The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35 - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35

Taking a page from the 2006 self-help book The Secret, the United States Air Force believes saying good things about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will make them come true. In an eight-page For Official Use Only (FOUO) memo to its public affairs offices, the Air Force gives detailed instructions on how to say only nice things about the troubled weapons system.


The estimated price tag of the 14-year-old Joint Strike Fighter program now tops $1.5 trillion. The Air Force, a service that has trouble keeping track of the cost of its new weapons systems, is pushing the fighter as a weapon designed for the “entire battle space.” The problems with the fighter are mounting, well beyond the battle space.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
This is the space where it gets the most help.

A recent RAND corporation study found the fundamentals of the F-35 design to be “double inferior to Chinese and Russian designs.” Other comments from the RAND study include: “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb, inferior sustained turn capability. Also has lower top speed.” Earlier in 2015, the F-35 lost a dogfight to the F-16, a jet from the 1970s. If that wasn’t enough, the Air Force and Lockheed only just recently figured out what kept causing their engines to ignite on takeoff. Finally, the Air Force is taking a lot of flak (see what I did there?) from Congress and a community of military members who support the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog). In an effort to put billions toward the F-35, the Air Force is trying to forcefully retire the A-10’s close air support mission in favor of the new stealth fighter, even though the F-35’s gun won’t fire until 2019.

The Air Force Public Affairs Agency’s communications theme is “Lethal, Survivable, and Adaptive.” Lethal is a strange choice for an airframe whose weapons won’t be operational for another four years. Survivable is good to know if you’re piloting a plane whose engine is known to ignite. Adaptive is good for cost sharing with Coalition partners, because all of this stuff is really expensive.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Pictured: a $300 Million Bonfire

It’s so expensive that in July of this year, the USAF released a 20-year strategic forecast titled “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” which calls for an end to big-ticket programs like the F-35. That report says it’s no longer possible to build a strategy advantage with large, expensive programs that take years to complete. Yet Lockheed and the U.S. military hope to produce 2,400 of the F-35s over 20 years.

The public affairs memo coaches public affairs officers how to address other questions, like the fighter’s $400,000 helmet, the advanced technology the U.S. is sharing with 11 countries, or the fact that the F-35 is bad at long range power projection.

After addressing concerns about the F-35, the Air Force believes it will see “U.S. opinion leaders, the American public and international partners are reassured and have confidence in the capability and can articulate why the F-35 is required for national defense.”

Are you reassured yet, American public?

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
USAF Public Affairs: Puttin’ out fires left and right

Now: The B-29 Superfortress debuted 73 years ago – relive it’s legacy in photos

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Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

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This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.


The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle for Belleau Wood May 30. (Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
A Collier’s drawing of Belleau Wood, circa 1921

The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.

After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.

The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.

By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35

The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender,  the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.

War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.

That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”

After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35

Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.

The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Cpl. Brian Conley of 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division drinks from the Devil Dog Fountain in the town of Belleau, France, May 26.After participating in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Belleau cemetery the Marines of 5th Marine Reg. walked to the town of Belleau to spend time with the locals and French marines to strengthen French-American relationships while memorializing losses in the battle of Belleau Wood. (Official Marine Corps photo by: Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)

In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.

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This sub sank because its commander couldn’t flush his toilet

In April 1945, being a German submariner was a dangerous prospect. Allied sub hunters had become much more effective and German u-boats were being sunk faster than they could be built. Technical breakthroughs like radar and new weapons like the homing torpedo were sinking the Germans left and right.


For the crew of U-1206, the greatest threat was actually lurking in their commander’s bowels. German Navy Capt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt was on his first patrol as a commander when he felt the call of nature and headed to the vessel’s state-of-the-art toilet.

