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Nebraska developing pill to prevent radiation sickness: Weapons & Warfare

Jan 9

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The premiere episode of Weapons & Warfare dives into a groundbreaking initiative to develop a pill aimed at safeguarding troops from Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) in the event of radiation exposure. The project, led by Nebraska-based researchers, marks a significant stride in military medical research, offering potential protection for troops operating where radiation poses a threat.

Also featured in this episode:

  • A report has unveiled alarming levels of extremism within the U.S. military, shedding light on internal security challenges and prompting a closer examination of measures to address and mitigate extremism within the armed forces.
  • Meanwhile in Gaza, the Israeli military is pulling some units out of combat. However, the move isn’t a definite indication that Israel’s assault against Hamas is slowing.
  • Amid multiple ongoing conflicts, Ukrainian pilots and ground crews are actively engaged in training on the F-16 Fighting Falcon to fight against Russia’s invasion. This strategic preparation has become increasingly vital as the conflict reaches its second year.
  • As an additional arsenal boost, Ukraine is also considering the Sandown Class Minehunter — a naval vessel designed for detecting and neutralizing sea mines.


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[RYAN ROBERTSON]

HELLO AND WELCOME TO WEAPONS AND WARFARE, FROM STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS. I’M RYAN ROBERTSON AND THIS IS THE DEBUT OF OUR WEEKLY LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE WORLDS OF WELL….WEAPONS AND WARFARE. ON THE SHOW WE’LL DIVE INTO STORIES OF NATIONAL DEFENSE AS WELL AS CONFLICTS AROUND THE WORLD.

LET’S START IN GAZA WHERE ISRAEL IS PREPARING TO WITHDRAW FIVE COMBAT UNITS FROM THE GAZA STRIP, BUT IT’S NOT BECAUSE THE IDF IS SCALING BACK ITS WAR ON HAMAS.

IDF SPOKESMAN DANIEL HAGARI TOLD REPORTERS.

[IDF SPOKESMAN DANIEL HAGARI]

“The goals of the war require prolonged fighting and we are preparing accordingly,”

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

HAGARI ALSO SAID THE WITHDRAWAL WILL ALLOW ACTIVE DUTY TROOPS TO RESUME TRAINING AND FOR RESERVE TROOPS TO RETURN TO THEIR FULLTIME JOBS UNTIL THEY ARE NEEDED AGAIN.

AT THE SAME TIME THE GAZA HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS RECENT INTENSE FIGHTING PUSHED THE NUMBER OF PALESTINIANS KILLED IN THE LAST THREE MONTHS TO MORE THAN 22,000, WITH 2.3 MILLION PEOPLE NOW HOMELESS AND IN DIRE NEED OF SHELTER, FOOD AND WATER.

IN THE WORLD’S OTHER MAJOR CONFLICT 2,100 MILES AWAY…THE UKRAINIAN STATE NEWS AGENCY SAYS THE COUNTRY’S DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS TO BUY AT LEAST ONE MILLION FIRST-PERSON VIEW DRONES IN 2024. THIS MARKS THE COUNTRY’S FIRST OFFICIAL PURCHASE OF THE DRONES, WHICH UNTIL NOW WERE BOUGHT BY VARIOUS LOWER-LEVEL GROUPS.

AT THE SAME TIME A HALF-DOZEN ADDITIONAL UKRAINIAN PILOTS BEGAN TRAINING TO FLY F-16s. A REPORT IN DEFENSE ONE DETAILS THE EFFORTS TO GET UKRAINIAN PILOTS AND GROUND CREWS UP TO SPEED ON NOT ONLY THE JETS THAT WERE DONATED BY WESTERN ALLIES LIKE THE U.S., BUT ALSO THE LANGUAGE OF THEIR TRAINERS. THE HALF-DOZEN PILOTS ENTER A PIPELINE THAT’S BEEN TRAINING CREWS IN ENGLAND AND DENMARK SINCE LAST AUGUST.

INADEQUATE AND OUTDATED. A NEWLY RELEASED REPORT, ORDERED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, TAKES AIM AT THE MILITARY’S ABILITY TO IDENTIFY POTENTIAL EXTREMISTS IN THEIR RANKS.

ORDERED IN APRIL OF 2021, AND COMPLETED IN JUNE OF 2022, THE REPORT IS JUST NOW BEING MADE AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC SCRUTINY. THAT’S AFTER REPEATED REQUESTS TO THE UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PERSONNEL AND READINESS FOR ACCESS.

