The US Navy is the dominant force on the world’s oceans.
Helping to support open trade lanes, tackle piracy, and providing humanitarian missions are all part and parcel of the Navy’s mission in addition to its obvious military role. These massive responsibilities require that the Navy must be always ready to act.
Below, we’ve shared some of our favorite photos of the US Navy operating at night.
Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Clayton Jackson, from Minneapolis, guides an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Sea Combat Squadron 28 during a night vertical replenishment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.
Weapons Department Sailors on a sponson fire a .50-caliber machine gun and flares during a night gun shoot for tiger-cruise participants watching from the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado
An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter is seen from the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown as the ship transits the East China Sea.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Lindahl
Sailors recover combat rubber raiding craft with Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during night operations in the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright
The Phalanx close-in weapons system is fired aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens during a weapons test at sea.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Kevin Williams directs an F/A-18C Hornet from the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate
A 25 mm machine gun fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Mandello
CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters assigned to the Evil Eyes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 refuel on the flight deck aboard the amphibious-assault ship USS Boxer during night-flight operations.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 prepares to launch from catapult two during night-flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared M. King
A student at the Aviation Survival Training Center ascends on a hoist during a simulated night exercise as part of an aircrew refresher course in Jacksonville, Florida.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom
Sailors observe from the primary flight-control tower as an F/A-18 Hornet lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dylan McCord
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Zach Byrd directs a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter assigned to the Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 during nighttime flight operations aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam
An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 sits on the flight deck of USS Enterprise at night. Enterprise is deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater-security cooperation efforts, and support missions as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr.
Mattis said in a statement that the strike, which consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Shayrat air field on April 6, was a “measured response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
In a break from his predecessor, President Donald Trump quickly authorized strikes against the Syrian government — a first for the United States.
According to Mattis, it was meant to deter future chemical weapons use, while showing the world that the U.S. would “not passively stand by” when such atrocities are carried out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there could be “no doubt” that Assad’s troops carried out the attack, and autopsies have showed that sarin gas was used. The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have vigorously denied responsibility.
Russia said that instead, the Syrian air force perhaps carried out a conventional attack that hit a chemical weapons cache controlled by the rebels.
However, as chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta explained to Bellingcat, sarin in storage consists of unmixed components, and dropping a bomb on them would not turn them into a nerve agent.
Meanwhile, Mattis’ statement revealed some details of a damage assessment at the air field. It said the Tomahawk strikes destroyed or damaged fuel and ammunition sites, air defenses, and 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft.
“The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis concluded.
What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?
It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.
The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.
More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.
So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer
LAS VEGAS — A compact polymer drum magazine from Magpul that can hold 60 rounds is being tested for potential use by several U.S. military service branches, as well as elite units, the company’s director of government and international affairs said.
Tray Ardese would not specify which branches and commands are testing the PMAG D-60 drum, but said range testing by the services so far appears to be going well.
“We’re under kind of a handshake [non-disclosure agreement] right now to let them get their tests in so we don’t put a lot of pressure on them,” Ardese told Military.com at SHOT Shot on Tuesday. “But each branch of the service has at least a few of them. It is a solution right now that could save lives.”
Magpul appears at the show after a major coup: The Marine Corps’ decision in December to approve the company’s high-performing Generation M3 PMAG as the only magazine authorized for use in combat, replacing the legacy metal magazine.
Ardese said Magpul hopes the ruggedness, balance and reliability of the drum will also win over military users.
“I was one of the biggest drum haters in the world until I saw this one,” said Ardese, a retired Marine colonel. “Because … they’d work great when you treated them with care, but the second you got them dirty or beat them around, they would stop on you. This one hasn’t stopped on me yet and I’ve shot a lot of rounds through it, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds shot through it. It runs flawlessly.”
The drum, at 7.4 inches in length, is designed to be no longer than a traditional 30-round magazine, so shooters in the prone position don’t have to adjust their positioning to fire. And it’s compatible with all the weapons that can accept the PMAG, although Ardese said the drum is particularly well suited to the Marines’ M27 infantry automatic rifle.
