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 Air Force is tossing out formal performance evaluations for its least experienced airmen.
The service announced January 4 that Enlisted Performance Reports are no longer required for all active-duty airmen until they reach the rank of senior airman or have served for 36 months, regardless of grade. For reservists, EPRs will be required for senior airmen and above. The change is effective immediately.
The move is part of a larger effort by Air Force senior leaders to reduce the administrative burden on airmen and give them more time to focus on the mission, officials said.
“While the Air Force values the contributions of all enlisted personnel, the requirement to document performance in a formal evaluation prior to the grade of senior airman is not necessary,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in a statement.
The removal of EPRs before promotion to senior airman will give airmen more time to learn their primary skills and duties before their performance is formally documented, Grosso said.
Under the policy change, commanders still have the option to document substandard performance for airmen first class and below after the 20-month-in-service mark.
The Air Force didn’t say how many evaluation reports the policy change would eliminate. Airmen previously were required to get their first evaluation after at least 20 months in uniform.
Thursday’s announcement brings to fruition a plan that Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright had talked about this fall at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.
Wright said at the time that he was working with senior leadership and the Air Force Personnel Center to reduce the burden enlisted performance reports have on schedules, particularly in the maintenance squadrons, according to Air Force Magazine.
The Air Force uses EPRs to evaluate the performance of enlisted personnel both on and off duty, typically on an annual basis. The reports, normally written by the member’s supervisor with input from other unit leaders, are often time-consuming and cumbersome to complete.
Under the change, all active-duty airmen will receive their initial evaluation upon reaching their first March 31 static close-out date after either promotion to senior airman, or after completion of a minimum of 36 months’ time-in-service, regardless of grade, whichever occurs first, officials said.
Enlisted reservists will receive their initial evaluations as a senior airman.
When you look at the V-22 Osprey, you see an amazing aircraft. The tiltrotor has been a true game-changer for the United States, particularly the Marine Corps, which uses it to carry out missions that are impossible to accomplish with normal helicopters. But there was another plane that could have done some of what the Osprey does today — five decades ago.
That plane was the XC-142, a result of collaboration between Ling-Temco-Vought (a successor of the company that made the F4U Corsair) and Ryan-Hiller. This plane wasn’t a tiltrotor like the V-22 Osprey, but instead tilted its wings to achieve vertical take-off and landing capability. Both the Air Force and the Navy were interested in the plane.
Imagine a plane like this landing on a carrier or amphibious assault ship — and bringing 32 grunts into battle. The XC-142 was a 1960s-tech version of the V-22 Osprey.
The XC-142 had a top speed of 432 miles per hour, a maximum range of 3,790 miles, and could carry 32 grunts, four tons of cargo, or 24 litter patients. By comparison, the V-22 Osprey has a top speed of 316 miles per hour, a maximum un-refueled range of 1,011 miles, and can carry 24 grunts or 20,000 pounds of cargo.
Like the V-22, the XC-142 had a rough time during testing. One prototype crashed, killing the plane’s three-man crew. The plane also had a history of “hard landings” (a bureaucratic way of saying “minor crashes”) during early phases. Pilots also had trouble controlling the plane at times, which is not good when you have almost three dozen grunts inside.
The MV-22 Osprey made it to the fleet, but in some ways, it has worse performance than the 1960s-era XC-142.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser)
Ultimately, the Navy backed out of the XC-142 project. The Air Force made plans for a production version, but they never got the go-ahead to buy it. The XC-142 went to NASA for testing and, ultimately, only one prototype survived to be placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.
For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.
Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.
2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.
The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.
The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.
The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.
More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.
“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.
The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.
Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.
But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.
“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”
Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.
“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”
Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.
“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.
But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.
Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.
The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.
The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.
They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.
The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.
A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.
The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.
“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.
Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.
The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.
The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.
Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.
Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.
The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.
“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.
But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.
The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.
In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”
Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.
Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.
If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A (NYSE: LMT) prototype laser weapon system proved that an advanced system of sensors, software, and specialized optics can deliver decisive lethality against unmanned aerial vehicle threats.
In tests conducted with the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in August, the 30-kilowatt class ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) system brought down five 10.8′ wingspan Outlaw unmanned aerial systems at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. ATHENA employed advanced beam control technology and an efficient fiber laser in this latest series of tests of the prototype system.
“The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we’ve seen against static targets at our own test range,” said Keoki Jackson, ‘s Chief Technology Officer. “As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range.”
partnered with Army Space and Missile Defense Command on a cooperative research and development agreement to test ATHENA.
The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure. and the Army will conduct post mission reviews, and data collected will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems.
ATHENA is a transportable, ground-based system that serves as a low-cost test bed for demonstrating technologies required for military use of laser weapon systems. funded ATHENA’s development with research and development investments. It uses the company’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) that provides great efficiency and lethality in a design that scales to higher power levels. ATHENA is powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.
is positioning laser weapon systems for success on the battlefield because of their speed, flexibility, precision and low cost per engagement.
As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.
Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams
Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.
Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters
Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.
Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.
Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.
A homeless veteran in New York.
