Are U.S. killer drones headed to the Philippines? There are already U.S. special operators fighting ISIS there. There could soon be American drones carrying out airstrikes there, too, according to a plan under consideration inside the Pentagon, NBC News reported Monday. “The authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, said the officials. The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones.”
SecState Rex Tillerson gave the pitch some momentum Monday in Manila when he said the U.S. was providing the Philippine government “some recent transfers of a couple of Cessnas and a couple of UAVs (drones) to allow to them to have better information with which to conduct the fight down there.”
And in a bid to cut off concerns over working even more closely with alleged human rights abuser Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Tillerson said that’s pretty much just not an issue right now: “I see no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of other human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counternarcotics activities.” More from NBC News, here.
The war of words continues between Pyongyang and Washington. If the U.S. attacks North Korea, the country “is ready to teach the U.S. a severe lesson with its nuclear strategic force,” Pyongyang said in a statement Monday after the UN imposed steep sanctions that would cut about a third of the country’s foreign revenue.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said North Korea must first stop launching missiles if it wants to have any kind of dialogue with the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. “That would be the first and strongest signal,” he said. “We have not had extended periods of time where they were not taking some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles.”
POTUS re-tweets a news report on U.S. spy satellite activity over North Korea. The story, based on leaks from anonymous officials: “U.S. spy agencies detected the rogue communist regime loading two anti-ship cruise missiles on a patrol boat on the country’s east coast just days ago,” Fox News reported. “It’s the first time these missiles have been deployed on this type of platform since 2014, U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region told Fox News on Monday.”
What allegedly occurred: “North Korea loaded two Stormpetrel anti-ship cruise missiles on a Wonsan guided-missile patrol boat at Toejo Dong on North Korea’s east coast.”
And the forecast — a fairly predictable one: “The latest moves by Pyongyang point to a likely missile test in the days ahead or it could be a defense measure should the U.S. Navy dispatch more warships to the Korean peninsula, officials said.” Read the rest, here.
From Defense One
How AI Will Make Fake News Video — and Fight It As Well // Patrick Tucker: Just weeks after one research team appeared to put words in a leader’s mouth, a new tool can check questionable video for a pulse.
Here Are Some New Ideas for Fighting Botnets // Joseph Marks: Liability for defensive measures, surging international cooperation and making government a good role model top the list.
After Sanctioning Pyongyang, China Says the Ball’s in Everyone Else’s Court // Zheping Huang: Beijing says the U.S. and both Koreas need to step up and show they’re ready to negotiate.
Listen: 3 Questions on Consumer Drones & Security // Ben Watson: The US Army recently banned soldiers from using a popular brand of consumer drone because of cyber concerns — and that’s just one of the new security challenges posed by inexpensive yet capable flying robots.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1946: First flight of the Convair B-36, largest mass-produced piston-engine airplane ever. Have something you want to share? Email us at email@example.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Wanna fly your off-the-shelf drone over a U.S. airbase? It was never a good idea anyway — but now it’s officially a worse idea. That’s because the U.S. military announced Monday it will not hesitate to shoot down those drones if they appear to threaten U.S. troops in any way.
“Protecting our force remains a top priority,” DoD spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a statement Monday. “That is why the Department of Defense issued very specific, but classified, policies that detail how DoD personnel may counter the unmanned aircraft threat to personnel, vital facilities, and critical assets.”
“We won’t go into the specific rules for the use of force; however, we retain the right and obligation to act in self-defense,” a defense official told DefenseTech.org’s Oriana Pawlyk in a report covering some of the new language covering this threat and written into the 2017 NDAA. “We never discuss that because then hobbyists or [those who intend harm] will know how to push the limits.”
Wanna know more about how hobbyists and/or bad guys push the limits with consumer drones? Take 10 minutes today to listen to our new podcast on the topic — extending the discussion from our 7-minute video featuring interviews with former Army intelligence sergeant, Brett Velicovich, of Expert Drones; and Peter Singer from New America, here.
Drones versus convoys? DARPA is on it, and has chosen three teams for the first phase of a program to protect convoys against small drones, Aviation Week reported Monday. The agency wants a system that can be deployed in three to five years.
The winners: Dynetics, Saab Defense and Security and SRC.
