The Army and Air Force once conducted an air-to-air combat experiment between jet fighters and attack helicopters. Called J-CATCH, or Joint Countering Attack Helicopter, it was not the first of its kind but the most conclusive using modern technology.
The results showed attack helicopters proved remarkably deadly when properly employed against fighter aircraft. And it wasn’t even close.
First conducted by the Army using MASH Sikorsky H-19s, airframes developed in the 40s and 50s, the modern J-CATCH test started in 1978, as the Soviet Union expanded their helicopter forces. Of special concern was the development of the Mil Mi-24 or Hind helicopter gunship. The four phase J-CATCH experiment started in earnest with the Army, Marines, and Air Force participating in simulations at NASA’s Langley labs.
The second phase was a field test, pitting three AH-1 Cobras and two OH-58 Scouts against a Red Team force of UH-1 Twin Hueys and CH-3E Sea King helicopters and developed many new helicopter air-to-air tactics and maneuvers designed to counter the Russian Hind.
Phase Three is where the fighters came in. The Air Force chose F-4, A-7, A-10, and F-15 fighter aircraft to counter whatever the Army could muster in the exercise. The F-4 and F-15 were front line fighters with anti-air roles while the A-7 and A-10 had air-to-ground missions.
For two weeks, the helicopters trounced the fighter aircraft. The fighter pilots in the test runs sometimes didn’t even know they were under attack or destroyed until the exercise’s daily debriefing. The Army pilots were so good, they had to be ordered to follow Air Force procedures and tell their fixed-wing targets they were under attack over the radio. This only increased the kill ratio, which by the end of the exercise, had risen to 5-to-1 in favor of the helicopters.
The fourth phase of the exercise saw the final outcome of the test: fighters should avoid helicopters at all costs, unless they have superiority of distance or altitude.
Defense Department personnel continue to assist in the rescue operations in Thailand to evacuate the remaining four boys and their coach from a flooded cave system, the director of defense press operations said July 10, 2018.
The DOD effort consists of 42 deployed military personnel and one member from the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand, Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Coordination and interaction with Thai military, Thai government, and other multinational civilians and government entities remains extremely positive and effective,” he said.
U.S. personnel have staged equipment and prepared the first three chambers of the cave system for safe passage, he said. They are assisting in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the cave system, and are providing medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts, he added.
Saman Kunan died while laying oxygen tanks for a potential rescue of the trapped boys.
Multinational rescue effort
“We continue to fully support the multinational rescue effort and pray for the safe return of the remaining members of the team,” Manning said.
The soccer team and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand on June 23, 2018, and were trapped by floodwaters. Eight boys have been rescued so far.
Manning paid tribute to former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died after delivering oxygen tanks in the cave.
“The death of the former Thai Navy SEAL illustrates the difficulty of this rescue,” Manning said. “His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.
The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,
On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.
Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.
This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.
The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.
Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.
But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.
In the field, everyone is working to ensure that nothing goes wrong. But, when the mission goes sideways, everyone thanks the heavens for the medic. The one who rushes through fire to save their patients.
Here are 10 medics who saw patients in danger and rushed to their aid, sometimes sustaining serious wounds or even dying in their attempt to save others.
Spc. Bryan C. Anderson was part of an Army Ranger assault force sent after a high-value target in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on Oct. 5, 2013. When the team landed, an insurgent successfully fled the target building and began running away. An element of soldiers moved to catch him but they were struck by a suicide bomber and triggered two pressure plate IEDs.
Anderson rushed to the aid of the wounded even though he knew they were in the middle of a pressure plate IED belt. Over the next few hours, Anderson crisscrossed the IED belt treating the wounded. During a particularly harrowing 30 minutes, seven IEDs detonated within 10 meters of Anderson, according to his official award citation. Though some of his patients from that night died, two severely injured Rangers survived because Anderson continued rendering aid despite experiencing his own traumatic brain injuries. Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
2. Corpsman riddled with shrapnel pulls 4 injured comrades from vehicle while under fire
During an American-Afghan convoy, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Benny Flores was in a vehicle struck by an IED. Despite having his own shrapnel injuries and taking incoming enemy fire, Flores began treatment of a Marine in his vehicle and then aided the Marine in taking cover. He ferried to and from the vehicle three more times, treating and moving to cover a wounded Afghan police officer and two more Marines, all while under enemy fire and without receiving treatment for his own wounds. Flores received the Silver Star.
