Islamic State militants are developing their own social media platform to avoid security crackdowns on their communications and propaganda, the head of the European Union’s police agency said on May 3.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright said the new online platform had been uncovered during a 48-hour operation against Internet extremism last week.
“Within that operation it was revealed IS was now developing its very own social media platform, its own part of the Internet to run its agenda,” Wainwright told a security conference in London. “It does show that some members of Daesh (IS), at least, continue to innovate in this space.”
During a Europol-coordinated crackdown on IS and al Qaeda material, which involved officials from the United States, Belgium, Greece, Poland, and Portugal, more than 2,000 extremist items were identified, hosted on 52 social media platforms.
Jihadists have often relied on mainstream social media platforms for online communications and to spread propaganda, with private channels on messaging app Telegram being especially popular over the past year.
Technology firms, such as Facebook and Google, have come under increasing political pressure to do more to tackle extremist material online and to make it harder for groups such as Islamic State to communicate through encrypted services to avoid detection by security services.
However, Wainwright said that IS, by creating its own service, was responding to concerted pressure from intelligence agencies, police forces, and the tech sector, and were trying to find a way around it.
“We have certainly made it a lot harder for them to operate in this space but we’re still seeing the publication of these awful videos, communications operating large scale across the Internet,” he said, adding he did not know if it would be technically harder to take down IS’s own platform.
Wainwright also said he believed that security cooperation between Britain and the EU would continue after Brexit, despite British warnings it is likely to leave Europol and cease sharing intelligence if it strikes no divorce deal with the bloc.
“The operational requirement is for that to be retained. If anything we need to have an even more closely integrated pan-European response to security if you consider the way in which the threat is heading,” he said.
Europe, he added, is facing “the highest terrorist threat for a generation”.
However, Wainwright said there were important legal issues that would have to be thrashed out and it was not easy “to just cut and paste current arrangements”.
“The legal issues have to be worked through and then they have to be worked through within of course the broader political context of the Article 50 negotiations (on Britain’s planned exit from the EU),” he said.
“In the end I hope the grown-ups in the room will realize that … security is one of the most important areas of the whole process. We need to get that right in the collective security interest of Europe as a whole, including of course the United Kingdom.”
After storming the beaches of Normandy and fighting through the hedgerows of the French countryside, the Allied forces invading Nazi-occupied Europe came across one problem they hadn’t anticipated: outrunning their own supply lines.
By July 1944, the Allied advance nearly ground to a halt. Every operation was decided by one major factor, which was how much supply it required versus how much could be delivered. It would be almost three months before French railways could be repaired and portable gas pipelines could be installed.
To move the necessary supplies and keep the pressure on the German army, Allied war planners created a massive, truck-based supply convoy run primarily by Black soldiers. It became known as the “Red Ball Express.”
The Allies need a continuous supply of necessary fuel, ammunition, ordnance and food to keep running to the front. After breaking out of the Normandy area, the infrastructure the Allies damaged to hamper the German response needed repair to be used for the German defeat.
There had to be a way to move 750 tons of supplies from the port of Antwerp to multiple locations across the front every day. Just one armored division alone required 350 tons of gasoline.
After brainstorming for 36 hours straight, planners came up with a solution: a convoy of thousands and thousands of trucks, constantly streaming to and from the front lines.
No truck could travel alone, they had to travel in a convoy of at least five total trucks and each was marked with a number indicating its position in the line of trucks. To mitigate the risks of high speed driving or of a truck pile up in an accident, trucks were ordered to drive just 35 miles per hour and maintain a specific clear distance from each other. The order to drive slower was rarely followed, many drove at twice that speed.
When they implemented the plan, there weren’t enough trucks and there weren’t enough drivers. The Army began vulturing trucks from units who weren’t using them and began taking people with non-combat functions and training them to be truck drivers. The vast majority of these men were Black soldiers.
Without these soldiers at the wheel, World War II in Europe might have dragged on for another full year. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the Red Ball Express as the most critical lifeline to the advancing armies, just as important as the combat units themselves.
