There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.
Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”
“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”
Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”
Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.
“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”
“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.
Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”
Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It spread throughout the nation in January, and then across the world. Now, there are over 1.2 million confirmed cases across more than 183 countries and regions.
The Chinese state’s slow response to the outbreak and its lack of transparency have led some to claim that Covid-19 will be China’s ‘Chernobyl moment’. These criticisms remain valid despite China’s later mobilisation to contain the virus’s spread, which was largely the result of work by medical professionals and a strong community response. The Chinese Communist Party’s ineffective command and control mechanisms and its uncompromising restrictions on information in the early stages of the crisis helped transform a localised epidemic into a global pandemic.
Chinese authorities only confirmed the outbreak three weeks after the first cases emerged in Wuhan. As the virus spread, the CCP’s crisis-response mechanisms slowly kicked into gear. On 20 January, President Xi Jinping convened a politburo meeting, which put China on an effective war footing. Wuhan and all major Chinese cities were locked down and the People’s Liberation Army assumed command over disease control efforts.
Shortly after the politburo met, an order was issued to the National Defence Mobilisation Department (NDMD) of the Central Military Commission to launch an emergency response to combat the epidemic. The order required the ‘national defence mobilisation system to assume command of garrison troops, military support forces, and local party committees and governments at all levels’.
As ASPI’s Samantha Hoffman has noted, the NDMD ‘creates a political and technical capacity to better guarantee rapid, cohesive, and effective response to an emergency in compliance with the core leadership’s orders’. To that end, the NDMD has subordinate departments at the provincial level responsible for mobilising economic, political and scientific information and equipment and organising militia, transport readiness and air defence.
The CCP’s defence mobilisation system is based on the Maoist ‘people’s war’ doctrine, which relies on China’s size and people to defend the country from attack. The aim is to lure the aggressor deep into the battlefield, wear them down and then strike decisively. In this whole-of-society approach, civilians, militia and the PLA all play a part.
On 26 January, the World Health Organization reported 1,985 Covid-19 cases in China. One day later, premier Li Keqiang, by then in charge of containing the outbreak, visited Wuhan to inspect its disease control measures. On 2 February, Li and Wang Huning (a member of the politburo and one of the top leaders of the CCP) chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic (新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情工作领导小组). Chinese authorities were starting to develop situational awareness as Covid-19 spread to all provinces.
The number of confirmed cases more than doubled from 11,821 on 1 February to 24,363 on 5 February. On 6 February, Chinese state media reported that Xi had referred to a ‘people’s war‘ in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. News of Xi’s declaration reached Western media, which had earlier noted his public absence. On 7 February, Li Wenliang—the doctor detained by police for alerting the public to the virus in November 2019—died of Covid-19, triggering significant public anger and frustration at the Chinese authorities.
The CCP attempted to neutralise this anger by having officials and public figures express sympathy for Li Wenliang on social media. As public discontent waned, Xi took a more prominent role in the national response. His visit to Beijing’s disease control centre was covered by state media outlets, indicating that his ‘people’s war’ declaration was intended to garner public support for his campaign.
The CCP’s next step was to shore up support within the PLA. On 11 February, the PLA’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, ran an editorial explaining the urgency and achievability of the mission and followed that with numerousarticles that sought to boost the PLA’s morale. The messaging was intended to ensure that the party had the military’s absolute cooperation.
The deployment of state-owned enterprises, the militia and the PLA was a major test for the CCP’s mobilisation system. While it proved effective in the middle and later stages of the pandemic, the lack of transparency and poor command and control systems in the early stages heightened the risk to international public health to unacceptable levels.
Effective crisis management requires more than whole-of-society mobilisation. A senior WHO official, Michael Ryan, observed that Covid-19 ‘will get you if you don’t move quickly’. If there’s anything to learn from the CCP’s response, it’s that decisiveness, transparency and rapid response are crucial to effective disease control in a crisis.
It appears that Xi did too little before it was too late.
Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
The U.S. Army first started training troops in the jungles of Panama in 1916, just two years after the opening of the Panama Canal. Training began in earnest in the early 1940s as World War II in the Pacific necessitated the need for soldiers to be well-versed in the tactics of jungle warfare.
The 158th Infantry Regiment even adopted the nickname “Bushmasters” after the vicious pit viper they encountered while training there.
