organization. Interest is strong with both the roll-on/roll-off capability of the Gremlins system — as it does not require any permanent aircraft modification — and a wing-mounted system to provide greater flexibility to a wider range of aircraft,” said Wierzbanowski.
Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.
DARPA recently awarded a contract to a Dynetics, Inc.-led team to perform the Phase 3 demonstration. The DARPA program team currently is exploring the possibility of demonstrating different sensor packages with potential integration partners prior to program completion in 2019.
Blackhawk is in the midst of reinventing itself. Josh Waldron, who founded and ran SilencerCo, took the reins as president last year.
No more yelling
Note in particular that we’re no longer yelling “Blackhawk!” — as the exclamation point has been excised from the over two-decades old brand. It’s emblematic of the new leadership at Blackhawk and the revitalization they wish to propagate throughout the company. Waldron’s been pushing hard to transform the company’s culture and brand, build a passionate team, and release innovative products.
So it’s fitting that the first full-scale product launch from the new team is the Blackhawk T-Series, a new line of retention holsters and successor to Blackhawk’s ubiquitous and controversial Serpa holsters.
The type of retention provided by holsters is commonly referred to as ranging from level 1 to 3 (or 4). A level 1 holster only has passive retention, whereby friction keeps the pistol in place in the holster. Most concealed carry holsters are in this category. Level 2 holsters add active retention on top of friction, using some sort of mechanism that the user must actively disengage before they can draw their weapon. This could be a thumb break snap, as you might find on a leather holster, or some sort of button or lever. A typical application for this type of holster is law enforcement or open carry, as it provides additional security against someone accessing your sidearm. A level 3 holster adds yet another retention mechanism, such as a hood; these in particular are commonly used by uniformed law enforcement officers.
The highlight of the new T-Series system is its thumb-actuated retention release. By simply acquiring your master grip on the gun, your thumb naturally falls on the release lever. Pushing inward toward the gun with your thumb, as you would as you acquire your grip anyway, releases a spring-loaded trigger guard lock and allows you to draw the weapon. The release lever can only be accessed from directly above, making it more secure in a potential scuffle.
The level 3 duty holster version features a secondary retention mechanism, a spring-loaded rotating strap that loops behind the pistol’s slide. Whereas some other holster systems require two separate motions to clear the first and second retention, the T-Series releases both the trigger guard lock and the strap in one fell swoop by pressing the thumb lever.
The polymer holster benefits from a two-stage manufacturing process that results in a strong Nylon exoskeleton with a soft-touch elastomeric inner liner that’s waterproof, slippery, and noise-dampening.
As commonly found on concealment holsters, a screw adjusts the friction provided for passive retention. It tightens or loosens the holster to your preference. The backside of the holster features Blackhawk’s three-hole pattern to attach belt loops, spacers, and quick detach attachments. The hole pattern allows you to configure the holster vertically or with a forward or backward rake. The offset belt loop on our sample was robust (much more so than Blackhawk’s mass market belt loops and paddles) and can be screwed down to bite into a belt rig.
Removing the derp from the Serpa situation
In our range session with the T-Series holster, we found the thumb-actuated release to work well and to be very intuitive. The primary adjustment we had to make was to make sure to keep our thumb vertical when grabbing the gun rather than sweeping the thumb into place; the latter would result in hitting the shields around the lever and fumbling the draw. Additionally, we also had to adjust to the lack of a speed cut on the front of the sample holster, which fully shields the entire slide and rear sights.
The new system addresses key complaints about the Serpa system. First, the trigger finger isn’t tasked with any other job than simply being a trigger finger. There’s even a relief molded into the outside of the holster to guide your trigger finger safely. Instead, the thumb releases the retention, and it does so in a very intuitive motion for quick and efficient draws. Second, if you pull up on your gun before depressing the release on a Serpa, it stays locked. The T-Series will release the retention when the lever is pressed whether or not you’re yanking on it like a teenage boy. Finally, the Serpa’s retention latch is susceptible to locking up when clogged with debris. We’ve observed this ourselves during some training evolutions years ago. Blackhawk says the new T-Series has additional clearance specifically for debris and a different spring design to avoid this problem.
We also noticed that the new materials did mute the distinctive sounds of holstering and unholstering. It was by no means ninja-quiet, but certainly wasn’t as loud as typical kydex or polymer holsters.
