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Pentagon lies yet again: Said it would not use depleted uranium rounds against ISIS. Months later, it did — thousands of times.

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The military seems to lie frequently, apparently because “honor” is important to the military, so dishonorable things must be hidden, and that often involves lying (cf. Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch, and many other examples). Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports in the Washington Post:

Months after the Pentagon said it wouldn’t use a controversial type of armor-piercing ammunition that has been blamed for long-term health complications, U.S. aircraft fired thousands of the rounds during two high-profile air raids in Syria in November 2015, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday.

The use of the ammunition, a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet called PGU-14, was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

When loaded with depleted-uranium bullets, the A-10s fired what is called a “combat-mix,” meaning the aircraft’s cannon fires five depleted-uranium rounds to one high explosive incendiary bullet.

The strikes, which involved 30mm cannon fire, rockets and guided bombs, destroyed more than 300 vehicles, mostly civilian tanker trucks, the Pentagon said at the time. The two incidents were championed by the Pentagon, and footage of trucks being destroyed was posted online. The Pentagon said that no civilians were present during the bombardment because fliers had been dropped before strafing runs warning those in their trucks to flee.

Before the November strikes, the Pentagon said it would not use depleted-uranium munitions in the campaign against the Islamic State. In response to a query from a reporter in February 2015, Capt. John Moore, a spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria said in an email that “U.S. and Coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Later that year, the Pentagon’s stance toward depleted uranium changed. As U.S.-led forces ramped up their campaign to go after the Islamic State’s cash flow, U.S. planners for Operation Tidal Wave II decided that depleted-uranium ammunition would be the most effective weapon for targeting hundreds of Islamic State oil trucks in the Syrian desert. Jacques said that U.S. forces wanted to ensure that trucks would be rendered completely inoperable, adding that depleted-uranium rounds were the best way to achieve that, rather than the A-10’s standard high explosive cannon rounds. Typically, depleted-uranium rounds are used on armored vehicles, such as tanks and troop transports, and there is no international treaty or rule that explicitly bans their use.

“Given the international opprobrium associated with the use of depleted uranium, we had been pretty astonished to hear that it had been used in operations in Syria,” said Doug Weir, the International Coordinator for the Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. “The U.S. consistently states that the weapons are for anti-armor use, although their record from Iraq … was further evidence that this doesn’t really bear close scrutiny.”

Depleted uranium is the byproduct of the enriched uranium needed to power nuclear reactors. Depleted uranium is roughly 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium, and its high density makes it ideal for armor-piecing rounds such as the PGU-14 and certain tank shells. Depleted uranium is also used to reinforce certain types of armor and has a number of nonmilitary uses, such as ballast in ships.

Whether exposure to depleted uranium causes adverse health effects has been debated. When it was used during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, the United Nations advised that children stay away from the impact zones. The Iraqi government has also routinely stressed the danger the munitions pose to its people, soil and air. Depleted-uranium rounds were used in the hundreds of thousands of attacks during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and again in the opening salvos of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. . .

Continue reading.

I think that the military definition of “honor” is quite specialized.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Trump increases risks for U.S. troops in Iraq

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Trump is incompetent. He acts on impulse, he doesn’t think things through, and he fails to consult with competent advisers (and shows bad judgment in picking his closest advisers: Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and so on, including the White House lawyer who though it would be a good idea to fire all the Inspectors General in the Federal government and replace them with Trump stooges.

David Zucchino reports in the NY Times:

Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe had survived another day battling Islamic State fighters in Mosul last weekend when he heard startling news: The new American president had temporarily barred Iraqis from entering the United States and wanted tougher vetting.

Captain Musawe, who commands an infantry unit of the Iraqi Army’s elite counterterrorism force, considers himself already fully vetted: He has been trained by American officers in Iraq and in Jordan. And backed by American advisers, he has fought the Islamic State in three Iraqi cities, including three months of brutal street combat in Mosul.

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Captain Musawe told a New York Times reporter who was with him this week at his barricaded position inside Mosul.

