• The Russia connection: 7 February Syria attackFinancier of Russian troll farm supporting Trump funds anti-U.S. paramilitaries in Syria

    Yevgeniy Prigozhin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and the financial backer of the St. Petersburg-based troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The IRA has been at the center of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign which was launched in 2014 to sow discord and deepen polarization and conflict in the United States (and other Western democracies) – and which, in 2016, changed focus to help Donald Trump win the Republican nomination and then the White House. According to U.S. intelligence, a Prigozhin-financed paramilitary group of Russian mercenaries attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria earlier this month. Prigozhin was in close touch with Putin and senior aides to Assad in the days and weeks before and after the assault.

  • The Russia connection: 7 February Syria attackPentagon says U.S. was told no Russians involved in Syria attack

    The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria earlier this month led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces. Up to a 100 Russians were killed in the attack, which was conducted by the Wagner Group, a paramilitary firm based in southern Russia and financed by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close Putin ally who owns the St. Petersburg troll farm Internet Research Agency. Senior U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News that Prigozhin’s connection to the Wagner Group is important, as his private military work offers more evidence that he is pursuing Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions while providing the Russian leader some deniability that the actions are officially sanctioned.

  • Israel-SyriaExperts: Drone incursion shows that Israeli-Iranian status quo is unsustainable

    The incursion on an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent Israeli response on Saturday shows that Israel considers Iran’s efforts “to consolidate their strategic position” in Syria and Lebanon to threaten the Jewish state “unsustainable,” two experts say. They characterized the downing of the drone after it entered Israeli airspace and the subsequent attacks by the Israeli Air Force against targets in Syria as “the most significant clash to date between Israel and the so-called Axis of Resistance—Iran, Syria’s Assad regime and Hezbollah—since Iran began deploying soldiers and proxies to Syria six years ago.”

  • Israel-IranIsrael destroys Iranian drone, hits targets in Syria after losing F-16

    For the first time, Iran sent a military drone from one of its bases in Syria, in response to which Israel, for the first time, bombed Iranian targets in Syria, killing several Iranian soldiers. An Israeli jet was shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile, and in response Israel bombed and destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defense systems, in addition to attacking other Syrian and Iranian targets.

     

  • Israel-IranFmr. IDF intelligence chief: Shootdown of Iranian drone could be prelude to Israel-Shia war

    The interception of an Iranian drone that targeted Israel suggests that the chances for a war between Israel and Iran-led forces, the first Israel-Shia war, have increased, General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence, said. “There is a determination by Iran to build a military force in Syria and Lebanon, and there is determination by Israel not to let it happen. And the two vectors are colliding,” Yadlin said. “Maybe instead of the first northern war, we should call it first Shia war, Israel-Shia war. Because it will be the Shia axis, led by Iran, with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime and Shia militia from all over the Middle East.”

  • IED detectionSpotting IEDs from a safe distance

    Landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other homemade bombs struck 6,461 people worldwide in 2015, killing at least 1,672. Survivors are often left with devastating injuries. In a study published in BMJ Open, 70 percent of people hit by IEDS in Afghanistan required multiple amputations. These homemade bombs are often hidden—nestled in bushes, buried underground, or sometimes stuffed inside other objects. To keep soldiers away from these deadly weapons, researchers are developing technology that can spot explosive hazards precisely and from a safe distance.

  • WMD detectionEpigenetic technology to help in fight against WMD proliferation

    Intelligence officers in the field, in trying to determine the presence or use of WMDs, would benefit from being able to check the epigenetic markers of an individual who may have come into contact with WMDs, read a history of any time he has been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time. The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome.

  • Chemical weaponsConfirmation: Assad has been using chemical weapons from stocks he pledged to relinquish in 2013

    Labs performing scientific analysis for the UN chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed that the Assad regime has continued to use chemical weapons against Sunni civilians in Syria – chemical munitions from stocks which the regime was supposed to have relinquished in 2013. The analysis also concluded that it would have been virtually impossible for the anti-regime rebels to carry out a coordinated, large-scale chemical strikes with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.