Blackhawk put a lot of thought and attention to detail into the design and manufacturing of the T-Series. This bodes well for the new Blackhawk, with or without an exclamation point.
The T-Series will initially be available for Glocks and in black, with support for additional pistols to come later in the year as well as variants with a speed cut that will be red dot compatible and options for weapon-mounted lights.
Immediately after the birth of aviation, there was a race to beat records, improve techniques, and push aerial boundaries. Being the first female to break the sound barrier is just one of the many records that Jacqueline Cochran holds, solidifying her place in history as a pioneer of the Golden Age of flying.
Jacqueline Cochran was born Bessie Lee Pittman on May 11, 1906, in Muscogee, Florida. Growing up in poverty, by just six years old, she started working at her family’s cotton mill in Georgia. Her childhood was rough, but it ingrained in her a will and resolve that catapulted her in achieving personal goals.
A young Jacqueline Cochran on the precipice of her aviation career.
She went on to marry George Cochran at the young age of 14 and changed her name to Jacqueline Cochran. Her marriage didn’t last, but that didn’t stop her from making a name for herself in the business world. In the early 1930s, she decided to venture into becoming a beautician and, eventually, owned her own cosmetics company that lasted well into the 1970s.
Jacqueline Cochran simultaneously ran her successful cosmetic line during her aviation career.
However, it seemed that ordinary life was not suited for Cochran. She wanted to make a difference in the war efforts of the time and felt that flying would offer the hand-hold to do so. In 1932, her ambitions reached into the world of aviation and she began to train and study. After just three short weeks of instruction, she received her pilot’s license and set her sights even higher.
Above, Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
Cochran obtained many prestigious titles, including being the first woman to win the Bendix Trophy during the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. She set an international altitude and speed record while becoming the first woman to make a blind landing. She earned the Distinguished Service Medal for leading the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WAFS) and continued to set speed records for 15-, 100-, and 500-km courses after breaking the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre in 1953.
Chuck Yeager championed for Jacqueline Cochran and supplied her with guidance before she broke the sound barrier.
In addition to all these impressive records, she had time to lend a hand to the advancement of female aviators when she gained command over the British Air Transport Auxiliary, consisting of a select group of female pilots. In the U.S., Cochran directed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1942, which provided more than one thousand pilots to the armed forces.
At the time of her death in 1980, her persistence and drive for excellence attributed to her collection of more speed, distance, and altitude records than anyone in the world, male or female.
“Jackie was an irresistible force… Generous, egotistical, compassionate, sensitive, aggressive — indeed an explosive study in contradictions — Jackie was consistent only in the overflowing energy with which she attacked the challenge of being alive.”
Every now and then, the pricks known as ‘Blue Falcons’ come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.
Blue Falcons (also known as Buddy F*ckers) are the most hated people within the military. But as much hate as these troops get from others, most of the time, it’s not done on purpose. Even if they do it with the best of intentions, when a troop f*cks over their buddies, they’re a Blue Falcon and will receive hate accordingly.
Just what everyone wants to do right before they were supposed to get out of there…
(Photo by Capt. John Farmer)
Reminding the chain of command anything before close-out formation
Every Friday afternoon, every troop looks to their clock, counting down the minutes. The weekend is to begin just as soon as the weekend safety brief is done. Then, the Blue Falcon chimes in with something like, “weren’t we supposed to be helping in the motor pool today?”
Okay, so it’s not always as obvious as that — that’s actively being a Blue Falcon. Most of the time, it’s something small like, “man, I can’t wait until me and my buddy Jones go out drinking tonight!” The platoon sergeant hears this and remembers Jones is in second platoon, which reminds him that second platoon is doing lay-outs because First Sergeant said so.
And the military tends to use a sledgehammer-sized solution for a nail-sized problem.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Cousins)
Making a mistake and saying “but we didn’t know that”
When troops mess up and accept responsibility for their actions, they get their wrists slapped, take their punishment, and move on. No one’s perfect and the chain of command knows this (even if they like to pretend otherwise).
Blue Falcons who try to cover their tracks and hide behind ignorance might get a pass if they genuinely do not know better. This, in turn, forces the chain of command to verify that everyone knows what the Blue Falcon did was wrong.
You really can’t tell when dental appointments end. Best to assume it’s all day unless you know for sure.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila)
Telling the truth when silence is better
Honesty is a well-respected quality in a subordinate. If something is wrong, it’s great to have someone who tells the truth and speaks out to correct problems. This becomes an issue, however, if the problem isn’t that big of a deal and it involves others in the unit.
