Veterans pride themselves on their accomplishments after spending some of the best years of their lives serving. But that path to greatness starts when recruits first enter boot camp — all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Recruits arriving at MCRD San Diego — (Photo By: Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
As the world changes, so do the expectations of our future Marines, sailors, airmen, and soldiers as basic training gets revised based on new technology and evolving social norms.
But no matter how much things change, most of us we want our sons and daughters to have the same “in your face” training experience that we once endured.
Here are few ways boot camp has changed over the last several years.
1. Rifle Combat Optic
Back in the day, Marine recruits had to train and qualify on a rifle with their M-16s using precise breathing control, unsound vision and iron sights.
A few years ago, the Marine Corps decided to switch from the traditional iron sights to Rifle Combat Optics, or “red dot sights,” to help recruits better hit their targets.
From personal experience, the ability to home in and snipe out the enemy from far away is badass, but the downfall is if the optic takes a hard hit, the sight can be thrown off, limiting its effectiveness and you need to go back to the range to “zero” it back in.
With a set of iron sights, most damage isn’t severe enough to completely take you out of the fight.
2. Gender Integrated Training
In the mid-2000s, I marched into Naval Training Command Great Lakes to begin my path to become a corpsman. Little did we know that our division would get integrated with a female class. There’s nothing wrong with it generally speaking.
Being integrated means you’re going to train to fight on a ship alongside female recruits and might have a female Recruit Division Commander yelling at you to tie a bow knot faster.
Not saying women can’t be tough, but images like the one below suggest they may be too relaxed.
3. Weapons Training
In this day and age, Navy boot camp isn’t much more than eating three meals a day, memorizing your recruit handbook, some physical training here and there and eventually spending a long night going through battle stations.
My division spent a half of day snapping in, then firing approximately 30 rounds at a patched up target. That was it.
No wonder service members accidentally shoot themselves.
Back in the day, heading to the rifle range was a major event conducted as a massive outdoor range.
Navy Bootcamp during the 60’s in San Diego, Ca. “Look Ma, iron sights.”
4. Hard Training
The stress cards have been debunked awhile ago — they don’t exist.
What does exist is the fine line recruit trainers have to walk to avoid rules barring hazing. There have been quite a few reports of drill instructors being charged with hazing recruits in Parris Island. True or not, it’s a problem.
Not only do these reports shine a bright light on the way recruits are trained, it could also undermine the drill instructor’s authority.
In every branch of the military, there are going to have a few bad apples in charge who go overboard, but as one former Marine drill instructor stated: “you have to train for war to be effective in war.”
Gunny Hartman is hard, but he is fair. (Source: WB/Screenshot)
Having known many Marines who went through recruit training during the Vietnam War era, Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is a pretty accurate depiction of boot camp life back then. (Just the first act. The second and third acts aren’t known for their accuracy).
In some aspects, hazing is considered a right of passage, but punching or slamming recruits down isn’t cool.
5. Cellphone usage
I told you number five would shock you.
Remember when you showed up to boot camp and you got one phone call home to inform your family you arrived safely. Well, that still exists, but now in some Army boot camps you can call them on your personal cell phone at your drill sergeant’s discretion.
The recruits need to been in good standings to use their most prized possession on the weekends.
Note: Erase any sensitive photos you might have beforehand.
Can you think of any other changes not listed? Comment below.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy developers have explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, Navy developers explained.
This fall, Air Force fighter pilots taking to the skies to train might find themselves going up against a ghost.
Pilots chasing “enemy” jets in air-to-air dog-fighting exercises or avoiding them during training targeting runs will see the familiar sign of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is converting older-generation, retired F-16 fighters that were wrapped and stored at the military’s aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert into the latest unmanned drone called the “QF-16.”
A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)
The QF-16 is a “full scale aerial target” and for all intents and purposes it looks like the sleek, single-engine jet that was built by General Dynamics (now part of Lockheed Martin) and first flown during the height of the Cold War — with the same body, same size, same profile, same maneuverability as the manned Fighting Falcon. The target drone is converted so it has similar radar signatures and capabilities as potential adversary aircraft – including the latest generation of the multi-role F-16 flying today – that U.S. pilots might encounter in the not-so-friendly skies.
The Air Force’s F-16 drone program became fully operational in September when the Air Combat Command declared it had reached initial operational capability.