President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order has driven a wedge between many Iraqi soldiers and their American allies. Officers and enlisted men interviewed on the front lines in Mosul said they interpreted the order as an affront — not only to them but also to fellow soldiers who have died in the battle for Mosul.

Continue reading the main story

“An insult to their dignity,” said Capt. Abdul Saami al-Azzi, another officer with the counterterrorism force in Mosul. He said he was hurt and disappointed by a nation he had considered a respectful partner. “It is really embarrassing.”

The American and Iraqi militaries have negotiated an often tenuous and strained relationship over the years. But few episodes have so blindsided the current generation of Iraqi soldiers, who are accustomed to viewing the United States as their partner in a shared struggle to defeat insurgents and build a viable nation.

The timing of the order hit the Iraqi military in Mosul like an incoming rocket. Iraqi forces have reached a pivotal moment, seizing half of Mosul and preparing to assault the remaining half — supported by American advisers, Special Operations forces and airstrikes by the United States-led coalition.

Why, some soldiers asked, had Mr. Trump chosen this moment to lump together all Iraqis as mortal threats to America — soldiers, civilians and terrorists alike?

“This decision by Trump blows up our liberation efforts of cooperation and coordination with American forces,” said Brig. Gen. Mizhir Khalid al-Mashhadani, a counterterrorism force commander in Mosul.

Astounded by the announcement, General Mashhadani, who speaks English, said he asked his American counterparts about the president’s order. He said several told him they considered the decision hasty and its consequences poorly considered.

The travel ban was all the more perplexing to those Iraqi troops who had heard Mr. Trump vow as a candidate to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. Some also heard the president promise, when issuing the order, to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.

For some soldiers, those comments seemed to equate Iraqi soldiers — by virtue of their nationality and religion — with the very terrorists they were fighting. . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s bad.

Trump should be removed from office.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2017 at 6:46 pm

The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

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Stephen Bannon is using Trump to further Bannon’s own goals for an Alt-Right attack on democracy. Part of that his Bannon’s taking a position on the National Security Council, to which he has brought some ominous changes: There will no longer be a paper trail of NSC deliberations and actions, and the CIA Director, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Energy Secretary (who is responsible for the nuclear arsenal, from small tactical nukes on up) will not be present for some sessions. Why those three are not viewed as vital to a national security discussion is unclear, but Bannon/Trump doesn’t trust the CIA.

If Bannon does engineer or take advantage of some domestic crisis or attack, he certainly can call on many supporters in the armed services, police departments, Border Patrol, and apparently in the FBI as well (e.g., James Comey).

Alice Speri reports in The Intercept:

White supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.

Although these right-wing extremists have posed a growing threat for years, federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address that threat or to point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community.

No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies. As a result, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.

In a heavily redacted version of an October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment, the agency raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” The effort, the memo noted, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The memo also states that law enforcement had recently become aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” In at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies in order to warn crews of any investigations.

That report appeared after a series of scandals involving local police and sheriff’s departments. In Los Angeles, for example, a U.S. District Court judge found in 1991 that members of a local sheriff’s department had formed a neo-Nazi gang and habitually terrorized black and Latino residents. In Chicago, Jon Burge, a police detective and rumored KKK member, was fired, and eventually prosecuted in 2008, over charges relating to the torture of at least 120 black men during his decadeslong career. Burge notoriously referred to an electric shock device he used during interrogations as the “nigger box.” In Cleveland, officials found that a number of police officers had scrawled “racist or Nazi graffiti” throughout their department’s locker rooms. In Texas, two police officers were fired when it was discovered they were Klansmen. One of them said he had tried to boost the organization’s membership by giving an application to a fellow officer he thought shared his “white, Christian, heterosexual values.

Although the FBI has not publicly addressed the issue of white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement since that 2006 report, in a 2015 speech, FBI Director James Comey made an unprecedented acknowledgment of the role historically played by law enforcement in communities of color: “All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty.” Comey and the agency have been less forthcoming about that history’s continuation into the present.

