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Roll Your Own

I’m sure I’ll get many a “what does this have to do with Defense Tech?” comments from the purists, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I rarely indulge in the Oscar back and forth, usually ignoring the whole spectacle as yet another chance for overindulged, undertalented phonies to reinforce eachother’s deep-seated lack of self-esteem by reminding themselves just how great they are — and making us all feel lucky that we can take a swipe at their self-licking icecream cone once a year.

(My favorite movie, maybe of all time, is Tropic Thunder…go figure)

Well, this year the best picture nominees include three films with gobs of defense tech, two of which I have reviewed for Military​.com.

I’ll start with Avatar.

As you might remember, like everyone else, I loved the 3D effects, but bristled at the portrayal of human military force. The tech in there was mostly Aliens holdover gear, so that didn’t wow me either. After marinating in reviews since mine, I’ve gotten even more bitter about the whole experience, agreeing with critics who think what Cameron did just penned an allegory he thought was blatantly obvious about America’s image overseas. It was Hollywood at it’s most pedestrian.

Hurt Locker is another story entirely.

And I’m reluctant to let loose on this one as well, because I will say that I sat down with writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow in DC before I wrote my review. Mark couldn’t have been nicer, though you could see that the former feature/culture writer was taking right too his new Hollywood halo. But he was earnest and excited about his project and genuinely interested in my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan with EOD units. Kathryn too was gracious, open and poised. My problem stems from their obvious lack of passion for the subject they put to film.

Mark, God bless him, spent about two weeks /with an EOD unit in Baghdad, spun the experience off into a Rolling Stone article, which popped in a Hollywood (where most people in the industry get their war news, I guess) casting around for a reason to show they weren’t ALL anti-war. The movie itself was a bit confusing and included some scenes that just flat out didn’t make sense at all (the sniper duel with the SAS/contractor head hunters?)…

I had already seen the movie when I spoke with Kathryn and Mark (be sure to re-read my REVIEW) so I asked them “if you were screening this movie to an EOD unit, what would you tell them it was about?” A softball, right? Anyone who went through the trouble to put together a movie on a particular subject should at least have some pat answers to questions like that. Long silence from Ms. Bigelow…Mark too, had some problems with the question. Which leads me to think their depth of passion for the subject they worked so hard to portray on film was shallow. It’s like a hardcore video gamer trying to get into the head of a SEAL. There’s no way.

So, in my opinion, those two shouldn’t have even made it to the Oscar process because they’re more reflective of Hollywood’s “we support the troops” guilt complex and antiBush-waronterror-protreehugger leftyism than any cinematic excellence. From a defense tech standpoint, it was great to see EOD guys get their day in the sun and some of the gear and TTPs were accurate — though I’ve never once even seen a full-on bomb suit in the AO.

Now for District 9.

Totally awesome. From both a technical standpoint and a cinematogrphy one, the movie was just amazing. Mean ass South African security contractors (they practically invented the modern soldier of fortune charicature), intersteller spacecraft that don’t get all FTL on us, a story that cut with a clean scalpel instead of a saw blade and casting that made us at once sympathic and uncomfortable (contrast the Distric 9’s off-putting “prawns” with Avatar’s elegant Na’vi). In terms of pure creativity, stellar acting and a gritty, realistic portrayal of an allegoric social conflict, District 9 hands down gets Defense Tech’s vote for best picture.

And the winner is…?

– Christian

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A Defense Tech reader sent this interesting article my way. But, to be honest, Im not sure what to make of it.

I know a little bit about nanotechnology but not necessarily enough to really know if this development is significant. But I thought Id pass it along because DT readers may be able to enlighten me and others on this.

What applications in defense and intelligence might this have? The article mentions research funding was provided by the Army. From what I understand this sol-gel ink solution is a process that could lead to the construction of various nano-structures such as lenses, optics and even fine structures.

Heres the article:

New sol-gel inks developed by researchers at the University of Illinois can be printed into patterns to produce three-dimensional structures of metal oxides with nanoscale features.

The ability to directly pattern functional oxides at the nanoscale opens a new avenue to functional devices. Potential applications include micro-fuel cells, photonic crystals and gas sensors.

The researchers describe the new inks in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Advanced Materials, and featured on its Advances in Advance Web site.

Using this new family of inks, we have produced features as small as 225 nanometers, said co-author Jennifer Lewis, the Thurnauer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the universitys Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (FSMRL). Our goal is to get down to 100 nanometer feature sizes.