Of course, these early trucks got stuck in traffic, both civilian and military. So the Allies created two priority roads just for the supply trucks, which became known as the Red Ball Line, named for the red spots marking the trucks and the routes that were closed to civilians.
At its height, the Red Ball Express was operating almost 6,000 trucks per day to move 12,500 tons of various supplies, fuel, and ammunition. Since the German Luftwaffe was almost nonexistent by this point in the war, the biggest problems facing the convoys were maintenance of the trucks and the overworked drivers.
Eventually, the rail lines were repaired and the Red Ball Express was no longer necessary. After more than 80 days of continuous operation, the convoy drivers had delivered more than 400,000 tons of supplies to the Allies in combat.
“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”
“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.
After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.
Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Bob Hoover was a U.S. Army Air Forces pilot stuck in a Nazi prison camp in Northern Germany after being shot down in 1944 over Southern France.
He’d spent 16 months as a POW and wasn’t going to stay there one minute longer. So he staged a fight between fellow prisoners, jumped over the Stalag’s barb wire fence, and stole an unguarded Focke-Wulf 190 from the nearby airfield.
He flew to Holland, which had just been liberated by the Allies.
As a child, he was inspired by his parents talking about Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight. By age 15, he started a flying club at his high school. He took a job bagging groceries for $2 a week to pay for 15 minutes flying time. After becoming solo-certified, he began teaching himself aeronautical acrobatic moves.
He joined the Army Air Corps after enlisting in the Tennessee National Guard during World War II and was sent to Army Pilot Training School.
He wasn’t shot down until his 59th mission.
Jimmy Doolittle called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived,” high praise for a man who had been flying for just 10 years by the time the United States Air Force became an independent branch of service. Hoover became an Air Force legend, joining the ranks of Doolittle, fellow Stalag Luft I prisoner Gabby Gabreski, and Chuck Yeager — to name a few. He flew captured enemy planes and later, experimental airframes in the Air Force, including the P-80, F-86, and F-100 Super Sabre.
Hoover was also Chuck Yeager’s backup (and chase plane pilot) when Yeager broke the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 in 1947.
His time testing aircraft even led Hoover to design technology to advance the development of aviation, including the “Hoover Nozzle” and the “Hoover Ring.”
Throughout his life, Hoover earned numerous awards and accolades, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre. He was also inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Aerospace Walk of Honor. The Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, and Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds inducted him as an honorary member. After awarding him the Living Legends of Aviation “Freedom of Flight” Award in 2006, the nonprofit renamed the award after him the very next year.
Considered a “pilot’s pilot,” Hoover continued to fly in air shows until 2000.
Hoover’s death follows his wife Colleen’s in March. Yeager’s wife Victoria recounted the story of Bob and Colleen’s first date on her website.
Ashley Salazar did a lot of stupid stuff growing up, probably no different from the stupid stuff we all did. But unlike many who made mistakes as teen, Salazar was “saved” by joining the Air Force.
“A lot of people don’t even believe I served in the military,” she says. “All they see is a pretty girl, but I was a tomboy growing up. Everyone does the kind of stupid stuff I did. When I joined, Uncle Sam became my dad in a way, making sure I stayed out of trouble. It pushed me to be more than I ever thought I could be.”
She joined the Air Force because of the September 11th attacks. She actually had a potential modeling and acting career before enlisting, since her mother was also a model. But enlisting was something Salazar felt she had to do.
“I had a modeling agent, but I was really affected by 9/11. I was seventeen years old then,” she recalls. “I had to wait a year to join. But I did as soon as I could. I talked to Marine recruiters and I talked to Coast Guard recruiters, but the Air Force seemed to call me the most. I wanted to serve my country. We have to fight for ourselves as Americans, but we also have to fight for those who don’t have the freedoms we have.”
The Air Force got a super troop in Airman Salazar. She was an element leader in basic training and despite a few stumbles, she graduated from Radiology technical training with a Commander’s Award that hadn’t been awarded in five years. Adversity is where Salazar thrives.
“I first got pregnant with my daughter in radiology school. I was having very hard time as a C student. But something happened to me, where she made me go from C student to A student – from the bottom to the top of my class.” She was promoted early in a “Below the Zone” promotion and made Staff Sergeant this first time she tested for the rank.