Now, don’t get this twisted. Speak out if you ever see something unsafe, criminal, or unbecoming of a service-member. But if it’s something like, “when did Sgt. Jones say that his dental appointment would end?” You don’t need to answer and screw him over. Just shrug.
Seriously. If you must fulfill your cactus-destroying urges, do it in New Mexico.
Breaking some bizzare, off-the-wall law that nobody knows about
Certain laws are pounded into everyone’s head at every safety brief. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t physically or sexually assault anyone. Don’t do dumb sh*t. And every now and then, the commander needs to brief the entire unit because one person screwed up.
Let’s pretend that a soldier stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona accidentally destroys a saguaro cactus. That’s actually a 25-year prison sentence. If one troop screws up and gets charged, the commander must throw “don’t destroy cacti” into their weekly safety brief and everyone else has to sit and listen.
At least with “Soldier of the Whenever” boards, just attending is good enough.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Etheridge)
Going above and beyond what’s required
Every leader wants their unit to be the best possible unit, both for bragging rights and for pride. When one troop does amazing work, they’re showered with praise rarely given in the military. Most troops strive to be the best they can give to earn praise and accolades. BZ! Good job! Keep up the good work!
The problem comes when leaders see how great one troop is and questions why the rest aren’t at that same level. This tip isn’t meant to discourage everyone from trying hard, it’s meant for leaders who try to push unrealistic expectations.
The Air Force is finishing engineering details on an aggressive plan to prototype, test, and deploy hypersonic weapons on an expedited schedule — to speed up an ability to launch high-impact, high-speed attacks at five times the speed of sound.
Recent thinking from senior Air Force weapons developers had held that US hypersonic weapons might first be deployable by the early 2020s. Hypersonic drones for attack or ISR missions, by extension, were thought to be on track to emerge in the 2030s and 2040s, senior service officials have told Warrior Maven.
Now, an aggressive new Air Force hypersonic weapons prototyping and demonstration effort is expected to change this time frame in a substantial way.
“I am working with the team on acceleration and I am very confident that a significant acceleration is possible,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.”
The effort involves two separate trajectories, including the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon.
“The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible. We continue to partner with DARPA on two science and technology flight demonstration programs: Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and Tactical Boost Glide,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
A “boost glide” hypersonic weapon is one that flies on an upward trajectory up into the earth’s atmosphere before using the speed of its descent to hit and destroy targets, senior officials said.
The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon effort involves using mature technologies which have not yet been integrated for air-launched delivery, Grabowski added.
“The ARRW effort will “push the art-of-the-possible” by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/DARPA partnership,” she said. “The two systems have different flight profiles, payload sizes, and provide complementary offensive capabilities.”
The Air Force recently took a major step forward in the process by awarding an HCSW prototyping deal to Lockheed Martin.
As the most senior Air Force acquisition leader who works closely with the services’ Chief of Staff, Roper was clear not to pinpoint an as-of-yet undetermined timeline. He did, however, praise the hypersonic weapons development team and say the particulars of the acceleration plan would emerge soon. Roper talked about speeding up hypersonic weapons within the larger context of ongoing Air Force efforts to streamline and expedite weapons acquisition overall.
Roper explained the rationale for not waiting many more years for a “100-percent” solution if a highly impactful “90-percent” solution can be available much sooner. Often referred to as “agile acquisition” by Air Force senior leaders, to include service Secretary Heather Wilson, fast-tracked procurement efforts seek quicker turn around of new software enhancements, innovations, and promising combat technologies likely to have a substantial near-term impact. While multi-year developmental programs are by no means disappearing, the idea is to circumvent some of the more bureaucratic and cumbersome elements of the acquisition process.
The Air Force, and Pentagon, need hypersonic weapons very quickly, officials explain, and there is broad consensus that the need for hypersonic weapons is, at the moment, taking on a new urgency.
A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.
A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.
Along these lines, the advent of hypersonic weapons is a key reason why some are questioning the future survivability of large platforms such as aircraft carriers. How are ship-based sensors, radar and layered defenses expected to succeed in detecting tracking and intercepting or destroying an approaching hypersonic weapon traveling at five-times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.
A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.
Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.
Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what senior Air Force leaders called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of descent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.
The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target, senior weapons developers have told Warrior.