The Corps is currently undergoing experimentation to determine whether more infantrymen should be issued the IAR in place of the M4 as their standard service rifle. The weapon has a slightly longer effective range than the M4 carbine and has features including a free-floating barrel that make it more accurate. And unlike the standard M4, it includes a fully automatic mode. Currently, each Marine infantry fire team is equipped with one IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“M27 is the perfect platform for this magazine. This magazine gives the IAR gunner, the automatic rifleman an advantage in volume of fire right off the bat if they were ambushed or they were hit,” Ardese said. “They immediately have two magazines’ worth of ammunition in a flawlessly feeding drum that is very well balanced. It is a must for the IAR gunner.”
The drum, he said, lends itself to any situation where a warfighter needs to have a lot of ammunition at the ready.
“It would be great for vehicle interdiction, any place you would need a large volume of firepower right now,” he said.
It’s not clear when the services currently testing the drum will make a decision on whether to field it, and for what weapons, Ardese said.
He has received only positive feedback from those in charge of range testing, he said.
Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.
For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military’s capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and “extremely sensitive” operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.
Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and “many terabytes of information” there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.
With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.
The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.
Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here’s a sampling (via the indictment):
A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.
With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it’s not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.
Soon after Martin’s arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a “hoarder.”
The indictment continues (emphasis added):
An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gapsin capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.
For at least a portion of Martin’s career, he served in the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO’s library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.
According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers.” Those disclosures likely spurred “a lot of panic” inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.
“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.
“Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”
Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.
The Air Force spent a lot of time trying to mothball the A-10 Thunderbolt II over the past few years. After realizing there is no reliable close-air support (CAS) alternative to the airframe, however, Congress fought the Air Force at nearly every turn.
The plane, dubbed the Warthog for its snoutlike nose and the distinctive sound of the GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon around which the aircraft is built, is slower than other tactical jet aircraft. Its max speed is 439 mph, while the F-16 tops out at 1,350 mph. What the Warthog lacks in speed, it makes up for in durability, featuring 1,200 pounds of titanium armor plating around the cockpit and its necessary systems. The A-10’s ability to take a beating from ground fire while providing such close support makes it the perfect CAS aircraft.
The move to retire the A-10 came while American forces were pulling out of Afghanistan and were already out of Iraq. Under budgetary pressure, the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 mission with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose abilities were designed for the entire battlespace. The rise of ISIS and new combat roles for ground forces in the region saved the Warthog from the boneyard. The A-10 was designed to work in tandem with ground forces and theater commanders are seeing more and more demand for the unique support the bird provides.
“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”
The Pentagon is due to submit its 2017 budget proposal to Congress next week and officials tell Defense One the life of the plane will be extended because of that demand. Congress criticized the Air Force for attempting to retire the A-10 without a replacement plan.
As part of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress mandated the Air Force couldn’t retire the plane without an independent study to find a replacement with the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units … the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”
In 1942, the culmination of a crazy idea from a British officer — known as Project Plough — yielded one of the most top-notch fighting forces of World War II.
The project called for a small, highly-trained group to parachute into Norway to conduct guerrilla operations against the Germans there. When the plan came across the desk of Lt. Col. Robert Frederick at the War Department in 1942, he reported to his boss, then-Maj. Gen. Eisenhower, that the plan was unworkable.
However, Eisenhower needed to build cohesion between the British and Americans and decided to form the unit anyway. To Eisenhower’s knowledge there was no man more well-versed in Project Plough that it’s biggest detractor, Robert Frederick.
Frederick was an interesting choice to lead this new guerrilla unit. He had graduated middle of his class from West Point and had been commissioned into the Coastal Artillery. He had never made much of an impression on anyone, though he soon would.
Frederick’s new unit, the 1st Special Service Force, was activated July 9, 1942, at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The unit would be a joint venture of the Americans and Canadians.
The unit also had a different structure made up of three “regiments” of 800 men each consisting of two battalions. Frederick was in overall command while a Canadian served as his executive officer.
Every member was to be parachute qualified and trained to be adept at cold weather combat. They also trained on a variety of weapons, both American and German, and even developed their own fighting knife, the V-42.
In late 1942, the Norway mission that the unit had been training for was scratched. However, the men continued to train and by 1943 a suitable mission presented itself: the battle for the Aleutian Islands.
After further training, the 1st Special Service Force embarked for its first mission along with other American forces to liberate the Aleutian Islands. For the rough and ready men of the force, the campaign was a letdown. Their only action was storming ashore on the abandoned island of Kiska. They left eager for a new mission.
With the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, a new opportunity presented itself. Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, commanding U.S. forces in Italy, requested the unit to help break through the German defenses in the cold and treacherous Italian mountains.