While Allied subs had toilets that flushed into a small internal tank that took up needed space in the submarine, the Germans had developed a compact system that expelled waste into the sea. The high-tech system even worked while the sub was deep underwater.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
The Kriegsmarine was running out of things to be excited about, so this was kind of big (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, the toilet was very complex. By doctrine, there was a toilet-flushing specialist on every sub that operated the necessary valves. The captain, either too prideful or too impatient to search out the specialist, attempted to flush it himself. When it didn’t properly flush, he finally called the specialist.

The specialist attempted to rectify the situation, but opened the exterior valve while the interior valve was still open. The ocean quickly began flooding in, covering the floor in a layer of sewage and seawater. The specialist got the valves closed, but it was too late.

The toilet was positioned above the battery bank. As the saltwater cascaded onto the batteries, it created chlorine gas that rapidly spread through the sub and threatened to kill the crew. Schlitt ordered the sub to surface.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
[Insert joke here about the captain’s own torpedo sinking his ship] U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

The sub reached the surface about 10 miles from the Scottish coast and was quickly spotted by British planes. One sailor was killed as the sub was attacked. The order was given to scuttle the ship and escape. Three more sailors drowned attempting to make it to shore. The other 37 sailors aboard the U-1206 were quickly captured and became prisoners of war.

Luckily for them, the war was nearly over. The sub sank April 14, 1945. Hitler killed himself April 30 and Germany surrendered May 8.

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This is why the US military is banning consumer drones

Drones have become an integral part of modern warfare, and the low supply of drones led the US Armed Forces to approve using off-the-shelf drones made by the Chinese giant DJI. However, on August 2, the order came to pull all DJI drones from service – immediately.


The problem is that the US is not the only one using the drones. ISIS and Hezbollah have made wide use of them as well, and the Pentagon worries that their familiarity with the drone’s control systems will makes them a ripe hacking-target that could provide valuable intelligence, such as troop movements.

“All units must cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow-on direction,” read the order, which was signed by Army Air Directorate’s deputy chief of staff Lt. General Joseph Anderson.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
A DJI-S800 Hexacopter. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In a statement to SUAS News, DJI said that “we are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the US Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision.”

“We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the US Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues. We’ll be reaching out to the US Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’.”

The operational risks associated with drones are not new to Israel. In the 1997 ‘Shayetet Disaster,’ Hezbollah utilized information obtained from an unencrypted IDF drone to lay an ambush that killed 11 commandos from the elite Shayetet-13 Special Operations unit.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Shayetet 13 Operatives in training. Photo by Ziv Koren via Wikimedia Commons.

The terror militia was able to intercept signals sent out by Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that conducted reconnaissance over the soldiers’ planned route in the five days that preceded the raid. The UAV’s signal was unencrypted and Israel’s enemies could therefore see the video being sent out in real time.

Hezbollah thus gained advance knowledge of the raid and had time to rig powerful explosives at points on the route where they expected the commando soldiers to pass. A force made up of 16 soldiers walked into the ambush and 11 were killed. Four more were injured and only one, the radio operator, was unhurt and called in the rescue force.

In addition, documents revealed by former NSA employee and whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2016 revealed that the United States and Britain had successfully hacked IDF drones for the previous 18 years, and garnered the allies valuable intelligence into Israel’s plans to bomb Iran.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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:


AIR FORCE:

A Beechcraft twin-engine aircraft performs a routine at sunset during the Sound of Speed Air Show above the Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 26, 2016. The air show was hosted by the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing to thank the surrounding community for its support.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson

B-2 Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., taxi toward the flightline prior to take off at Andersen AFB, Guam, Aug. 11, 2016. Bomber crews readily deploy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to conduct global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, services, and appropriate U.S. government agencies to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies and partners.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Miguel Lara III

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, provide enemy fire from a mountaintop during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2016.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Army photo by Spc. JD Sacharok

Two U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Special Operations Command-Europe, engage opposing forces at an objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016. Jackal Stone 2016 is a bilateral Georgian, U.S. counter terrorism and crisis management exercise.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

NAVY:

The guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island during its maiden voyage from Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Bath, Maine. The port visit marks Zumwalt’s first stop before the ship ultimately sails to her new homeport of San Diego. During the transit, the ship is scheduled to take part in training operations, a commissioning ceremony in Baltimore and various additional port visits. Zumwalt is named for former Chief of Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Sept. 7, 2016) Lt. Carleigh Gregory from Herndon, Va., takes inventory of 5 inch ammunition aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) Sept. 7, 2016. Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine drinks from his canteen before participating in a mechanized raid drill on Landing Zone Swallow at Camp Davis Airfield, North Carolina, August 16, 2016. The drill was part of their pre-deployment training in preparation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s upcoming deployment. The Marine is with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

A Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams Tank, with Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division conducts offensive and defensive tactics during Large Scale Exercise (LSE) on August 16, 2016, on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. LSE-16 is designed to enhance the command and control, and interoperability between I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and its higher, adjacent and subordinate command headquarters.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake

COAST GUARD:

I hope all of you have enjoyed the week with us here on Instagram. CGC Charles Sexton and her crew wish all of you the best and cannot thank you all enough for following along with us this week and supporting the USCG.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Every American has a different memory of the September 11 attacks. Though some people are too young to remember or weren’t even born yet, the events of that day for those who do remember remain burned into their psyche and remembrance often begins with the sobering question, “Where were you when the towers fell?” Some sat before their televisions, frozen in disbelief. Others were in Lower Manhattan, working their way through panic and smoke blanketing the city in search of safety. As the city reeled in the immediate aftermath of the attack, hundreds made their way toward the danger to do their duty.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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17 breathtaking photos of the Air Force at night

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing sits on the flightline March 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. | US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel


The US Air Force is the world’s premier aerial force.

The Air Force has 39 distinct types of aircraft, not counting individual variants within each of those airframes. This range of planes allows the Air Force to highly specialize for each mission and achieve incredible successes.

The following photos show some of the amazing missions that the Air Force carries out both on air and land at night.

A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

The F-35 Integrated Test Force is completing a series of night flights, testing the ability to fly the jet safely in instrument meteorological conditions where the pilot has no external visibility references.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force

A special operations Airman aims his weapon to designate the location of a threat Oct. 9, 2014, during a training mission at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Staff Sgt. Joseph Pico, a security forces Airman with the 106th Rescue Wing, conducts night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
New York Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Canadian special operations regiment members call in close-air support from their US Air Force allies during Emerald Warrior 2013 April 26, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Senior Airman Matt Bruch

Airmen with the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepare to load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy Oct. 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, sits on the flight line during pre-flight checks Nov. 23, 2010, while deployed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

Staff Sgt. Robert Clark directs anArmy M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System out of a C-17 Globemaster III, April 25 during Exercise Emerald Warrior, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Beneath the light of a full moon, Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing prepare a C-130J Hercules for a flight March 27, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Russ Scalf

Senior Airman Larry Webster scans for potential threats using night vision goggles after completing a cargo airdrop Oct. 7, 2013, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Webster is a 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

A US Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with the 107th Airlift Wing fires off flares during a night formation training mission.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force

Maintainers from the 81st Fighter Squadron pull out firing pins and chalks to ready an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for takeoff before a night combat search and rescue training mission July 20, 2012.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard

Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot at Bagram Airfield, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 7, 2013 after completing an air cargo drop mission in Ghazni Provence Afghanistan.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

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Well, on second thought, maybe you can’t have all the troops you want Sec. Mattis

Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.


The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.

Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali. DoD photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.

Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.

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US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from DoD.

Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.

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That time the entire Dutch naval fleet was captured by French dudes on horses

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In the winter of 1795, a French cavalry regiment captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns without a fight. How’d they do it? They simply trotted across the ice. Universally regarded as one of the strangest victories in the history of warfare, the Battle of Texel is the only documented occurrence of a “naval” skirmish between warships and cavalry.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
Capture of the Dutch fleet by the French hussars, Léon Morel-Fatio | Public Domain

Why were the French at war with the Dutch?