However, it was not until 1953, as the Korean War was drawing to an end, that the Army finally established a formal school, called the Jungle Operations Training Center. Operations ramped up once again during the 1960s in order to meet the demand for jungle-trained soldiers to fight in Vietnam.
In 1976, the Army realized it would be more efficient to train whole battalions at one time rather than training individuals piecemeal and sending them back to their home station. Those battalions would go through some of the toughest, most grueling training the Army had to offer. The jungle itself provides challenges of its own.
The thick, triple canopy and dense foliage made radios all but useless and reduced visibility to just a few yards. Rain and humidity ensured soldiers were constantly wet and the jungle floor was always slick with mud, which the soldiers had to march and crawl through.
There were tree roots and vines on which to trip or become entangled. Other plants offered worse. A manual written for troops stationed in Panama during World War II listed over 100 poisonous or injurious varieties of flora. Leaning or brushing against the wrong plant could lead to some rather uncomfortable conditions.
If the plants weren’t bad enough, there was local wildlife to contend with. Poisonous snakes and bugs surely top the list of unwanted encounters. Enormous spiders would spin giant webs across narrow jungle paths. Snakes waited in the underbrush and in trees. Jim Smit, a National Guard platoon sergeant and Vietnam veteran captured and killed a fifteen-foot boa constrictor during his time at Jungle Warfare School.
He said it was the best training, short of combat, that any soldier could undertake.
There was also the venomous and dangerous Bushmaster pit viper. Mercifully, the snakes preferred not to make contact with humans, so encounters were rare. Rounding out the dangerous reptiles in the area were the crocodiles that lived in the waterways nearby.
However, the worst encounter for many soldiers was the common mosquito. They are ubiquitous in jungle environments and are a terrible nuisance. Although most bites simply leave soldiers itchy, their most dangerous quality is their ability to carry malaria. In the jungle, a little carelessness can lead to a lot of pain. Failing to properly secure mosquito netting at night could mean waking up covered in mosquito bites. Even with the netting, soldiers weren’t entirely safe. Exposed skin, carelessly pressed against the net while sleeping, would be open to bites.
It was in this setting that the Army conducted some of the best training and created some of the best unit cohesion possible. The terrible conditions forced soldiers and leaders alike to have to think through situations while not being able to simply go “by the book.”
This is because the jungle is a great equalizer in combat conditions. The thick foliage interferes with radio signals, renders night-vision devices nearly useless, and stops hand-held GPS devices from working properly. Soldiers at Jungle Warfare School could not rely on the technological advantages they were accustomed to.
These circumstances were what made the Jungle Warfare School unique, though. While soldiers learned how to operate in the jungle learned many valuable warfighting skills that are difficult to replicate in other environments.
Although not technically authorized for wear, many students who completed the school wore the Jungle Expert tab or patch.
Despite the unique nature of the school and the exceptional training it provided, it was not relocated when Fort Sherman closed down in 1999. Soldiers would not have the opportunity to attend Jungle Warfare School again for another fifteen years, when it was reopened in Hawaii in 2014.
By the 1950s, the Cold War was in full swing, and the Soviets appeared to have an edge in fighter plane technology. The USSR debuted a new plane, the MiG-15. This new fighter had a design that no one had yet seen flying. Its swept-back wingspan allowed it to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound. It was also incredibly effective against all the fighters of that age. The Navy needed to figure out how to beat it to protect its carrier.
They turned to defense contractor Grumman, who soon turned its designs inside-out and trying to take the new MiG down.
And they started with the F9F Cougar.
Looks cool on a carrier, looks worse getting shot down by MiGs.
What came of the project was the F11F Tiger, which incorporated the latest and greatest in naval aviation technology and tactics into the basic designs of the carrier-based F9F Cougar. The Cougar has a windswept wing design of its own, as the MiG-15 had completely outclassed straight-wing fighters in the skies over Korea. The Navy wanted some fighters who could protect its ships in aerial combat. Grumman began its effort with the F9F Cougar but went back to the drawing board and came out with the Tiger, a supersonic fighter that could be launched from a carrier and bring the fight to the MiGs.
Unfortunately, its high top speed is how the F11F Tiger became the first fighter to shoot itself down.
