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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    Amid the expense and controversy surrounding America's effort at fifth-generation piloted, like the F-35 and the F-22, there is the silent but hard fact that unmanned drones are poised to make cumbersome piloted jets a thing of the past.

    The idea is regularly tossed around, but to highlight the fact, here is a flight deck crewman aboard the USS Truman guiding the X-47B unmanned drone across the deck of an American carrier. It's a scene that has always had a pilot looking back from the cockpit, until now.  

    The X-47B is aboard the Truman to perfect one of the more challenging feats in aviation today by taking off and landing aboard the carrier deck. It's a process fraught with hazards that requires crew at the landing site to wave a pilot off should something become amiss. A "foul deck" sends someone waving their arms telling the pilot to pull up and try again.

    For an X-47B landing, all that move would require is the flip of a switch.

    We've reached out to the USS Truman's command requesting a visit to see the X-47B in person, but no word yet on whether they're accepting press visits. In the meantime we'll have to make due with videos like this from Northrop Grumman and the Navy.

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    MIRV

    During the nuclear honed days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a nuclear missile able to strike anywhere in the U.S.

    Loaded with multiple maneuverable warheads (MIRVs), while carrying decoys and chaff to keep from getting struck down, the missiles undermined the entire balance of power between the two superpowers and struck fear into hard hearts at the Kremlin and the Pentagon alike.

    When China successfully tested its DF-31A missile several days ago, it confirmed another country now has proven nuclear ability reach any city in the U.S. with precisely the type of missiles that troubled the U.S. decades ago.

    The DF-31A is believed to have three warheads per missile and a range of about 7,000 miles, which allows it to target anywhere in the U.S. While that ability isn't new, China's CSS-4 has that capability as well, that missile requires a stationary launch pad and contains but one nuclear warhead.

    DF-31A RangeThe DF-31A is portable and launches from the back of a tank, train, or truck. China also has more than 3,000 miles of underground tunnels and highly reinforced military bunkers where it can stash the highly mobile ordnance.

    Notoriously cryptic about the extent of its nuclear arsenal, China announced the launch on a Chinese military news site.

    Bill Gertz at The Washington Free Beacon confirms what the site claims, reporting that U.S. intelligence, airborne, and space sensors picked up the launch from China's Wuzhai Space and Missile Test Center in western China when it happened.

    From the Beacon:

    It was the second DF-31A flight test since August and highlights China’s growing strategic nuclear buildup, a modernization program largely carried out in secret. The DF-31A test also took place on the last day of a rare U.S.-China military exercise in Chengdu that practiced joint disaster relief efforts.

    China is known to use its missile tests to send political signals, as in 1996 when it bracketed Taiwan with missile flight tests that impacted north and south of the island prior to a presidential election. Analysts say the DF-31A test likely was intended to bolster the Chinese military’s hardline stance toward the United States and particularly the U.S. military, regarded by Beijing as its main adversary.

    Richard Fisher, a China military affairs specialist, told the Beacon, the development “suggests that China may be building toward a ‘counterstrike’ strategy that would require the secret buildup of many more missiles and warheads than suggested by public ICBM number estimates made available by the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

    MIRVA viable counterstrike is one potential scenario China may be planning for, but what unsettled both the U.S. and the Soviets about the MIRVs when they came around the first time was the "enhancement of a first strike capability."

    Basically, having multiple warheads per missile vastly increases the chances of successfully striking the U.S. and at multiple sites. The belief was that this degree of confidence would do little to decrease the chances of nuclear war.

    But with so much going on in the world today at a pace the warriors of the Cold War never imagined, it's easy to overlook just one more missile test. Which is why it could be important to remember that it's missiles like this that helped lift the arms race to the frenzied heights it achieved before the Iron Curtain fell in the early 1990s and defined a generation.

    If China shares the MIRV technology with Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and North Korea like it has shared nuclear, missile materials, and technology in the past it could prompt an entirely new round of concerns.

    SEE ALSO: China's impenetrable military bunkers

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    Missile

    North Korea's attempting to launch a long range missile again this year and after refusing to comment on the effort, we can hold back no longer.

    The media seems to think that Pyongyang's inglorious prior launch somehow dictates future failure, but that's disingenuous and BI Military & Defense is going to predict DPRK success this year.

    Maybe it's a reaction to the lazy media response surrounding the North's recent decision to halt the current launch, pull the rocket apart, and make adjustments as a laughable indication of the failure to come

    But there are reasons why this year's launch may have a better chance of success than the one's that came before.

    First, the proof that North Korea understands its technological limitations and seeks to fill its lack of understanding was confirmed in July of this year when two DPRK agents were arrested in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.

    Ukraine is the former Soviet country where 70 percent of all the Kremlin's Cold War ballistic missile production took place. Dnipropetrovsk, specifically, is the heart of that effort and was closed off to the outside world from World War II to 1991. In Dnipropetrovsk is a massive solid-fuel missile plant called Yuzmash, along with scholars and students exercising some of the sharpest aerospace engineering minds in the world. 

    The North Koreans were caught photographing some of these students PhD dissertations marked "Secret" that held "progressive technologies in building rocket systems, spacecraft, liquid-fuel engines, rocket fuel supply systems, and other know how," according to the Kiev Post.

