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The War on Sleep


The War on Sleep

There’s a military arms race to build soldiers who fight without fatigue.

By William Saletan.

All over the world, scientists are experimenting on soldiers to keep them awake beyond the limits of normal endurance. Researchers are engineering, and militaries are deploying, chemically enhanced troops. Of all the superpowers we’ve imagined, the one that has turned out to be most attainable—so attainable we’re already using it—is the ability to go without sleep.

Much of this research, which focuses on a drug called modafinil, is openly sponsored and supervised by military agencies. The United States leads the pack, conducting experiments through its Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and Special Operations Command Biomedical Initiative Steering Committee. Other countries’ armed forces are studying the same drug: Defense Research and Development Canada, China’s Second Military Medical University, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, South Korea’s Air Force Academy, Taiwan’s National Defense Medical Center, and the Bioengineering Laboratory of Singapore’s Defense Medical and Environmental Research Institute. India is investigating modafinil through its Institute of Aerospace Medicine and Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences. France’s research program includes its Ministry of Defense, Military Health Service Research Center, and Institute of Aerospace Medicine. Many of the supervising agencies sound Orwellian: Human Effectiveness Directorate, Fatigue Countermeasures Branch, Département des Facteurs Humain. This, mind you, is just the published research. God knows what’s going on in secret.

The publicly reported studies have tested modafinil in Black Hawk helicopter pilots, F-117 fighter pilots, French paratroopers, and Canadian reservists, among others. They’ve simulated A-6 Intruder bombing missions, AWACS flights, and French Navy patrols. In nearly every trial, modafinil has extended the ability to function without sleep. And we’re already using it in the field. The United States has given modafinil to Air Force personnel since the 2003 Iraq invasion. By 2004, the British Ministry of Defense had bought 24,000 tablets. By 2007, France was routinely supplying it to fighter pilots.

Why has functioning without sleep, unlike other fantasized human enhancements, become real? Because the immediate goal is modestly defined, demonstrably achievable, and easy to measure in experiments. We don’t have to keep you awake forever. We just have to compensate, partially and temporarily, for the cognitive impairment caused by your lack of sleep. In a way, we aren’t enhancing your performance. We’re just raising it back to your normal level—the level at which you function when you’re wide awake. The published experimental reports propose to “sustain,” “maintain,” or “restore” what they call “baseline,” or “pre-deprivation” performance. They aim to “attenuate,” “alleviate,” or “reverse” the “deficits,” “decrements,” and “degradations” caused by sleep deprivation. They speak of modafinil as a “countermeasure” to the “negative effects” of long shifts.
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Why are armed forces leading this research? Because they feel the greatest urgency. For an airline or freight company, failure to complete a flight means financial losses. For an air force, it means casualties. In civilian life, you can schedule reliable overnight rest or naps. In war, you can’t. Maybe you’re alone in a cockpit. Maybe you’re on a 12-hour mission requiring constant vigilance. Nobody’s around to take the next shift. Even if somebody were, how are you supposed to sleep in the chaos of combat?

Soldiers have been using stimulants forever. The British downed tea. The Prussians tried cocaine. Nearly every army has leaned on coffee or tobacco. In World War II, both sides took amphetamines. The U.S. military officially approved amphetamines in 1960. Since then, we’ve employed them in Vietnam, Panama, Libya, and during the first Gulf War. Today, all four branches of the U.S. armed forces authorize the use of dextroamphetamine under specific conditions. The Army rations caffeine gum, and every survey suggests that most U.S. aircrews, when in action, use stimulants.

Against this background, modafinil represents a refinement, not an amplification. In 1989, at a defense conference in Europe, a French scientist proposed it for military use. Researchers from the U.S. Air Force Human Systems Division took note and recommended further experiments, based not on the drug’s power but on its precision. Compared with amphetamines and caffeine, modafinil has shown less addictiveness, less cardiovascular stimulation, and less interference with scheduled sleep. Military-sponsored studies have focused less on demonstrating modafinil’s efficacy than on narrowing the effective dose and averting side effects.

In their papers, these researchers never talk about superhuman warriors. They stress a conventional objective: saving lives. They point to fatal accidents and mission failures, including friendly fire incidents, caused by sleep deprivation. Exhaustion kills.

That’s where the logic of enhancement begins. What used to be normal—needing eight hours of sleep each night—is now understood as a fatal flaw. An Israeli report, “Psychostimulants and Military Operations,” examines this “human-machine conflict,” lamenting, “Although an aircraft can mechanically function effectively throughout long hours, pilots cannot.” Canadian defense scientists also highlight this “discrepancy between human need and technological capability.” A U.S. Air Force document warns of disastrous “sleep attacks”—exhausted personnel nodding off on the job. We are the defect. We must be cured.

The cure began with stimulants. Then it expanded to combinations: hypnotics to induce sufficient sleep before your mission (currently approved and administered by all branches of the U.S. armed services), followed by stimulants to switch you back on. The initial idea was to keep you awake for a few extra hours. But the experiments have grown more ambitious, testing drugs for 40, 60, or even 90 hours without sleep. In journal articles, scientists have speculated that with modafinil, troops might function for weeks on just four hours of sleep a night.

Next comes the doping of fully rested troops. “Even in situations where soldiers do receive enough sleep,” says a 2010 report from the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, “they may not be able to maintain appropriate levels of vigilance during long periods of overnight duty without some form of assistance.” This drug treatment can be justified as therapeutic, according to the army lab, since combat is an inherently “abnormal environment,” imposing “extreme conditions” that “degrade optimum duty performance” and “increase soldier risk.” The report points out that “the military has long facilitated (indeed, mandated) pharmaceuticals such as immunizations and prophylaxis in healthy soldier populations where the threat is clearly identified, the risk is unacceptable, the science is sound, the drugs are safe, and the fighting force must be protected and sustained. In the case of cognitive enhancement, for example, one may characterize the threat as an intrinsic agent such as fatigue from necessary sustained combat operations.”