On Sept. 21, 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge began a shallow dive in his F11F. As he did, he fired two short bursts from the aircraft’s four 20mm cannons, and thought nothing of it – until he got to the end of his dive, and the bursts began to shoot up his aircraft. He started at 20,000 feet and then went into a Mach 1 dive as he fired. He accelerated with afterburner and at 13,000 feet, fired to empty. He continued his dive. but at 7,000 feet, something struck his canopy glass and one of his engine intake lips. The aircraft began to lose power, and Attridge headed back to base to land it.
But in order to make it back without shattering the canopy, he had to slow down his Tiger to a crawl, and the engine would only produce 78 percent of its normal power. He wouldn’t make it back to base at that rate. Two miles away from the runway, the engine went out completely.
Attridge didn’t bail out – test pilots are crazy – in the slowed aircraft, he settled into some trees. Despite some injuries, he exited the plane once on the ground and was picked up by a rescue helicopter. The plane, as it turned out, was hit in the windshield, the right intake, and the nose cone by its own rounds. The low pitch of the plane and its trajectory, combined with the trajectory of the bullets and the speed of the Tiger’s descent at half the speed of sound right into the guns’ target area, meant that the plane would easily catch up with its own burst of 20mm fire.
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.
In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”
The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.
But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.
“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”
Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.
Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.
He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”
He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”
Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”
Is anyone else feeling some anxiety with regards to our Mandalorian’s decision-making? This week, he brings the Yoda Baby on a reckless adventure with very shady sidekicks. It’s just very irresponsible parenting, to be honest.
But hey, more fun guest stars.
Here’s your spoiler warning.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Chapter six of The Mandalorian is called “The Prisoner” because Mando (I’m stillstruggling with this nickname…is every Mandalorian called “Mando”?) our Mandalorian accepts a job from Space Santa, officially known as Ranzar Malk (played by Patriot’s Mark Boone Junior), to release a prisoner from a New Republic prison ship.
We’re not really given a backstory into why he chose to go meet up with this dude from his past but it’s immediately clear that he walked into a hostile environment.
Usually in an ensemble heist situation, we’re introduced to a ragtag crew of lovable characters with specific skills, but here it’s just a list of annoying enemies.
There’s Mayfeld (played by Bill Burr), who will be running point on the operation because Space Santa is retired. Then there’s a Twi’lek named Xi’an (played by Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena), who likes to do a full-body hiss and play with her knives, which I can appreciate. There’s the droid Zero (played by Apple Onion’s Richard Ayoade), who is a droid so our Mandalorian already dislikes him for reasons that haven’t been explained yet. And then there’s Burg (Clone Wars’ Clancy Brown), who Mayfeld immediately insults for his looks.
(Also, why do guys do this to their friends? I’m genuinely asking. Why do you guys insult each other all the time? I can’t imagine introducing my girlfriends and being like, “This is Sally, she’s our DD tonight, and that ugly slut is Jane, who has promised to buy the first round…”)
It’s like Guardians of the Galaxy meets Suicide Squad.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
So…when our Mandalorian accepted Space Santa’s job, he was under the impression that his Razor Crest wouldn’t be part of the deal. In other words, his plan was to — again — just leave the Yoda Baby alone on the ship and then fly off to some illegal and dangerous mission?
Instead, he’s surprised when all these greedy criminals, one of whom already bears a grudge (Xi’an, who also maybe used to have a sexual history) board his ship and fly it and the Yoda Baby into harm’s way.
And, like, literally the only thing keeping the baby hidden was a button? Which Burg immediately pushes during a skirmish where he tried to take off Mando’s helmet.
The only good thing about all this was Bill Burr’s reaction:
“What is that? Did you guys make that thing? Is it like a pet?”
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Just like in previous episodes, the Yoda Baby’s race is rare — none of these scoundrels recognize him or register his significance other than sensing he’s important to Mando. The Yoda Baby is then dropped again when the Razor Crest is yanked out of hyperspace and docked on the prison ship.
This kid is going to need a therapist, I swear.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The distraction is enough to move the crew into the bulk of the episode. They board the prison ship, which is supposed to be manned by droids only. Our Mandalorian proves himself by taking out the first wave of them. Within the control room, however, they discover a young New Republic prison ward.
Unfortunately for this kid, he becomes collateral damage (RIP Matt Lanter), but not before activating a New Republic distress call. Now we’ve got a ticking clock, spurring the group into action.