  • Climate threatsClimate change-related risks to 50% of U.S. military infrastructure: Pentagon

    Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics released a comprehensive new survey of climate change-related risks to military infrastructure worldwide. The vulnerability assessment does not offer any specific cost estimates related to these vulnerabilities, but it does paint a concerning picture of current climate change-related risks to military installations both at home and abroad, with around 50 percent of 1,684 sites reporting damage from six key categories of those risks: Flooding due to storm surge; flooding due to non-storm surge events (e.g., rain, snow, sleet, ice, river overflow); extreme temperatures (both hot and cold); wind; drought; and wildfire. Given that rapid climate change is projected to exacerbate most of the above categories of risks throughout this century (its effect on wind is less certain), the reasonable expectation is that vulnerabilities to military sites will only increase.

  • Middle EastNetanyahu tells Putin Israel won’t allow Iranian bases in Syria, missile plants in Lebanon

    In talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria or making Lebanon into “factory for precision missiles” to attack Israel. Regarding Iranian efforts to establish a base of operations in Syria, Netanyahu said, “I made clear to Putin that we will stop it if it doesn’t stop by itself. We are already acting to stop it.”

  • The Russia connectionHybrid warfare: Russia is “arch exponent” of the disappearing “distinct states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’”: U.K. military chief

    The West’s adversaries “have become masters at exploiting the seams between peace and war. What constitutes a weapon in this grey area no longer has to go ‘bang’. Energy, cash - as bribes - corrupt business practices, cyber-attacks, assassination, fake news, propaganda and indeed military intimidation are all examples of the weapons used to gain advantage in this era of ‘constant competition,’ and the rules-based international architecture that has assured our stability and prosperity since 1945 is, I suggest therefore, threatened,” Sir Nicholas Carter, the British Army chief of staff, said last week. “The deduction we should draw from this is that there is no longer two clear and distinct states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’; we now have several forms. Indeed the character of war and peace is different for each of the contexts in which these ‘weapon systems’ are applied,” he added. “The arch exponent of this [new approach to war] is Russia…. I believe it represents the most complex and capable state-based threat to our country since the end of the Cold War. And my fellow Chiefs of Staff from the United States, France, and Germany shared this view.”

  • The Russia connectionArtificial intelligence is the weapon of the next Cold War

    By Jeremy Straub

    As during the Cold War after the Second World War, nations are developing and building weapons based on advanced technology. During the Cold War, the weapon of choice was nuclear missiles; today it’s software, whether it is used for attacking computer systems or targets in the real world. Russian rhetoric about the importance of artificial intelligence is picking up – and with good reason: As artificial intelligence software develops, it will be able to make decisions based on more data, and more quickly, than humans can handle. As someone who researches the use of AI for applications as diverse as drones, self-driving vehicles and cybersecurity, I worry that the world may be entering – or perhaps already in – another cold war, fueled by AI. In a recent meeting at the Strategic Missile Academy near Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that AI may be the way Russia can rebalance the power shift created by the U.S. outspending Russia nearly 10-to-1 on defense each year. Russia’s state-sponsored RT media reported AI was “key to Russia beating [the] U.S. in defense.” With Russia embracing AI, other nations that don’t or those that restrict AI development risk becoming unable to compete – economically or militarily – with countries wielding developed AIs. Advanced AIs can create advantage for a nation’s businesses, not just its military, and those without AI may be severely disadvantaged. Perhaps most importantly, though, having sophisticated AIs in many countries could provide a deterrent against attacks, as happened with nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

  • Secure communicationImproving military communications with digital phased-arrays at millimeter wave

    There is increasing interest in making broader use of the millimeter wave frequency band for communications on small mobile platforms where narrow antenna beams from small radiating apertures provide enhanced communication security. Today’s millimeter wave systems, however, are not user friendly and are designed to be platform specific, lacking interoperability and are thus reserved for only the most complex platforms. New program aims to create multi-beam, digital phased-array technology, operating at 18-50 GHz to enhance secure communications between military platforms.

  • ExplosivesMaking production of high explosives cheaper, safer

    Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found a solution to a significant challenge in making high-energy explosives. They safely improved the overall chemical yield derived from diaminoglyoxime, known as DAG, and significantly increased the amount of material made per reaction.

  • Personal protection gearBlast, impact simulations help researchers better understand injuries and body armor

    Researchers at Sandia Lab have studied the mechanisms behind traumatic brain injury for about a decade. Their traumatic injury modeling and simulation project began with a head-and-neck representation, and now they’ve created a high-fidelity, digital model of a man from the waist up to study the minute mechanisms behind trauma. The specialized computer modeling and simulation methods help researchers better understand how blasts on a battlefield could lead to traumatic brain injury and injuries to vital organs, like the heart and lungs.