Once we head down this road, there’s no turning back. With multiple countries investigating military modafinil, staying awake becomes an arms race. A report by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory explains why: “Forcing our enemies to perform continuously without the benefit of sufficient daily sleep is a very effective weapon.” To win this war of exhaustion, we must “manage fatigue among ourselves.” We must drug our troops to outlast yours. You, in turn, must drug your troops to keep up. On the battlefield of the future, there is no sleep but death.

SOURCE

Pentagon: The Chinese stole our newest weapons

Pentagon: The Chinese stole our newest weapons

Reuters / Carlos Barria

The designs for more than two dozen major weapons systems used by the United States military have fallen into the hands of the Chinese, US Department of Defense officials say.

Blueprints for the Pentagon’s most advanced weaponry, including the Black Hawk helicopter and the brand new Littoral Combat Ship used by the Navy, have all been compromised, the Defense Science Board claims in a new confidential report.

The Washington Post acknowledged late Monday that they have seen a copy of the report and confirmed that the Chinese now have the know-how to emulate some of the Pentagon’s most sophisticated programs.

“This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China,” a senior military official not authorized to speak on the record told Post reporters. “They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development.”

“It’s nuts,” the source said of the report.

The Defense Science Board, a civilian advisory committee within the Pentagon, fell short of accusing the Chinese of stealing the designs. However, the Post’s report comes on the heels of formal condemnation courtesy of the DoD issued only earlier this month.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the Defense Department alleged in a previous report.

Ellen Nakashima, the Post reporter who detailed the DSB analysis this week, wrote that the computer systems at the Pentagon may not have necessarily been breached. Instead, rather, she suggested that the defense contractors who built these weapons programs have likely been subjected to a security breach. US officials speaking on condition of anonymity, she reported, said that a closed door meeting last year ended with evidence being presented of major defense contractors suffering from intrusions. When reached for comment, the largest defense contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — all refused to weigh in.

Chinese hackers have previously been accused of waging cyberattacks on a number of US entities, including billion-dollar corporations and governmental departments. In 2007 it was reported that China accumulated the blueprints for the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive weapons program ever created, but the latest news from the DSB decries that much more has been compromised.

According to the Post, the plans for the advanced Patriot missile system, an Army anti-ballistic program and a number of aircraft have all ended up in the hands of the Chinese. The result could mean the People’s Republic is working towards recreating the hallmarks of America’s military might for their own offensive purposes, while also putting China in a position where even the most advanced weaponry in the world won’t be able to withstand complex defensive capabilities once those projects are reverse engineered.

“If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,” Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post. “If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”

Mandiant, a US security firm located outside of Washington, reported earlier this year that the China has enlisted an elite squadron of cyber warrior to attack American computer systems and conduct espionage on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army. When the report was released in February, Mandiant said the PLA’s elusive Unit 61398 has successfully compromised the networks of more than 141 companies across 20 major industries, including Coca-Cola and a Canadian utility company. Those hacks reportedly subsided after Mandiant went public with their claims, but earlier this month the firm said those attacks have since been renewed.

“They dialed it back for a little while, though other groups that also wear uniforms didn’t even bother to do that,” CEO Kevin Mandia told the New York Times recently. “I think you have to view this as the new normal.”

On their part, China has adamantly denied all claims that they’ve waged attacks on US networks. Following Mandiant’s initial report, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said the claims were “irresponsible and unprofessional.”

“Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous,” Hong Lei said. “Determining their origins are extremely difficult. We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.” SOURCEu

Military suffers wave of ‘gay’ sex assaults

Military suffers wave of ‘gay’ sex assaults

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‘We’ve got a male-on-male problem here’

A recent military report on sexual assault in the military shocked many in Washington and around the nation, but a leading expert on military personnel revealed the prevalence of men assaulting other men is one of the major headlines in this study.

The extended analysis of the report first appeared in Monday’s edition of the the Washington Times.

The Defense Department survey of sexual assault in the military during fiscal 2012 estimated 26,000 assaults took place in the armed forces. Nearly 3,000 of them were formally reported. Just more than 6 percent of women reported being victims of assault and 1.2 percent of men said the same. Given the much larger number of men in the military, those numbers suggest 14,000 of the assaults in the Pentagon study happened to men.

Among the assaults formally reported, 88 percent of reports came from women and 12 percent from men. The numbers are getting dramatically worse.

“The number of reports of sexual assaults among military personnel have actually increased by 129 percent since 2004,” said Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly, who pointed out the number of formal reports of sexual assault jumped from 1,275 to 2,949 in just eight years.

She told WND when factoring in civilians working for or around the military, the increase in that time is 98 percent.

Women are identified as the attacker in just two percent of all assaults, meaning most men who suffer assault are targeted by other men.

“So we’ve got a male-on-male problem here. The Department of Defense doesn’t want to comment on this. They know that the numbers are there. They say that they care, but all the attention is usually given to the female members of the military who are subjected to sexual assault,” Donnelly said.

The Washington Times article also includes analysis from Aaron Belkin, who heads The Palm Center. He said the rise in male-on-male sexual assault does not reflect the increase of homosexuals in the military but, rather, those assaults are ”somewhat similar to prison rape.”

“Well, that’s a great slogan to use for recruiting young men into the military, isn’t it? It’s outrageous. And yet, the Department of Defense doesn’t quite know what to do with these figures, and so they just sort of put them in there and hope nobody notices,” said Donnelly, who points out The Palm Center is a homosexual activist organization.

While Donnelly fiercely opposed repealing the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military, she said it’s important to keep monitoring the numbers to determine how much that policy change specifically contributes to the problem. She said the increase in sexual assaults against female service members should not be diminished, either. Donnelly said a lot of work lies ahead to reverse this trend, but the military and the federal government are kidding themselves if they don’t think some major policy decisions aren’t contributing to the rise in sexual violence.