THE REPORT, ORDERED BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, LLOYD AUSTIN, IS TITLED “STUDY ON EXTREMIST ACTIVITY WITHIN D-O-D TOTAL FORCE.” AUTHORED BY THE INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSIS IT SHEDS LITTLE LIGHT ON NEW ISSUES THAT EXIST WITHIN THE VARIOUS BRANCHES OF DEFENSE.

USING PREVIOUSLY COLLECTED DATA THE AUTHORS CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THERE’S LITTLE EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THE NUMBER OF VIOLENT EXTREMISTS IN UNIFORM IS GROWING, BUT IT DID FIND SOME EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT MAY BE TRUE AMONG FORMER SERVICE MEMBERS.

THE REPORT ALSO RECOMMENDS THE VARIOUS SERVICES UPDATE HOW THEY ISSUE SECURITY CLEARANCES TO SERVICE MEMBERS, DOD EMPLOYEES, AND CONTRACTED WORKERS. THE CURRENT PROCESS STILL RELIES ON IDEOLOGIES FROM THE COLD WAR AND WAR ON TERROR.

OOPS THEY LEAKED IT AGAIN. FANS OF THE VIDEO GAME ‘WAR THUNDER’ ONCE AGAIN POSTED SENSITIVE OR CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS TO AN ONLINE FORUM DEDICATED TO THE GAME CALLED ‘MACHINERY OF WAR’. THIS IS THE 14th TIME SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAS HAPPENED.

THE MOST RECENT LEAK TOOK PLACE IN EARLY DECEMBER AND INCLUDED DETAILS ABOUT THE U-S ARMY’S M2A2 BRADLEY FIGHTING VEHICLE.

THE DOCUMENTS WERE TAKEN DOWN SHORTLY AFTER BEING POSTED, BUT NOT BEFORE SOME USERS WERE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD THEM. THE DOCS WERE FROM TECHNICAL MANUALS AND DETAILED THE ‘COMMANDER HATCH’. IN 2021 THE GAME’S DEVELOPERS, GAIJIN ENTERTAINMENT, SAID IT WAS AWARE OF PREVIOUS LEAKS AND MADE IT CLEAR THE COMPANY WASN’T INTERESTED IN ANY INFORMATION UNLESS IT WAS DECLASSIFIED AND PUBLICLY AVAILABLE.

ONE OF THE U-S ARMY’S BIGGEST WORKHORSES IS GOING TO HAVE IT’S NUMBERS THINNED. GENERAL MICHAEL McCURRY SAYS 157 BLACK HAWKS, OR ABOUT 8% OF THE ARMY’S FLEET. WILL BE DECOMMISSIONED AS THE BRANCH READIES FOR THE AIRCRAFT’S EVENTUAL REPLACEMENT.

IN SERVICE SINCE 1979 THE UH-60 IS BEING REPLACED BY THE BELL TEXTRON V-280 VALOR TILTROTOR. YOU CAN FIND OUR STORY ON THE VALOR AT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM.

THE BLACKHAWK REDUCTION PROBABLY WON’T BE OBVIOUS TO MOST AS THE ARMY IS KEEPING ABOUT 2000 BLACKHAWKS IN THE MIX. GENERAL McCURRY SAYS THE BLACKHAWKS BEING PULLED FROM SERVICE ARE THE OLDEST IN THE FLEET AND GENERALLY ONLY FLOWN IF NEEDED.

OVER THE LAST FOUR DECADES THE UH-60 AIRFRAME HAD SEVERAL USES, EVERYTHING FROM MEDEVAC AND SEARCH AND RESCUE TO TRANSPORT AND ATTACK. ONCE DECOMMISSIONED, THE SURPLUS UH-60s WILL BE SOLD TO ALLIED NATIONS AT THE BARGAIN SHOPPER PRICE OF $2 MILLION PER UNIT

THE U-S NAVY HAD A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA UNDER THE TREE THIS YEAR, ON DECEMBER 20th BOEING DELIVERED THE FIRST OF SIX UNDERWATER DRONES.

CALLED THE ORCA EXTRA-LARGE UNMANNED UNDERSEA VEHICLE. IT’S BASICALLY A DRONE SUBMARINE. THE UNCREWED SUBMERSIBLE IS PART OF THE NAVY’S LONG-RANGE PLANS TO INCREASE THE SIZE OF ITS UNMANNED FLEET.