    If two DPRK agents were caught it seems safe to assume there were a handful of others that were not caught and returned to Pyongyang with the information they sought.

    Even if there weren't, and the only two spies sent to glean needed missile tech were busted by the Ukraine Security Service, Iran is reportedly on hand for this year's launch.

    Iran has enjoyed the fruits of Chinese ballistic missile research since at least the mid-90s and there's little reason to imagine Tehran would not do what it could to help the North with this launch.

    Reuters reported the Iranians were on site December 2, but only as the launch date was extended and the rocket brought down has Tehran denied a presence on the ground.

    Regardless, delaying a rocket launch rather than plowing forth unaware of impending problems could reveal a sophistication and understanding that was not a part of North Korea's previous long range ballistic missile launches.

    And even if the delay is just the correction of an obvious problem, the care it implies suggests this launch might have a better chance of success than those before it.

    SEE ALSO: Step into North Korea's changing landscape >

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    North Korea Rocket Launcher

    North Korea launched a rocket just before 8 p.m. EST (9:51 a.m. Wednesday South Korean local time), and it later fell into the ocean 200 miles east of the Philippines, Yonhap News Agency reports.

    It traveled an approximate distance of about 1600 - 1800 miles. More astounding though is that no one saw it coming. After a bit of misdirection this morning when they announced a delay, many wondered if the launch would happen at all, some were already calling it a failure.

    The launch is the result of a year's worth of planning and assistance and we predicted earlier today that this launch would be a success.

    North Korea has claimed that the purpose of the rocket is to put a satellite in orbit, but others say that it's just a test for long-range ballistic missiles.

    Though no satellite ended up in orbit, North Korea certainly shocked the world, and showed that anyone within a 1500 mile radius is a viable target.

    Here's what we wrote just minutes prior the launch:

    The media seemed to think that Pyongyang's inglorious prior launch somehow dictated future failure, but we felt that disingenuous and BI Military & Defense predicted DPRK success this year.

    Maybe it was a reaction to the lazy media response surrounding the North's decision to halt the launch, pull the rocket apart, and make adjustments as a laughable indication of the failure to come

    We didn't agree, and even before tonight's launch we saw several reasons why this effort had a better chance of success than the one's before it.

    First, the proof that North Korea understood its technological limitations and sought to fill its lack of understanding was confirmed in July of this year when two DPRK agents were arrested in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.

    Ukraine is the former Soviet country where 70 percent of all the Kremlin's Cold War ballistic missile production took place. Dnipropetrovsk, specifically, is the heart of that effort and was closed off to the outside world from World War II to 1991. In Dnipropetrovsk is a massive solid-fuel missile plant called Yuzmash, along with scholars and students exercising some of the sharpest aerospace engineering minds in the world. 

    The North Koreans were caught photographing some of these students PhD dissertations marked "Secret" that held "progressive technologies in building rocket systems, spacecraft, liquid-fuel engines, rocket fuel supply systems, and other know how," according to the Kiev Post.

    If two DPRK agents were caught it seems safe to assume there were a handful of others that were not caught and returned to Pyongyang with the information they sought.

    Even if there weren't, and the only two spies sent to glean needed missile tech were busted by the Ukraine Security Service, Iran is reportedly on hand for this year's launch.

    Iran has enjoyed the fruits of Chinese ballistic missile research since at least the mid-90s and there's little reason to imagine Tehran would not do what it could to help the North with this launch.

    Reuters reported the Iranians were on site December 2, but only as the launch date was extended and the rocket brought down has Tehran denied a presence on the ground.

    Regardless, delaying a rocket launch rather than plowing forth unaware of impending problems could reveal a sophistication and understanding that was not a part of North Korea's previous long range ballistic missile launches.

    And even if the delay was just the correction of an obvious problem, the care it implied suggested this launch had a better chance of success than those before it.

     

    SEE ALSO: What it really means if Canada dumps the F-35 >

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    afghan airport

    Kabul International Airport (KBL) has allowed monied officials to allegedly smuggle billions out of the country over the years and according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) continues to do so.

    The report examined the airport's plan to regulate bulk cash moving through the airport, and found persons passing through the "Very Important Persons" (VIP) lounge or the "Very Very Important Persons" (VVIP) lounge can stroll by nearly all safeguards placed on money laundering and bulk cash smuggling.

    VIPs do not undergo main security and customs screenings, and are allegedly not required to scan their carried cash through bulk currency counters, which capture and catalog currency serial numbers to allow for the detection and investigation of financial crimes, according to the report. The KBL lounges reportedly don't even have security cameras.

    The Congressional Research Service estimates that $4.5 billion was taken out of Afghanistan in 2011

    afghanSIGAR reports there were no bulk currency counters available and Afghan officials had no plans to require VIPs to scan their cash, despite an 2010 pledge in to implement regulations or law within a year.

    SIGAR notes that proper controls to monitor cash flows are "particularly critical for a country fraught with corruption, narcotics trafficking, and insurgent activity," but their success "depends largely on the degree of political will" of the Afghan government.

    Afghan customs at KBL are reportedly "afraid that they would experience negative repercussions from [the Afghan government] if progress in instituting controls at the airport was made."

