The U.S. Air Force has quietly built and flown a brand-new aircraft prototype that could become its next-generation fighter, the service’s top acquisition official announced Tuesday.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, revealed during the virtual 2020 Air, Space and Cyber conference that the new aircraft is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which defies the traditional categorization of a single platform, featuring a network of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors and weapons in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.
Read Next: Air Force Cargo Planes Could Get New Job in the Fight
“NGAD right now is designing, assembling, testing in the digital world — exploring things that would have cost time and money to wait for physical world results,” he said. “NGAD has come so far that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world.”
During a roundtable with reporters, Roper declined to give specifics on the project, except that the craft was created using digital engineering, which allows the service to bypass the regular manufacturing process for parts and gives developers more flexibility to design and change blueprints. The service announced Monday that any weapon made using digital concepts will have an “e-” prefix in an effort to showcase these innovative processes.
The new aircraft has “broken a lot of records and is showing digital engineering isn’t a fluke,” Roper said. He declined to comment on whether the defense industry has taken part in the endeavor.
While he touted the expedited process of digital methods, “we don’t want our adversaries to know what they are,” Roper added.
The news comes four years after the Air Force laid out initial plans for what its future fighter jets might look like.
During the 2019 Paris Air Show, Roper said discussions were ongoing within the service about the need for a proposed sixth-gen fighter concept, which could be the successor to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or something more elaborate. That October, the service cut the ribbon on the “Program Executive Office for Advanced Aircraft” during a ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The Air Force hopes to move fast on its futuristic projects. Roper last year debuted the Digital Century Series acquisition model, with the goal of using interconnectable, agile software and competitive technology prototyping to put together a combat-ready fighter jet in an estimated five years’ time. The service recently finished a business case analysis on the model’s validity, according to Defense News.
The Navy last month revealed that it has established its own NGAD program office in an effort to speed up the fielding of a new fighter prior to the 2030s, according to USNI News. But plans and discussions with industry are in the very early stages, USNI said.
The Air Force has proven it can accelerate and manufacture aircraft: The first “Century Series” aircraft initiative debuted in the 1950s and produced fighter-bomber variants such as the F-100 Super Sabre, which took roughly two and a half years to develop.
While many envision a futuristic manned fighter as a successor to today’s fifth-generation platforms, Roper has said the NGAD program could include fighters and autonomous drones fighting side-by-side.
For example, the autonomous Skyborg — which aims to pair artificial intelligence with a human piloting a fighter jet — is intended for reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in a manned-unmanned teaming mission; the drones are considered “attritable,” or cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.
In July, the service chose Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to move forward on the Skyborg program.
— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.
Related: Air Force Launches Office to Plan Future Fighter Jets
Emmys Flub Outstanding Guest Actor Win with Confounding Technical Glitch
Those tuned into the virtual Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday night on FXX were surely puzzled when the announcement came for the winner of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. While Ron Cephas Jones was the confirmed winner for his turn in NBC’s beloved “This Is Us,” heading into its fifth season this November, the editor, and the voiceover, didn’t quite get it right. The awards announcer actually named Jason Bateman as the winner, for his performance in “The Outsider,” but the show meanwhile displayed a title card for Cephas’ win as William Hill in “This Is Us.”
The production team managed to correct the error with a card after the fact announcing that Cephas was, indeed the winner, and an announcement from the Television Academy with the correction was made in the virtual media center.
It wasn’t the first flub for the Emmys team on Saturday night. During the award for Outstanding Period and/or Character Hairstyling, which went to Netflix’s “Hollywood,” the names of the winners were instead dubbed as “NEED NAMES.” In addition, a card for Eddie Murphy’s guest acting win on “Saturday Night Live” was shown during Maya Rudolph’s win for her guest turn on the show.
The disheveled ceremony wraps a week-long unveiling of the Creative Awards Emmys, ahead of the big show on Sunday night, which will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. The Primetime Emmys will air on Sunday, September 20 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. The three-hour event will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. Although the event will not be streamed for free, cord-cutters can tune in to the festivities via streaming services such as Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV, both of which offer free trials.
