This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo's Fire - We Are The Mighty
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This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

No, we’re not talking about the 1985 Brat Pack classic of the same name. This St. Elmo’s Fire is more akin to the phenomenon of the green flash at sunset or sunrise. It appears as an eerie blue or violet glow, usually accompanied by bursts of what appear to be lightning.

As with many meteorological mysteries, St. Elmo’s Fire was named by sailors of old. They couldn’t understand what caused the glow around their ship that looked like a sort of divine fire and named it for St. Erasmus. Also known as St. Elmo, he is the patron saint of sailors. The appearance of the mysterious glow was said to be a good omen of the saint watching over the crew, scary though it may be. However, we now know that there’s a scientific explanation behind the strange lights.

St. Elmo’s Fire is a luminous plasma discharge from a pointed object. This is why it usually emanates from the nose of a plane or the mast of a ship. The glow and subsequent discharge typically occur when a plane or ship comes near a thunderstorm or volcanic activity. It can also occur on the tops of buildings and electrical towers.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
St. Elmo’s Fire on the nose of an E-4B Nightwatch during aerial refueling (U.S. Air Force)

When the electrical field around a pointed object builds a sufficient charge, it ionizes the air around it. This turns it into plasma. The blue/violet color is the result of nitrogen and oxygen, which make up the majority of the atmosphere. Although the glow and discharge bursts can sometimes make a hiss or buzz, St. Elmo’s Fire itself is completely harmless.

Flying near or through a thunderstorm or volcanic activity is generally inadvisable. Lightning strikes and reduced visibility pose great dangers to safe navigation. In the case of British Airways Flight 9, volcanic ash can cause engine flameout. While St. Elmo’s Fire is associated with flying in these conditions, the plasma discharge itself has no effect on an aircraft’s safe flight.

If a flight or cruise ever takes you near a thunderstorm or volcanic activity, keep an eye on a pointed object like the plane’s wingtip or the ship’s mast. You just might be able to spot this fascinating phenomenon for yourself.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
A KC-10A Extender experiences a brilliant display of St. Elmo’s Fire (U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Google has long been on the forefront of new advancements in technology and products. Now, they are using their massive platform to support veterans in need.

With America quickly approaching 20 years at war, the needs of her veterans continue to rise. With the added stress of the pandemic, things are at a critical point. Post-traumatic stress diagnosis’ are rising and veteran suicides continue to dominate headlines. Google wanted to do something to combat those numbers and give back to those who served. The company began working with veteran employees as well as outside stakeholders and nonprofits to create a site dedicated to veteran resources.


“Men and women who served should be able to find help when they need it. We hope this website will provide helpful, authoritative information on mental health for veterans and their families,” Jose Castaneda, Google Spokesperson, said. It is with this in mind that the “Serving Veterans” initiative was created.

The site itself will be specifically geared toward veterans and their families. With minimal clicks, the search engine will bring them to the resources that they so desperately need. Google also formatted the site to include personal stories and videos from a broad and diverse group of veterans, which include well-known military leaders. The aim is to demonstrate that seeking help shouldn’t cause hesitation and that recovery through support can happen.

Code of Support Foundation CEO Kristina Kaufmann was thrilled with the program Google created. “The Code of Support Foundation is thrilled to see a global leader in technology like Google prioritize the needs of our nation’s veterans, their caregivers and their families with the launch of the Google for Veterans program,” she said.

The Wounded Warrior Project recently released a survey reporting that COVID-19 has significantly impacted veterans specifically, causing 52 percent to report that their mental health is even worse with the pandemic. The military itself has also stated that suicides have risen by 20 percent in 2020, which can most likely be attributed to the pandemic. All of this was fuel for Google to quickly assemble support for America’s veterans.

Recently, The Bob Woodruff Foundation shared that, “The COVID-19 pandemic creates at least three conditions: emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation and unplanned job or wage loss that could culminate in a “perfect storm,” threatening the mental health of many veterans.”

“We are proud partners in this effect to reach and serve more of those who served our country. This launch represents a shared commitment by Google and Code of Support to ensure veterans and their families can easily find and connect with local community-based resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention at a time when these numbers are rising tragically,” Kaufmann said.