“I think we have to start with the basics, and that means basic training. Back in 1998, unanimously, the Kassebaum-Baker Commission came out with recommendation to separate basic training for Army, Air Force and Navy trainers, (to) do it like the Marines do. The Marines train basic training separately, male and female at Parris Island. That’s a good thing to do. It’s a good first start,” Donnelly said.

“Second, they should stop pretending that sexuality does not matter. You cannot solve a problem by extending it into the combat arms. The big push is for women in combat, this argument that we have to have women in the infantry so they’ll be respected more and they won’t be assaulted,” said Donnelly, who noted that the strategy for women in combat that started more than a generation ago from then-Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., has been thoroughly discredited.

“Respect for women in the military today is higher than ever, but the sexual assault numbers keep climbing up,” she said. “I think before we start implementing a theory that’s been discredited. The members of the Pentagon and the people who make policy in Congress as well, they need to stop. They need to assess where we are, what has happened in the last two decades and they need to stop pretending that a lot of sensitivity training or highly paid consultants, that that is going to make a difference in the sex problems we’re seeing right now,” said Donnelly.

In 2012, Donnelly told WND that the statistics showed a more than 20 percent increase in reported sexual assaults on males.SOURCE

SWAT Cop Attracts Ridicule After He’s Pictured with His Rifle Sight on Backwards

SWAT Cop Attracts Ridicule After He’s Pictured with His Rifle Sight on Backwards

SWAT COP WITH SITE ON BACKWARDS

(DAILY MAIL) A SWAT team in upstate New York is being mocked as an example of the difference between military and police training after an officer was captured peering through a backwards sight on his combat rifle.


As users on the military Reddit were quick to point out when the image was posted, the reverse sight makes it effectively useless.

Users mocked the SWAT officers training and some went so far as to question the motives of some of the men serving in local law enforcement.

The officer is using a ‘military style’ assault weapon with a close quarters combat sight that costs roughly $500.

‘It’s disturbing to think that 1) none of his buddies corrected it, and 2) he’s in a real-life situation with his optic on backwards, which means he’s never fired that rifle with the optic on it, which means it isn’t zeroed and he thought it was OK to show up to a gunfight with an unzeroed weapon,’ wrote one Reddit user.SOURCE

NASA gets two NSA “hand me down” military spy telescopes for research

NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy

By Joel Achenbach,

The secretive government agency that flies spy satellites has made a stunning gift to NASA: two exquisite telescopes as big and powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ve never left the ground and are in storage in Rochester, N.Y.

It’s an unusual technology transfer from the military-intelligence space program to the better-known civilian space agency. It could be a boost for NASA’s troubled science program, which is groaning under the budgetary weight of the James Webb Space Telescope, still at least six years from launch.

Or it could be a gift that becomes a burden. NASA isn’t sure it can afford to put even one of the two new telescopes into orbit.

The telescopes were built by private contractors for the National Reconnaissance Office, one of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The telescopes have 2.4-meter (7.9-foot) mirrors, just like the Hubble, but they have 100 times the field of view. Their structure is shorter and squatter.

They’re “space qualified,” as NASA puts it, but they’re a long way from being functioning space telescopes. They have no instruments — there are no cameras, for example. More than that, they lack a funded mission and all that entails, such as a scientific program, support staff, data analysis and office space. They will remain in storage while NASA mulls its options.

“It’s great news,” said NASA astrophysics director Paul Hertz. “It’s real hardware, and it’s got really impressive capabilities.”

The announcement Monday raised the obvious question of why the intelligence agency would no longer want, or need, two Hubble-class telescopes. A spokeswoman, Loretta DeSio, provided information sparingly.

“They no longer possessed intelligence-collection uses,” she said of the telescopes.

She confirmed that the hardware represents an upgrade of Hubble’s optical technology.

“The hardware is approximately the same size as the Hubble but uses newer, much lighter mirror and structure technology,” DeSio said. She added, “Some components were removed before the transfer.”

Which components? “I can’t tell you that,” she said.

The telescopes have been declassified, though they remain sufficiently sensitive that neither the NRO or NASA would provide a photograph of them. At a presentation to scientists Monday in Washington, Alan Dressler, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science, showed an image of one of the telescopes, but it was so thoroughly blacked out — redacted for national security reasons — that the audience burst into laughter.

The surprise announcement was a reminder that NASA isn’t the only space enterprise in the government. Analysts believe that the United States spends more money on military and intelligence space operations than on civilian space efforts.

The two NRO telescopes may be versions of the KH-11 Kennan satellites that the agency has been putting into orbit since 1976, according to a space analyst familiar with both civilian and military hardware. The analyst said that in recent years, the NRO has decided to switch to surveillance satellites that have a broader field of view than the older models. Instead of essentially looking down through a straw at the Earth’s surface, the new technology looks down through a garden hose, the analyst said.

“This is going to be top-quality hardware,” said the analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic. “They’re not state-of-the-art spy satellites, but they are probably still state-of-the-art optics.”

DeSio, the NRO spokeswoman, said the telescopes were built in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Spotting a dime from space

These are formidable eyes in the sky, apparently. NASA official Michael Moore said that if the Hubble Space Telescope were pointed at the surface of the Earth instead of at outer space, “you could see a dime sitting on top of the Washington Monument.”

The spy telescopes have a feature that civilian space telescopes lack: a maneuverable secondary mirror that makes it possible to obtain more-focused images, said David Spergel, a Princeton University astrophysicist and a co-chair of the National Academies of Science committee on astronomy and astrophysics.

The new telescopes are “actually better than the Hubble. They’re the same size, but the optical design is such that you can put a broader set of instruments on the back,” he said.

Spergel is among the scientists who in 2010 produced the “decadal survey,” which listed the top priorities in astronomy. At the top of the list was a new space telescope that could be used to look for extrasolar planets and to study “dark energy,” the mysterious cosmic force that seems to be causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

NASA has a plan for such a telescope, called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). But the program has effectively been put on hold because of the dismal state of the space agency’s science budget.