“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, who commands the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, said in a Sept. 26 news release. The squadron belongs to the 53th Wing, which serves as the Air Force’s only operational test unit.
The orange-tipped jet drones can break the sound barrier in supersonic flight, sans pilot – and even reach 9Gs. That’s as tough as the latest high-tech jets out there — U.S.-built or otherwise. The “pilot,” though, is on the ground, controlling the drone just as other unmanned aircraft .
Various onboard sensors and instruments in the drone jet collect data and information that can be used by whoever’s got the finger on a missile (or other ordnance and weaponry) directed at it from the ground control station. During a 2014 ground missile test fired at the drone that registered a “kill” hit, an engineer described its role as a target to help in weapons training.
“The QF-16’s mission is really to act as a target and validate weapons systems. So, we do have a scoring system on the airplane and its job is to tell us basically how close the missile came and its trajectory,” Paul Cejas, a chief engineer, said in a Boeing news release.
Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4 as the next generation aerial target. (Courtesy photo)
St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space Security got the first contract in 2010 to create as many as 126 of the drones. It flew the first unmanned flight – with an empty cockpit – over Tyndall AFB in Florida’s Panhandle in 2013.
As of March, Boeing had delivered 11 QF-16s to the Air Force, and the most-recent contract called for the conversion of another 30 target drones, according to the company. Several dozen retired jets are undergoing conversion. The F-16s are pulled from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where several hundred of the mothballed jets are parked in the sun outside of Tucson, Arizona. Crews with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group help prepare for the trek to Florida, where the bulk of the conversion work is done.
The first QF-16 arrives at Tyndall escorted by a QF-4 Nov. 19. The QF-16 will undergo developmental testing by Boeing and eventually become part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. At this time, the group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing)
The QF-16 isn’t the first unmanned fighter-like drone. But it is the latest generation, replacing the QF-4, an aerial target created from the previous generation of F-4 Phantom jets, which saw their glory during the Vietnam War.
There’s simply not enough of them left, and time has aged them toward obsolescence. The Air Force flew its final QF-4 mission on Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and the service plans to officially retire it in December.
ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.
The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.
Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.
For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.
In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.
Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.
“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”
Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.
Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.
The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.
“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.
Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.
American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?
The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.
Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.
The Army is reinstating a program to provide its personnel a temporary pay bump for deployments longer than nine months.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston announced the change over the weekend, calling the move a way to ease the burden on personnel as the Army continues to work on ways to “create more predictable deployment cycles.”
Some 180,000 Army active-duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel remain mobilized or forward-deployed, according to Army officials. Known as “hardship duty pay-tempo,” the new benefit will dole out up to $495 a month for personnel whose deployments have been extended past nine months.
Grinston, who was sworn in as the 16th sergeant major of the Army in August 2019, announced the change over the weekend on both Twitter and Instagram, reflecting an ongoing effort by the Army’s most senior enlisted member to improve morale and leadership by reaching out to troops over social media platforms.
As part of his outreach effort, Grinston held a Thanksgiving town hall meeting with a cross-section of personnel from the Army’s Air Defense Artillery branch to discuss issues related to the Army’s operational tempo. Deployment length was one of the hot topics.
“One of the major problems was deployments regularly being extended past the original 9 months,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, describing the outcome of the Thanksgiving meeting.
While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now require a fraction of the manpower they once did, Army personnel are still deployed to those theaters as well as in myriad other locations worldwide — not only to fight terrorism, but to deter America’s near-peer adversaries of China and Russia in ways reminiscent of the Cold War.
In addition to additional counterterrorism operations in Africa and Syria, Army troops also frequently rotate in and around Eastern Europe in training exercises and deployments to deter Russian aggression. Army personnel are also in Ukraine, continuing a training mission that dates back to 2015 — one year after Russia invaded. That worldwide presence puts on a strain on Army personnel and their families, especially with the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to law, service branch secretaries can authorize supplemental hardship duty pay when a mobilization or deployment “requires the member to perform duties in an operational environment for periods that exceed rotation norms.”
“This doesn’t give you time back with your family, but I hope this shows that Army leaders are LISTENING, and your service makes a difference,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, adding: “I told you People First meant aligning time and money to help Soldiers. We have to get this right. More details coming soon.”
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft.
While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter.