The unit arrived in Italy on Nov. 19, 1943, and began preparations for an assault on the German position at Monte La Difensa.
At the beginning of December, the unit began moving into place through freezing rain and bitter cold. Their plan was to climb up a sheer cliff face and to attack the German position from the most unlikely direction. Col. Frederick had personally surveyed the route and planned his units’ first combat action.
On Dec. 4, 1943, with men and equipment in place, they began to climb up the 200-foot cliff face in a freezing rain. Stealthily, they ascended the cliff and crawled into positions so close to the German lines they could hear the men talking and smell their food cooking.
The attack began not with overwhelming force but by surprising German sentries and quietly killing them with their knives. There was to be no shooting until 0600, but a slide of loose rocks alerted the Germans that something was amiss. As German flares and mortars began to rain down, the commandos sprang into action.
The fighting was close and intense but the unit had secured the hilltop. Within just two hours, Frederick’s men accomplished what numerous other units had failed to do.
Still, their work was far from done.
The top of Monte La Difensa was only weakly held by Frederick’s small force. Rather than wait for the inevitable counterattack, Frederick decided to launch an attack of his own. The Special Service Force, perpetually outnumbered by the Germans, fought on taking out position after position and helping to open the path for the Fifth Army.
Not content to simply hold the line, the unit began launching small patrols to harass the Germans and gather intelligence. The men became quite adept at capturing prisoners and were known to bring back entire formations — platoons and companies — of Germans.
An enterprising lieutenant also declared himself the mayor of an abandoned town behind German lines, renaming it “Gusville” after himself. The unit even began circulating a newspaper (“the Gusville Herald-Tribune”) and reporters in the Anzio area would make the trek to the town — through German fire — in order to file their stories from “Gusville, Italy”.
However, despite their antics, there was also serious combat around the Anzio beachhead. Frederick, now a Brigadier General, would be wounded on numerous occasions leading his men from the front.
When the Allies broke out of the beachhead, the force was a leading element in the drive towards Rome. Who entered Rome first is often disputed but a patrol by the Devil’s Brigade was certainly one of the first to get there.
After the successful capture of Rome, the men were given a reprieve from combat. It was also announced that Frederick was leaving the force to take command of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force that would be spearheading Operation Dragoon.
Although airborne capable, the unit would not jump with the task force and instead was assigned to assault several small islands near the landing beaches that had been fortified by the Germans. This would be the last major effort undertaken by the unit.
After light action along the French coast, the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on Dec. 5, 1944, in France. Most of the men, American and Canadian, were sent as replacements to airborne units.
The modern day 1st Special Forces Group traces its lineage to the 1st Special Service Force.
A lot happened this week. It’s a good thing healthcare is still healthcare, because now the Juice is loose. So forget the news. It’s time to kick back and chill out with some clever, good-natured comedy.
Since we don’t have any of that, here are the top military memes of the week.
1. Fight senior leadership with words, not swords.
2. Somewhere a trainee got recycled so far back through basic training, they’re wearing BDUs.
3. If you break one soldier, there are literally thousands more.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In spite of recent setbacks that grounded 15 F-35s right after the Air Force declared them ready to go to war, service officials at the Air Force Association’s annual gathering outside of Washington DC presented a measured if not upbeat assessment of the program’s progress and how the airplane will improve air dominance.
“I will tell you, in my opinion, that over time, although there are sometimes bumps in the road and you really don’t always get everything the way you want to to being with, as we develop and field this airplane and we get it into the hands of our airmen and allow them to do with it what they’re capable of doing, I firmly believe this airplane will continue to get better and better and better,” Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, said during his opening remarks. “It’s a great airplane.”
Carlisle was followed by Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program head, who contextualized the state of the F-35 in terms of the problems engineers and test team members have solved.
“I would tell you that if you build a test program and you don’t find anything wrong then you didn’t do a good enough job,” Bogdan said. “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day we encounter things wrong with this airplane. What I like to tell people is now is the time to find those things and fix them.”
Bogdan listed the most recent problem — one involving faulty insulation around the engines — that grounded 15 airplanes as a “perfect example.”
“If this problem was found three or four years from now we have hundreds of airplanes out there,” Bogdan said. “The mark of a good program isn’t that you have no problems. The mark of a good program is you find things early, you fix them, you make the airplane better, you make the weapons system better, and you move on.