There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to
Since 1996, “the Crucible” has been the subject of Marine recruits’ nightmares. It serves as the final test you must complete in order to officially and finally earn the title of United States Marine. During this 54-hour event, your platoon is split into squads, each led by one of your drill instructors, and each recruit must take a crack at being squad leader.
Throughout boot camp, you become accustomed to getting 8 hours of sleep and enjoying 3 meals per day, but during the Crucible, you’ll get just 6 hours of rest and three MREs to last you the whole 54-hour period. You’ll have to face down physical challenges throughout the day to test your mettle and see if you really have what it takes to be a Marine.
Here are some tips for surviving.
Remember — you’ll need this skill for the rest of your career.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
Work as a team
Most of the challenges you’re going to face are team-based. You and the other recruits have developing individual strengths throughout boot camp, but you may not yet have developed great teamwork skills. The Crucible will, essentially, force you to figure it out.
Don’t be a weak leader.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)
When you’re selected to be the squad leader, be loud, be firm, and don’t be afraid to use the powerful voice you’ve spent the last three months perfecting.
Even if you plan ahead, be prepared to be hungry the whole time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
Plan your meals
For the love of Chesty Puller, don’t scarf down your only meal for the day. Divide up your snacks and save the main meal. It sucks, but it’s better than going hungry in the second half because you ate everything during the first.
Just say, “f*ck it.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)
Don’t be afraid to do anything
Hopefully, during boot camp, you’ve learned the importance courage since it’s one of the core values of the Corps. If you’re not brave yet, the Crucible is filled with challenges that will make sure you are before you become a Marine.
Just get back up and keep moving.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Jacob)
You may fail some challenges, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get to try again. So, don’t get discouraged when you’re getting smoked by a drill instructor.
Embrace the suck and you’ll make it through.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
Have a positive attitude
A positive outlook will get you through any situation. Even if you’re sitting on the cold dirt at 3 am when it’s less than 30 degrees outside, if you can find a way to be positive, you’ll get through it. If you learn this during boot camp, the rest of your military career will be a piece of cake.
Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has dismissed Russia’s presidential election in March as nothing more than the “reappointment” of Vladimir Putin.
Navalny has urged Russians to boycott the vote, arguing that it is rigged, and is now noting even the most inconspicuous signs of possible electioneering.
For example, the layout of the ballot papers.
The Central Election Commission announced the ballot on February 8, the same day it announced that eight candidates had been officially registered to run in the March 18 election.
Navalny posted an image of the ballot on his Twitter account that shows the eight candidates listed alphabetically, as the independent TV channel Dozhd and other media note.
Даже просто внешний вид бюллетеня и его верстка ещё одна причина не ходить на выборы. Это же просто стыд. Перевыборы Путина. Не участвуйте в этом. Бойкот. Забастовка избирателей. pic.twitter.com/ulwu2NBKLk
However, Putin’s slot appears to be smack dab in the center. Furthermore, his bio is by far the briefest of all the candidates, appearing to set him apart, optically at least, from all the others.
Even just the appearance of the ballot and its layout is one more reason not to go to the polls. It’s just a disgrace. Putin’s reelection. Do not participate in this. Boycott. Voters strike,” Navalny writes.
Ella Pamfilova, the chief of the election commission, shrugged off suggestions the ballot had been tinkered with to favor Putin.
“Everything was done exactly according to the law. He simply has a shorter title than the others. So, there’s nothing more to write,” Pamfilova said, according to TASS.
Russians and others have taken to social media to poke fun at the ballot.
Roman Fedoseev, an editor at the muckraking Russian news site Slon.ru, writes on Twitter: “Boy, where is Putin, I don’t see anything at all, it’s not very clear. Such a complicated ballot.”
Someone calling himself Genocide of the Eclairs notes on Twitter that “all the other candidates have full biographies and only Putin’s is so modest: the czar, simply the czar.”
It notes the ballot conforms with Russian law, with the candidates listed alphabetically, including biographical data, although Meduza points out that Putin’s bio is much briefer than the others.
Arguably Putin’s most serious challenger, Navalny, was barred from running due to a fraud conviction that he says was retribution for his political agitation and exposure of corruption in high places.
He has dismissed the vote as the “reappointment” of Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.
With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, it is virtually certain that the election will hand Putin a new six-year term.
Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.
China could respond to a law that encourages relations between the US and Taiwan with “military pressure,” the country’s state-run media said on March 18, 2018.
On March 16, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which went into effect the following day, encouraging visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels. The US ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 but continues to have a “robust unofficial relationship” with the self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing considers a province of China.
“China will and should take timely countermeasures against the US and all “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces through diplomatic and military means if US legislation that encourages high-level contact between the US and the island of Taiwan is implemented,” China’s English language Global Times reported.
The paper, an offshoot of the People’s Daily, cited a former major general in the Chinese army and Liu Weidong, an expert in US relations at a government-run research institute. And given the publication’s close links to Beijing, the views likely align with those in power.
The Chinese embassy in Washington initially responded on March 16, 2018, saying the law “severely violates” the “political foundation of the China-U.S. relationship” and its “one-China” approach to Taiwan.