While Roper did not address any specific threats, he did indicate that the acceleration is taking place within a high-threat global environment. Both Russia and China have been visibly conducting hypersonic weapons tests, leading some to raise the question as to whether the US could be behind key rivals in this area.
“We are not the only ones interested in hypersonics,” Roper told reporters.
A report cited in The National Interest cites a report from The Diplomat outlining Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missile tests in November 2017.
During the tests – “a hypersonic glide vehicle detached from the missile during the reentry phase and flew approximately 1,400 kilometers to a target,” The Diplomat report states.
Also, Pentagon is fast-tracking sensor and command and control technology development to improve defenses against fast-emerging energy hypersonic weapons threats from major rivals, US Missile Defense Agency officials said in early 2018.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.
Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.
And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.
Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.
“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.
“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”
That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.
However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.
Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.
“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News. “The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “
F-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)
According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.
“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.
Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.
By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.
Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
A U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)
“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”
He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.
When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.
However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.
“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains. “You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”
While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.
Say what you want about President Nixon, the man knew what the greatest asset in the U.S. military was – the people who served. As a veteran himself, he could appreciate what it was like to be in the military during wartime. What Nixon couldn’t know as a vet was what it was like to be captured and tortured by the enemy. As Commander-In-Chief during the Vietnam War, he knew exactly how many Americans were held captive.
When they came home, he showed his appreciation in style.
President Richard Nixon and Pat Nixon on stage at the White House Dinner for the American Prisoners of War (POW) who were returned by the North Vietnamese government. On stage with President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon are singer Vic Damone, comedian-actor Bob Hope, “God Bless America” songwriter Irving Berlin, and singer-actor-dancer Sammy Davis, Jr.
It was three months after the repatriation of American POWs from North Vietnam that a huge tent was erected on the back lawn of the White House. The President and the First Lady were about to throw the largest White House dinner in the history of the American Republic. The guests of honor were every single Vietnam POW who just came home, more than 590, 34 of which couldn’t make it due to continued treatment. Along with them came a star-studded guest list that included John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Stewart.
“President Nixon made us feel like we were the stars,” said retired Air Force Col. Robert Certain. “President Nixon is one of our heroes.” Nixon also took the time to meet every single of the POWs.”
“He was a hero to us. He will always be revered by us as a group because he got us home,” said retired Marine Corps Capt. Orson Swindle, who spent more than six years in a Hanoi prison camp.
Some 40 years later, the same POWs re-gathered for a reunion at the Richard Nixon Memorial Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. They brought their families along to celebrate the anniversary of their release as well as the unforgettable dinner the President threw for them, taking them from eating with their hands in a cell to eating on White House china and shaking hands with the stars.
As of the 2013 reunion, the 1973 dinner was still the largest dinner ever held at the White House.
First Lady Pat Nixon greets touring POW families during the evening events.
The POWs were also given unfettered access to areas of the White House normally off-limits to the public. They were able to tour the historic mansion without guides or maps. One pair of veterans even told ABC news they accidentally walked into President Nixon’s private study, with the man himself seated at its desk. He told them it was alright and he would be out to greet them in a minute.
But the President could not stay up all night with the troops and retired before the evening was over, ordering the staff to let everyone stay until they wanted to go. But before leaving he told the POWs:
“I have spoken to many distinguished audiences. I can say to you today that this is the most distinguished group I have ever addressed, and I have never been prouder than I am at this moment to address this group.”
Why are you working out? That’s always the first question you should be asking yourself. I’ve been asked on multiple occasions about the benefit of doing bodyweight exercises as a replacement for barbell training. Usually, they go something like this:
“Are bodyweight squats better than barbell back squatting?”
To which my response is usually something like:
If your goal for working out is to get better at bodyweight squats …then sure, they’re better.
If however, your goal is to increase muscle mass, (which it is 90% of the time, whether you realize it or not,) well then, probably not. The reasoning relies on a theory called “effective reps.” But first!
Real easy to get distracted.
Your time and attention
If you’re doing 100 repetitions of bodyweight squats, it’s going to take a while, minutes at the very least. That’s assuming you’re going as fast as possible, which will lead to your form breaking down.
If you’re slow and controlled and performing each rep perfectly, you’ll be spending much longer on 1 set.
No matter which way you decide to tackle this beast, one thing is going to take a hit:
That right there is reason enough for me not to go this route.
