Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet - We Are The Mighty
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Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet

First flown on September 19, 2019, the Boeing MQ-25A Stingray is an unmanned aerial refueling drone. On June 4, 2021, the Stingray conducted its first successful refueling test.

The Navy began developing a carrier-based UAV in 2006. Called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Navy wanted a stealthy strike aircraft for penetrating enemy air defenses. However, delays in the UCLASS program redirected the Navy’s efforts to other roles. Under the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, the Navy sought to bring a Super Hornet-sized carrier-based aerial refueling tanker drone to the fleet. In July 2016, the concept was officially given the name MQ-25A Stingray.

In October 2017, the Navy requested proposals from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics for the Stingray. On August 30, 2018, Boeing was announced the winner of the competition. An $805 million contract was issued for four MQ-25As to be produced by August 2024. Three more aircraft were ordered in 2020.

The successful midair refueling between the Stingray and Super Hornet on June 4 was the first major milestone in the future of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. “During the flight, the receiver Navy F/A-18 [Super] Hornet approached the Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset, conducted a formation evaluation, wake survey, drogue tracking and then plugged with the unmanned aircraft. T1 then successfully transferred fuel from its Aerial Refueling Store (ARS) to the F/A-18,” said Naval Air Systems Command.

Designated T1, the first Stingray is scheduled to test basic deck handling aboard an in-port aircraft carrier in Norfolk later this year. The Navy is now set to buy 76 MQ-25As at a cost of $1.3 billion. Initial operating capability for the MQ-25A is set for 2025.

Featured photo: MQ-25A T1 refuels an F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing)

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Here’s why most Americans can’t join the military

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
U.S. Army soldiers in May 2011, wearing the ACU in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, along with its replacement Multicam pattern (second from left) in Paktika province, Afghanistan. (Photo: Spc. Zachary Burke)


The military has embraced openly-gay members within its ranks, and now squabbles over combat roles for women and whether to accept transgender troops, but the future may require the Pentagon to accept whomever it can get.

At the height of the Iraq War, it seemed like the standard for service was so low, even convicted felons could get into the Army and Marine Corps. But today, more than two-thirds of America’s young people wouldn’t qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral, or educational problems.

The services have long required at least a high-school education as a prerequisite for joining. The Army used to offer GED assistance for recruits who wanted to join. These days, having a felony conviction is out of the question, but so are some tattoos, gauged earlobes, and taking hyperactivity medication. The Pentagon says 71 percent of America’s 34 million 17-24 year old population would fail to qualify for enlistment.

Of those eligible for service, the Army estimates only one percent even have an interest.

The U.S. Army’s major enlistment requirements include:

  • Ages between 17 and 34 years old
  • Must be U.S. citizen or legal foreign national
  • Must have high school diploma or equivalent
  • Minimum 33 score on Armed Forces Qualification Test
  • No tattoos on fingers, neck or face
  • No ear gauges
  • No ADHD medication win the past 12 months
  • No felony convictions
  • No persistent illegal drug use
  • No insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Meet height weight requirements

The biggest single reason for failing to meet the requirements is obesity. Maj, Gen. Allen Batschelet, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, says obesity is becoming a national security issue.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet

“The obesity issue is the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50%, which mean only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army.” He paused. “It’s a sad testament to who we are as a society right now.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Phillip Hertling, the Commanding General of US Army Europe and Seventh Army, discuseed the issues he faced while overseeing the Army’s initial training, and the economics involved with keeping soldiers fit to fight, in this TED talk:

This isn’t recent news, however. In 2009, a similar study was conducted which had similar results. It was so disturbing back in 2009, it led 550 retired admirals, generals, and other retired senior military leaders to form Mission:Readiness, a nonprofit advocacy group to urge lawmakers to expand high-quality early childhood education programs, increased access to healthier food at school, and improved quality and quantity of Physical Education.

NOW: Here’s why Gen. Stanley McChrystal only eats one meal per day

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Woman helping to put faces to names on Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet


A mere mention of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in D.C. is enough to evoke emotional thoughts of the living remembering their fallen. On a daily basis, veterans, family members, friends and strangers alike are visibly impacted by the seemingly endless stretch of black granite that bears the names of 58,307 men and women who lost their priceless lives – or remain missing – due to that war. Some reach out their hand to touch the wall, some reverently read  names, and thousands each year will leave behind an item in tribute (NPS approximates that 400,000 items have been kept in the collection since 1982). Eight summers ago, one visitor walked away with an experience that compelled her to help others literally see the veterans whose names were represented on that wall.

During a vacation with her husband to Washington, D.C. in 2008, Janna Hoehn of Kihei, Maui was one of the 4 million a year who visit “The Wall”. This was an important visit for her.  She purposed to write down one name and learn more about that individual.

“Vietnam was my entire high school years, I recall the way the returning Veterans were treated. It always has stayed with me.” said Hoehn, “I have always had a huge place in my heart for Vietnam Veterans. Standing in front of the Vietnam Wall profoundly changed my life … I never dreamed how it would affect me.”