Google has put much of their focus in recent years in serving the military community with tools for transitioning and employment. This appears to be one more way for them to continue its commitment to give back to the 1 percent of America’s population that swears to defend and protect us all. By creating an easily accessible site to help veterans and their families find the support they continue to honor that commitment. One veteran at a time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Survivor Tree’ is the only living thing to come out of the 9/11 rubble

More than a month following the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center, rescue workers found a life under the rubble, still holding on. It was a pear tree, Its roots and branches were twisted and broken, but all hope was not lost. The rescue workers decided to save this life too.


This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The small tree was removed from Ground Zero and sent to a nursery in the Bronx. Even though it was still alive and in the hands of caring professionals, there was little hope for its continued survival. For years, New York’s Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park took care of the Callery pear tree. By 2010, the staff thought the sturdy tree might survive being replanted once more – back at Ground Zero.

Now known as the “Survivor Tree,” it was replanted at the site of its near-demise once more as part of a 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in 2010. The tree is far from perfect, as one can clearly see the memory of the trauma the tree once suffered. Its new branches shoot off of a stump that reminds all of New York and the United States that wounds can heal, but memories remain.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The tree, found at 911 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan, still survives. In its new home, the tree grows more and more as time goes on, thriving in the same soil where it nearly died along with some 3,000 American civilians and first responders. What’s most unique about this memorial is that it shares the hope of survival with communities that experience devastating losses in their own way.

The 9/11 Memorial gives three seedlings from the Survivor Tree to communities coping with tragedy of all kinds. The seedlings are then planted as a sign of hope and the possibilities of renewal and recovery. Seedlings from the Survivor Tree have been sent all over the world.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Boston’s 9/11 Survivor Tree Sapling was planted at the Boston Public Gardens.

Boston, Mass., in honor of the three people killed in the bombing at its marathon on
April 15, 2013.

Prescott, Ariz., in honor of the 19 firefighting members of the Granite Mountain
Hotshots who died on June 30, 2013. The fires in Arizona resulted in the highest
number of American firefighters killed in a single incident since 9/11.

Gulfport, Miss., to remember those who died in the region devastated by Hurricane
Katrina in August 2005.

Newtown, Conn., in memory of the 20 school children and six adults who were killed
on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Joplin, Mo., in memory of the more than 150 people killed and more than 1,000 injured by a tornado in Joplin on May 22, 2011. The seedling for Joplin will be planted at Mercy Hospital Joplin, which was in the direct path of the tornado.

Madrid, Spain, in memory of the 2004 coordinated terror bombings against the
Cercanías commuter train system of Madrid that killed 190 people and wounded 1,800.
The actual planting of the tree is expected to take place at Spain’s embassy in
Washington, D.C. Madrid is the first international recipient in the program.

Orlando, Fl., in memory of the 49 people killed and 58 injured at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. The seedling has been planted at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.

• The country of France, in memory of the 139 people killed and 368 people injured in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, and the 86 people killed and 434 injured in the Bastille Day attacks in Nice on July 14, 2016. The seedling has been planted in Paris, France.

Manchester, England, in memory of the 22 people, including young adults and children, who were killed by a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Charleston, S.C., in memory of the nine people killed in a shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

• The country of Haiti, which was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. will accept the Survivor Tree seedling on behalf of its country.

Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people in February 2018, including students and staff members, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

London, in memory of those who lost their lives, and on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and all those affected by the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

Puerto Rico, after the catastrophic Hurricane Maria, which left an estimated 2,975 people dead in its wake.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two-time testicular cancer survivor goes balls out at 2019 Warrior Games, bringing awareness to the program that helped him

When A1C (Ret.) BJ Lange enlisted into the Air Force Reserve on his 35th birthday, he didn’t expect he’d fall in love with being a medic about as much as he didn’t expect he’d be diagnosed with cancer, get retired, and discover Stand Up comedy as a means to fight depression. But, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program helped him serve in a different ways.

If you’ve been watching the 2019 DoD Warrior Games in Tampa (hosted by SOCOM at MacDill AFB) you’ve likely seen a very energetic comedian bringing up-to-date facebook live videos at sports, interviewing athletes, DV’s (like USAF’s Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Wilson and Jon Stewart) or hosting various feature stories on the Air Force’s team athletes. You probably couldn’t tell that he was diagnosed with cancer and struggles with PTSD almost took away all hope for this Hollywood actor.