By 1792, Revolutionary France was looking to pick a fight with Europe’s monarchist powers. On 20 April, the Legislative Assembly declared war against the King of Bohemia and Hungary (meaning the Hapsburg Empire). Their plan worked. They ignited a twenty-three year conflict between France and the rest of the continent. In January 1795, the French Revolutionary Army invaded the Dutch Republic. They were met with little resistance.

What went down during the battle?

The winter of 1794-5 was particularly brutal. Stationed near the village of den Helder, the Dutch fleet was immobilized when the Zuiderzee bay froze overnight. It didn’t take long for the French commander to take stock of the situation—all the calvary had to do was gallop across the ice. The Dutch admiral was left with the embarrassing task of surrendering his ships to a handful of soldiers on horseback. A.G.M. Macdonell describes the French advance in his book Napoleon and his Marshals:

The ragged men carried the Three Colours and sang the terrible song of Marseilles from Fleurus to the Rhine, and captured the fortresses of Flanders and the fortresses of Holland and Brabant…and entered Antwerp and Rotterdam and the Hague, and thundered on their horses across the ice to capture with naked swords the battlefleet of Holland.”

What happened afterwards?

The United Provinces of the Netherlands became the Batavian Republic. The French puppet state lasted until 1806, when it was replaced by the Kingdom of Holland after Napoleon decided to put his brother Louis on the throne.

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Did Trump threaten to send US troops to fight Mexico’s drug war?

On Wednesday, journalist Dolia Estevez reported that during a brief, blunt phone call the previous Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened and cajoled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.


According to Estevez, who cited “confidential information” obtained from sources on both sides of the call, Trump disparaged Mexico and Mexicans, threatened to levy taxes on Mexican imports, and went so far as to hint at sending US troops to confront drug traffickers who, Trump said, Mexico’s military had been incapable of stopping.

The incendiary comments attracted instant attention, both for their vitriol and for their verisimilitude, as Trump frequently inveighed against Mexico throughout his campaign and has kept up his harsh rhetoric during the first days of his administration.

Estevez’s report also characterized Peña Nieto’s response as “stammering.” Much of the Mexican public has been frustrated with Peña Nieto’s response to Trump’s attacks, and the Mexican president has seen his approval rating fall to 12% in recent weeks.

Estevez described Trump as threatening Mexico with a 35% tax “on those exports that hurt Mexico the most” and referred to White House spokesman Sean Spicer restating the 35% tax idea after the call.

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto | via flickr

However, while Trump has mentioned a 35% tariff on exports from US companies in Mexico, the most commonly floated number is a 20% tax on Mexican goods entering the US. The White House lists no press briefing by Spicer on January 27, the day of the call.

Hours after Estevez’s report surfaced, a report from The Associated Press corroborated some of the content of the conversation, but downplayed the tone.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to an excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

But, the AP said, the excerpt did not make clear who Trump was referring to as “bad hombres,” nor did it make evident the tone or context of Trump’s remark. Moreover, the excerpt did not include Peña Nieto’s response.

The Mexican government also issued a statement around the same time totally rejecting Estevez’s report.

“[It’s] necessary to clarify that the publication is based in absolute falsities and with evident ill intention,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Twitter.

“During the call, President Peña Nieto was clear and emphatic in signaling the differences of position in respect to some statements made by President Trump in public and which he repeated during their dialogue,” the ministry said, adding:

“You assert that you obtained information from confidential sources from ‘both sides of the border.'”
“Only [Peña Nieto] and the foreign minister participated in that call and neither of them remember knowing you or having spoken with you ever. Whoever has been your confidential source on this side of the border, lied to you.”

Eduardo Sanchez, Mexico’s presidential office spokesman, said the conversation was respectful, not hostile or humiliating, as described by Estevez.

“It is absolutely false that President Trump has threatened to send troops to the border,” he said during a Wednesday-night interview with Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.