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Janna Hoehn | KRGV.com

As she read through the etched names of soldiers, she noticed some had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross. The explanation of those symbols would aid her in choosing a soldier’s name:

“I asked a man standing next to me why most the names had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross, he explained to me the cross was an MIA. If the remains were ever returned to America then the cross could be easily made into a diamond. That is why I chose the name I did, I wanted an MIA after he explained it to me.”

She chose the name of Major Gregory John Crossman from Michigan. She found out that he was a 26-year-old pilot whose plane went down. April 25, 2016 marked 48 years that he has been missing in action.

She wanted to put a face to this name and story. “Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Vietnam Wall. It makes that person real. [It is] someone’s loved one, a son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, best friend…” she said.

Later, she heard about Faces Never Forgotten, an effort by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall Foundation to “put a face and a story to each name on The Wall”.  Hoehn sent over Gregory’s photo, and about a week later, was contacted by Jan Scruggs, the program’s founder and president. He called to thank her for the photo, and enlisted her to help find photos of Maui’s fallen. “I was honored to do so.”, Hoehn said. In 6 months she found all 42 photos for the Maui fallen, then went on to help complete the entire state of Hawaii.

Her mission was far from over. She is committed to the difficult task of tracking down these photo of the fallen state by state. At the time of writing, she has to find photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in seven states. Those being: California (many), Texas (many), Washington (16),  Colorado (15), Alaska (4), Utah (3), and Nevada (1).

The photos are displayed online on the “Wall of Faces”. The VVMF hopes to break ground by 2018 on a physical museum site. They will further recognize the fallen heroes by enlarging their photos on a floor to ceiling display on their birthdays.

Learn more about The Wall of Faces here. To provide missing information from the Wall of Faces (photos, biographical information), you can email Janna directly.

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A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
An underside view of a Soviet Su-27 Flanker aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles. (DOD photo)

It is not the first close encounter. Earlier this year, a Russian plane came within 20 feet of a Navy patrol plane. Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea in February, and a Russian “tattletale” operated off the East Coast earlier this year.

The BALTOPS exercise this year was notable in that all three American heavy bombers in service, the B-52H Stratofortress, the B-1B Lancer, and the B-2A Spirit, participated, an Air Force release noted. A B-52H was intercepted by Russian fighters earlier this month.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS, an RC-135, and KC-135s sit at the CURACAO/ARUBA Cooperative Security Location. | Photo via SOUTHCOM.

USNI News had reported that Russia threatened to target any U.S. aircraft in Syria west of the Euphrates River in response to the downing of a Syrian Su-22 Fitter by a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet. Russia has also deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, an enclave surrounded by Poland and Lithuania.

It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.

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This Navy SEAL was wounded during the frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl

On June 21, a former Navy SEAL testified that his military career ended when he was shot in the leg during a hastily planned mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier left his post in Afghanistan.


Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the judge that his team had about 90 minutes to plan their mission and board helicopters after receiving information about Bergdahl’s purported whereabouts shortly after he disappeared in 2009. While pursuing enemy fighters on foot, Hatch was hit by fire from an AK-47. Hatch says he survived because members of his team quickly applied a tourniquet while waiting for a medical helicopter.

“They saved me from bleeding to death for sure,” he testified during the pretrial hearing. Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a service dog and a limp, said he’s had 18 surgeries because of the wound.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Bowe Bergdahl. Photo via NewsEdge.

Also on June 21, the military judge told defense attorneys they can ask potential military jurors about President Donald Trump on a lengthy written questionnaire. Defense lawyers have argued Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl will prevent him from getting a fair trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Prosecutors want to use the injuries to Hatch and others as evidence during sentencing if Bergdahl is convicted. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, already ruled that the injury evidence can’t be used during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial scheduled for October.

A legal scholar not involved in the case, Eric Carpenter, said the decision on the injuries could be pivotal.

“This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” said Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.”

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell declined to say after the hearing whether his client is interested in a plea bargain.

The topic also came up during the hearing. Defense attorneys asked the judge to rule that any alleged desertion ended when Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban hours after he left the remote post. They say the determination is needed so they can advise their client on how to plead to the desertion charge.

“We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are,” Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.

Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren’t satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense’s arguments about the duration of Bergdahl’s absence.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
A U.S. Army soldier from 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Hawk, conducts a foot patrol in the small village of Yayah Khel, March 10, 2012. DoD Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar.

The judge also said he would rule later on a motion to dismiss the misbehavior-before-the-enemy charge, which could land Bergdahl in prison for life. Defense attorneys say prosecutors chose the wrong building blocks for the offense because the actions cited in the charge wouldn’t be independently criminal, an argument that prosecutors dispute.

Later in the hearing, Nance said he would allow the defense to probe potential jurors’ feelings about Trump in a questionnaire being sent in the coming weeks. Prosecutors have objected to 17 of the approximately 40 questions, including ones asking how prospective panel members voted in the presidential election.