To create three-dimensional structures, the researchers use a robotic deposition process called direct-write assembly. The concentrated sol-gel ink is dispensed as a filament from a nozzle approximately 1 micron in diameter (about 100 times smaller than a human hair). The ink is dispensed while a computer-controlled micropositioner precisely directs the path. After the pattern for the first layer is complete, the nozzle is raised and another layer is deposited. This process is repeated until the desired shape is produced.

We have opened direct ink writing to a new realm of functional materials, said graduate student Eric Duoss, the papers lead author. Since we print the desired functionality directly, the need for complicated templating and replicating schemes is eliminated.

Unlike previous inks, which require a liquid coagulation reservoir, the newly formulated inks are concentrated enough to rapidly solidify and maintain their shape in air, even as they span gaps in underlying layers.

This gives us the ability to start, stop and reposition the flow of ink repeatedly, providing exquisite control over the deposition process, Duoss said. For example, we can directly pattern defects in three-dimensional structures for use as photonic crystals.

After the structures have been assembled, they are converted to the desired functional oxide phase by heating at elevated temperature. Titanium dioxide, which possesses high refractive index and interesting electrical properties, is one material the researchers have successfully produced.

The researchers ink design and patterning approach can be readily extended to other materials.

There are a nearly endless variety of materials to choose from, Lewis said. We envision having a toolbox of inks that can print at the micro– and nanoscale. These inks will be used for heterogeneous integration with other manufacturing techniques to create complex, functional devices composed of many different materials.

In addition to Lewis and Duoss, former post-doctoral researcher Mariusz Twardowski is a co-author of the paper.

(Gouge: BD)


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Could the USS Liberty surface as a campaign issue?

The latest news on the Liberty, the Navy spook ship attacked by Israel on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, is that recently released National Security Agency documents are backing up what many — including the survivors of Liberty — have been saying for 40 years: that Israel knew full well that it was attacking — with aerial strafing, napalm and torpedoes — an American vessel.

You may have read it on Military​.com, one of the few news sites to run the piece in total. Other than The Chicago Tribune, which came out with the story, only The Baltimore Sun picked up the piece, according to a Google search.

It will be interesting to see is whether any presidential candidates address the latest revelations, since those from both parties frequently tout longstanding ties and mutual loyalty between the U.S. and Israel.

One candidate with a real interest in this story is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who five years ago endorsed a book, The Liberty Incident, that concluded it was a mistake. McCain’s interest stems from the fact that his father, the late Adm. John S. McCain, was commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, at the time, and ordered the official court of inquiry to investigate the attack.

Based on the court’s findings, Adm. McCain concluded it was a case of mistaken identity. But five years ago the legal advisor to the court broke his own silence in an interview with me, calling the final report a sham, a cover-up. It was about that same time that The Liberty Incident, by A. Jay Cristol, a former Navy pilot and retired judge, hit the bookshelves.

Sen. McCain praised the book and its findings in a blurb that appeared on the back cover.

In recent months there have been more revelations about the attack and immediate aftermath, however. In June, I reported that the Navy already was calling the attack accidental in its casualty notification telegrams to next of kin even before the court of inquiry convened for the first time.

Then came the Tribune story last week, reporting that the National Security Agency’s deputy director of operations in 1967 now confirms that transcripts of U.S. intercepts of Israeli communications show the Israelis knew exactly who they were attacking.

Oliver Kirby is quoted in the Trib story as recalling the Israeli pilots several times identifying the ship as American but being told to attack anyway. While some of the original transcripts and intel have disappeared, the story reports that some of it is still in U.S. government archives.

So far, calls to McCain’s senate and campaign offices have not been returned.

– Bryant Jordan

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From this morning’s Military​.com news…

Teams on the ground and in two aircraft kept up the hunt for millionaire aviator Steve Fossett on Sunday after a new analysis of radar data provided fresh optimism.

The formal aerial search by the Civil Air Patrol and the Nevada National Guard had ended Sept. 19 after more than two weeks of scouring a rugged area of deserts and mountains twice the size of New Jersey.

However, analysis of radar data and satellite images from Sept. 3, the day Fossett disappeared in a small plane, led Air Force technicians to believe they had spotted clues to his route.

“We said the only time we would reopen the search is if we had viable leads. This time we believe we do,” Gary Derks, the state Department of Public Safety official in charge of the search, said Sunday.