She spent much of her career at Keesler and Scott and she did everything she could to be part of the Air Force mission. She trained into mammography, volunteered to deploy to field hospitals, and even volunteered for Security Forces augmentee duty, a job few Airmen look forward to.
“All the cops were deployed,” she says. “I was young, 18 years old, and I could go do my part. Not just for the civilians back home but for all the military members who had spouses and children. I could deploy so they don’t have to. I did have to experience things I would have rather not have seen. Everyone does.”
Salazar was stationed at Keesler AFB in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama. As hospital personnel, she was not able to evacuate the base and spent the aftermath, using X-rays to identify bodies —and body parts. In the meantime, she lost everything in the storm. When it came time to be relocated, she opted for Scott AFB in Illinois, to be closer to her family.
She liked her hospital job, but her favorite aspect of her Air Force career was a much higher calling: Honor Guard.
“I did over 600 Honor Guard ceremonies between the two bases and I was flight leader while at Scott,” Salazar recalls. “Being able to give back and thank the families is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced. I know someday when I pass, someone is going hand a flag to my family and it means a lot, it was and honor and it was humbling to be able to do that for people.”
Her modeling came up again after photos of her at an Air Force Christmas party wearing a red dress appeared on the Medical Group’s website. Everyone wanted to know who that woman in red was. The base photographer who took the photos begged Salazar for months to let him use her as a model. She was never really thinking of being a model.
“To be honest, I’m 5’7″ and a little bit big around the top,” she says. “And they like women who are thin and not shapely in the fashion world. Besides, I felt old at 23 or 24 and I thought 18-year-olds were the ones who modeled, not 24 year old airmen with kids. I finally caved and we did some photos. Shortly after, I was signed with an agency and then I got my first billboard across from the St. Louis Cardinals stadium.”
After that, she started doing regular modeling work using her military leave, while still maintaining her Air Force career. She even expanded into doing her own photography for others. Eventually, she did a volunteer charity calendar that got her into hot water.
“Being a Super Troop kinda hurt me in the end because the standards of professionalism in the Air Force are so high, if you mess up once, it’s unforgiving,” Salazar says. “It was a dress jacket with a little cleavage, nothing from the waist down, and I was just saluting. Which cost me my quarterly award. They also took an oak leaf cluster. I didn’t want to bring any discredit on myself or on anyone.”
Salazar left the Air Force in 2008, when the U.S. job market was tanking on an epic scale. People were losing their jobs, no one was hiring. As a recently divorced, recently separated airman, Ashley Salazar had to take care of her daughter and her mother. She turned to her creative work.
“I started this blog when I started photography,” she says. “I would interview people and take their photos and put them on this Tumblr page. Fast-forward five years and now we have this thing called MollMag which is now wildly popular. It’s been my baby and now I’m taking it to the next level. We have a new international edition released in South Africa which we started in 2013.”
Salazar is also a supporter of breast cancer research, as the disease runs in her family.
Ashley is also currently in a contest to be the model for Pink Lipstick Lingerie. For her, it could mean a huge difference in her life and for her family.
“The one thing I haven’t been able to do as a model is be a model for a lingerie company,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to get into a catalog. A lot of these companies also use models for those funny Halloween costumes they have at stores every year. If I win this vote, they’ll fly me to New York to do these shoots for them. Once you get into the catalog industry, its much more likely for your career to take off.”
Through all her hard times, her experience in the Air Force has always stayed with her. It toughened her, it changed her, it prepared her for anything she might have to do in the civilian world. That experience gives her an edge, a down-to-earth, can-do mentality that keeps her from giving up where so many others might have in her position.
“I’ve been told no so many times for so many things,” she says. “Being a mom means I have a couple of stretch marks. Real women do. In the beauty world, that’s not ideal. It’s a competitive industry and it’s hard. My husband now taught me to embrace my body to accept myself my body for what it was and be happy with myself as we started to fall in love, I began to feel more comfortable and that’s when the bikini photos started to come out.”