In 2009, shortly after the election of Barack Obama, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence study, written in coordination with the FBI, warned of the “resurgence” of right-wing extremism. “Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African-American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda,” the report noted, singling out “disgruntled military veterans” as likely targets of recruitment. “Right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

The report concluded that “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” Released just ahead of nationwide Tea Party protests, the report caused an uproar among conservatives, who were particularly angered by the suggestion that veterans might be implicated, and by the broad brush with which the report seemed to paint a range of right-wing groups.

Faced with mounting criticism, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano disavowed the document and apologized to veterans. The agency’s unit investigating right-wing extremism was largely dismantled and the report’s lead investigator was pushed out. “They stopped doing intel on that, and that was that,” Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tracking of extremist groups, told The Intercept. “The FBI in theory investigates right-wing terrorism and right-wing extremism, but they have limited resources. The loss of that unit was a loss for a lot of people who did this kind of work.”

“Federal law enforcement agencies in general — the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF — are aware that extremists have infiltrated state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups,” said Daryl Johnson, who was the lead researcher on the DHS report. Johnson, who now runs DT Analytics, a consulting firm that analyzes domestic extremism, says the problem has since gotten “a lot more troublesome.”

Johnson singled out the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association for their anti-government attitudes and efforts to recruit active as well as retired law enforcement officers. “That’s the biggest issue and it’s greater now than it’s ever been, in my opinion.” Johnson added that Homeland Security has given up tracking right-wing domestic extremists. “It’s only the FBI now,” he said, adding that local police departments don’t seem to be doing anything to address the problem. “There’s not even any training now to make state and local police aware of these groups and how they could infiltrate their ranks.”

A spokesperson for DHS declined to comment on the 2009 report or on the agency’s specific concerns about white supremacist and right-wing groups.

In 2014, the Department of Justice re-established its Domestic Terrorism Task Force, a unit that was created following the Oklahoma City bombing. But for the most part, the government’s efforts to confront domestic terrorism threats over the last decade have focused on homegrown extremists radicalized by foreign groups. Last year, a group of progressive members of Congress called on President Obama and DHS to update the controversial 2009 report. “The United States allocates significant resources towards combating Islamic violent extremism while failing to devote adequate resources to right-wing extremism,” they wrote. “This lack of political will comes at a heavy price.”

Critics fear that the backlash following the 2009 DHS report hindered further action against the growing white supremacist threat, and that it was largely ignored because the issue was so politically controversial. “I believe that because that report was so denounced by conservatives, it sort of closed the door on whatever the FBI may have been considering doing with respect to combating infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacists,” said Samuel Jones, a professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago who has written about white power ideology in law enforcement. “Because after the 2006 FBI report, we simply cannot find anything by local law enforcement or the federal government that addresses this issue.”

Pete Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University who spent decades studying the proliferation of white supremacists in the U.S. military, agreed. “The report underscores the problem of even discussing this issue. It underscores how difficult this issue is to get any traction on, because a lot of people don’t want to discuss this, let alone actually do something about it.” Simi said that the extremist strategy to infiltrate the military and law enforcement has existed “for decades.” In a study he conducted of individuals indicted for far-right terrorism-related activities, he found that at least 31 percent had military experience.

After a series of investigations uncovered substantial numbers of extremists in the military, the Department of Defense moved to impose stricter screenings, including monitoring recruits’ tattoos for white supremacist symbols and discharging those found to espouse racist views.

“The military has completely reformed its process on this front,” said the SPLC’s Beirich, who lobbied the DOD to adopt those reforms. “I don’t know why it wouldn’t be the same for police officers; we can’t have people with guns having crazy ideas or ideas that threaten certain populations.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2017 at 10:30 am

U.S. military botches online fight against Islamic State

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Given the amount the U.S. spends on the military, you’d think it could do a better job. Desmond Butler and Richard Lardner of the Associated Press report in Salon:

On any given day at MacDill Air Force Base, web crawlers scour social media for potential recruits to the Islamic State group. Then, in a high-stakes operation to counter the extremists’ propaganda, language specialists employ fictitious identities and try to sway the targets from joining ISIS ranks.