    SEE ALSO: The Largest Afghan Bank Was A 'Ponzi Scheme' From The Beginning

    SEE ALSO: The Afghan Government Looks Destined To Collapse After NATO Forces Leave

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    DPRK SatelliteFollowing North Korea's missile success earlier this week, U.S. officials told NBC late yesterday that Pyongyang's space vehicle is "spinning out of control" above the earth.

    The satellite was placed in a low earth orbit Wednesday and has been cruising pole-to-pole ever since.

    South Korea has now come out saying NBC's comments are wrong, the satellite is in fact orbiting normally via AP/ABC.

    Conflicting statements, but we'll fill in some gaps and let you decide if the KWANGMYONGSONG is in trouble.

    A bit of digging earlier this morning turned up a Reddit thread with a group tracking the KWANGMYONGSONG 3 in real time that led to some hard facts.

    Real Time Satellite Tracking (RTST) says the 'SONG 3 is an observation satellite designed for weather purposes, according to the DPRK and lists a NORAD ID of 39026 on the object as it travels southwest over Africa at 2:21 a.m. EDT.

    A NORAD ID is a 5-digit number assigned by USSPACECOM to all Earth orbiting satellites for identification. RTST is tracking elevation, speed, and azimuth in addition to many other variables and whether it's spinning is unclear, but it is maintaining a stable altitude of about 330 miles up and a near constant speed of about 5 miles per second. Not necessarily "out of control" indicators.

    The tracking link is hosted by ITPROSTAR a geospatial web development team in Northern Virginia, specializing in real time satellite tracking. They cite NASA, CNN, and the European Space Agency as "Existing or past customers". And offer a listing of other sites, so on the surface they seem legit, which implies the tracking data should be sound.

    Back on Reddit, the thread hosts this comment, entertaining problems and outcomes. 

    Satellite engineer here - from what they are saying they are likely unable to command the satellite (I take that from 'out of control'). I don't know anything about their satellite but it is possible to fix a satellite that is tumbling (one of our recent (3-4 yrs?) satellites was tumbling a bit due to a launch vehicle issue, but we were able to save it).

    If they are unable to get control of the satellite, the orbit will decay in a matter of hours/days.

    If it burns up in the atmosphere it could create an issue, as the fuel typically contained (again, we don't have any idea what is inside the thing) is incredibly toxic.

    Side note/more info: satellites require constant station keeping and attitude adjustment to maintain their orbit. This two things requires the satellite to not be spinning. if they can determine exactly how it is spinning, it is possible to command the thrusters to fix the tumble. But we don't even know if the satellite is working or if it has enough power in the batteries to keep it on for long enough to solve the problem. (you can't deploy solar arrays if its tumbling.)

    Of course, that's just speculation at this point. But another concern being raised is even more sinister.

    DPRK Sat Track

    Any threat of an uncontrolled object bouncing through satellite fields brings up Kessler Syndrome, which was proposed by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978. Kessler suggested low earth orbit is so crowded that one "fender bender" between two satellites could start a cascade effect.

    Basically the communication satellites would start careening off one another until the global satellite network was dead. On a high note, Kessler concludes this scenario could render space exploration and the use of satellites unlikely for generations.

    Outlets citing the "out of control" theory are also mentioning the 2009 debacle where a Russian and U.S. satellite unexpectedly crashed. That was the first collision between two spacecraft, but collisions between random objects and detritus are a bit more common.

    It is not terribly uncrowded up there with about 17,000 pieces of manmade debris orbiting the earth at large. Where the North Korean satellite orbits is about within the Iridium satellite constellation where the last crash occurred.

    Huffington Post reports, "Iridium Holdings LLC has a system of 65 active satellites that relay calls from portable phones that are about twice the size of a regular mobile phone. It has more than 300,000 subscribers. The U.S. Department of Defense is one of its largest customers."

    No doubt that customer is going to be keeping a very close ete on the 'Song and we'll report any updates as they occur.

    SEE ALSO: The three US weapons sent to the DMZ that changed everything >

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    Canada F-35

    The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been the jet of choice for Canada since 2001, but a milestone was reached in 2010 when defense minister Peter MacKay announced his intention to buy 65 of them from the U.S.

    It was then MacKay said the aircraft would cost taxpayers $9 billion, while declining to offer operating costs, but within a year that number had jumped to $16 billion. The Canadian government finally admitted last week that the cost had swelled to a shocking $40 billion.

    That was enough for leaders to say other options were back on the table and the F-35's future in Canada was far from certain. On top of that blow, a new independent report nudges that lifetime cost up to nearly $46 billion over the 42 year lifespan of the jet. Another $6 billion, on top of an already additional $31 billion will prove very tough to justify.

    The news skewered a Canadian political party once respected for its fiscal credibility and left just two Tory officials to defend the F-35 decision in an hour long news conference yesterday.

    It wasn't pretty, and there were no answers on why the government failed to seriously consider other jets, to announce the actual costs of the F-35, or why it it attacked anyone who questioned the plane at all.

    None of this means that Canada won't end up with a string of F-35s, though that seems unlikely, but it does mean the world is catching on to the fact that U.S. military hardware is absurdly expensive. 