The Webb has gobbled up money that might have gone to other projects. It’s a jumbo telescope designed to orbit 1 million miles from Earth, where it would observe the mid-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. With that capability, it could gather light from the farthest reaches of the universe. But it’s not scheduled to launch until 2018, more than four years past the original launch target, and its projected cost is nearing $9 billion.

WFIRST was envisioned as a much less expensive telescope with a relatively modest light-collecting mirror, just 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). One of the new NRO telescopes, with a bigger mirror, would give WFIRST an upgrade in capability.

But everything comes down to money.

No money for a mission

“NASA does not have in its current budget the funding necessary to develop a space telescope mission using these new telescopes,” Hertz, the astrophysics director, said in a conference call.

He said that, using plausible budgets, 2024 would be the earliest date to launch one of the two telescopes unless the agency received additional funding from Congress. “Any dates earlier, like 2019 or 2020, is if money is no object,” Hertz said.

And that is the projection for just one of the telescopes. The other seems destined to remain firmly on the ground for the foreseeable future.

“We don’t at this point in time anticipate ever being rich enough to use both of them, but it sure would be fun, wouldn’t it?” Hertz said.

The value of a space telescope sitting in storage is hard to estimate, but NASA officials said that having a finished piece of telescope hardware would shave about $250 million off a future mission. It would also shorten the timeline on a project by several years.

“The thing that takes the longest to build is the telescope,” Spergel said.

NASA’s windfall takes the pain out of the planned demise of the Hubble. The storied telescope, launched in 1990 and still operating, will lose functionality in coming years. NASA, lacking a space shuttle, has neither the means nor the money to repair the Hubble again. At some point, it will return to the atmosphere in a controlled de-orbit, crash into the Pacific and sink to the bottom of the ocean.

“Instead of losing a terrific telescope, you now have two telescopes even better to replace it with,” Spergel said.

Asked whether anyone at NASA was popping champagne, the agency’s head of science, John Grunsfeld, answered, “We never pop champagne here; our budgets are too tight.”

SOURCE

Witness: Multiple, NOT just one, US soldiers involved in civilian massacre

‘Several drunk troops behind bloodbath, laughed on shooting-spree, burned corpses’

Gruesome new details are surfacing after 16 Afghan villagers including nine children were shot in their houses by at least one US serviceman. Witnesses to the atrocity now say that several drunken American soldiers were involved.

­Neighbors at the village where the killings took place said they were awoken past midnight by crackling gunfire:

“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” Reuters cites Agha Lala, a villager in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district.

Lala’s neighbor Haji Samad lost all of his 11 relatives in the rampage, including children and grandchildren. He claims Marines “poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them.”

Twenty-year-old Jan Agha says the gunfire “shook him out of bed.” He was in the epicenter of the horrible shooting, witnessing his father shot as the latter peered out of a window to see what was going on.

“The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared,” the young man told reporters.

Lying on a floor, Agha says, he pretended to be dead.

He added that his brother was shot in his head and chest. His sister was killed as well. “My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognizable,” he said.

The Afghan parliament said the incident was barbaric and demanded justice. Both NATO and US officials condemned the violence, promising a swift investigation.
­US ‘fundamental strategy’ in Afghanistan won’t change – Pentagon

­The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, George Little, said on Monday that there was “every indication” that the perpetrator, whose name he refused to disclose, had not been accompanied by any other soldiers. He also said that the mass killing would not change the “basic war strategy” in Afghanistan.

“Despite what some are saying, we’re not changing our fundamental strategy,” Little said.

Also on Monday NATO reacted to the massacre of Afghan villagers, with spokeswoman Oana Lungescu saying the shooting was an “isolated incident.” She emphasized it would not affect the timeline of the previously discussed withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Earlier a preliminary official report said the unnamed culprit, identified as a member of the US army staff, had acted alone and is now in custody after turning himself in at an American base.

US troops in Afghanistan have been put on high alert as the Taliban has issued a threat vowing “to take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.”

The statement published on the group’s website said that the US is “arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenseless Afghans.”

Afghan officials, fearing possible violent demonstrations, have deployed extra police and troops in and around Kandahar.

The incident was one of the worst of its kind since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It comes just weeks after copies of the Koran were burned at a US military base, provoking mass riots in Afghanistan.
­Slaying of 16 Afghan civilians ‘absolutely tragic and heartbreaking’ – Barack Obama

­US President Barack Obama has said during an interview with Denver TV Station KCNC that the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier was “absolutely tragic and heartbreaking” but also noted that he was “proud generally” of what US troops had accomplished in Afghanistan while working under strenuous conditions.

In another interview, this time with Orlando-based WFTV, the president reiterated his stance in favor of a pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. He said the incident “does signal the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plans that Afghans are taking more of the initiative in security.”

Asked whether the incident could be compared to the infamous 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which US troops murdered up to 500 civilians in South Vietnam, Obama responded by saying it was not comparable. “It appeared you had a lone gunman who acted on his own,” he noted.

US defense secretary Leon Panetta said that the death penalty was a possible punishment against the soldier who perpetrated the massacre. He noted that officials will use the military justice system to try the soldier and that the shootings must not derail the military mission in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, Reuters quoted an anonymous US official who said that the accused soldier had been treated for traumatic brain injury after being in a vehicle that rolled over in Iraq in 2010.

SOURCE

Concrete message: Iran ‘supershield’ to thwart US ‘superbomb’

>Concrete message: Iran ‘supershield’ to thwart US ‘superbomb’

Pentagon’s joy at getting tons of money for a bigger, badder bomb was, apparently, premature. Iran claims to have invented “super concrete” – of a type that will stop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from penetrating…well, anything.

­Iran is known for being one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. As a result, their scientists have gotten really good at creating ultra-high performance concrete, or UHPC, which is one of the toughest and most rigid building materials in the world. And like any dual-use technology, it can have military applications as well – something the Iranians are keen to utilize.What they’ve done is the exact opposite of that age-old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But it will allegedly allow Iran to effectively stop any potential bombing of strategic facilities that are in the Pentagon’s scope. No breaking, no fixing. Just good old stonewalling of the literal variety.