Check out the full list of Creative Arts Emmy winners via IndieWire’s coverage here. The ceremony premiered on FXX, as hosted by Nicole Byer.
While the 2020 Primetime Emmys are taking place during a period of unprecedented uncertainty for the television industry, the recent 2020 Emmy nominations were as full of snubs, surprises, and all manner of excitement as the Emmys always have been. HBO’s “Watchmen” emerged from the latest round of Emmy nominations as 2020’s television show to beat. The acclaimed sequel to the timeless comic earned 26 Emmy nominations, including an Outstanding Limited Series nomination, and helped HBO Entertainment lead the pack as the year’s most successful studio in terms of Emmy nominations.
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Moderna Reveals Efficacy Criteria For Key Covid-19 Vaccine Trials
Moderna (MRNA) has taken the rare step of publishing the clinical protocols for its late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trials. The company also announced that it is planning to produce roughly 20M doses of its vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, this year.According to the published protocol, Moderna is carrying out a Phase 3, randomized, stratified, observer-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy, safety and immunogenicity of mRNA-1273 against the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in adults aged 18 and over.The study will target adults who have no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection but whose locations or circumstances put them at risk of catching the virus.Its primary endpoint is to demonstrate the efficacy of mRNA-1273 to prevent the first occurrence of Covid-19 starting 14 days after the second dose.Here Covid-19 is defined as symptomatic disease based on the following criteria: at least two of fever (≥ 38ºC), chills, myalgia, headache, sore throat, new olfactory and taste disorder(s), or at least one of the following respiratory signs/symptoms: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or clinical or radiographical evidence of pneumonia; and a positive coronavirus test.It will also evaluate the safety and reactogenicity of 2 injections of mRNA-1273 given 28 days apart.Secondary endpoints include evaluating the efficacy of mRNA-1273 to prevent severe Covid-19, asymptomatic Covid-19, to evaluate vaccine efficacy (VE) to prevent death caused by the virus, and to evaluate the efficacy of mRNA-1273 to prevent Covid-19 in all study participants, regardless of evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.Approximately 30,000 participants will be randomly assigned in 1:1 ratio to receive either mRNA-1273 100 µg or placebo, says Moderna. At least 25%-40% of enrolled participants will be either over 65, or under 65 and at risk at screening.Moderna’s candidate mRNA-1273 is an mRNA vaccine against Covid-19 encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein and is being co-developed with investigators from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center.The biotech company recently reiterated that it remains on track to deliver about 500 million doses of the potential vaccine per year, and up to 1 billion doses per year, beginning in 2021. Initial funding of $1.3 billion for Moderna to begin producing mRNA-1273 was secured from investors in the company’s most recent public equity offering in May 2020.Shares in Moderna have exploded 257% so far this year. Due to the extreme rally, Wall Street analysts have a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus on the stock’s outlook. Looking ahead, the $92 average price target suggests additional 31% upside potential lies ahead.JPMorgan analyst Cory Kasimov said that although the vaccine candidate appears to be showing a “promising profile”, he still wants to see “the Phase 3 results with mRNA-1273, which are anticipated sometime this fall, to see how the data evolves.”Kasimov maintains a Hold rating on the stock and $89 price target as he is skeptical of Moderna’s “ability to generate long-term meaningful revenues that justify prevailing market values.” (See MRNA stock analysis on TipRanks)Related News: Moderna Stock Rises 3% On Vertex Deal Novavax Inks Deal With India For 2B Covid-19 Vaccine Doses In 2021 Merck Puts Focus On Lower Debt, Sees Smaller Takeovers After 2022 More recent articles from Smarter Analyst: * Salesforce To Add 12,000 Jobs Next Year; Shares Up 49% YTD * US Steel Up 5% As 3Q Outlook Reflects Improved Business * LVMH Submits $16B Tiffany Takeover For EU Approval * Roku Inks NBCUniversal Deal For Peacock App, Ending Dispute
If the U.S. Post Office has an ally, it’s Duel2 and play-by-mail games
In these fast-moving times where nothing takes a break, there is one form of slow-motion entertainment that has endured: play-by-mail games. The genre refers to mail without an “e” before it, with a notable game being Duel2, a gladiatorial simulator-RPG whose aging demographic makes it more like an AARPG. Given what is currently happening with the U.S. Postal Service, Duel2 is in for some challenges, but before we go any further, we need to go back. And I mean way back to when I was in eighth grade.