They find their prisoner, another Twi’Lek named Qin (played by Berlin Station’s Ismael Cruz Cordova), who is Xi’an’s brother — stranded there by Mando. The crew rescue Qin and shove Mando into his cell, which actually made things interesting.
Would the crew take off with the Yoda Baby in the Razor Crest, leaving Mando locked in a New Republic prison? Potentially forcing him to team up with them as he builds toward the season finale?
Oh. No. He busts out in two seconds. He busts out so quickly that he’s able to also track down and imprison each of the other crew members before they were able to reach the ship?
Holy crap, he’s so cute.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Speaking of which, back on the Razor Crest, Zero has learned that the Yoda Baby is an expensive asset and sets off to hunt him. Right before he’s able to shoot the child, the Yoda Baby readies his adorable little Force powers and BOOM the droid drops.
Cute moment when the Yoda Baby thinks he did it, only to reveal that Mando is standing behind the droid, having just shot him.
This leaves Qin, who tells Mando he’ll go clean and urges the bounty hunter to just do his job and deliver the bounty.
I was kind of hoping to see the Twi’Lek in carbonite but apparently it wasn’t necessary.
Mando delivers Qin to Space Santa, who abides by the “no questions asked” policy with regards to the missing crew, and takes off.
As he leaves, Space Santa orders an attack ship to kill him…
…but in a fun twist, Qin discovers the New Republic distress beacon on his person right before an echelon of X-Wings drop out of hyperspace and destroy the ship.
baby yoda was shook #TheMandalorianpic.twitter.com/qZ0CWBXdYS
New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.
For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.
Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.
“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.
Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.
The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.
But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.
“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.
Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.
According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.
“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”
The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.
Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.
“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.
Russia is getting a lot of attention lately for things like hypersonic missiles and nuclear doomsday weapons but all that is just old hat to the Pentagon. The United States has been working with doomsday weapons for years; we just never went around bragging about it.
Or blowing up our own nuclear reactors.
The Cold War was a pretty good time for America, especially where defense is concerned. Even though we may have thought of ourselves as trailing the Soviets with ridiculous things like “missile gaps,” the truth was we were often further ahead than we thought. Hell, we were going to nuke the moon as a warning but decided the PR would be better if we landed on it instead. If the Russians wanted to impress us, they could have taken a photo next to our flag up there.
When it came to weapons, the U.S. had no equal. We built horrifying, terrifying, and downright unbelievable devices that were an excellent show of force at best and – at worst – absolutely batsh*t crazy. Project Pluto was one of the latter.
Simply put, Pluto was a cruise missile that flew at a low altitude with a nuclear payload. Sound pretty Cold War-level simple, right? The devil is in the details. The actual acronym for the weapon was SLAM – supersonic low altitude missile. This meant a giant missile that flew around below radar, around treetop height, faster than the speed of sound, so it could penetrate enemy territory without anyone seeing it or being prepared for what came next.
Which was about 16 hydrogen bombs dropping on Russian cities. But that’s not all!
The SLAM Jet’s ramjet engine.
The weapon isn’t unique because of the number of weapons it carried. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, the weapons that would eventually make SLAM jets obsolete, carried multiple warheads that could be targeted at multiple cities. No, the unique part of the SLAM jet weapon is what it is. The missile is designed around a single, nuclear-powered jet engine which is sent aloft by rocket boosters but soon becomes indefinitely sustainable via the power of the nuclear jet engine’s intake.
So, the weapon could drop its payload and then keep flying forever, creating sonic booms above the treetops, murdering anyone on the ground. The fact that the engine is just an unshielded nuclear reactor meant its exhaust would spew radioactive material all over any area unlucky enough to have it pass by overhead.
Luckily for everyone on the planet, this project was dumped with the invention of ICBM technology. So the United States and the Soviet Union could kill each other more directly, rather than leave a path of destruction as it went to destroy another country en masse.
But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.
A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.
(US Navy photo)
‘It’s got legs’
During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.
Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.
“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.
It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.
An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.
(US Navy photo)
“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.
The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.
Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.
Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.
‘The leadership totally turned over’
As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.
“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)
An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.
The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.
With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.
Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.
“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.
“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.
Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.
“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”
A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.
(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)
The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.
Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.
More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.
Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)
Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.
“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”
‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’
Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.
“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.
(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)
Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)
“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.
Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)
“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.
Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.
(US Navy/Boeing photo)
The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.
“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.
“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.
Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.
“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.