3. Pararescueman drops into IED field to save Army Pathfinders
On May 26, 2011, a squad of U.S. Army pathfinders was crippled when it struck multiple IEDs during a mission. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Culpepper, Jr. was voluntarily hoisted down to the battlefield only 25 meters from a known IED. Culpepper and his teammate stabilized the pathfinders and then began hoisting them into the helicopter. On the last lift, Culpepper and the final patient were nearly dropped from the helicopter when it experienced a sudden loss of power.
4. Corpsman continues treating casualties after being shot in the back
On April 25, 2013, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kevin D. Baskin was part of a Marine task force pinned down by enemy fire outside Kushe Village, Afghanistan. Baskin treated an initial casualty under heavy fire and then moved him to a casualty evacuation vehicle. Immediately afterwards, Baskin was shot in the back. He continued to treat new casualties and refused medical treatment for his own. He supervised the evacuation of the wounded and laid down cover fire for the evacuation of the team. His actions were credited with saving the lives of four Marines and he was awarded the Silver Star.
5. Medic bounds up to wounded casualties under fire, then treats them until he dies of his own wounds
On March 29, 2011, a group of soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were clearing a known insurgent strong point when they came under a complex ambush from enemy fire. Three members of the lead element were injured immediately. Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog bounded from the rear of the element to the troops in contact while under fire so heavy that the bullets destroyed cover whenever he moved behind it.
Lindskog triaged the casualties and began treatment. While working on an Afghan National Army soldier, Lindskog was struck in the chest by an enemy round. He remained lucid and refused treatment, asking to stay on the battlefield and give instructions to those rendering aid. His instructions saved the lives of two other men, but he died of his wounds before being evacuated. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
6. Pararescue jumper treats nine casualties by moonlight while under withering enemy fire
The 101st Airborne called for support during an operation after they took two casualties on Nov. 14, 2010. Air Force Para rescue jumper Master Sgt. Roger D. Sparks was on the response team. His helicopter arrived and was circling the objective when the situation on the ground suddenly intensified and the 101st took four new casualties. Sparks and another airman began a 40-foot descent to the battlefield below despite the increased enemy activity.
While descending, they came under intense enemy fire and their lowering cable was struck three times by bullets. Immediately after landing, the pair was attacked with an RPG round that knocked them both from their feet. Running across the objective while under increasing machine gun and RPG fire, Sparks treated nine wounded soldiers by moonlight, many with serious problems like punctured lungs, eviscerations, and arterial bleedings. He returned to the landing area but stayed on the ground, coordinating the evacuation until the last soldier was loaded. His actions saved five lives and resulted in the remains of four Americans making it back to their families. He was awarded the Silver Star.
7. Medic shields casualties from mortar fire until forced to move, continues treatment throughout
Spc. Monica Lin Brown was an airborne medic on a combat patrol in Afghanistan on April 25, 2007, when an up-armored Humvee struck an IED. The IED was the first part of a complex ambush on the column. Brown moved 300 meters under enemy fire to the burning vehicle and began caring for the wounded. She triaged them onsite and then moved them with the help of the platoon sergeant into a nearby wadi. She continued to render aid and used her own body as a shield while 15 enemy mortar rounds landed within 100 meters of her position.
The mortar fire eventually forced her to move the wounded two more times as she continued treating and shielding them. The wounded men were eventually medically evacuated and Brown was awarded the Silver Star.
8. Medic dies after treating casualties under ‘barrage of RPG fire’
On Nov. 12, 2010, Spc. Shannon Chihuahua was part of a blocking position in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. A squad providing overwatch suddenly came under a complex enemy attack with small arms, machine guns, and RPGs. Chihuahua ran from a relatively safe position into the heat of the fighting to treat the wounded.