“I think we have a pretty good track record of doing that over the last few years,” he continued. “We don’t talk about engine fires anymore. We don’t talk about a hook on the ‘C’ model that doesn’t catch a cable. We don’t talk about a helmet that has multiple problems with it — in fact, talk to the aviators about how much they like this helmet. We don’t talk about landing gear problems. All of those things are behind us.”
“I’m hopeful that as we grow the fleet that we all take the time to form opinions on this airplane from experts,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, Director of the Pentagon’s F-35 Integration Office, said. “And the only experts in the F-35 business are those that fix, maintain, and fly the F-35 on a day-to-day basis.”
Scott claimed that pilots flying the F-35 out of Luke AFB and Eglin AFB, when polled about what airplane they’d want to be in if faced with an enemy pilot of equal ability today, unanimously chose the F-35 over the F-15C, F-15E, F-16, or A-10 in a “beyond visual range” environment and picked the F-35 by a factor of 80 percent over those other airplanes in a dogfight.
Col. David Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, explained that the Air Force’s Initial Operational Capability, or “IOC,” ruling was organized into four categories: availability, deployability, access to required support equipment, and the readiness of trained aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel.
“Our achievement of each IOC milestone gave us increased confidence,” Lyons said. “The outcome speaks for itself. The jet has proved to be both survivable and lethal while allowing the technological growth required to become a viable weapons system for decades to come.”
Lyons touted that the 7-aircraft “graduation” detachment based out of Mountain Home AFB last year yielded a 97.5 percent hit rate for dropped bombs, a 92.3 percent mission capable rate, and 100 percent sortie completion rate — all of which exceed the standards set by the legacy aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace. He also stated there were zero F-35 losses from “Red Air,” the term used for simulated enemy aircraft in a training scenario.
Lyons characterized his overall impressions of the jet as “overwhelmingly positive.”
“It’s a pilot’s airplane and the technology will prove to be game-changing,” he said. “I think our adversaries will worry, and I think they have every reason to feel that way.”
The sanguine outlook of the high-ranking panel at the Air Force Association Convention was mitigated by the recent news that 57 jets — 15 in operational use and 42 on the production line — had substandard tubing that caused insulation to migrate into fuel tanks. The discovery resulted in the fleet airplanes being grounded while technicians perform an intrusive procedure to remove the insulation by drilling through the wing to access the fuel tanks. Bogdan said he expects the affected jets to be back in service sometime in December. He also said the grounding action does not affect the ‘B’ and ‘C’ models of the F-35.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. As a result, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of its range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 Weapons Upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.
Since 9/11, almost 58,000 American troops have either been killed or wounded in the war on terrorism. And according to the Pentagon, each of those casualties qualifies for the Purple Heart medal — whether awarded in person or posthumously.
But it turns out that most of those pinned with the distinctive badge would wear an actual medal that’s been in DoD stocks for over 70 years.
How is this possible? Believe it or not, according to a Dec. 2003 report by HistoryNewsNetwork.com, the military had over 120,000 Purple Heart medals in stock at the time, even after suffering almost 81,000 killed in action and nearly 257,000 wounded in action between the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
How did the Department of Defense end up with so many spare Purple Hearts on hand? The answer goes back to 1945.
We may remember it as the year the war ended, but back then, the question was how it would end.
The United States was planning for the invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation Downfall. The fight was expected to be very nasty. A 1998 article in Air Chronicles cited one estimate of 394,859 casualties. The Department of Defense ordered nearly half a million Purple Heart medals to award to casualties.
According to a 2015 post at HotAir.com, Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu involving 14 divisions of troops, was slated to take place on Nov. 1, 1945. Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu with 25 divisions, would have begun four months later.
Thanks to a pair of airplanes named Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the invasion of Japan never took place. Many of the implements used to win World War II were either scrapped, sold off, or disposed of. But the medals were kept. The book “Blood Trails” by Christopher Ronnau described how Vietnam vets received Purple Hearts originally meant for use two decades earlier.
HistoryNewsNetwork.com reported that in 2000, the government finally ordered the production of more Purple Heart medals, but only to re-stock what was then known as the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.