“I’m going to let you ask pretty much all the questions, but with some changes to address the government’s concerns,” Nance said.

Nance asked for further written arguments before the questionnaire is finalized. The judge previously said he would allow the defense wide leeway to question potential jurors, even though he rejected a motion to dismiss the case over Trump’s comments entirely in a February ruling.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl’s parents. Photo from the Obama White House Archives.

Bergdahl left his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban and its allies for about five years. The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade.

Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base, has said he walked off his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

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Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

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This is why the US just cut off arms shipments to the Saudis

Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.


That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.

According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.

American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Fighters from the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah.

The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.

This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for three attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.

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US military explores more anti-drone technology

The U.S. military has considered training with DroneDefender, a point-and-shoot, electromagnetic, rifle-shaped weapon that disrupts communications of a remote-controlled drone and its operator.


The system provides a safer and more accurate alternative than other methods, such as shooting drones with a rifle. “Pull the trigger and it falls out of the sky,” said Capt. Michael Torre, an electronic warfare officer for the 29th Infantry Division.

 

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

“It reminds me of playing Duck Hunt. It’s like using a video game controller with a real-world application,” he added.

DroneDefender can target a drones’ control signal. The drone controller can be a hand-held device operated by a person or a command module attached to the drone itself.

Staff Sgt. Richard Recupero, a cyberspace electromagnetic activities noncommissioned officer with the 29th Infantry Division, shared his expertise in disrupting drone operations when discussing enemy devices currently in the Middle East.

“Yes, it can affect drones used by ISIS,” Recupero said.

Drones are classified by weight and range from light commercial-off-the-shelf to heavier, military grade varieties.

Counter-drone technologies can have a variety of effects besides dropping them from the sky.

Also read: This company can ‘hack’ enemy drones for the US military

“You know it’s working because the system is no longer responding appropriately to the operator and doing something the operator doesn’t expect it to do,” Torre said, describing multiple visual disruption indicators.

“From the time I pulled the trigger, it was almost instantaneous,” Torre added.

Operation Spartan Shield subordinate units such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have also gone through the training as part of an effort to provide commanders with increased force protection options.

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The US attack sub made famous by ‘The Hunt for Red October’ heads for retirement

The most notable Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine – albeit for her fictional exploits – is headed for retirement. Well, actually, recycling. USS Dallas (SSN 700) completed her final deployment on Nov. 22 of this year.


The submarine is best known for its appearance in the 1984 novel “Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy, and its 1990 film adaptation. In Clancy’s story, USS Dallas, under the command of Commander Bart Mancuso, played a critical role in the successful defection of Captain First Rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy and many of his officers, who brought along a modified Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, the Red October. USS Dallas also made an appearance in the novel “Cardinal of the Kremlin,” where she evacuated the wife and daughter of KGB Chairman Nikolay Gerasimov.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
USS Dallas conducting training operations in 2000. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

In real life, USS Dallas had a distinguished career. The ship twice received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and also two awards of the Navy Unit Commendation. She was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” seven times, and in 1993, received the Battenberg Cup as the best ship in the fleet. Commissioned in 1981, she served for 35 years. In 1984, the year the novel that made her famous came out, she carried out a seven-month deployment in the Indian Ocean, during which she went around the world.

In 1986, USS Dallas took part in Operation ELDORADO CANYON, when the U.S. retaliated against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya for sponsoring a terrorist attack in Berlin that killed an American soldier outright and caused another to die from his wounds two months later. The submarine completed a North Atlantic deployment in 1988, the year the novel Cardinal of the Kremlin came out.

Ironically, USS Dallas did not play herself in the 1990 film. Instead, that honor fell to USS Houston (SSN 713) and USS Louisville (SSN 724). Her most memorable scene is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MehBu5crI2s

While many Los Angeles-class submarines have been slated for the scrapheap (the common euphemism being “recycling”), there are efforts underway to save at least some parts of USS Dallas and use her as a museum in her namesake city.

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Former Navy Commander: What the US should have built instead of the F-35

Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.


But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
Lockheed Martin photo

Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.

However, defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, but rather aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, can simply shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.

These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas photo

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.

But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.

“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”

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American Marines might deploy aboard Brit carrier with F-35s

When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.


There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.

According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.

Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland, in July 2014. (Photo from U.K. MOD)

Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.

The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.

The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.

The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.

The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.

Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.

The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.

The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.

This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.

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Trump’s federal hiring freeze could impact veterans who’ve already been offered a job

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President Donald J. Trump arrives at the Inaugural Parade during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, 2017.


In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.

A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.

So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.

We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.

“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”

We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.

Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”

Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.

Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.

At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.

The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.

This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.

That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.

The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.

This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.

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The CIA just declassified these 11 Russian jokes about the Soviet Union

In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.


Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.

It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.

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A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”
Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?

A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.

*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.

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A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”
A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”
A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”

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You try finding photos of Russians laughing.

Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.

Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?

* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.
An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”
* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.

** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.

An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”
A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”
A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”
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