­The move will most likely cause a lot of anxiety in Washington. But the irony is that not only did Iran make an unexpected knight’s move, but it did so by mirroring the steps taken by the US Department of Defense.

With tensions around Iran’s nuclear program mounting, US defense secretary Leon Panetta said the existing modification of the bunker-buster MOP bomb wasn’t up to scratch; that it wouldn’t, in fact, even make a scratch on facilities like the Fordo research center, hidden under 300 feet of Iranian bedrock. So they took the massively limited ordnance penetrator and added $86 million worth of modifications – all to increase the bunker buster’s range.

It’s not known exactly how much money Iran spent on improving their UHPC, but it’s unlikely to be on the same scale as the US. The Pentagon has so far spent over $400 million on a bunker-buster bomb that looks unlikely to ever bust anything other than a hole in the budget.

And one thing is certain: this is a concrete stumbling block for the American military.

SOURCE

Obama Plans to Dramatically Cut Healthcare Benefits for Troops!

Trashing Tricare

BY: Bill Gertz –

The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.

The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.

The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.

One of the changes that people have not been opposed to is a new pain management solution that will be implemented. It is called cbd oil. It is safer and more effective than what they are using now, and it should help many disabled veterans to improve their quality of life. To those not familiarized with this medication you can look at this article at ANIPOTS that covers the basics quite well.

Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.

“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”

Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.

Military personnel from several of the armed services voiced their opposition to a means-tested tier system for Tricare, prompting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to issue a statement Feb. 21.

Dempsey said the military is making tough choices in cutting defense spending. In addition to the $487 billion over 10 years, the Pentagon is facing automatic cuts that could push the total reductions to $1 trillion.

“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”

Under the new plan, the Pentagon would get the bulk of its savings by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay.

Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.

According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.

The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.

The changes are worrying some in the Pentagon who fear it will severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force. Such benefits have been a key tool for recruiting qualified people and keeping them in uniform.

“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” said the congressional aide. “Would anybody accept their taxes being raised 345 percent in five years? Probably not.”

A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.

“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”

The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.

Spokesmen for the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Tricare increases.

The massive increases beginning next year appear timed to avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year, critics of the plan say.

Additionally, the critics said leaving civilian workers’ benefits unchanged while hitting the military reflect the administration’s effort to court labor unions, as government unions are the only segment of organized labor that has increased in recent years.

As part of the increased healthcare costs, the Pentagon also will impose an annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, a new program that all military retirees automatically must join at age 65. Currently, to enroll in Tricare for Life, retirees pay the equivalent of a monthly Medicare premium.

Under the proposed Pentagon plan, retirees will be hit with an additional annual enrollment fee on top of the monthly premium.

Congressional aides said that despite unanimous support among the military chiefs for the current healthcare changes, some senior officials in the Pentagon are opposing the reforms, in particular the tiered system of healthcare.

“It doesn’t matter what the benefit is, whether it’s commissary, PX, or healthcare, or whatever … under the rationale that if you raise your hand and sign up to serve, you earn a base set of benefits, and it should have nothing to do with your rank when you served, and how much you’re making when you retire,” the first aide said.

Military service organizations are opposing the healthcare changes and say the Pentagon is “means-testing” benefits for service personnel as if they were a social program, and not something earned with 20 or more years of military service.

Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.

“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.

Congressional hearings are set for next month.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Feb. 23 called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the healthcare increases.

“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member VFW. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”

Senior Air Force leaders are expected to be asked about the health care cost increases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Congress must pass all the proposed changes into law, as last year’s defense authorization bill preemptively limited how much the Pentagon could increase some Tricare fees, while other fees already were limited in law.

Tricare for Life, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Standard increases must be approved, as well as some of the pharmacy fee increases, congressional aides said.

Current law limits Tricare fee increases to cost of living increases in retirement pay.

SOURCE

Officer accuses U.S. military of vast Afghan deception

Officer accuses U.S. military of vast Afghan deception
By Stephen C. Webster

An internal report on the occupation of Afghanistan, penned by an active-duty military officer and published weeks ago — but not released by the Pentagon — was leaked on Friday by Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, who called the 84-page examination “one of the most significant documents published by an active-duty officer in the past ten years.”

The document, written by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, explains there has been a 12-year-long cover-up of the reality on the ground in Afghanistan. Davis was the source of a New York Times feature last Sunday, which cited his report but did not release it.

The Pentagon has since launched an investigation of Davis for possible security violations.

Davis reportedly wrote two versions — one classified and one not — and briefed four members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Senior Pentagon officials also have the report, but they’ve decided not to release it. For that reason, the unclassified report was published by Rolling Stone on Friday afternoon.

“As I will explain in the following pages I have personally observed or physically participated in programs for at least the last 15 years in which the Army’s senior leaders have either “stretched the truth” or knowingly deceived the US Congress and American public,” Davis explains in his introduction.

“What I witnessed in my most recently concluded 12 month deployment to Afghanistan has seen that deception reach an intolerable low. I will provide a very brief summary of the open source information that would allow any American citizen to verify these claims. But if the public had access to these classified reports they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes. It would be illegal for me to discuss, use, or cite classified material in an open venue and thus I will not do so; I am no WikiLeaks guy Part II.”

He essentially concludes that America’s top generals should be placed under oath and questioned about incidents detailed in the report.

The report is available to read here (PDF).

SOURCE

This Looks Like A Fortified Sniper’s Nest At The Super Bowl

This Looks Like A Fortified Sniper’s Nest At The Super Bowl

By Barry Petchesky

Some photos with no backstory are making the rounds, showing what appears to be an Indianapolis police sniper checking out his post in the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium in the hours or days before the Super Bowl, a post that would be manned when the game began. Yes, we know there’s nothing surprising about trained marksmen working the biggest sporting event of the year. We also know it’s pretty damn cool to see what the Super Bowl snipers are working with.