General Charles Denis Bourbaki forged a long career fighting in the French Second Empire’s wars in North Africa, the Crimea, and Italy. He served as a lieutenant with the Zouaves from 1836 to 1838 and received a promotion to captain in June of 1842. He quickly rose to the rank of Colonel by 1851 and received advancement to general of division in 1857. He served with distinction at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, and the assault of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. He fought in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 and in July of 1870, was nominated as aide-de-camp to Emperor Napoleon, earning renown as one of his most resourceful generals.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he took command of the First Army of the North. Like most of Napoleon III’s most senior generals, he too proved to be unprepared and unqualified for the war. The Prussian superiority in modern firearms and tactics proved to be too much for the French, who at one time seemed to possess the best army in the world. The Franco-Prussian War ended the myth of French military superiority.
Famed Marxist philosopher and war correspondent Friedrich Engels called the January 1871 Battle of the Lisaine “Bourbaki’s shipwreck.” The battle and subsequent flight of Bourbaki and his army left most of his surviving soldiers without winter clothing, ammunition, or provisions.
Five days after his First Army of the North met defeat at the hands of the Prussians, Bourbaki and 80,000 surviving troops reached the French city of Besançon on their way to the Swiss border in search of sanctuary. They were cold and dispirited.
The choices were grim: flight across the neutral Swiss border or surrender to the victorious Prussians. The condition of his shattered ranks, coupled with the censure for his indecisiveness and poor decision-making during the battle, proved to be unbearable for Bourbaki. In thirty-plus years of campaigning, the general had never experienced defeat on this scale.
“The whole behaviour of Bourbaki, from the 15th to the 26th, seems to prove that he had lost all confidence in his men and that consequently he also lost all confidence in himself,” Engels reported in The Pall Mall Gazette on February 18, 1871. No one ever questioned Bourbaki’s bravery, but his ability to command an army left much to be desired.
Bourbaki’s staff officers worried about his mood over the days leading up to January 26. They intentionally hid his sidearm from him because they were afraid that he would attempt to take his life. Bourbaki located a gunsmith in the city to purchase another weapon, but the gunsmith turned him away, warned of Bourbaki’s suicidal intentions.
But the stubborn general was resolute. He would not be joining his men on their journey to Switzerland.
He commandeered a pistol from one of his aides and retired to his quarters. It was exactly seven o’clock on the evening of January 26, 1871 when his aides heard the single crack of a gunshot echo from Bourbaki’s room.
Bourbaki likely used a weapon like this “Pistolet Cavaliere Modele 1822 TBIS” – the sidearm issued to French officers at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.
One of Bourbaki’s aides burst through the door of his room and discovered the general slumped over on his bed with his face and head covered with blood. He was miraculously still alive, still able to speak but unable to recall the names of his staff officers.
Two doctors rushed to perform immediate surgery. They discovered a 12mm ball lodged into his temporal muscle. No fracture of the skull was found and the general appeared to only suffer slight amnesia from the concussion of the bullet’s impact.
Bourbaki attributed his attempted suicide to the fact that he was denied a glorious death in battle. But by June, the war was over and he resumed his duties in the French Army.
He lived another 26 years and died in Cambo-Les-Bains on September 22, 1897, well-established among the public as the French general whose failed suicide became his legacy.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A B-2 Spirit from the 590th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., prepares to take off in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant camps, 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.
A 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew repairs an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) engine at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 12, 2017.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conducts ceremonial training in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 17, 2017, to prepare for their role in the 58th Presidential Inauguration. The Presidential Salute Battery, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the United States and is the only unit of its kind in the Army, conducting more than 300 ceremonies every year.
Soldiers provide cover fire during an assault on a building during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Jan. 9, 2017, part of a series of training events that will culminate this summer at an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort Pickett, Va.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 17, 2017) Electrician’s Mate Fireman Sacy Bynoe, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), climbs a ladder. Theodore Roosevelt is conducting basic training off the coast of Southern Calif.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The ship is on a deployment with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit provides the U.S. with a sea-based crisis response force, which is capable of planning and commencing execution of selected tactical operations within six hours of receipt of a mission. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced).
Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, drags a simulated casualty on a combat training course during the Crucible Jan. 5, 2017, on Parris Island, South Carolina. Daume was born in a Russian prison and brought to Long Island, New York, at the age of 4 when she and her twin brother were adopted.
The helo makes a landing approach. Landing on the flight deck of a 210 is an all hands evolution, requiring two firefighting teams, a first aid team, a fueling team, tie-down crew, landing signals officers, helicopter control officers, and a master helmsman in addition to filling all regular duty positions to ensure a safe evolution.
Members from CGC DAUNTLESS gather to greet students from Stephen F. Austin High School.