The place was Tucson, Arizona, the year was 1984, and I spent my time dabbling between being a runner, a breaker, a head-banger, and a dungeon master. It was then that my friend Jeff, an avid collector of Conan the Barbarian comics, delivered some exciting news. His cousin in Tempe, Arizona, ran a company called Reality Simulations, which had just launched a play-by-mail gladiator combat game called Duelmasters. Since the general public didn’t use the internet back then, the idea of using the mail for a game was more ground-breaking than off-putting.
The initial setup involved getting a sheet of five warriors with randomly generated numbers for various stats, such as strength, speed, wit, deftness, constitution, etc. You then had 14 extra numbers to add to the stats of your choice and 10 fighting styles to choose from. This aspect felt like character creation in Dungeons & Dragons, where you have stats that lend themselves to certain characters, but instead of a thief or a wizard, you are a gladiator with a fighting style that is offensive, defensive, or a hybrid of both. Style matchups play out like rock-paper-scissors, but the right strategy can have paper crush scissors.
Once your warrior is created, you fill out a strategy sheet for each minute of a 7 round fight that includes your activity level, your offensive effort, your kill desire, the body part you want to attack, and the part you want to protect (fights can go many more rounds, even in the thousands, but your strategy from the seventh round repeats). You also choose your weapon, armor, and whether you want to try and raise a statistic or learn new skills.
A couple weeks after your turn is mailed in, you get back an 8-by-10 orange envelope with dot matrix printouts that showcase a computer-generated turn-by-turn recap of each of your warrior’s fights versus another opponent in the arena. There is also a newsletter to track the success of your warriors and team, publish quips about your opponents, and plan challenges for the next turn with the hope of becoming the arena’s Duelmaster.
In 1986, after playing for about two years, I boxed up a stack of fight sheets that could have decimated the forest population of Endor and quit to pursue bigger aspirations, such as growing my imported Goth music album collection. Life then happened: I went to college, got married, had kids, and became deeply entrenched in the console gaming industry, which included working on the launch of Sega Dreamcast and BioShock, among dozens of other titles. As the next 21 years rolled by, Duelmasters became a childhood memory of simpler times like a scene from Stand By Me.
Fast-forward to 2007 and a Google down memory lane when I decided to see if Reality Simulations was in business. It turns out Duelmasters was still active, but now called Duel2 (an online search for Duelmasters instead surfaced a popular manga series). While Reality Simulations’ site showed they had embraced the internet age, it was only so far as to post the game’s newsletters – the gameplay was still being played by snail mail!
On a whim, I called the company to see if they had my 20-year-old records on file, which surprisingly they did. They also noted that my assortment of teams (I ran about five of them) all had incredible win/loss records. Since I had an ample supply of whims, I thought it would be funny to run my teams again and surprise all the current players. Imagine the looks on their faces when a slew of teams they had never heard of appeared in the top spots of their respective arenas. Priceless! Well, not exactly priceless, but I will talk more about pricing below.
Since this isn’t Hollywood, my teams all got demolished. During my time away, a host of resources for managers to share their wisdom and evolve the game was now online, even if the game wasn’t. It was obvious I needed help to get reacclimated.
While gaming has its celebrities like Ninja, Shroud, and TimTheTatman, Duel2 has Mannequin, TUM, and Doc Steele, among others, but the main difference is that Duel2’s stars have been stars for decades. It was top veteran players who were able to provide enough tips for me to once again embrace this welcome distraction from the work anxiety that filled my head in the evening.
Although the players had gotten wiser, the only obvious updates to the game were that the envelopes were now white instead of orange and turn sheets occasionally came in different colors, albeit with the same dated gladiator drawing adorning each one to ensure they can never be filled out in public. Regardless, I plunged ahead for another two years!