On the other hand, if you’re doing sets of 10 reps on the barbell back squat, that’s something you can accomplish in under a minute with a relatively high level of concentration on form.
Quarter squats increase anterior knee pain. Just one of the many form failures that usually occur during body weight squats.
When form breaks down
How we move becomes etched in our brains as a motor pattern. If your form is bad on an exercise like the bodyweight squat, it will transfer to how you move in real life.
Eventually, that crappy form will lead to an injury. Maybe it will be when you try to pick up something heavy like a weighted barbell or an overweight baby. Maybe it will be from doing something you love like playing adult softball, hunting, or picking up overweight babies.
What usually happens when people get injured is that they demonize the activity they were doing when the injury occurred and completely ignore the other 99 things they did that actually contributed to the event that caused the injury.
It wasn’t that activity, that activity was just the straw that broke your CamelBak…(see what I did there).
So, if you’re half-assing 87 out of 100 bodyweight squats three times a week, and in turn, moving throughout your life with crappy/lazy movement, then it’s only a matter of time before you hurt yourself doing something that would have otherwise been enjoyable.
Those are for sure effective reps.
The idea is that the closer a rep is to failure, the more effective it will be in recruiting the most amount of muscle mass and in turn be the best at building muscle.
Assuming you can only do 100 bodyweight squats and the last rep is quite close to failure, then 1 out of 100 is an effective rep…and it took you minutes to get there, and 87 or those reps sucked.
Assuming you’re in relatively good shape, you can actually do many more than 100 bodyweight squats so even rep 100 isn’t anywhere close to failure. That means you are getting ZERO effective reps. You basically just wasted minutes doing a bunch of crappy half-assed squats that did nothing except make you waste your precious time.
I should note that by “failure” I mean you couldn’t do one more rep no matter what, all of your leg muscles are on fire, and they feel like they are going to pop from the excess blood flowing into them. I do not mean that you’re bored or “kind of” tired from something and just want to stop. Register the actual difference.
On the contrary, weighted squats offer you the opportunity to feel like you’re approaching failure, usually around rep 6 or 7 out of a set of 10 if you choose an appropriate weight.
If you do 3-4 sets of back squats that’s nearly 16 effective reps, that’s a great session.
To top it off you don’t need to do 95 reps prior to getting there.
People with long limbs tend to have a difficult time doing body weight squats in general. Their long torsos pull them onto their toes.
Bodyweight squats are great if you have no other option, if you just want to make a workout brutally annoying and also mildly difficult, or if you hate yourself. Otherwise, they are just a recipe for wasted time, establishing poor motor patterns, and not getting many effective reps.
If your goal is to build muscle, get stronger, burn fat, or workout smartly throw some weight on your back.
Valgus knee collapsing imminent on the first Marine from the right.
Here’s a few links if your interest on effective reps has been peaked.
During a surprise trip to Iraq, his first such visit with US troops in a combat zone, President Donald Trump says he has “no plans at all” to withdraw US forces from the country, where they’ve been present since the 2003 invasion.
Trump had not previously said he would pull US troops from Iraq, but the trip comes after he abruptly announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria — a decision that reportedly prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation — and reports emerged of plans to remove about half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Mattis, who will leave office at the end of 2018, signed an order to withdraw troops from Syria on Dec. 24, 2018.
Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night, flying to Al Asad air base in western Iraq and delivering a holiday message to more than 5,000 US troops stationed in the country. He is expected to make two stops on the trip, according to The New York Times.
President Trump and the First Lady visit troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
The trip was kept secret, with Air Force One reportedly making the 11-hour flight with lights off and window shades drawn. Trump said he had never seen anything like it and that he was more concerned with the safety of those with him than he was for himself, according to the Associated Press.
The president said that because of gains made against ISIS in Syria, US forces there were able to return home. US officials have said the militant group holds about 1% of the territory it once occupied, though several thousand fighters remain in pockets in western Syria and others have blended back into local populations.
Trump said the mission in Syria was to remove ISIS from its strongholds and not to be a nation-builder, which he said was a job for other wealthy countries. He praised Saudi Arabia this week for committing money to rebuild the war-torn country. The US presence there was never meant to be “open-ended,” he added.
Trump told reporters traveling with him that he wanted to remove US forces from Syria but that Iraq could still be used as a base to launch attacks on ISIS militants.
If needed, the US can attack ISIS “so fast and so hard” that they “won’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.