At least that’s how the multimillion-dollar initiative is being sold to the Defense Department.

A critical national security program known as “WebOps” is part of a vast psychological operation that the Pentagon says is effectively countering an enemy that has used the internet as a devastating tool of propaganda. But an Associated Press investigation found the management behind WebOps is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact.

Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.

It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.”

Four current or former workers told the AP that they had personally witnessed WebOps data being manipulated to create the appearance of success and that they had discussed the problem with many other employees who had seen the same. Yet the companies carrying out the program for the military’s Central Command in Tampa have dodged attempts to implement independent oversight and assessment of the data.

Central Command spokesman Andy Stephens declined repeated requests for information about WebOps and other counter-propaganda programs, which were launched under the Obama Administration. And he did not respond to detailed questions the AP sent on Jan. 10.

The AP investigation is based on Defense Department and contractor documents, emails, photographs and interviews with more than a dozen people closely involved with WebOps as well as interviews with nearly two dozen contractors. The WebOps workers requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the work and because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

The information operations division that runs WebOps is the command’s epicenter for firing back at the Islamic State’s online propaganda machine, using the internet to sway public opinion in a swath of the globe that stretches from Central Asia to the Horn of Africa.

Early last year, the government opened the bidding on a new counter-propaganda contract — separate from WebOps— that is worth as much as $500 million. Months after the AP started reporting about the bidding process, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service told the AP that it had launched an investigation. NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said the service is investigating a whistleblower’s “allegations of corruption” stemming from how the contract was awarded.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges multiple conflicts of interest that include division officers being treated to lavish dinners paid for by a contractor. The complaint also alleges routine drinking at the office where classified work is conducted. The drinking was confirmed by multiple contractors, who spoke to AP and described a frat house atmosphere where happy hour started at 3 p.m.

One of the most damning accusations leveled by the whistleblower is against . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2017 at 9:10 am

Report: Trump Team Wants to Slash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Everything Else Except Defense

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The US already spends far more on Defense than any other nation. In 2015, the US spent $598.5 billion on the military. Here’s a look at the 2015 budget:

discretionary_spending_pie_2015_enacted_large

Social Security doesn’t look all that big, even including unemployment benefits. Indeed, the picture looks quite unbalanced in favor of the military already, and also a lot more than other nations spend:

wolrd_military_spending_barchart_large

The US spends more on its military already than the next 8 largest military budgets combined. And that’s not enough? Something is wrong with this picture. We’ve gone overboard on military spending.

But under Trump, we’ll spend more on the military by cutting back on everything else. Kevin Drum notes:

Here’s the latest news on squeezing our bloated government down to size:

Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned….Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

This is terrifying, of course, but it’s also puzzling. $10.5 trillion over ten years? That’s a trillion dollars a year. If you eliminated the domestic discretionary budget entirely, you’d only save half a trillion bucks. So how do they do it?

Well, we’re told that the proposed budget cuts “hew closely” to a recent Heritage Foundation report, so I went and took a look. The answer, of course, is that the only way to cut that kind of money is to take a meat axe to everything, including Social Security and Medicare. Here’s a chart: . . .

Continue reading. And do look at that chart.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2017 at 12:41 pm

SEAL Team 6 Responds to The Intercept’s Investigation of Its War Crimes

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Matthew Cole reports in The Intercept:

The commander of SEAL Team 6 has circulated a memo, obtained by The Intercept, to members of the command in response to The Intercept’s two-year investigation into the unit’s war crimes and subsequent cover-ups. In the memo, the commander claimed the article was “full of grievous, accusatory claims” and allegations that had been “previously investigated and determined to be not substantiated.”

“The article alleges involvement of ST-6 personnel in law of armed conflict violations, including accusations of cover up by senior officials,” the memo continued. “The 41-page online article goes into great detail on various operations naming specific people and operations dating back to 2002 up to 2011.”

“While this article appears damning on many members of our team and most likely evokes strong emotions,” the commander wrote, “we must be mindful about what a journalist can do who latches on to unfounded claims and is willing to print based on limited evidence.”