DEPENDING ON ITS CONFIGURATION, THE ORCA MEASURES BETWEEN 51 AND 85-FEET. IT’S MODELED AFTER BOEING’S ECHO VOYAGER PROOF-OF-CONCEPT VEHICLE WHICH UNDERWENT MORE THAN 10,000 HOURS OF TESTING AT SEA

THE ORCA ITSELF WAS PUT THROUGH RIGOROUS TESTING ABOVE AND BELOW THE SURFACE. ITS MODULAR CONSTRUCTION WILL ALLOW OPERATORS TO SEND IT OUT IN VARIOUS CONFIGURATIONS AND WITH DIFFERENT PAYLOADS, TO DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD, NOT ONLY UNMANNED BUT INDEPENDENT OF SUPPORT SHIPS.

THE NAVAL AVIATORS, AIRMEN, AND MARINES WHO MAINTAIN AND FLY THE F-35 LIGHTNING HAVE A PROBLEM. TO TRUNCATE PART OF A PHRASE FROM FAMED ACTING COACH KONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI. “THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS”.

DURING RECENT TESTIMONY IN A HOUSE ARMED SERVICES SUB-COMMITTEE, AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT GENERAL MICHAEL SCHMIDT DETAILED HOW LOCKHEED-MARTIN AND OTHER COMPANIES ARE FAILING TO PROVIDE “A COUPLE OF COMPONENTS” NEEDED FOR CREWS TO INSTALL AN UPGRADE CALLED TR-3.

THE UPGRADE IS ESSENTIALLY A BIGGER, FASTER COMPUTER PROCESSOR THAN IS CURRENTLY INSTALLED. THE LIEUTENANT GENERAL TOLD THE SUBCOMMITTEE THAT JUST 21, OF THE CONTRACTED 52 JETS, HAVE BEEN UPGRADED WITH THE NEW HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE.

IN SEPTEMBER LOCKHEED MARTIN ANNOUNCED AN INITIAL DELIVERY DELAY RELATED TO THE TR-3 UPGRADE. FOR ITS PART, ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE IN DEFENSE ONE, THE PENTAGON IS REFUSING TO ACCEPT DELIVERY OF ANY NEW JETS WITHOUT HAVING PASSED CERTAIN PERFORMANCE STANDARDS, MEANING LOCKHEED COULD BE SITTING ON MORE THAN 100 UNDELIVERABLE F-35s.

IF YOU GREW-UP IN THE COLD WAR ERA, THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR BOMBS AND RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT, WERE AN ACCEPTED PART OF LIFE. SOMETHING YOU KNEW WAS POSSIBLE, EVEN IF UNLIKELY TO EVER HAPPEN. WHILE MUCH OF THOSE THREATS ENDED WITH THE THAWING OF U-S AND RUSSIAN RELATIONS IN THE 90s, THE DANGER STILL EXISTS. ONLY NOW IT’S ALSO IN THE HANDS OF MUCH SMALLER PLAYERS. LESS PREDICTABLE ENEMIES. IT’S A CONCERN THAT HAS THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TURNING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA TO FIND AN ANSWER FOR A PROBLEM THEY HOPE THEY NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.

FOR MANY THE THOUGHT OF A DIRTY BOMB SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING STRAIGHT OUT OF A TOM CLANCY NOVEL, WHICH IT IS. BUT IT’S ALSO SOMETHING THAT, IN THE HANDS OF THE WRONG PEOPLE, POSES A VERY REAL THREAT TO NOT ONLY AMERICANS, BUT PLACES OF AMERICAN INTEREST ALL ACROSS THE GLOBE. MIX IN THE POTENTIAL FOR A NUCLEAR ACCIDENT OR A NUCLEAR WEAPONS INCIDENT, AND YOU HAVE THE NEED FOR SOMETHING THAT CAN PROTECT THOSE WHO HEAD STRAIGHT INTO HARM’S WAY WHEN THE SITUATION REQUIRES IT.

Maj. General (Ret.) Rick Evans of the National Strategic Research Institute
“when you think about the threats that our military could face around the world in any scenario, and we have a very interesting world around us, whether it’s Ukraine, the Middle East, whatever it is. We have to be thinking about the threats that could be coming down the road in the future. Along with today’s threats, one of the things that is out there is a potential exposure to radiation.”

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

THAT’S WHERE THE WORK OF SOME VERY TALENTED PEOPLE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER COMES IN. THEY ARE PART OF A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT WITH THE NATIONAL STRATEGIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE, OR N-S-R-I, TO CREATE A DRUG/PILL/TREATMENT (???) THAT WOULD PREVENT, OR REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF ACUTE RADIATION SYNDROME.