This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of last year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
The F-35. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
But in the heart of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, the group suffered at least one important setback: losing a substantial portion of its oil-exports income,according to the Iraq Oil Report.
Without the major source of revenue and foreign currency, the group might have a reduced ability to maintain the appearance of state-like services and functions inside the caliphate, potentially harming its ability to hold on to territory as global efforts against the group intensify.
The Iraq Oil Report’s December 28 story is one of the most detailed accounts of the jihadist group’s oil infrastructure that’s publicly available. It’s based on interviews with over a dozen people living in ISIS-controlled areas, including anonymous oil-sector workers. The story also includes descriptions of documents from the nearly 7 terabytes of data seized from the compound of Abu Sayyaf, the ISIS oil chief for Syria killed in a US Special Forces raid in May.
The story provides a mixed picture of ISIS’s oil resources 16 months after the start of a US-led bombing campaign against the group.
The US was slow to understand the strategic value of targeting ISIS’s oil infrastructure, viewing oil platforms, refineries, and vehicles “as a financial target with less battlefield urgency, rather than military targets,” according to Iraq Oil Report.
Even with the loss of nearly all of its oil fields in Iraq, ISIS still controls a single conventional refinery in the country, in Qayyarah, near Mosul.
Less efficient open-pit refining techniques and continued control of oil fields in Syria mean that fuel prices within the Islamic State have stabilized somewhat in parts of the caliphate after fluctuating wildly over the past year and a half.
The report contains one piece of evidence that the Middle East may be well past the heyday of the ISIS oil economy. ISIS’s once formidable oil-export economy, which used to produce $40 million in revenue a month for the group, has all but evaporated.
As the story recounts, ISIS oil exports were once a highly centralized operation, with middlemen like tanker-truck drivers paying about $10 to $20 per barrel at the point of sale.
ISIS would then recuperate the apparent discount on the barrel of oil through a series of tightly imposed transit taxes. The oil would hit the Turkish market through truckers or ISIS officials bribing officials in either Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan.
The caliphate’s oil industry was staffed using 1,600 workers, most of whom were recruited from around the world. Because of global disruptions to the oil industry, even an illicit non-state group like ISIS didn’t have trouble running an international recruiting drive for skilled labor, as workers were “enticed with ‘globally competitive’ salaries at a time when the oil industry was undergoing waves of layoffs.”
Those days are apparently over.
US airstrikes have destroyed hundreds of ISIS-linked tanker trucks and cut into ISIS’s refining capacity. Low global oil prices have made smuggling a losing business proposition as well, especially in light of fuel shortages within the caliphate itself.
“The group can no longer generate enough fuel to comfortably meet demand within its own territory, as evidenced by high and volatile prices: there is virtually nothing left to export,” the article states. “Global crude prices are now so low that, even if smugglers were able to cross international borders, the expense of the trip – measured in fuel, time, and bribes – would likely erase any profits.”
Overall, the export business is “defunct,” the Iraq Oil Report states, and the article pushes back against “press reports” suggesting that ISIS is “financed through smuggling routes that have been largely dormant for more than a year.”
At the same time, ISIS has proven remarkably resilient, keeping control over a large swath of Iraq and Syria despite a handful of battlefield defeats and the loss of its oil exports. And as the Iraq Oil Report article says, ISIS’s control over territory stems from the weakness of the Iraqi state and the alienation of Iraq’s Sunni minority from the government in Baghdad. The loss of ISIS’s oil revenue doesn’t solve the deeper, underlying problems that enable the group’s control over so much of the country.
Still, reduced exports cut off ISIS’s access to foreign currency and reduces its ability to provide social services to people living under the group’s control — something that undermines its claim to ruling over a state-like political entity. It’s highly unlikely that ISIS will ever reconstitute the $1 million-a-day-type revenue streams it was able to establish by mid-2014.
The reported end of large-scale ISIS oil exports also shows that the US-led campaign against ISIS has at least fulfilled one strategic objective, even as the group continues to hold substantial territory and carry out attacks around the world.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
President Barack Obama transits aboard Air Force One through the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 2, 2015. Obama was in town to discuss job training and economic growth during a visit to Indatus, a Louisville-based technology company that focuses on cloud-based applications.
Crew chiefs prepare a B-1B Lancer on Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, for combat operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) moors between two buoys in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Oscar Austin is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
CARIBBEAN SEA (April 15, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 22 provides search and rescue support during a search and rescue exercise conducted by the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Continuing Promise 2015.