    And pretending the technology is new and will come down in cost doesn't explain why something as established as the nation's main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, which was designed in the 1970s costs $8.58 million apiece. More importantly, it doesn't explain why Russia's T-90, considered by some to be a better weapon, runs a breezy $2.77 million. 

    That's nearly a three to one difference that threatens to spill over into allied militaries throughout the world. Accepting less for more isn't going to work and as countries like India choose Russian jets to renew their fleets,it's only the first sign of things to come.

    Not that anything in the U.S. will change: Even as the Pentagon struggles to pay for the F-35, it's already looking at a sixth generation fighter to replace it by 2030, and putting out battleships for $7 billion apiece.

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    Newly released surveillance camera footage shows intimate details of the F-18A crash in Virginia Veach we covered back in April.

    The footage comes out of WTKR Norfolk, a local news affiliate.

    Aside from the astounding two frames of footage that caught the doomed jet, the most interesting part is the reaction of the local people. Some gather, some flee, and still others actually approach the crash.

    The U.S. has seen a rash of domestic military air accidents in the last few years. Luckily, this one resulted in no casualties — the firemen even refer to it as "the good Friday miracle."

    There's a commercial in the beginning of the video, and normally we wouldn't subject our readers to that, but the video is definitely worth watching.

    The video is an actual news report, so we'll break it down here for the most incredible moments:

    — The jet first flashes by at 32 seconds

    — At one minute, the video breaks down to reveal the two frames of footage that caught the jet

    — At 1:15, a reflection off a truck shows the resulting explosion of the crash

    —1:34, people come flooding out of their homes to see what all the racket was

    — 1:42, a man creeps into the hole the plane made in apartment buildings and a mother flees with her children

    — 1:50, firefighters and policemen arrive

    — 1:56, clearly visible is the growing fire resulting from spilled jet fuel

    SEE ALSO: Angry Canadians Find Out Their F-35 Deal Is $35 Billion More Than Expected >

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    Claymore

    American ingenuity is an incredible force, and nowhere more so than on the battlefield.

    Weapons like the M16 rifle have  been battle tested and refined to near-perfection. Others like the atomic bomb are so powerful they changed the world.

    While there's no scientific way to compare these weapons, we took what we saw in service, what we've read, and what we've heard from troops to rank the most effective.

    These weapons are trusted by the U.S. military to defeat the enemy and save lives.

    #25 — The GBU-28 Laser Guided Bunker Buster

    Range: 5 miles from plane to target

    Depth: 20 feet, reinforced concrete

    Weight: 4,700 lbs

    Payload: 630 lbs high explosives

    Analysis: Nicknamed "Deep Throat" this bunker buster is integral to digging out a well-entrenched enemy and is the largest such bomb in the Israeli arsenal.

    There's a certain comfort in the ability to disable well-fortified enemy positions allowed by the GBU-28 and after the US sold Israel 100 of the bombs in 2005, it sold a batch to South Korea in 2009. The South received them just months after the North's successful nuclear test in May of that year.



    #24 — The M18 Claymore Mine

    Service record: Exemplary.

    Name: After the large two handed Scottish sword.

    Method: A shaped direction charge, either victim operated or command detonated, flings several hundred high-velocity steel ball bearings into the face of the enemy.

    Round: 700 1/8 inch steel balls traveling 4,000 feet per second.

    Analysis: Not just deadly, but deadly reliable, it's got 60 years of active service. The claymore mine can be used for area denial and alarm systems, as well as for coordinated ambush — and at $110 a unit, America could line it's borders with Claymores.



    #23 — M72 Light Anti-Armor Weapon

    Caliber: 66 mm

    Max Effective Range, Stationary Target: 600 feet

    Warheads: fragmentary, anti tank, and a heat and high-pressure thermobaric, capable of killing everyone in a room or bunker with air pressure and heat alone.

    Analysis: Practicality and Spread are key here. Marines can each carry two of these instead of one AT-4 rocket, at approximately the same cost. It's small size and minimal backblast make it perfect for urban warfare — a favorite of ground troops who know the enemy is behind a wall, or hunkered inside an enclosure.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster .223 rifle has a tragic legacy that looks to be growing if CNN reports are correct.

    The Cable News Network reports that Adam Lanza used three weapons to commit the mass shooting in Connecticut, but the one confirmed assault rifle is a Bushmaster .223.

    From CNN:

    Three guns were found at the scene, CNN's Susan Candiotti reports. According to a law enforcement source, the third weapon found on the scene was a .223 Bushmaster. The other weapons, previously reported, are a Glock, and a Sig-Sauer. No word on the models of Glock or Sig-Sauer.

    The Bushmaster was also used in the 2003 Washington, D.C. sniper shootings where 10 people were killed and two people arrested.

    That incident resulted in a lawsuit settlement and eventually Bushmaster's Windham, Maine facility closed in 2010, but owner Dick Dyke started a new rifle manufacturing company called Windham Weaponry Inc. soon afterward.

    Bushmaster's parts and gear are still available online.

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    Drone Operator

    The New Mexico desert gets blistering hot, but inside the small windowless container where Brandon Bryant worked as a drone operator for the U.S. Air Force it stays a cool 63 degrees all year long.