After re-engaging with the community, I gathered up details about the other members through forum audits. There appeared to be about 200 managers, and of the 75 or so that responded to my audit, most were in their 30s or 40s, a couple in their 50s and 60s, and the three seated at the kids’ table being in their late 20s. As a result, forum discussions usually involve players referencing mortgage payments, unemployment, medical updates, and life as a parent. There was none of the newfangled jargon, acronyms, and toxicity that is second nature to modern day gaming communities. The biggest revelation was that there were rarely new players. Everyone I met had played since the ’80s or ’90s or returned after a long hiatus like I had, or got their own kids into playing it.
With work picking up, I said goodbye to the community again in 2008 and added the ream of paper to my previous stockpile in a folder aptly labeled “geek stuff.”
It’s now 2020, and COVID-19’s stay-at-home mandate had me doing Marie Kondo-inspired cleaning around the house, including purging old files. I then came across the “geek stuff.” Remembering I had left some money in my account, I took a refresher course on how to play which involved reading tutorials, some of which I had actually written 12 years earlier! I also reconnected with some of the managers I had audited back in the day, a couple of which are now in their 70’s. It turns out many were still playing, but this time around it did not surprise me. I also got guidance from one of them (a skilled manager known as TMM) before creating a new team and sending my turns in. Unfortunately, that first turn arrived late, which made the post office issues top of mind and required me to be quicker about submitting my turn sheets.
Even though the game has its previously mentioned website, navigating the forums and its messaging app is an antiquated molasses-moving experience that might lead you to believe Duel2 had long since been sunsetted. Updates and upgrades to the game itself are also few and far between. In many ways, Duel2 feels like a Dharma Initiative experiment kept on permanent autopilot, but that only enhances rather than tarnishes its charm.
There has been one noticeable update since my previous visit in 2008 — somebody created an external chat group using Chatzy. Chatzy looks and works like a relic from the ’90s, which is not much different than the game’s actual site. I suggested creating a new Slack or Discord channel and while some knew of these apps, a lot had no interest in learning a new program. As one member said, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Even using that dated expression was a tell sign of the age of the community. Also, since I couldn’t find a Twitter handle for the company, I just created an unofficial one this month.
Beyond all the mailed-in action, there are two face-to-face tournaments a year (one in winter, one in summer), which the small but passionate community looks forward to (the most recent F2F was done online this year due to COVID). You can check out photos and videos from past F2F events here with the most recent ones looking like a 30-year high school reunion.
If you are concerned about the cost given the current economy, there is a $3.25 base fee for each turn plus $1.50 for each gladiator you enter into combat (you are not required to run all 5). This means that it ranges from $4.75 to $10.75 a turn. What is notable about the price is that it has not changed since the game launched. Let that sink in. It’s like a rent freeze for 36 years. If that is still too much for a bi-weekly budget, there are 11 slow arenas out of the 103 that run once a month, one of which is an Advanced Arena (these are where the top gladiators go once they graduate from their regular arenas).
So what is the appeal of playing a game like this in the age of instant gratification? For me, it’s that it is not a time-consuming obsession like everything else in life, whether it’s checking my Twitter feed, all the new series on Netflix, or the hours I spend on epic games like Ghost of Tsushima. Instead, it gives me something to look forward to every couple of weeks which is exhilarating since there is not much to get excited about beyond the hope that things in the real world will get better. It is also the comfort food equivalent of Freakies (wiki it, kids).
For those who wish to take the plunge, which should appeal to number crunchers, role-players, D&D fans, and nostalgia buffs, your best bet is requesting a start-up package from RSI and then posting a note in the forums that you’re new and need help, such as which arena to request (Arena 93, Noblish Island, is great for newbies since some managers there like to provide guidance). The dinosaurs who play the game know that extinction could come at any time, so warm-blooded players that can stave off the impending ice age are always welcome. And while you might think the game has been mastered, there is still a lot of experimenting going on that keeps it fresh.
Given that the only time I discovered an actual new player, he was the son of an existing one, it is time to change that. Come find out why this game has endured and give yourself something to look forward to every other week. You will also be supporting the postal system who desperately needs it.
Stamps go on the top right corner of the envelope.
Chase is a long-time PR practitioner who occasionally writes on Medium as a hobby under a pen name.
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