A Paratrooper from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division provides security while mounted on a camouflaged Lightweight Tactical All Terrain Vehicle during Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 14, 2015.
Engineers, from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, conduct a platoon breach at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, April 13, 2015, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 15. Saber Junction 15 is a multinational training exercise which builds and maintains partnership and interoperability within NATO.
LISBON, Portugal – U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa post security during an assault training exercise near Lisbon, Portugal, April 10, 2015. Marines stationed out of Moron Air Base, Spain, traveled to Portugal to utilize a variety of different ranges and training exercises alongside with the Portuguese Marines.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY , N.C. – Naval aviators with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 shoot flares from an EA-6B Prowler during routine training above Eastern North Carolina, April 14, 2015. VMAQT-1 student pilots and electronics countermeasures officers train to perform dynamic maneuvers while focusing on communication and radar jamming.
A helicopter from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen stands at the ready on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Senecastands watch over Lower Manhattan in New York City with One World Trade Center in the background.
A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.
The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.
Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.
Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.
Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.
US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.
Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.
SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.
There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.
For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.
On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.
This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.
Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.
As we all know by now, the F-117 Nighthawk was America’s first combat-capable stealth aircraft. According to an Air Force fact sheet, it entered service in 1983, and was retired in 2008. It had a very effective career, serving in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom.
But one reason the F-117 was effective was because the Americans managed to keep it secret for the first five years it was in operation. As a result, many figured America’s stealth fighter would be named the F-19 – and in two techno-thrillers, the F-19 had major roles.
It was best-known as the F-19 Ghostrider in Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” In that novel, the planes carry out a daring raid to destroy Soviet Il-76 “Mainstay” radar planes, enabling NATO to secure air superiority in the early stages of the war. One F-19 crew later takes out a Soviet theater commander.
Clancy’s F-19 was very different from the F-117. It had a crew of two, and was capable of breaking Mach 1. It also carried weapons externally, including Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and had a radar. While some sources, like Combat Aircraft Since 1945, credited the F-117 Nighthawk with the ability to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder, most sources claim that the F-117 has no air-to-air capability.
The other appearance of the F-19 was in Dale Brown’s “Silver Tower.” This time, it had the right name, Nighthawk, but it also had a crew of two. Brown didn’t go into the detail of his F-19 that Clancy did in Red Storm Rising. Brown’s F-19s had one notable success, where they bluffed their way in to attack a Soviet base in Iran during Silver Tower. Both planes were shot down and their crews killed.
After the F-117’s public reveal, the speculative F-19s were largely forgotten. But the “F-19” speculation helped keep the F-117 secret – and that secrecy was critical to the battlefield success of America’s first stealth fighter.
The top aviators from the US Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the head of the F-35 Joint Program office all testified before Congress on Thursday and came to a clear consensus — the US has “a war winner” on its hands with the F-35.
The F-35 program, first announced in 2001, has become the most expensive weapons project in history, with President Donald Trump calling the program “out of control” in December.
The program has delivered just 200 or so aircraft years behind schedule and billions over budget, but the top aviators in the US military said that the Joint Strike Fighter would come down in price and provide revolutionary capabilities to the US and their partners.
“We believe we are on track to continue reducing the price of the F-35 such that in [fiscal year 2019], with an engine including all fees, the F-35A model will cost between $80 million and $85 million,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer, F-35 joint program office told Congress.
Bogdan also said the program had begun a block-buying strategy for foreign nations to bring down the price per aircraft.
The Marine Corps and Navy has said their biggest problem with the F-35 is not having enough. Marine Corps Lt. General Jon Davis said the Marines need F-35s to replace their aging fleets of F-18s and Harrier jump jets, which average 22 years.
But the F-35 isn’t just another fighter jet — it’s a flying all-spectrum sensor node that can fight without being seen and elevate the performance of entire squadrons by sharing data on the battle space.
“The aircraft’s stealth characteristics, long-range combat identification and ability to penetrate threat envelopes while fusing multiple information sources into a coherent picture will transform the joint coalition view of the battlefield,” said Navy Rear Adm. DeWolfe “Chip” Miller III.
“I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we have a game-changer, a war winner on our hands,” Davis said of the F-35. “We can’t get into those airplanes fast enough.”