    Nicola Abé at der Spiegel spoke with Bryant, no longer in the Air Force, who relays a disturbing and tragic scene from his time inside that isolated container in the American desert.

    Sixty-three finger numbing degrees and Bryant describes sitting with a group of other pilots looking at more than a dozen computer monitors. The crew are directing drones over Afghanistan 6,250 miles away and the screens jump with a two to five second delay, as infrared video sent from the UAVs whips through the air to New Mexico.

    When the order to fire on a target arrives, Bryant paints the roof of a hut with the laser that will guide in a Hellfire missile fired by the pilot beside him.

    "These moments are like in slow motion," he says to Abé.

    No doubt, because on this occasion Bryant says a child walked from behind the building at the last second. Too late for him to do anything else but ask the other pilot, "Did we just kill a kid?"

    From der Spiegel:

    "Yeah, I guess that was a kid," the pilot replied.

    "Was that a kid?" they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

    Then, someone they didn't know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. "No. That was a dog," the person wrote.

    They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

    The article follows another widely publicized story from the Marine Times about children killed by Americans on Afghan soil published just weeks ago. While obviously a tragedy for the victims and their families, Bryant describes the incredible toll taken on U.S. troops required to obey orders producing such dire results.

    From his mother's couch in Missoula, Montana Bryant talks of his 6,000 Air Force flight hours and says he used to dream in infrared. "I saw men, women and children die during that time," he says. "I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn't kill anyone at all."

    The three part article digs deeply into the life of a troubled former servicemember and the war-fighting policies that don't look to be changing anytime soon.

    Read it in full here.

    SEE ALSO: Why China's new MIRV ballistic missile is a very big deal

    Now learn about Israel's Defense System:

     

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    Rifle

    Last week's Connecticut shooting has once again focused the national spotlight on assault weapons and their place in America.

    Everyone has heard of these guns. They've been available to the U.S. public for generations. Understanding where they came from goes a long way to understanding that they're not going away any time soon.

    As soon as gunpowder was poured down a metal tube and lit to fire a bullet, the challenge became speeding the process along.

    When colonial settlers in America took up arms against the British, technology was still where it had been when rifles were first introduced. Pour the powder down the barrel, tamp it down with a metal rod, shove in a ball of lead, and wait for the spark from the trigger to reach the powder in the barrel.

    With this technology, the best soldiers could get off approximately 3 or 4 rounds a minute, and those rounds — sphere-shaped lead balls — had little accuracy.

    The smooth bore of old rifles sent rounds jumping through the air like a baseball pitcher's knuckleball. Hitting a target was hard, and the inaccuracy of these guns was part of the reason British soldiers lined up to fire in unison, like they do in the movies. 

    Rifled BarrelThe invention of the Minié Ball during the Civil War revolutionized sharpshooting from a distance, and another innovation, the rifling, or spiraling of the barrel, not only made the long gun into the deadly tool it is today but became the general term given to the weapon. 

    The more standardized Minié round also allowed inventors to construct a feeding mechanism that drastically streamlined the loading and firing process.

    Inventor Benjamin Tyler Henry, created the Henry Repeating Rifle in 1862, and "semi-automatic weapons" were born. Though the Henry repeater isn't a modern semi-automatic (it still had to be cocked before every shot, versus a true semi-automatic, which cocks itself and fires a round with every trigger pull), it allowed rapid firing of rounds up to about 12 a minute.

    The invention was the Atom Bomb of the 1800s military world, and it set the stage for the beginning of American arms making.

    "What saved us that day was the fact that we had a number of Henry rifles," Major William Ludlow's wrote in his account of the Battle of Altoona Pass during the Civil War. "This company of 16 shooters sprang to the parapet and poured out such a multiplied, rapid and deadly fire, that no men could stand in front of it and no serious effort was made thereafter to take the fort by assault."

    Rifle technology remained, for the most part, unchanged over the next 50 or 60 years (there were slight
    modifications and enhancements, but the guns still had to be cocked for every shot).

    What innovations there were came mostly in the field of automatic weapons, which were clunky and required Minie Ballat least two men to operate — like the infamous Gatling Gun, which required a cranking system and often fell victim to double feed and jams.

    When World War I came around, ground troops were still largely using bolt-action one shot rifles, and shots per minute remained about the same as the days of Henry, about 12 per minute. The world was in desperate need of a rapid-fire rifle for light infantrymen.

    There came the Winchester Model 1905, a "self loading" rifle, as they were called back then, that fired a bullet with every pull of the trigger. One key difference though was that these rifles had to be loaded like modern shotguns, with each shell manually fed into the rifle via a port on the side.

    The manual loading made it difficult for troops under fire to reload and return fire. What the Army needed was self contained magazine style loading.

    The M1 Garand came around the end of the World War I, and for the first time soldiers used small preloaded 'clips' or 'cartridges' that held eight rounds each. This was no assault rifle, and soldiers had to fire all eight rounds in the clip before reloading, which left them in a bind if they took cover with only one round left in the weapon. But it was a huge step up from manual shooting.

    Iwo JimaIt wasn't until the invention of two weapons, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and the M1 Carbine that the world saw the birth of 'Assault Style' rifles.

    The BAR was a light infantry machine gun, which would later serve as inspiration for the light squad automatic weapons still used today.