THAT THREAT IS FAR MORE THAN HYPOTHETICAL. IN OCTOBER A HOUSTON POLICE OFFICER, CARRYING SOMETHING SIMILAR TO A GIEGER COUNTER, WAS ALERTED TO THE PRESENCE OF SOME IMPROPERLY DISPOSED CESIUM-137 IN A HOUSTON SCRAPYARD. IT’S THE KIND OF MISTAKE, IF FOUND BY THE WRONG PEOPLE, THAT COULD POSE A VERY BIG PROBLEM IN A LARGE METROPOLITAN AREA.

[Ken Bayles Vice Chancellor of Research, University of Nebraska Medical Center]
03:55:00 “if they are going to go in harm’s way, if they are going to go into a situation where there’s radioactivity, they can take this drug and be protected in part from radiation exposure.”

[Maj. General (Ret.) Rick Evans of the National Strategic Research Institute]
“So when the government looked at that problem, how do we protect service members that we might put into harm’s way, from exposure to a threat, in this case radiation, and allow them to accomplish the mission and then come home to their families. So this type of project is really focused on protecting our service members from a threat they could be exposed to on a really bad day.”

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

IN SEPTEMBER OF 2023 THE DEFENSE HEALTH AGENCY AWARDED A $24.5 MILLION CONTRACT TO N-S-R-I, THE D-O-D UNIVERSITY AFFILIATED RESEARCH CENTER OF U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND AND THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA SYSTEM.

Dr. Rebecca Oberley-Deegan, UNMC professor
“I usually phrase it as we are using our research to try and protect ourselves from damage due to radiation. And so if that’s in the context of an accidental radiation exposure, or a military catastrophe, we’re trying to make it so that we have things in place so the people can be protected if they have to go into a situation where they’re gonna see exposure. Same thing for cancer, we know these patients are going to be exposed to radiation, we want to protect them before they go into that.”

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

CASES ARE RARE, BUT EFFECTS OF A-R-S AND IT’S PUNISHING AFTERMATH CAN BE FOUND IN THE BOMBINGS OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI, AS WELL AS THE CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DISASTER IN 1986. BUT THERE ARE MORE RECENT EXAMPLES OF POTENTIAL DANGERS. ACCORDING TO THE B-B-C, LAST OCTOBER RUSSIA’S DEFENSE MINISTER TOLD HIS COUNTERPARTS IN THE U-K, FRANCE AND THE U-S THAT HE BELIEVED UKRAINE COULD BE PREPPING A DIRTY BOMB FOR USE AGAINST RUSSIA. UKRAINE RESPONDED BY CALLING THE ALLEGATIONS “TRANSPARENTLY FALSE”, BUT IT’S THE KIND OF RHETORIC THAT MAKES PEOPLE STOP AND THINK, ‘WHAT IF?’.

THAT’S WHY, IN PART, THE RESEARCH TEAM IN NEBRASKA HAS TURNED TO DOCTOR TOMAS HELIKAR, AND HIS USE OF COMPUTATIONAL SYSTEMS BIOLOGY. ESSENTIALLY USING A DIGITAL PATIENT IN PLACE OF A REAL ONE.

[Dr. Tomas Helikar, Dept of Biochemistry at University of Nebraska]
“I wanted to be a scientist to make a difference, and this project enables me to do that, because in this case we’re going from computer models, hopefully all the way to use of the medication we develop by soldiers. So being able to contribute to a project that has this translational impact in my lifetime, I don’t have to wait 20 years for somebody to do something with it, we have this capability to do something with it… to really go from basic science all the way to translation and making an impact. So I think for me this is the first project that enables me to do that, but we will be able to scale that up and apply it to other diseases.”

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

WHILE THE DEFENSE HEALTH AGENCY IS LOOKING OUT PRIMARILY FOR THOSE SERVICE MEMBERS WHO WOULD BE IN HARM’S WAY, THE RESEARCH WILL YIELD BENEFITS FOR CIVILIANS AS WELL.

[Dr. Rebecca Oberley-Deegan, UNMC professor]
“Anything that we can do in our lab to help make somebody’s life better is a win for me. So that’s our goal as researchers. And so if we can protect our military servicemen that is wonderful. If we can help protect cancer patients, that’s wonderful. That’s really why I’m in this business, i want to help people and use our knowledge on science to make other people’s lives better in the future.”

FOR THOSE INVOLVED THE COLLABORATIVE NATURE OF THE WORK IS A MOTIVATING FACTOR AS THEY CONTINUE TO PUT THE PIECES IN PLACE THEY HOPE, WILL ONE DAY, PROTECT SERVICE MEMBERS AND PATIENTS ALIKE.

[Dr. David Berkowitz, Department of Chemistry]
“Together we can do much bigger stuff than alone… we have about half of our researchers in lincoln and half in omaha and we meet regularly. Samples get passed back and forth, students meet regularly, it’s powerful.”