“They only show one perspective of beauty out there, but real women are mothers too. I wanted to see a mother in Playboy, because it affects people around the world. Women all over the world see these women and then hold themselves to that standard. And they might think ‘well, if I don’t look like that, then I’m not beautiful,’ but that’s not true.”
After the Air Force and her husband, Ashley credits her glamour model success to her fans.
“I’m lucky to have fans,” she says. “I’m grateful for every one of them. I don’t care if they follow all my work or just like my Facebook page because they think I’m hot. I’m thankful for each fan and I hope they stick around.”
In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”
Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.
But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.
“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.
But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.
“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.
According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.
“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery
“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”
Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.
“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.
“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.
Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.
“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”
So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.
There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”
For centuries, militaries have been trying to devise ways to disguise their troops and gear.
Sure, there was a time there where cladding your soldiers in the gaudiest of uniforms was considered more sporting than slapping on the face paint, but we all know how those Redcoats were sent packing by a guerrillas who slipped through the trees wearing green.
Can you see me now? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Today’s militaries spend billions on camo patterns in hopes they’ll give their troops the edge. But a company that’s been on the forefront of concealment technology is about to one-up the industry and make all those fancy patterns out there obsolete.
Canada-based Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. has developed a material that its inventor claims can bend light around a subject, literally making it invisible.
Dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” the material has reportedly evolved from its introduction in 2012 to be flexible enough for uniforms and clothing. And it requires no power to operate.
It reportedly works by bending the visible light around the material, a feat even some of the world’s best material scientists and physicists can’t seem to get right.
But Hyperstealth’s Guy Cramer claims he’s nailed it.
Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com)
“We’re bending the entire spectrum of light—infrared, ultraviolet, thermal,” Cramer told The Atlantic. “People are disappearing. It doesn’t use cameras or mirrors or require power.”
Cramer did not respond to a WATM request for comment on this story.
For years Cramer had been flirting with the U.S. military and special operations community to adopt the technology for real-world applications. But according to a statement on his website from May, diplomatic hurdles got in the way of a technology transfer and the Army cancelled its search for “adaptive” camouflage.
But that hasn’t stopped Cramer from continuing his pitch for Quantum Stealth. And while he’s been cagey about how it works, people who’ve seen it are convinced it’s legit.
“As I viewed several other videos, it was interesting to see that environmental conditions appear to effect how well Quantum Stealth works,” wrote Special Forces veteran Jack Murphy for Business Insider. “With different background colors and poor lighting, you could sometimes make something out moving around behind the material. However, even under these adverse conditions, Cramer’s invention appeared to deliver the goods: rendering the person or object 95-98 percent invisible with just a few flashes of color moving from behind the blind.”
Cramer claims he was given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments to develop a commercial version of Quantum Stealth for hunters and outdoorsmen.
Dubbed “INVISIB,” the material will have versions designed for law enforcement agencies, another for sportsmen and a more advanced version for military units.
“This material cannot be seen visually (nor the target it is hiding) and current optical technology is not going to help you find them either in the day or night,” Cramer said in a statement.
The Army’s troubled program to buy a new standard-issue handgun for soldiers was the subject of renewed debate on Capitol Hill.
During Thursday’s confirmation hearing for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become defense secretary in the Trump administration, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina took turns criticizing the service’s XM19 Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, a $350 million competition to buy a replacement to the Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
At a time when Russia is upgrading its service rifle, “we continue to modify our M4s [and] many of our troops still carry M16s, the Army can’t even figure out how to replace the M9 pistol, first issued in 1982,” Ernst said.
The senator, a frequent critic of the program who in 2015 retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, said she and others would joke while in the military that “sometimes the most efficient use of an M9 is to simply throw it at your adversary.”
Ernst blasted the Modular Handgun Program’s many requirements. “Take a look at their 350-page micromanaging requirements document if you want to know why it’s taking so long to get this accomplished,” she said.
She also mocked the stopping power of the 5.56mm rifle round. “Our military currently shoots a bullet that, as you know, is illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power,” she said.
Tillis went even further by showing up to the hearing with the pistol program’s full several hundred pages of requirements documents wrapped in red ribbon. “This is a great testament to what’s wrong with defense acquisition,” he said, slapping the three-inch-tall stack of paperwork.