    The M1 Carbine came years later, in the early 1940s, as part of an Army initiative to provide soldiers with a light assault carbine that stored rounds in several interchangeable magazines. The M1 Carbine was the first magazine loaded, light semi-automatic weapon — and all designs since then, M16s and AK-47s, are based on this original rifle style.  

    In the history of weapons, the M1 Carbine is the father of what all of we now call "assault weapons." It is also something the writers of the U.S. constitution probably never imagined.

    SEE ALSO: Why no US ground soldier leaves base without a SAW >

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    NBC Richard EngelAmid widespread concern yesterday, and calls for silence on the topic by NBC, Richard Engel, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent has been freed from his Syrian captors.

    Engel and his team were captured last Wednesday and liberated after a firefight that went down at a roadside checkpoint yesterday.

    From NBC:

    “After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” the network said in a statement.

    The captors were unidentified and were not believed to be loyal to the Assad regime.

    Engel, 39, along with other employees the network did not identify, disappeared shortly after crossing into northwest Syria from Turkey on Thursday. The network had not been able to contact them until learning that they had been freed on Monday.

    With no claim of responsibility, a coordinated kidnapping, and no ransom demands, many questions remain about the incident that came to an unexpected, but fortunate conclusion at a standard checkpoint. Engel credits the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group with his release.

    It was al-Sham that engaged Engels captors, killing two of them, before an unknown number of others got away. It's interesting that the Ahrar al-Sham, meaning "Free Men of Greater Syria" are considered fundamentalist in their Islamic views allies of the al-Nusra Front.

    The latter group was labeled recently a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, but remains the "most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force." Both groups themselves are said to be responsible for abductions of their own, performed largely against opposing Sh'ite forces and civilians.

    A highly respected foreign correspondent, Engel is one of the only Western journalists to cover the entire Iraq War. He published the experience in a widely praised book titled, War Journal: My Five Years In Iraq. Fluent in Arabic, Engel accessed parts of Iraq and the U.S. administration unlike anyone else. Even George W. Bush called him to the White House for a private briefing and the resulting book is one of the definitive works from that conflict.

    From yesterday:

    Turkish media is reporting that veteran journalist Richard Engel, NBC's chief foreign correspondent and Middle East bureau chief, and his Turkish colleagueAziz Akyavaş are currently missing in Syria. 

    Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that Engel and Akyavaş haven't been in contact with NBC News since Thursday morning.

    John Cook of Gawker reports that NBC has been "asking every reporter who inquires about the pair to participate in a news blackout," but the Turkish reports have already been referenced by journalists and others thousands of times on Twitter.

    Prominent investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill argues that NBC's news blackout should be respected, although the news has been picked up by outlets including The Daily Mail, The Houston Chronicle, and The Atlantic Wire:

    Turkish news channel NTV notes that Turkish journalists who have been arrested and detained in Syria do not have any information about the journalists' whereabouts.

    [UPDATE 4:50 p.m.]John Cook at Gawker has published a response to readers wondering why Gawker decided to publish their post against NBC News' wishes:

    The rationale for the blackout was offered in off-the-record conversations, so I can't present their argument here. But I will say this: No one told me anything that indicated a specific, or even general, threat to Engel's safety. No one said, "If you report this, then we know, or suspect, that X, Y, or Z may happen." It was infinitely more vague and general than that.

    As I wrote in the post, when the New York Times maintained a blackout about David Rohde, the rationale was clear: I was directly told that the Times had reason to believe that the people who had Rohde would harm him if news got out. There was nothing approaching that level of specificity or argumentation here. I would not have written a post if someone had told me that there was a reasonable or even remote suspicion that anything specific would happen if I wrote the post.

    Also: There was in practice no blackout. Xinhua and Breitbart had published English language accounts. There were probably like 100 posts to Twitter per minute about him. This was a situation where the information was freely available on the internet, and in the region—these are large Turkish outlets reporting this information. It was out.

    SEE ALSO: How The Syrian Conflict Is Going To End

    Veteran Journalist Says The Media Is Totally Misreporting What's Happening In Syria

    There Isn't A Ruler In The World Who Wants To Use Chemical Weapons

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    F-35 Radar

    The stealth technology of America's fifth-generation jet fighters, the F-22 and the F-35, could be obsolete after a new discovery from the University of Rochester in New York.

    One main goal of fifth-generation aircrafts is to slip through skies over enemy lines without being targeted. It's not invisible, but elusive, and digitally feisty.

    The F-35's lineup of electronic tools, work toward that end, by using a variety of sophisticated and devastating radar defeating moves. Combined with internal weapons storage, special composite skin, and reduced angles of design, the fighter does all it can to work past the weaknesses in today's aircraft detection. Lockheed Martin designers, however, did not plan for this University of Rochester research.

    The U of R doesn't look to use a radar wave but instead a quantum image gleaned through a string of photons that boomerang out and back, telling operators everything they've seen. This process can't be jammed, confused, or eluded and rather than get absorbed, reflected, or even restructured to look like something else the photons supposedly report back with only the facts.

    F-35 Cockpit

    Operators then compare elements of the beam when it left, with what the same quantum nuggets look like when they get back. 