BJ Lange is no stranger to being in the limelight, but how did this retired E-3 go from hosting Spring Break to teaching comedy classes for the Air Force?
This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF

Like most military veterans, BJ attributes his interest to service to his military family and his years of volunteer service as a public affairs officer and aircrew in Civil Air Patrol (USAF Aux). Even with a flourishing Hollywood acting career underway, BJ felt he “needed to do it before he spent years wishing he had” so he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve with the 452 AMDS at March ARB, CA – a decision that likely saved his life and provided an unexpected avenue of continued service.

While on orders at Lackland AFB, TX in 2016 BJ was diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and recovery. He thought this was all over, unfortunately BJ’s MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) proved unsuccessful, and against BJ’s wishes, he was placed on TDRL (temporary medical retirement) in July of 2016. However, this was a blessing in disguise. Aside form likely saving BJ’s life, BJ was enrolled into the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) a DoD congressionally mandated program (AF’s akin to Army’s AW2, USMC’s WWR, Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor) for wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families.

Although apprehensive because he was not combat wounded and mainly dealing with invisible wounds, BJ attended his first AFW2 CARE event at JBLM in August of 2016 and soon discovered the camaraderie, service, and pride he had lost so that his healing could begin. He took to the adaptive sports getting him on the high performance track and soon found himself completing their mentor and ambassador programs to help others coming into the fold. Unfortunately, in July of 2017 just one year in remission, BJ’s cancer relapsed into his lymph nodes, and he had to undergo weeks of radiation therapy leading him to become very sick, but BJ didn’t let that stop him – even after doctors pulling his medical clearance which meant he couldn’t go to Air Force Trials at Nellis AFB the following year. This led to another very rough period of BJ’s life full of depression, anxiety, and physical pain.

Though BJ’s chances of competing at the next Warrior Games (and subsequent Invictus Games) looked low another door opened. BJ expressed his interest in teaching his one-true love, improvisation. Specifically applied improv. Dr. Aaron Moffett, PhD., resiliency program manager and sports psychologist for AFW2, jumped on the chance, and in July 2018 BJ, who had already begun teaching the Improv For Veterans Program at The Second City Hollywood, became the Air Force Wounded Warrior’s comedy coach teaching hundreds of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their caregivers how to use improv comedy as an applied resiliency tool. In July BJ will be teaching at Ramstein AB Germany as well as Scott AFB, IL in August.
This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF

“When fellow wounded warrior Maj. Stacie Shafran called to ask if I wanted to come to Warrior Games, I jumped at the chance to be there with my brothers and sisters” Lange said. Lange was asked to attend the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa to use his hosting experience during competitions via Facebook Live and other social media outlets as well as co-hosting the Fisher House Family Program for athletes and their families with fellow Air Force Wounded Warrior 1Lt (Ret.) Rachel Francis. “I can’t think of a better way to use my talents then to help share the stories of my fellow wounded warriors and the program that has and continues to help me heal”. Lange hopes to be able to compete next year at Warrior Games and go onto Invictus Games although sharing laugh via improv comedy games is just fine with him as he embarks on one-year in remission from relapse.

MIGHTY FIT

How my transition impacted my health

It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.


This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.

(Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

Civilian stress vs. Military stress.

In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:

  • “Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
  • “Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
  • “I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
  • “I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”

In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)

I lost my sense of purpose.

I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.

How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.

On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.

It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

1 turns into 10 very quickly.

(Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash)

My health suffered.

I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.

As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

My cornerstone was gone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Worst of all, I stopped training.

Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.

This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.

I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.

It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.

Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Great advice.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash)

Combating civilian stress with training.

I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.

I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.

I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.

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Getting your sense of purpose back.

My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.

The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.

I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.

Maybe it took you years.

Maybe you’re still in it.

Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.

It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.

The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.

If you aren’t training, start training.

If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
MIGHTY HISTORY

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.


Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.

That all changed during the course of his usual work.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.

In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.

He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.

(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)

Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.