In response, Mattis said, “I can’t defend this,” but added, “I will say that at times there were regulations that required us to do things.”
Coincidentally, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was asked about the program earlier in the day at a breakfast sponsored by the Association of the United States Army. Milley was tight-lipped about the effort but hinted the service is making progress.
Beretta, FN Herstal, Sig Sauer and Glock are reportedly still competing for the program after the Army dropped Smith Wesson from the competition last year. We’re hoping these gunmakers will help shed more light on the status of the program next week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
The Marine Corps has always been an elite force — and you’d hardly think they’d need to make resolutions for the New Year. The Army, Navy, and Air Force have things they need to work on, of course, but even elite forces have their fair share of problems. Last year, the Marines had a big problem with their Hornets and needed a boneyard bailout. So, what do the Marines need to work on in 2018?
5. Increase the dwell time for troops
According to a Heritage Foundation assessment of American military power, the Marines are shooting for a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio. That is, one seven-month deployment, followed by 21 months to “dwell.” The problem is that budget caps could push the “D2D” ratio down to 1:1. This wears down gear and the Marines. This is something the Marines need to fix immediately.
4. Get new planes
Some of the mainstays of Marine Corps aviation, like the F/A-18 Hornet, CH-53E Super Stallion, and AV-8B Harrier, are getting older and older. The longer-than-expected development of the F-35 has forced these older planes to soldier on. Marines often operate as Air-Ground Task Forces, meaning they need to get new airframes, whether it’s from accelerating production of the new designs, or re-opening production lines.
3. Keep the Expeditionary Fire Support System
With aging aviation being stretched thin, why would the Marines dump one of their newer fire-support systems? Admittedly, the Expeditionary Fire Support System didn’t have the longest reach. What it did have, however, was portability, meaning it could rapidly deploy from a V-22 Osprey. It also frees up the longer-range systems like the M777 and the HIMARS to hit other targets. This is a very useful system — and the Marines ought to keep it.
2. Get a good replacement for the AAV-7 – the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
The AAV-7A1 has been around since 1972, when it entered service as the LVTP-7. Let’s put this into context: When Taylor Swift was born, the AAV-7 was old enough to have a driver’s license in all 50 states. The Marines had a good replacement, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, but it was cancelled in 2011. Undoing that cancellation should be a top priority.
1. Add a few more good men (and women)
The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 assessment of American military strength noted that the Marines presently have the equivalent of 24 infantry battalions. But to really handle things, the Marines need at least 30, and possibly as many as 36. More Marines can help meet other resolutions, like increasing the dwell time, but it also can be a deterrent of bad behavior from certain countries and non-state actors.
What resolutions do you think the Marine Corps should make?
With its fly-by-wire avionics and distinctive delta wing design, the Gripen E is similar to its predecessors. The difference is in its increased fuel capacity, 20 percent more thrust, extra pylons for carrying more weapons, and advanced electronics that feed tactical information to the pilot and co-op forces at all times. It’s also designed for quick and efficient maintenance, Saab claims the turnaround time between missions is 10 minutes and that the entire engine can be replaced in an hour.
Some other Saab Gripen E features:
The fighter’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antennas—called elements—work together or independently to track different targets.
Its Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system looks for heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface without giving its position away.
Its Electronic Warfare system alerts the pilot when it has been detected by radar, warns for incoming missiles, and used for electronic attacks.
The pylons give it the flexibility to carry an array of weapons, making it deadlier than previous versions.
The Gripen’s multi-frequency data links provide situational awareness to other fighters.
Its Radar Warning Receiver and Missile Approach Warning systems increase the Gripen’s survivability in combat.
At $85 million apiece, the Gripen E is significantly cheaper than the F-35, making it an attractive alternative for any military.
On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.
Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.
The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.
The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)
Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.
As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.
“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.
The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.
It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.
In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.
Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.
It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.
And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.
It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.
Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.
The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.
“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”
Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”
Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.
All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.
On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.
“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”
Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.
In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.
According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.
About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.
There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.
Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.
Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.
Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”
“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”