It’s standard operating procedure to have an invisible law enforcement presence at any high-profile event, let alone one with the attendance and attention the Super Bowl receives. And remember, there are all kinds of politicians and other assorted rich people around. You never know what could happen, though the imagination conjures up increasingly insane and horrifying scenarios, and also the criminally underrated Black Sunday. It’s just never a bad idea to have a sniper rifle around.

It’s no secret that the Super Bowl is staffed by sharpshooters. “We’ve got a lot of places for snipers in here,” Jerry Jones enthused to CNN about Cowboys Stadium before last year’s Super Bowl. In 2009, Ashton Kutcher noticed (and filmed) a pair of them across the street.

We’re actively trying to figure out where these photos came from and for what purpose they were taken. They’ve started to circulate on Facebook, and we found them posted on a 4chan board, though it’s impossible to tell where they originated. But the details are right: the IMPD patch, the end zone design, the giant Roman numerals on the glass of Lucas Oil Stadium. So we’re labeling them “plausible” and will update when we can trace them back a little further.


SOURCE

Massive U.S. Military Buildup Reported Around Iran; Up to 100,000 Troops Ready By March

Massive U.S. Military Buildup Reported Around Iran; Up to 100,000 Troops Ready By March
Mac Slavo

While President Obama’s supporters hailed his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the end of the war in the middle east, behind the scenes the Pentagon has been quietly massing troops and armaments on two islands located just south of the Strait of Hormuz, and within easy striking distance of Iran.

In addition to some 50,000 U.S. troops currently in the region waiting for orders (apparently they won’t be home by this past Christmas as was originally promised), Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama is deploying an additional 50,000 soldiers to be ready for ‘any contingency’ by March:

President Barack Obama is reported exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and Washington sources to have secretly ordered US air, naval and marine forces to build up heavy concentrations on two strategic islands – Socotra, which is part of a Yemeni archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and the Omani island of Masirah at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz.

Since 2010, the US has been quietly building giant air force and naval bases on Socotra with facilities for submarines, intelligence command centers and take-off pads for flying stealth drones, as part of a linked chain of strategic US military facilities in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

The Socotra facilities are so secret that they are never mentioned in any catalogue listing US military facilities in this part of the world, which include Jebel Ali and Al Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates; Arifjan in Kuwait; and Al Udeid in Qatar – all within short flying distances from Iran.

Additional US forces are also being poured into Camp Justice on the barren, 70-kilometer long Omani island of Masirah, just south of the Hormuz entry point to the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea.

Western military sources familiar with the American buildup on the two strategic islands tell DEBKA-Net-Weekly that, although they cannot cite precise figures, they are witnessing the heaviest American concentration of might in the region since the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

Then, 100,000 American troops were massed in Kuwait ahead of the invasion. Today, those sources estimate from the current pace of arrivals on the two island bases, that 50,000 US troops will have accumulated on Socotra and Masirah by mid-February. They will top up the 50,000 military already present in the Persian Gulf region, so that in less than a month, Washington will have some 100,000 military personnel on the spot and available for any contingency.

US air transports are described as making almost daily landings on Socotra and Masirah. They fly in from the US naval base of Diego Garcia, one of America’s biggest military facilities, just over 3,000 kilometers away. The US military presence in the region will further expand in the first week of March when three US aircraft carriers and their strike groups plus a French carrier arrive in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea: They are theUSS Abraham Lincoln, USS Carl Vinson, USS Enterprise and the Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

A fourth US carrier will be standing by in the Pacific Ocean, a few days’ sailing time from the water off Iran’s coast.

Source: Debka

Still holding out hope that we won’t go to war with Iran?

There’s already reason enough for the powers-to-be to invade Iran based on the accusations that they are in the process of manufacturing nuclear weapons. Whether true or not makes no difference, as we saw with weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be found in Iraq.

Similarly, like Saddam Hussein before them, Iran’s leadership is attempting to trade their oil without going through the proper channels – in essence attempting to bypass the United States and Europe by striking deals with China, India, and Russia that will not require the exchange of oil for US dollars, but rather, Yuan, Rupees and Gold.

It may very well be that nuclear weapons, like WMD in Iraq, are simply the pretext, rather than the real reason, that will be used to crush those who oppose the financiers, politicians and influencers behind the new world order paradigm.

Make no mistake: this is serious business. They will kill as many as is needed (on our side and theirs) in order to push the agenda forward.

This is what happens when you mess with the men behind the curtains:

*Warning Graphic Video*

Hat tip Steve Quayle, Stan Deyo
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Author: Mac Slavo
Date: January 30th, 2012
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

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It Begins: Army Cuts 8,700

Army slashing 8,700 jobs as budget cuts begin

By Ed O’Keefe

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has warned that the federal budget cuts could be “devastating” for the Pentagon.

With deeper budget cuts looming, the Pentagon is starting to cut back by trimming the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.

The Army said Thursday it is moving forward with plans announced in July to cut about 8,700 positions, using a mix of early retirement offers, buyouts and attrition to trim the jobs by the end of the fiscal year in late September.

“Army commands and agencies are continuing to take necessary actions to reduce their civilian on-board strength to meet funded targets established by the secretary of defense and reflected in the President’s budget,
” Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said in a statement. “To the maximum extent possible, the Army will rely on voluntary departures to achieve these manpower reductions.”

The cuts will come in 37 states at 70 different locations across eight commands and agencies with nearly 90 percent of the cuts taking place within the Installation Management Command, Army Materiel Command and the Training and Doctrine Command. Most of the cuts are likely to occur in Virginia and Texas, where most of the DOD’s civilian workers are located.

In addition to eligible workers who retire, commanders will be able to use voluntary early retirement offers and buyouts to cut jobs, the Army said.

The failure of the bipartisan debt supercommittee means the Pentagon budget could be cut by a total of $1 trillion over the next decade — what defense leaders warn is a “huge” cut that would amount to a 23 percent reduction in the defense budget, resulting in furloughs and layoffs of “many” civilians and a reduction in the size of the military. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has warned that the cuts could be “devastating” for the Pentagon, creating a “substantial risk” that the country’s defense needs might not be met.