Later on Wednesday, the Mexican government issued a statement disputing the AP’s initial report, saying the details of it “did not correspond to reality.”

“The negative expressions to which [the AP report] makes reference, did not happen during said telephone call,” the statement, posted on Twitter, said. “On the contrary, the tone was constructive …”

The White House also disputed the account of a contentious call between Trump and Peña Nieto.

“The White House tells me POTUS did not threaten to invade Mexico,” Andrew Beatty, the AFP’s White House correspondent, tweeted a little before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, also tweeted a comment he attributed to a White House official: “Reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false. Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports.”

A more in-depth report from CNN published Wednesday night cited a transcript of the call that differed from the text published by the AP:

“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”

A source told CNN that the AP’s report was based on a readout of the conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto written by aides, not on a transcript.

In a further qualification, the White House characterized Trump’s “bad hombres” remark as “lighthearted” to the AP in a story published on Thursday morning.

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President Donald Trump at the inauguration ceremony. | Defense Department photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

The White House said the comments were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP the conversation was “pleasant and constructive.”

While both sides has downplayed the content of the conversation and dismissed the reportedly hostile tone, the exact nature of the phone call is still unclear, and may remain so until a full transcript or audio (which the Mexican government traditionally does not record) is revealed.

In any case, Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders during his first two weeks as president have been concerning for observers, both at home and abroad.

“(Trump’s) interactions are naive in that he keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up,” a government official with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders told CNN.

“Source familiar with Trump foreign leader calls says the POTUS convos are turning faces ‘white’ inside the” White House, Acosta tweeted late on Wednesday.

“When he encounters a policy challenge, like with Turnbull, he responds with a tantrum,” the official told CNN, referring to a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

During that call, Trump bragged about his election victory and said Australia was going to send the US “the next Boston bombers” as part of an Obama-approved deal to taken in refugees held by Australia, which he criticized.

Descriptions of Trump’s calls are at odds with “sanitized” White House accounts, The Washington Post, which first reported the nature of the Turnbull call, said of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders, adding:

“The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.”

The contentious nature of the Trump’s call with the Australian leader was especially troubling, in light of the longstanding and close-knit ties Washington and Canberra have developed over decades.

While the call with Mexico’s president appears to be less sensational that initially reported, that correction will likely do little to sooth the nerves of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in Mexico and in the US.

Trump has made not indication of backing off his pledge to construct a border wall — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said the wall could be completed in two years, and Kelly is already traveling to the border area to study plans for the wall’s construction.

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Mexican Marines during an operation | Creative Commons photo

Moreover, Mexicans appear to have been caught up in the “extreme vetting” Trump has targeted at citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“We have reports of Mexicans who have been held for more than 12 hours … We have a case of a family who were held for more than 10 hours and we’re looking into that,” Marcelino Miranda, consul for legal affairs at Mexico’s consulate in Chicago, said on Tuesday.

Miranda said he believed stringent questioning faced by those Mexicans had nothing to do with the newly intensified vetting process, though others from the country likely see it as part of a broader hostility to the US’s southern neighbor.

Trump “wants to make an example of Mexico to show how he will deal with countries around the world,” Maria Eugenia Valdes, a political scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, told journalist Ioan Grillo.

“This man is capable of anything,” she added.

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Trump said during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump added. “That’s what I do. I fix things.”

 

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One of the F-35’s most expensive features was made possible by flying saucers

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
An F-35B using its central lifting fan to perform a vertical landing | Lockheed Martin photo


The US Air Force’s push to develop operational flying saucers 60 years ago laid the conceptual groundwork for one of the variants of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, MIT Technology Review reports.

The F-35 comes in three variants, with key mechanical differences for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy – the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C respectively.

Of the three models, the F-35B is the most technologically different.

Unlike the F-35A and F-35C, the Marines needed their variant to be capable of conducting short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.