In 2005, China created an anti-secession law that allows the country to use “non-peaceful means” to prevent Taiwan establishing independence.
“If any ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces perceive the US bill as a ‘pro-independence’ signal, the Chinese army will resume its military probes circling the island and send more military vessels and airplanes to patrol the Straits,” Global Times quoted Liu as saying.
China regularly carries out military drills near Taiwan, which has been a cause for concern internationally. In 2017, China conducted 16 drills near Taiwan and a report from the island’s defense department said China’s “military threat towards us grows daily.”
China may also take diplomatic action against the US, Global Times said, including stopping high-ranking official visits to Washington for a set time.
High-level diplomatic relations between the two countries appear to be getting more strained by the day.
The heightened tensions between China and the US come after Trump signed a law in December 2017 allowing US navy ships to visit Taiwan. China previously said any such visits could provoke war.
Trump also appeared to target China with new tariffs on steel and aluminum. In response, China warned the US that trade wars “harm the initiator” and is thought to be considering responding with its own tariffs.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.
In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”
“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.
However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Air Force went deeply into its history to name its proposed new strategic bomber, announcing Sept. 19 that it will be the called the B-21 “Raider” in honor of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raiders from World War II.
The name was announced by retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s copilot and is the last surviving member of the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb multiple targets in Japan.
The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole, now 101, said he was “humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the raider. I wish they were here.”
The announcement came in the opening session of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference here. Cole was introduced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said “the legacy of Air Force strategic air power continues” with the proposed stealthy bomber, which is to be built by B-2 Spirit bomber builder Northrop Grumman.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole, a B-25 Mitchell bomber co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, answers questions in the Airman’s Hall at the Pentagon, Nov. 5, 2105. Cole toured the Pentagon and met with service members to share the history of the Doolittle Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)
The Air Force has said it wants at least 100 B-21s at a projected cost of $550 million each. It would replace the B-52Hs, which are approaching 50 years old, in the nuclear deterrence missions. Later, it also could replace the 1980s-vintage B-1Bs, which are limited to conventional bombing.
But the program already has come under attack from arms control advocates and from other defense critics who argue that the nation cannot afford another hyper-expensive aircraft while still struggling with the fifth generation F-35 fighters.
James listed the B-21 among the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs, along with the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 and the KC-46A aerial refueling plane, being built by Boeing.
In a panel session later in the day, Gen. Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command which would employ the new bomber, said the B-21 was necessary to keep the nation’s long-range strike capabilities reliable and effective.
Rand said he has set 100 B-21s as the absolute minimum required, based on the current and projected requirements from the geographic combatant commanders. And, Rand noted, the Air Force currently has 158 combat ready bombers. “I cannot imagine the nation or the Air Force having one less than we have now.”
Although the actual buy would be determined after the first of the new bombers are delivered, Rand said, “I’m going to stick to my guns, that 100 is the minimum.”
The panel was asked how they could expect the B-21 coming in on time and at the estimated cost when every major weapon system in decades has fallen behind schedule and run well over projected price.
Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said they were doing a base lining study with the contractor, but had a cost-plus contract for research and development that has incentives for Northrop “to deliver on cost and on schedule. The contract also sets a fixed price for the first five blocks of bombers, “which normally are the most expensive,” Holmes said.
“All indications are we will beat the $550 [million] estimated cost,” he said.
The B-21 program also is being managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with procurement.
Randall Walden, director of that office, said the B-21 was being designed with “open architecture” requirements, which make it easier to upgrade technology, particularly in the sophisticated electronic systems that drive up much of the cost of new high-tech weapons. He estimated that could save “upward of 50 to 80 percent of the cost” over the life of the bomber.
Holmes was asked how the Air Force could afford its top three procurement program along with all the other expenses it had and the limited budgets expected. He said that because the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 were the top priorities, they are funded first when the Air Force crafts its budget and the other programs are funded with what is left.
He also said the Air Force plans to push through some of the lesser programs, such as replacing the Vietnam-vintage UH-1 helicopters that provide security and mobility at its Minuteman III missile bases, before the big spending starts on the B-21 and the Minuteman replacement.
The panel also was asked about whether the B-21 would be manned or remotely piloted. Rand and Walden both said current plans were to have it manned.
Rand said some future systems could be unmanned. “Personally, I like the idea of having a man, or a woman, in the loop,” he said.
President Donald Trump tweeted June 21, 2019, that he was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran after its forces shot down a US drone earlier this week but decided not to at the last minute.
The president said he was concerned that the planned retaliatory strikes would be an escalation of force. “I asked, how many people will die,” Trump said, adding that an unnamed military officer, a “general,” told him that 150 Iranian people would die.
He said such a strike was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” Trump added that he called everything off 10 minutes before the attack. The president also suggested he was “in no hurry” to go to war.
The retaliatory action the administration had planned was in response to an attack on a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drone operating in international airspace.
The incident marked a major escalation in tension between Tehran, Iran’s capital, and Washington in the wake of a string of attacks on commercial tankers and a near miss when the crew of an Iranian gunboat took a shot at a US MQ-9 Reaper drone but failed to take it down.
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