SOURCE

Consequences of Iran Military Strike Will Reverberate Around The World

Panetta Warns Israel on Consequences of Iran Military Strike

By Jennifer Griffin

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said ahead of a meeting Friday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he would warn his Israeli counterpart about the global economic consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, adding that he still favors sanctions and diplomacy over a strike.

“To go beyond (sanctions and diplomacy) raises our concerns about the unintended consequences that could result. … There are going to be economic consequences to that, that could impact not just on our economy but the world economy,” Panetta told those travelling with him to Halifax, Canada.

Some Republican lawmakers are complaining the Obama administration is sending a schizophrenic message to Iran and the region. On one hand, it is projecting that the Pentagon now has 30,000-pound bunker-buster bombs capable of striking an underground WMD program and selling smaller bunker busters to Iran’s neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates.

Yet officials are warning about the dire implications of a military strike.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, however, said Friday that the military option is not off the table. “I don’t choose to talk about our discussions with our Israeli partners, but I will tell you we are on a dual- track approach, economic and diplomatic, with never taking the military option off the table. And I think that’s the right place to be,” he said, when asked what the message to Israel would be regarding a potential military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is sponsoring legislation, which was introduced Friday, to sanction Iran’s Central Bank, but says he is frustrated that the U.S. Treasury is not pushing harder to tighten sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank.

“I’m worried that the Obama administration policy on Iran is one becoming aggressive weakness,”
Kirk said. “They are not taking any real action against the Central Bank of Iran or other parts of the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran and then telling everyone else that they shouldn’t do anything either.”

Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said at a House hearing Tuesday that the Central Bank sanctions could actually benefit Iran while hurting the U.S. and global economies by causing oil prices to spike.

“If there is a hike in the price of oil, Iran gains. If there is a spike in the price of oil … there could be profound harm to the global economic recovery and a windfall to Iran,” he said.

A Treasury source said Friday that the department is “eager” to work with Congress on new ways to pressure Iran, “but it is critically important that the steps we take do not destabilize the U.S. and global economy while potentially benefiting Iran.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he thinks both the U.S. and Israel are torn over how to approach Iran.

“I think the Israeli government is divided in some respects like our own over the right approach to take,
” Gates said, in an exclusive interview set to air Saturday on Fox Business Network’s “Tom Sullivan Show. “The former heard of Mossad has been out saying what a terrible mistake a military strike would be. Others cite the existential threat … a nuclear-armed Iran poses for Israel. So I think there are both sides of the issue.”

Gates said he thinks “we have a little more time” to “squeeze the regime.”

Meanwhile, the White House welcomed a resolution from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors Friday chastising Iran for its continued alleged efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it will increase pressure on Iran to abandon its drive for a nuclear bomb — but did not specify how it would do so.

Kirk said the White House won’t take action against Iran next year because of fears that the oil markets could be disrupted. About 40 percent of the world’s oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz next to Iran.

The administration is “afraid of any instability and oil markets, and therefore wants to take no decisive action,” Kirk said. “They’ll give some pretty good speeches against Iran, but they will not take decisive economic action. That may be because they don’t want disruption in Western economies, worried about prospects for the campaign.”


Read more: SOURCE

Frying tonight

Frying tonight

BULLETS and bombs are so 20th-century. The wars of the 21st will be dominated by ray guns. That, at least, is the vision of a band of military technologists who are building weapons that work by zapping the enemy’s electronics, rather than blowing him to bits. The result could be conflict that is less bloody, yet more effective, than what is now seen as conventional battle.

Electromagnetic weapons, to give these ray guns their proper name, are inspired by the cold-war idea of using the radio-frequency energy released by an atom bomb exploded high in the atmosphere to burn out an enemy’s electrical grid, telephone network and possibly even the wiring of his motor vehicles, by inducing a sudden surge of electricity in the cables that run these things.

That idea, fortunately, was never tried in earnest (though some tests were carried out). But, by thinking smaller, military planners have developed weapons that use a similar principle, without the need for a nuclear explosion. Instead, they create their electromagnetic pulses with magnetrons, the microwave generators at the hearts of radar sets (and also of microwave ovens). The result is kit that can take down enemy missiles and aircraft, stop tanks in their tracks and bring speedboats to a halt. It can also scare away soldiers without actually killing them.

Many electromagnetic weapons do, indeed, look like radars, at least to non-expert eyes. America’s air force is developing a range of them based on a type of radar called an active electronically scanned array (AESA). When acting as a normal radar, an AESA broadcasts its microwaves over a wide area. At the touch of a button, however, all of its energy can be focused onto a single point. If that point coincides with an incoming missile or aircraft, the target’s electronics will be zapped.

Small AESAs—those light enough to fit on a plane such as a joint strike fighter (F-35)—are probably restricted to zapping air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles (the air force is understandably reticent about supplying details of their capabilities). Ground- or ship-based kit can draw more power. This will be able to attack both ballistic missiles and aircraft, whose electronics tend to be better shielded.

In the case of the F-35, then, this sort of electromagnetic artillery is mainly defensive. But another plane, the Boeing Growler, uses electromagnetics as offensive weapons. The Growler, which first saw action in Iraq in 2010 and has been extensively (though discreetly) deployed during the NATO air war against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces in Libya, is a souped-up version of the Super Hornet. It is fitted with five pods: two under each wing and one under the fuselage. Some pods contain AESAs or similar electromagnetic weapons. Others have eavesdropping equipment inside them. In combination, the pods can be used either to spy on enemy communications or to destroy them; to suppress anti-aircraft fire; to disable the electronics of ground vehicles; and to make life so hazardous for enemy aircraft that they dare not fly (and probably to shoot them down electronically, too, though no one will confirm this). The Growler is able to keep its weapons charged up and humming by lowering special turbines into the airstream that rushes past the plane when it is flying. America has ordered 114 of the planes, and has taken delivery of 53.