    Clearly it's more technical than this and involves quantum properties of photons, and physics I can barely imagine, but that's the gist of it.

    Researchers say their system isn't yet perfect and can theoretically be compromised, but that's something to address down the road.

    In the meantime they have a new quantum imaging system that can "be added relatively quickly and cheaply to existing systems."

    Whether that's true or not, the results prompted military aviation News site Alert 5 to call it "unjammable aircraft detection."

    This won't be good news to Lockheed Martin and F-35 proponents. It's no secret the F-35 has been hit by its share of problems and cost overruns. Canada just announced its plans to consider other aircraft to replace an aging fleet and Australia's delayed their F-35 order so often that delivery Down Under is as distant as it is obscure.

    If stealth becomes no longer possible, then a major selling point of the troubled F-35 project will become an expensive waste.

    SEE ALSO: The 25 most effective weapons in the US arsenal >

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    ADAPTIV

    BAE Systems ADAPTIV invisibility cloak is getting some new attention online today after the University of Rochester announced its new quantum imaging tech.

    The following pictures are from a BAE Systems video that highlights what the system can do.

    See the pictures >

    Developed and patented in Sweden. ADAPTIV functions over infra-red and other electronic frequencies. While it can blend the coated vehicle into the background, making it seem  invisible, it can also shape the returning signal to appear like something else entirely.

    A tank, for example, can be made to look like a car. The pictures show both the combat vehicle disappearing and reshaping itself into the outline of an automobile.

    In addition to these functions the system also sends out a coded signal to friendly forces, preventing "friendly fire" incidents. When another combat vehicle spots an ADAPTIV tank, it beams back an image marked with a large X signifying a friendly fighter.

    The technology is a achieved through sheets of lightweight, hexagonal metallic "pixels"that rapidly change temperature to "paint" thermal images. Each pixel operates independently and adjusts its signature with existing semi-conducting technology.

    Of course, none of that will matter if this new quantum imaging system hits the field, but in the meantime this would make life in a tank much less stressful.

    The BAE video is below, but I've taken the best shots and put them in the slideshow.

    SEE ALSO: The quantum imaging technology that will make it impossible to hide >

    The ADAPTIV plated tank is picked up via thermal image



    The system activates allowing it to blend into the surrounding forest



    Until it's indistinguishable from the trees



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    Mased

    NBC Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his crew were driving through what they believed was rebel controlled territory last Wednesday when 15 armed men in ski masks ambushed them.

    The Syrian attackers overwhelmed the crew's rebel guards and executed one of them on the spot.

    Engel said their captors were part of a Syrian government militia called Shabiha, trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who hoped to swap the group for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese prisoners held by rebels.

    From The Washington Post:

    Engel, [his producer and cameraman], who appeared together on “Today,” said they were not hurt physically but were subjected to “psychological torture,” including threats that one or all of them would be killed.

    “They made us choose which one of us would be shot first, and when we refused, there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot Ghazi several times,” Engel said, referring to [Ghazi] Balkiz. “When you’re blindfolded and then they fire the gun up in the air, it can be a very traumatic experience.”

    Turkish reporter Aziz Akyavas told Turkish television channel NTV that they were blindfolded, handcuffed, given no food and “every now and then had guns pointed on our heads."

    The ordeal came to an end Tuesday when the kidnappers stumbled through a rebel checkpoint, wound up in a firefight and fled after two of them were killed, leaving the captives behind but taking most of their equipment and clothing.

    The group that rescued Engel and his fellow captives, the Ahrar al-Sham, are closely united with another rebel group recently labeled a terrorist organization by the American government — the al-Nusra Front.

    SEE ALSO: NBC Correspondent Richard Engel Has Been Freed From Kidnappers In Syria

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    Using lasers for tracking objects through the sky has been possible for years, but there's never been anything like Lockheed's new laser defense system successfully tested last week.

    It's not that using high-powered lasers to drop incoming missiles is anything new, and was achieved by Boeing with a nine-year Air Force project that was canceled in 2011. That monster laser was packed into a 747 and designed to head off ballistic missiles fired at the U.S. from very far away. Raytheon then tested their laser defense on a drone for the Navy in 2010, but now Lockheed's distilled the process down for battlefield troops.

    Here's how it works: Imagine being shacked up with a handful of others at a Forward Operating Base, way, way into enemy territory beyond any immediate help, behind some makeshift stone walls and plywood. Some are sleeping, while others stand watch using night vision to leach signs of danger from dark. When the attack comes it starts with shoulder launched rockets — but rather than just seeing the flash and yelling for cover, the troops are protected by Area Defense Anti-Munitions.

    ADAM and FOB

    Called ADAM, the small white trailer with the big laser takes its cue from radar blanketing the area three miles out. The radar has already kicked the laser awake when the guys on watch saw the flash. By the time they're diving for cover and warning their buddies, the ADAM has locked onto the rocket and is burning it out of the sky from over a mile away.

    After keeping everyone from getting blown up, ADAM would then afford troops the time to coordinate their counter-attack where even more lives would be saved.

    That's the idea anyway, though there would be countless other uses for the technology. The video below released by Lockheed yesterday shows the ADAM making short work of a tethered rocket from about a mile away. 