This request necessitated that the F-35B be given a lifting fan. And, as Desire Francine G. Fedrigo, Ricardo Gobato, Alekssander Gobato note in a paper at the Cornell University Library, the F-35B’s lifting fan has its conceptual roots in flying saucers.

Between 1954 and 1961, the US Air Force spent $10 million attempting to develop a flying saucer that became known as an Avrocar. The Avrocar was a vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) saucer that was powered by one giant central fan.

Despite its seven years of development, the Air Force failed to make the Avrocar into a mission capable vehicle that could potentially replace helicopters.

MIT Technology Review notes that the aircraft was “hot and almost unbearably uncomfortable for the pilot. And it demonstrated various idiosyncrasies such as taking five seconds to turn 90 degrees to the left but 11 seconds to turn the same amount to the right, presumably because of its central rotating fan.”

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An Avrocar during flight testing. | Wikimedia Commons

However, despite the Avrocars’ failings, the technology did point researchers towards the feasibility of developing and embedding a central lift fan turbine within an aircraft for variations of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology.

“The concept of a lift fan, driven by a turbojet engine is not dead, and lives today as a key component of Lockheed X-35 Joint Strike Fighter contender,” Fedrigo notes, adding that the conceptual framework of the Avrocar helped General Electric’s own development of a booster fan propulsion system.

The Air Force wants airmen to say nice things about the troubled F-35
US Air Force

Whereas the Avrocar’s development ultimately failed, though, GE’s “Vertifan” went on to prove the concept of successful lifting fan technology. This in turn lead to a DARPA sponsored development challenge that gave birth to lifting fans being used in the F-35B.

The F-35B was declared ready for combat by the Marine Corps on July 31.

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How R. Lee Ermey’s Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.


Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.

 

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Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacket where he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.

His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.

Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.

He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.

 

Once you see it’s him, you’ll recognize his voice on the intercom through the scene.

He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, like a Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.

 

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Needless to say, his sets can be intense. (Warner Bros.)

None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.

Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.

Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.

Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.


Feature image: Warner Bros.

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North Korea is calling US sanctions on Kim Jong Un a ‘declaration of war’

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On Wednesday, the US for the first time sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for “notorious abuses of human rights,” a decision that prompted the hermit kingdom to call the sanctions a “declaration of war.”

The sanctions affect 10 other individuals besides the North Korean leader, five government ministries and departments, and property within US jurisdiction, according to the US Treasury Department statement.

“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement.

“Considering the sanctions name Kim Jong Un, the reaction from Pyongyang will be epic,” Michael Madden an expert on North Korean leadership told Reuters. “There will be numerous official and state media denunciations, which will target the U.S. and Seoul, and the wording will be vituperative and blistering.”

Here are some of the offenses outlined in the US Treasury Department statement:

The Ministry of State Security engages in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in detention centers. This inhumane treatment includes beatings, forced starvation, sexual assault, forced abortions, and infanticide.
According to the State Department report, the ministry is the lead agency investigating political crimes and administering the country’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people, including children and other family members of the accused. In addition, the Ministry of State Security’s Prisons Bureau is responsible for the management and control of political prisoners and their confinement facilities throughout North Korea.
The Ministry of People’s Security operates a network of police stations and interrogation detention centers, including labor camps, throughout North Korea. During interrogations, suspects are systematically degraded, intimidated, and tortured.
The Ministry of People’s Security’s Correctional Bureau supervises labor camps (kyohwaso) and other detention facilities, where human rights abuses occur such as those involving torture, execution, rape, starvation, forced labor, and lack of medical care. The State Department report cites defectors who have regularly reported that the ministry uses torture and other forms of abuse to extract confessions, including techniques involving sexual violence, hanging individuals from the ceiling for extended periods of time, prolonged periods of exposure, and severe beatings.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry called on China to urge North Korea to cooperate on human rights standards.

“China’s engagement is critical,” Kerry said during a news conference while visiting Kiev. Kerry also added that the US is “ready and prepared” to return to discussions of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

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