By land, sea and air

Nor are aircraft the only vehicles from which destructive electromagnetic pulses can be launched. BAE Systems, a British defence firm, is building a ship-mounted electromagnetic gun. The High-Powered Microwave, as it is called, is reported by Aviation Week to be powerful enough to disable all of the motors in a swarm of up to 30 speedboats. Ships fitted with such devices would never be subject to the sort of attack that damaged USS Cole in 2000, when an al-Qaeda boat loaded with explosives rammed it. A gun like this would also be useful for stopping pirate attacks against commercial shipping.

Land vehicles, too, will soon be fitted with electromagnetic cannon. In 2013 America hopes to deploy the Radio-Frequency Vehicle Stopper. This device, developed at the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in Quantico, Virginia, is a microwave transmitter the size and shape of a small satellite dish that pivots on top of an armoured car. When aimed at another vehicle, it causes that vehicle’s engine to stall.

This gentle way of handling the enemy—stopping his speedboats, stalling his tanks—has surprising advantages. For example, it expands the range of targets that can be attacked. Some favourite tricks of modern warfare, such as building communications centres in hospitals, or protecting sites with civilian “human shields”, cease to be effective if it is simply the electronics of the equipment being attacked that are destroyed. Though disabling an aircraft’s avionics will obviously cause it to crash, in many other cases, no direct harm is done to people at all.

The logical conclusion of all this is a so-called “human-safe” missile, which carries an electromagnetic gun instead of an explosive warhead. Such a missile is being developed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, and will soon be tested at the White Sands Missile Range.

There is, however, at least one electromagnetic weapon that is designed to attack enemy soldiers directly—though with the intention of driving them off, rather than killing them. This weapon, which is called the Active Denial System, has been developed by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, in collaboration with Raytheon. It works by heating the moisture in a person’s skin to the point where it feels, according to Kelley Hughes, an official at the directorate who volunteered to act as a guinea pig, like opening a hot oven. People’s reaction, when hit by the beam, is usually to flee. The beam’s range is several hundred metres.

Such anti-personnel weapons are controversial. Tests on monkeys, including ones in which the animals’ eyes were held open to check that the beam does not blind, suggest it causes no permanent damage. But when a vehicle-mounted Active Denial System was sent to Afghanistan in May 2010, it was eventually shipped back home without being used. The defence department will not say exactly why. The suspicion, though, is that weapons like the Active Denial System really are reminiscent in many minds of the ray guns of science fiction, and that using them in combat would be a PR mistake. Disabling communications and destroying missiles is one thing. Using heat-rays on the enemy might look bad in the newspapers, and put civilians off their breakfast.

Cold showers are good for you

To every action there is, of course, an equal and opposite reaction, and researchers are just as busy designing ways of foiling electromagnetic weapons as they are developing them. Most such foils are types of Faraday cage—named after the 19th-century investigator who did much of the fundamental research on electromagnetism.

A Faraday cage is a shield of conductive material that stops electromagnetic radiation penetrating. Such shields need not be heavy. Nickel- and copper-coated polyester mesh is a good starting point. Metallised textiles—chemically treated for greater conductivity—are also used. But Faraday cages can be costly. EMP-tronic, a firm based in Morarp, Sweden, has developed such shielding, initially for the Gripen, a Swedish fighter jet. It will shield buildings too, though, for a suitable consideration. To cover one a mere 20 metres square with a copper-mesh Faraday cage the firm charges €300,000 ($400,000).

Shielding buildings may soon become less expensive than that. At least two groups of scientists—one at the National Research Council Canada and the other at Global Contour, a firm in Texas—are developing electrically conductive cement that will block electromagnetic pulses. Global Contour’s mixture, which includes fibres of steel and carbon, as well as a special ingredient that the firm will not disclose, would add only $20 to the $150 per cubic metre, or thereabouts, which ordinary concrete costs.

The arms race to protect small vehicles and buildings against electromagnetic warfare, then, has already begun. Protecting ships, however, requires lateral thinking. For obvious reasons, they cannot be encased in concrete. And building a conventional Faraday cage round a naval vessel would be horribly expensive.

Daniel Tam, of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, thinks he has a way to get round that. He proposes to use the electrical conductivity of the sodium and chloride ions in seawater to create a novel type of Faraday cage. A shroud of seawater around a ship, thrown up by special pumps and hoses if the vessel came under electromagnetic attack, would do the trick, he reckons.

It is an ambitious idea. Whether it works or not, it shows how much the nature of modern belligerency is changing. Bombs and bullets will always have their place, of course. But the thought that a cold shower could protect a ship from attack is almost surreal.

SOURCE

More U.S. Soldiers Killed Themselves Than Died in Combat in 2010

More U.S. Soldiers Killed Themselves Than Died in Combat in 2010

Cord Jefferson

For the second year in a row, more American soldiers—both enlisted men and women and veterans—committed suicide than were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Excluding accidents and illness, 462 soldiers died in combat, while 468 committed suicide. A difference of six isn’t vast by any means, but the symbolism is significant and troubling. In 2009, there were 381 suicides by military personnel, a number that also exceeded the number of combat deaths.
Earlier this month, military authorities announced that suicides amongst active-duty soldiers had slowed in 2010, while suicides amongst reservists and people in the National Guard had increased. It was proof, they said, that the frequent psychological screenings active-duty personnel receive were working, and that reservists and guardsmen, who are more removed from the military’s medical bureaucracy, simply need to begin undergoing more health checks. This new data, that American soldiers are now more dangerous to themselves than the insurgents, flies right in the face of any suggestion that things are “working.” Even if something’s working, the system is still very, very broken.

One of the problems hindering the military’s attempt to address soldier suicides is that there’s no real rhyme or reason to what kind of soldier is killing himself. While many suicide victims are indeed afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after facing heavy combat in the Middle East, many more have never even been deployed. Of the 112 guardsmen who committed suicide last year, more than half had never even left American soil.

“If you think you know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know,” Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times, “because we don’t know what it is.”


SOURCE