What you’ll also learn from this article (maybe you already knew it, but it’s an acronym that was new to us): The U.S. Army’s MAFIA (Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application). And in case you’re wondering, that’s a “service-oriented architecture will provide the common framework for the data-fusion engine, decision-aid algorithms and user interface, and the backbone for command-and-control software.” Got it? Read on about DARPA’s three-step process, here (sign-up required; it’s free).
Some drone tech news from the middle of the U.S.: “Kansas has become the first state in the nation to adopt unmanned traffic management technology, which makes it possible for anyone flying a drone or needing to know if a drone is in the air to share information,” Fast Company reported Monday.
The technology was “built by the Santa Monica, California startup AirMap–which enables anyone flying a drone to file a flight plan and anyone else wanting to use the airspace to see who else is flying in it in real time.” Worth the click, here.
BuzzFeed News says it trained a computer to search for hidden spy planes. What they did: Sent “a machine-learning algorithm [to] sift for planes with flight patterns that resembled those operated by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.”
Then, they “turned to an algorithm called the ‘random forest,’ training it to distinguish between the characteristics of two groups of planes: almost 100 previously identified FBI and DHS planes, and 500 randomly selected aircraft.”
“The algorithm was not infallible,” they write. “Among other candidates, it flagged several skydiving operations that circled in a relatively small area, much like a typical surveillance aircraft. But as an initial screen for candidate spy planes, it proved very effective.” Read on, here.
Remember that story about a mysterious apparent spy plane flying over Seattle? The Verge reported it last week, and now they say U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command has confirmed at least a bit of what they supposed. The update: “AFSOC contacted us again stating the aircraft does indeed belong to them and that it is doing ‘training.’ They would not elaborate or did not know what unit the aircraft belonged to specifically or exactly what type of training it was doing and who else was involved.” Story, here.
Botnets help spread the #FireMcMaster campaign. The folks at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab traced its spread, which appears to have been boosted substantially by bots. “#FireMcMaster on Twitter appears to have been the most well-organized campaign in the history of the alt-right. A total of 136,292 tweets using the hashtag #FireMcMaster were posted between August 3 and August 6, with two thirds posted between August 3 and August 4.” Read on, here.
Background, NYT, Aug 4: “General McMaster has angered the political right by pushing out several conservatives on the national security staff and cautioning against ripping up the nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama without a strategy for what comes next….But after two days of unrelenting attacks on General McMaster by conservative activists and news sites, complete with the Twitter hashtag #FireMcMaster, the president weighed in to quash such talk. ‘General McMaster and I are working very well together,’ he said in a statement emailed to The New York Times.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent everyone in the military some ethics guidance. “I need you to be aggressive and show initiative without running the ethical sidelines, where even one misstep will have you out of bounds. I want our focus to be on the essence of ethical conduct: doing what is right at all times, regardless of the circumstances or whether someone is watching.” Read the whole Aug. 4 memo; it’s short, and very Mattisian. Via USNI News, here.
For your eyes only: Here are some new photos of U.S. Navy SEALs training their Ukrainian counterparts just last month for the 17-country Sea Breeze exercise. The photos come from U.S. Special Operations Command - Europe. More on those drills, here.
The growing profile of cyber threats are forcing nations like the U.S., South Korea, the U.K., and Russia to dig “through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology,” Reuters reported Monday. “Cyber specialists say the problem with GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is their weak signals, which are transmitted from 12,500 miles above the Earth and can be disrupted with cheap jamming devices that are widely available.”
Some ideas: “eLoran - the descendant of the loran (long-range navigation) system created during World War II,” which some claim “is difficult to jam as the average signal is an estimated 1.3 million times stronger than a GPS signal.” And Russia is reportedly working on a version called “eChayka, aimed at the Arctic region as sea lanes open up there, but the project has stalled for now.” Why? Cost, for one thing. Read on, here.
ICYMI: The Office of Naval Research is re-fashioning the 200-year-old signal lamp for modern stealth communication, USNI reported in July. “The Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) was developed as part of $750,000 effort with ONR, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City, Fla., and Creative MicroSystems Corp…. The initial June test proved basic Morse code can be sent back and forth between ships – in this case cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61) and destroyer USS Stout (DDG-55) as the ships sat pierside at Naval Station Norfolk, Va…. The next series of tests will swap the lamp’s xenon light bulb for an LED array for a more complex test that could transmit thousands of characters a second using visible light.” More details, here.