The area being searched was southeast of hotel magnate Barron Hilton’s million-acre ranch in western Nevada, where Fossett had been staying. Nothing was found by Sunday afternoon.

Fossett, 63, was the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon. He also swam the English Channel, completed the Iditarod sled-dog race and scaled some of the world’s best-known peaks.

– Christian

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In this week’s edition of the Friday Follies, here’s why we at DT are confident of victory in Afghanistan. With professionals like these, no one else stands a chance.

Have a great weekend…

– Christian

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A little Friday Follies with your morning coffee.

I guess now we know why robot EOD techs are so popular in the Sand Box…

All I can say is “ouch!“

(Gouge: CM)

– Christian

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Time for the Friday Follies…

Looks like it’s getting more and more dangerous for those night owls who like to dig up IED pits on Iraq’s roads.

– Christian

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Now we know why Gen. Jones and Chief Ramsey say it’s time to trash the Iraqi National Police…


DT reader “sintax” writes:

hey a friend of mine shot this with me when we were on patrol in dora district south Baghdad. yes the NP’s(national police) are very poorly trained and equipped. sometimes they don’t even get paid for months. there is alot corruption in the Iraqi state dept which is under their control. anyways shout out to Bravo company 1-35AR in Germany. BLACKJACKS!…

…But believe it or not they have tons of heart and i have seen them fight hard in combat. many of them are good guys. they have charged with us into battle many of times.

Thanks, sintax, for your insight. And I gotta tell you, I love the chuckling in the background. Keep up the good work!

– Christian

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Heres another one for the Friday Funnies.

Ask any Soldier whether he likes the camouflage scheme of the new Army Combat Uniform and youll usually get a groan and eye roll. Ive had a hard time finding anyone that thinks the universal camo pattern is anything close to universal.

That is, unless youre trying to stay out of the line of fire from CinCHome by hiding in plain sight…
(Gouge: RC)

– Christian

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Zhang Cheng and his 1,300 mile-per-hour choice of office decor has reignited my long forgotten desire to create my own fortress of doom.
volcano.jpgDecade old changes in military purchasing habits have opened avenues for regular folk and paranoid fruitcakes alike. In the age of 'global' terror, your puny house alarm is only likely give provide sample-fodder for super-burglars mixing beats in their stolen iPod Nanos. So what could I do to protect my junk from techno-pirates and annoying little sh*ts that may or may not live down my street?
(For the benefit of those waiting for the missile-silo bubble to burst, we'll pretend I've got a fully-loaded island in the sun, complete with volcano).
Starting outside, the perimeter of mi casa should be free of all surveillance platforms and rival gangs. Advanced optics and specialized audio equipment placed around the gaff should provide me with ample warning of approaching homemade UAVs. Of course, you could also create your own air coverage like Bin Laden, or just buy real time satellite imagery if you're lazy.
Walls don't really go with the volcano, so Isla Snell features laser fencing to detect any possible intruder. Guard dogs are too low-tech, so in the age of genetic modification I've created my own protection: glow-in-the-dark guard pigs. Depending on my set up, speakers/sirens could also nauseate the intruder with my rendition of "I Fought the Law” whilst riot-slime causes hilarious slip’n’slide movements.
Surplus light armour is available to move from one side of the yard to the other and the spy car will patrol the areas my guard pigs don’t. If you’re lucky enough to survive the pigs/slime, please feel free to ring the buzzer. Biometrics would secure all doors and windows but I’ve opted for the alternative, of course.
For today’s wealthy agoraphobes, a modest $10,000 could provide features such as candle-stick activating doorways and revolving fireplaces. Naturally all electrics are connected by a central system, but my modesty shots are kept off-site. Robotic agents patrol the corridors feeding video to the Tablet PC alerting me to any food delivery. A thermal camera would help me avoid creditors meaning I could make a quick getaway in my submarine. Any attempt to gain underwater access would be detected by the robo-fish, of course.
Some among you may argue that fear has clouded reason and that paranoia has led to the 21st century version of bomb shelter hysteria, that we don’t actually need used military equipment and high-tech ‘home-alone’ protection. But with the balls/idiocy of todays ‘crim-orrists’ (or terr-inals), now might be the time to spruce up the old homestead and — let’s face it — play with some of the coolest inventions since Porno Pez.
Now, if I only had room in the tub…
– Steven Snell

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