“We are coming together to tell each other what we’ve done over the last year,” said Dr. Stuart Young, a division chief in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Adelphi, Maryland, and the RCTA’s collaborative alliance manager.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance meet at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia June 5-7, 2018, to coordinate efforts.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The group formed in 2009 to bring together government, industrial and academic institutions to address research and development required to enable the deployment of future military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.

Partners include:

• General Dynamics Land Systems – Robotics
• Carnegie Mellon University – The Robotics Institute
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Florida State University
• University of Central Florida
• University of Pennsylvania
• QinetiQ North America
• Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Lab

Young said the laboratory is focused on transitioning new capabilities to industry partners so they can continue to mature them.

“Since this is a basic and applied research program, we’ll transition it to them so they can get it into an experimental prototype in development,” he said. “Certainly the problem that we are working on is very hard. It is difficult to operate robots in the wild, anywhere in the world, but that’s the kind of problem the Army has to solve.”

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
World-renowned robotics researchers from industry, academia and the U.S. Army are part of an alliance to explore futuristic robotics that may lead to new capabilities for the future force.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The Army’s vision is to make unmanned systems an integral part of small unit teams.

“We’re trying to go from tools to teammates so you can work side-by-side with them,” Young said, continuing with, “In order for robots to be teammates, they must operate in unstructured, complex environments.

“And then in order for the robots to be a useful teammate, they have to communicate naturally like a human does,” Young said. “We’re doing a lot of work in human-robot relationships, understanding concepts in the same way that humans do, trying to get the robots to understand those concepts in the same way so that the teaming can occur more naturally.”

Over the eight years of the alliance, researchers have achieved many milestones in the robotics field.

“New methods for robots to autonomously interact with and perceive the outside world have been developed to improve reasoning, situational awareness, trust and mobility in challenging battlefield environments,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “In the past eight years, researchers have teamed with academia and industry supported by the Robotics CTA to establish robotics technology critical to next generation Army objectives for multi-domain operation.”

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Geoff Slipher (right), the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Autonomous Systems Division chief speaks with Army researcher Chris Kroninger June 6, 2018, at the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance review at the University of Pennsylvania.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

The alliance conducts research in four technical domains:
  1. Perception: Perceive and understand dynamic and unknown environments, including creation of a comprehensive model of the surrounding world
  2. Intelligence: Autonomously plan and execute military missions; readily adapt to changing environments and scenarios; learn from prior experience; share common understanding with team members
  3. Human-Robot Interaction: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
  4. Dexterous Manipulation and Unique Mobility: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments

“We’ve certainly come a long way, and yes, we have a long way to go,” Young said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and developing new theory and techniques for communicating between the robots and the humans. We must generate more novel techniques to be able to address those types of problems.”

Researchers said the meetings in Philadelphia were a valuable experience as they continue to plan for a capstone event at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2019, where they will demonstrate the culmination of their research achievements to Army leaders.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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

popular

13 US Coast Guard Legends

In a service whose mission includes rescuing lives in peril, it’s hard to pick and choose legends among so many heroes. The Coast Guard’s history is filled with ordinary men who rose to the challenges presented by extraordinary circumstances. Here is a list of 13 folks who embodied the Coast Guard ethos:


1. Douglas Munro

 

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The ultimate hero of the Coast Guard is arguably Douglas Munro. As he commanded a group of Higgins boats at the Battle of Guadalcanal, Munro coordinated the evacuation of more than 500 Marines who came under heavy fire, using his boat as a shield to draw fire. During the evacuation, he was fatally wounded, but his last words were, “Did they get off?”

2. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Lt. Thomas “Jimmy” Crotty was the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812 and served at the front lines of the Battle of Corregidor as the Japanese took the Philippines. A 1934 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy where he was an accomplished athlete, Crotty served as an skilled cutterman before being attached to a Navy mine warfare unit. After several different positions in the Pacific Theater, Crotty found himself attached the Marine Corps Fourth Regiment, First Battalion, as the Japanese forces attacked the last American stronghold. One eyewitness report says that Crotty supervised army personnel manning a howitzer dug-in until the American surrender on May 6, 1942. Crotty was captured by the Japanese and taken to Cabanatuan Prison, where he died of diphtheria.