The commander’s letter does not dispute any facts or details in our January 10 report, which describes, in detail, accounts provided by former SEAL Team 6 leaders of what they believed were war crimes committed by members of the unit in Afghanistan and Iraq that were largely ignored or covered up by senior officers.

The memo obtained by The Intercept advised military personnel to avoid commenting on or acknowledging “The Crimes of SEAL Team 6,” even “among yourselves or with others via personal electronic devices,” in order to “maintain the highest OPSEC posture and limit the spread of the article.”

The current commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 is a longtime member of the unit and was the senior officer on the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Intercept is not publishing his name because he is an active-duty member of the unit.

The Intercept’s investigation was the result of interviews with 18 former and current members of SEAL Team 6, as well as other military and intelligence officials who served with or investigated the unit. Some of those accounts described a form of desecration known as “canoeing,” in which some SEAL Team 6 members fired bullets into dead or prone militants in an effort to split their skulls into a “V” shape. According to two former SEAL Team 6 leaders, the practice was often documented in post-operation photos stored at the unit’s Virginia Beach headquarters.

SEAL Team 6’s leadership has failed to hold its command and itself accountable for war crimes during the post-9/11 wars, according to former SEAL Team 6 leaders. The former and current SEALs also described other serious misconduct that occurred more recently.

According to a former SEAL Team 6 leader and a SEAL Team 6 consultant, the unit caught a senior officer at the command committing travel fraud. The officer, Cmdr. Richard Diviney, claimed weekend trips to spend time with NFL quarterback Drew Brees, a college classmate, as work and training trips. Diviney, who was the officer in charge of the unit’s operations department, was quietly allowed to retire, rather than face punishment. Diviney declined to comment.

In December, The Intercept reported that Republican representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of the interior, committed travel fraud when he was an officer at SEAL Team 6, but received no formal punishment.

One former commanding officer of the unit maintained an affair with a female intelligence analyst while both were deployed to Kenya, according to two former SEAL Team 6 leaders. The SEAL officer later promoted the analyst to a senior position in SEAL Team 6’s intelligence squadron, despite what several SEAL Team 6 leaders said was a lack of qualification. The analyst was later dismissed and lost her security clearances after revealing classified information to government employees not authorized to receive it. . .

Continue reading.

This is quite ugly, but the military’s response (deny, do not discuss, ignore, cover up) is typical of what happens when the military encounters a failure. Another tactic is to classify everything about the problem so that it won’t be revealed. The military’s idea of “honor” turns out to be quite flexible.

I think the commander would have been on firmer ground if he had pointed out errors in the report. He didn’t, so one presumes he found none. It’s interesting that the report of what actually occurred, as recounted by witnesses, is viewed as an “attack” and the appropriate response is not to investigate and solve the problem but to counterattack, as though the reporter is at fault for reporting. Sounds like this unit will be very comfortable with President Trump, who uses similar responses to any criticism. No learning takes place, just a defensive counterattack.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2017 at 9:50 am

DARPA’s Off-Roaders Ditch Windows for a Digital World View

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That headline was totally opaque to me. They’re going to Linux? Is it a game?

Eric Adams’s article in Wired begins:

AUTONOMOUS WARRIORS MAY dominate the battlefield of tomorrow, but even those that still require human flesh will take on a robotic sheen. That shift could start with the end of windows.

This, at least, is what Raytheon is proposing for its contribution to Darpa’s new Ground X Vehicle Technologies program, an effort to improve of future tanks, fighting vehicles, and transports. Darpa hopes smart new tech will obviate the need for increasingly heavy armor by making vehicles harder to spot, catch, and kill.

Ditching windows is a natural move: you eliminate a key vulnerability in both structural strength and crew protection. Problem is, you have to figure out how the folks inside the vehicle will know what’s going on around them.

While a simple external camera feeding an internal LCD “window” could do the trick—like in one supersonic plane concept—Raytheon thinks it can deliver a whole lot more. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Military, Technology

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