[Ken Bayles Vice Chancellor of Research, University of Nebraska Medical Center]
“Fundamentally I think, as midwesterners, we just collaborate well, we work well together. I think what we’re offering and what we’ve developed honestly could have been developed at a lot of other institutions… But what makes us unique is we’ve brought all of this talent together, to a common mission.”

TANKS, LANDMINES, ARTILLERY BARRAGES….THE GROUND OFFENSIVE IN UKRAINE’S WAR IS AS VISUALLY STRIKING AS IT IS HORRIFIC….BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY RUSSIA AND VLADIMIR PUTIN ARE FIGHTING UKRAINE….THEY’RE ALSO TRYING TO CHOKE OFF THE COUNTRY’S GRAIN EXPORTS IN THE BLACK SEA – A DEVASTATING MOVE FOR POTENTIALLY MILLIONS GLOBALLY.

IN JUST THE PAST FEW MONTHS UKRAINE SAYS SEA MINES, PLACED IN SHIPPING LANES BY THE RUSSIANS, DAMAGED AT LEAST THREE SHIPS, AND POSSIBLY AS MANY AS NINE. ENTER THE NAVIES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM AND NORWAY WITH THE MARITIME CAPABILITY COALITION. 

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT  SAYS IT PLANS TO PROVIDE UKRAINE WITH TWO ROYAL NAVY SHIPS. SPECIFICALLY TWO SANDOWN-CLASS MINEHUNTERS. 

ACCORDING TO THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENSE… THESE FIBERGLASS VESSELS ARE NEARLY 174 FEET LONG AND OPERATE AS SINGLE ROLE MINE HUNTERS RATHER THAN MINE SWEEPERS. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THE CREWS OF THESE SHIPS SEEK, DETECT AND DESTROY INDIVIDUAL NAVAL MINES, WHERE MINESWEEPERS CLEAR ENTIRE AREAS WITHOUT PRIOR DETECTION OF MINES.

BUILT AND DESIGNED BY BRITISH SHIPBUILDER VOSPER THORNYCROFT, ONLY 15 SANDOWNS WERE EVER MADE. THE FIRST ENTERED SERVICE IN 1989. WITH A 35 MAN  CREW, THESE SHIPS CAN CRUISE AT A TOP SPEED OF 13 KNOTS, OR ABOUT ABOUT 15 MILES AN HOUR FOR YOU LAND-LOVERS WHILE THESE SHIPS ARE ARMED WITH SIX GUNS, THEY’RE MOSTLY FOR SELF-DEFENSE. THE ARMAMENTS INCLUDE A 30mm RAPID FIRE CANNON.  ALONG WITH THREE BROWNING 50 CALIBER MINIGUNS AND TWO GENERAL PURPOSE MACHINE GUNS. 

BUT THE REAL STAR OF THE OPERATION IS THE SEAFOX MINE DISPOSAL UNMANNED UNDERWATER VEHICLE SYSTEM, OR U-U-V. MADE BY ATLAS ELEKTRONIK, THE SEAFOX IS AN UNDERWATER DRONE. THE SEAFOX SNIFFS OUT AND DESTROYS MINES PLANTED AT SEA. BUT THAT’S NOT ONLY ROLE FOR THESE CUNNING CREATURES.

THE UNDERWATER DRONES CAN ALSO BE USED FOR SURVEILLANCE. ENABLING UKRAINIAN SAILORS TO SURVEY RUSSIA’S STRATEGIC PORTS AND SUBMARINE ROUTES.  

THE PROMISE OF THE NEW SEA TECH COMES AT A TIME WHEN RUSSIA’S LOSSES IN THE BLACK SEA ARE ALSO MOUNTING. FROM THE START OF RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE IN FEBRUARY OF 2022 THROUGH NOVEMBER OF 2023, AT LEAST 17 RUSSIAN VESSELS WERE STRUCK.

UNFORTUNATELY, JUST BECAUSE BRITAIN WANTS TO GIVE UKRAINE THE SHIPS DOESN’T MEAN UKRAINE CAN ACTUALLY GET THEM. TURKEY IS DRAGGING ITS HEELS ON LETTING THE VESSELS PASS THROUGH THE BOSPORUS STRAIGHT. TURKEY SAYS IT WANTS TO KEEP THE STRAIGHT FROM BECOMING A PART OF THE THEATER OF WAR. 

WHILE THIS ISN’T GREAT NEWS FOR UKRAINE, IT ALSO MEANS RUSSIA CAN’T SAIL ANY WARSHIPS THROUGH THE STRAIT EITHER. 

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