    SEE ALSO: The 25 most effective weapons in the US arsenal >

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    F-35

    Canada's announcement earlier this month that it was considering aircraft other than the F-35 for renewing its fleet seems to have prompted a string of reassuring moves by the U.S.

    Within days the Pentagon said it would sign a contract with Lockheed Martin for a fifth batch of 32 jets worth $3.8 billion.

    That move could also have been spurred along when Australia followed the Canadian news with plans to buy 24 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets if it saw any more delays in the F-35 program.

    On the heels of the new contract came word Monday that pilots would begin training to fly the F-35 at Eglin, AFB starting January 2013.

    And that news came just before Leon Panetta himself announced Tuesday night that the freshly trained pilots can plan on duty stations at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, which will be the first F-35 overseas base in the world. 

    All of that is good news for Lockheed Martin and its investors who now expect profits in the high single digits following about 10 years of four percent profits during the F-35's development phase.

    All of this comes after years of extensive efforts to recruit foreign F-35 buyers.

    We wrote about that in June when Norway finally joined the list of buyers, after "an extended dialogue with the US Department of Defense aimed at securing opportunities for Norwegian industry," said the country's ministry of defense.

    Now see the amazing things that happen when a jet breaks the sound barrier >

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    T-50 PAK FA

    Funded by booming oil and gas profits, the Russian military is in the midst of a huge equipment upgrade, all backed by Putin's promise to increase its spending by $770 billion from 2014 to 2020.

    That's a big chunk of change it would like to put into its own coffers. The Russian Newspaper Pravda no doubt agrees and has announced Moscow makes the best military hardware in the world.

    There's no doubt that the former communist country makes a lot of it, and supplies much of the world that doesn't buy from the U.S. with its gear.

    Eighty-eight countries, in all, buy military hardware from Russia and they keep coming back. The following list is a small portion of what they want.

     

    Russia's T-90 main battle tank tank is just as advanced as the America's M1 and costs half as much

    Produced from 1995 onward, the T-90 is a modernization of the Soviet T-72. 

    The overhaul is remarkable and the fact the T-90 costs anywhere from $2.8 to $4.3 million compared to the M1 Abrams $8.6 million is more remarkable still.

    Manufacturer Kartsev-Venediktov has pumped the tank full of electronic warfare capabilities, and it's filled with laser warning receivers, an electronic jamming system and a three-tiered protection system consisting of turret armor, explosive reactive armor and a full countermeasures suite.

    Despite the T-90's well advanced status it's only a stop-gap piece. Russia's T-99, coming by 2020, will serve as the new main battle tank, infantry fighting vehicle, and armored personnel carrier.

    Production begins of the T-99 begins in 2014. 



    The MSTA-S 2S19 can run on six different types of fuel

    While this artillery platform is pretty interesting on its own — a 152mm self propelled howitzer that entered service in 1989 — perhaps its most compelling feature is its versatility. 

    The 2MSTA-S 2S19 offers significant automation with loading and firing, allowing the crew to stay mobile while firing and it can run on six different types of fuel including diesel, gasoline, aviation fuel, and alcohol. Russia has 800 of them as of 2008.

    The MSTA has been adapted into a number of different variants which include a wheeled variant, various enhanced versions, a "laser tank" and a prototype which includes dual howitzers. 



    The Sukhoi Su-35 is Russia's most advanced operational fighter jet

    The Su-35 is a twin-engined multi-role fighter. Since Russia has not been in a significant war since the aircraft's development, the supermaneuverable jet is currently used by the nation's Russian Knights air display team. The Russian Air Force has eleven of them, mostly an upgraded version.

    The Air Forces of Libya, India, Malaysia and Algeria have considered purchasing the craft.

    Exporter Rosoboronexport lost $4 billion after the Libyan revolution because of cancelled contracts, so the future of the jet outside of Russian borders remains unclear. 



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    Leavenworth

    When Robert Bales allegedly slipped from his quarters and murdered 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year, he was quickly charged and locked up in the U.S.

    The U.S. military announced today it does not plan to go easy on Bales and intends to take his life if he's found guilty.

    That decision was made by "a high ranking commanding officer who decides to bring the case to a court martial," according to the Death Penalty Information Center, but it may not be as final as it sounds.

    Death penalty cases in the military are uncommon and only 49 have made their way to the courts since 1961. Actual executions, however, have not happened in that time at all.

    Military executions used to be more common, and from 1942 to 1961 there were 160 military executions, but in 1961 the practice was outlawed until Ronald Reagan reintroduced it in 1984.

    Since then 49 death penalty cases have been tried and 15 servicemembers convicted. None have yet been put to death and sentences have been reversed twice by the commanding general. Appeals courts have reversed, commuted, or ordered new trials, leaving five servicemembers currently on death row.

    Three of those former troops have pending appeals, one had his death writ signed by President George Bush and wound up appealed to federal district court, and the last condemned soul awaits President Obama's signature to end his life.

    The last person to be executed by the U.S. military was PFC John A. Bennett who was hanged at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth Kansas, in the boiler room.

    While some declare the military wants to kill one of its own for the first time in more than 50 years, it's important to realize it isn't in the habit of actually letting those executions take place. 

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