3. William Flores

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On January 28, 1980, the USCGC Blackthorn collided with a tanker in Tampa Bay, Florida. Seaman Apprentice William Flores, just eighteen years old and a year out of boot camp, stayed on board as the cutter sank, strapping the life jacket locker open with his belt, giving his own life jacket to those struggling in the water, and giving aid to those wounded on board. He was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard’s highest non-combat award, the Coast Guard Medal.

4. Ida Lewis

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After her father had a stroke, Ida Lewis took over as the keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse, Rhode Island. Over her 39 year career, Lewis saved 18 lives. She was one of the earliest women in the Lighthouse Service, which later was combined with four other services to become the Coast Guard. Lime Rock Light has since been renamed Ida Lewis Light, and a coastal buoy tender was named in her honor.

5-8. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton in the icy waters offshore of Chatham, Cape Cod, Mass. had been a legend told by generations of Coasties. Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard Livesey climbed aboard a 36-foot-long motor lifeboat and saved the lives of 32 sailors after their tanker split in half during a storm in February 1952. For their heroism, the crew received the Gold Lifesaving Medal and their heroic efforts were immortalized in the Disney movie, The Finest Hours.

9. Nathan Bruckenthal

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal is one of the modern Coast Guard heroes. In April 2004, Bruckenthal and a team including Navy and Coast Guard personnel intercepted a small dhow in the North Arabian Gulf. As they attempted to board, one of the terrorists aboard detonated a bomb that was powerful enough to overturn the American vessel alongside, wounding several of the men. Bruckenthal later died from his injuries, the first Coast Guard war casualty since the Vietnam War. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

10-12. David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

David Jarvis, Ellsworth Bertholf, and Samuel Call snowshoed more than 1,500 miles to Point Barrow, Alaska to rescue hundreds of fishermen who were trapped in ice after winter came early in 1897. During the three months it took them to reach their destination they engaged with native communities along their route, healing illnesses, teaching more effective hunting techniques, and arbitrating legal disputes. For their heroism, the trio received Congressional Gold Medals. All three have Coast Guard cutters named in their honor.

13. Miles Imlay

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Coast Guard Captains Edward Fritzche (left) and Miles Imlay (right) discuss the invasion of Omaha Beach on a relief map laid out in the hold of the Samuel Chase. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Captain Miles Imlay commanded a group of Coast Guard landing craft at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, as well as during all other major amphibious landings across the shores of Europe in World War II. Imlay was the second in command of one of the groups that landed at Omaha Beach and under constant, heavy fire, commanded a vessel off the beaches during the entire invasion to make sure that the landing craft went to the correct location. He received a Silver Star for his actions on D-Day, and the Legion of Merit for invasions in Italy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 legendary search and rescue helicopters

Air Force pararescuemen are among the elite when it comes to special operations. Their main task is to rescue pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. It’s never been an easy task, but at least the tech has improved since World War II. Back then, a pilot had to walk back to friendly lines – a very long walk.


This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
A pilot ejects from his P-51 Mustang in the skies over Normandy. Not ideal.

Amphibious planes, like the PBY Catalina and HU-16 made rescue possible, but you needed enough water – or a strip of land – for them to land and take off. The same went for other planes, even the L-5, the military designation for the Piper Cub.

Insert the helicopter. They first appeared in a small capacity during the Korean War before they really came of age during Vietnam, proving to be the search-and-rescue asset America needed.

Here’s a look some legendary choppers that carried out that mission.

1. Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant

The first helicopter to become a legend for search and rescue was the Sikorsky HH-3. The H-3 airframe was first designed for the Navy to carry out anti-submarine warfare, and was called the Sea King. But the size of the chopper lead the Air Force to buy some as heavy transports. They were eventually equipped with 7.62mm Miniguns and used to rescue pilots, with some seeing service in Desert Storm and the last ones serving until 1995.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-3 has a top speed of 177 miles per hour, and could carry up to 25 passengers or 15 litters, plus a crew of four and two attendants.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
An A-1 Skyraider escorts an HH-3C rescue helicopter as it goes in to pick up a downed pilot in Vietnam. (National Museum of the USAF Photo)

2. Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly/Pave Low

The Air Force didn’t stop with the Jolly Green. Eventually, the even larger HH-53 was procured, and called the Super Jolly Green Giant. They also took part in search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War, but after that war, the HH-53s were upgraded into the Pave Low configuration, making them capable of operating at night and bad weather. They also became used as special operations transports. The last Pave Lows were retired in 2008.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the latest version of the Pave Low has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, an un-refueled range of 690 miles, and a crew of six.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk

The Air Force though, was looking for more search-and-rescue assets – mostly because they only bought 41 of the Super Jolly Green Giants. The HH-60G is primarily tasked with the combat search and rescue role, and it usually carries .50-caliber machine guns to protect itself. Like the Pave Low, the Pave Hawk can carry out missions at night or day. The HH-60G is currently serving.

An Air Force fact sheet notes that a total of 99 Pave Hawks serve in the active Air Force, the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. The Pave Hawk has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and can carry a crew of four.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
The HH-60G’s primary wartime mission is combat search and rescue, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in day, night or marginal weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lance Cheung)

4. Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter

The H-60 airframe has been a mainstay of all five armed services, so much so that the replacement for the HH-60G is another H-60. In this case, the HH-60W is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60M Blackhawk.

According to materials provided by Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, the HH-60W has a combat radius of 195 nautical miles, and is equipped with new displays to reduce the air crew’s workload, and to help the pararescue jumpers do their job more efficiently. The Air Force plans to buy 112 HH-60Ws to replace the 99 HH-60Gs currently in service.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Artist’s impression of Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (Graphic from Lockheed Martin)

In short, when a pilot goes down, the assets are now there to pull him out, and to keep him from becoming a guest in a 21st century Hanoi Hilton.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Valkyrie drone suffers damage during Air Force flight test

An XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle undergoing testing with the U.S. Air Force was damaged during its third flight test, forcing its next test to be delayed until an investigation is complete, officials announced Oct. 10, 2019.

The Valkyrie drone was hit by “high surface winds” and also suffered “a malfunction of the vehicle’s provisional flight test recovery system” and landed in a damaged state at the testing ranges in Yuma, Arizona, on Oct. 9, 2019, the Air Force said.

The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft that are intended to be reusable, but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant loss.


“We continue to learn about this aircraft and the potential … technology [it] can offer to the warfighter,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, in a released statement.

“This third flight successfully completed its objectives and expanded the envelope from the first two flights,” Cooley added. The flight lasted 90 minutes, officials said.

XQ-58A Valkyrie Demonstrator Inaugural Flight

www.youtube.com

“We have gathered a great deal of valuable data from the flight and will even learn from this mishap,” Cooley said. “Ultimately, that is the objective of any experiment and we’re pleased with the progress of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program.”

The Air Force did not say how long it will take to investigate the setback, nor when officials can anticipate its fourth flight.

In partnership with Kratos Defense, the drone’s manufacturer, officials previously completed a second test in Yuma on June 11, 2019.

The Air Force has been working to expedite the prototype program, which in the near future could incorporate artificial intelligence. AFRL in recent months has also been working on the “Skyborg” program, aimed at pairing AI with a human in the cockpit.

The goal is to incorporate the Skyborg network into Valkyrie. The drone’s purpose would be to operate alongside manned fighters, so the machine can learn how to fly and even train with its pilot.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle.

(YouTube)

Valkyrie, a long-range, high-subsonic UAV, has incorporated a lot of lessons from Kratos’ other subsonic drone, the Mako, according to Kratos Defense CEO and President Eric DeMarco.

“Mako continues to fly for various customers with all types of payloads,” he said during an interview at the Paris air show in June. It was designed to carry electronic warfare or jamming equipment, infrared search and track sensors and offensive and defensive weapons, he said.

“Mako [is] a test bed, running a parallel path with the Valkyrie, so when the Valkyrie is ready, those payloads can more easily be ported over and integrated into Valkyrie because they’ve already been demonstrated in an unmanned platform,” DeMarco said.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said during the show that there’s potential to field some Valkyrie UAVs quickly — roughly 20 to 30 — for experimentation before the service pairs manned fighters with the drone by 2023.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return from deployment just in time for Thanksgiving

The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.


During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”

11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.

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