Moving from soldier to soldier providing care, Chihuahua eventually found himself the focus of the enemies’ attacks. Chihuahua went down under a “barrage of RPG fire,” according to Sgt. Kevin Garrison, the squad leader whose position was the focus of the first attack. Chihuahua was awarded the Silver Star.
9. Stryker medic pulls three casualties from a burning Bradley
Staff Sgt. Christopher Bernard Waiters was the senior medic in his Stryker company when a Bradley Fighting Vehicle struck an IED and began to burn with its crew still inside on April 5, 2007. He parked his vehicle in a security position and immediately engaged two enemy fighters.
He then ran to the burning Bradley on his own and pulled the driver and vehicle commander out. He treated both and escorted them back to his own Stryker. That was when he learned another soldier was in the troop compartment. He ran back and entered the burning vehicle, falling back only for a moment when the 25-mm ammunition began to explode. He re-entered, saw the deceased soldier and went for a body bag. Another medic retrieved the body while Waiters drove the wounded back for further treatment.
10. Medical sergeant performs surgery in the open while under fire
As the medical sergeant on a civil affairs team, Staff Sgt. Michael P. Pate was part of a patrol in Afghanistan. The group came under heavy fire from multiple machine gun positions and at least six other enemy shooters. Early in the ensuing firefight, the rear man of the element was shot in the back. Pate and his team leader rushed to the man and drove him to what little cover was available, a six-inch deep ditch. Though his patient was slightly covered, Pate was fully exposed as he performed surgical interventions on the wounded man. During this time, Pate also assisted the joint-terminal attack controller with directing airstrikes and coordinated the medical evacuation for the wounded. He was awarded the Silver Star.
Long before the first bombs fell on Baghdad Jan. 16, 1991, the man who would be in charge of one of the most effective air campaigns in history was hearing whispers from another war.
Then-Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, who, as a young captain, flew Wild Weasel missions attacking radar sites during two tours in the Vietnam War, was determined to avoid the same strategic mistakes in the Persian Gulf that plagued the U.S. military in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, his boss – Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – and other military leaders executing Operation Desert Storm had Vietnam, and the hard lessons learned there, in their memories, as well.
An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.
Twenty-five years later, Horner, now a retired four-star general residing in northwest Florida, looks back on the Air Force that struck Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm as perhaps the best-trained force to date. Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, a U.S.-led coalition of about 30 nations placed more than 900,000 troops in the Arabian Peninsula in what became known as Operation Desert Shield, the campaign to prevent Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and build up forces to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait should diplomacy fail to secure a peaceful solution. When the United Nations Security Council for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went the following January, Desert Storm kicked off with an air campaign that would become the largest employment of U.S. airpower since the war in Vietnam.
“When I think back on the past 25 years after Desert Storm, I see the immense impact that particular war had on how we planned to fight in the future and the kind of equipment we would need,” Horner said. “But most of all, I think about the spirit and attitude of our young warriors who were going to be faced with the next battle.
“I’m so proud of the way we performed in Desert Storm because of the leadership we had from Schwarzkopf and (Gen. Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech, former Tactical Air Command commander), and the way we had equipment that worked. We had all of the advantages the world had not seen before Desert Storm.”
A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, in front of his F-15 at Luke AFB, where he was wing commander in March of 1981. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
One of Horner’s first priorities, while planning the air strategy as Schwarzkopf’s joint force air component commander, was to avoid making what he considered the main mistake from Vietnam. He didn’t want bombing target selection to come from the president or defense secretary. As the architect of the air campaign against Iraq, Horner wanted targeting decisions to be made by commanders directly involved in the area of operations. “Washington was not the place to plan a war,” he had said. “If people there wanted to fight, let them come to the theater (of combat).
“That is the lesson of Vietnam,” Horner said in “Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Campaign 1989-1991,” a book by Diane Putney for the Air Force History and Museums Program. “Remember our great president (Lyndon B. Johnson) saying, ‘They don’t bomb a shit house in North Vietnam if I don’t approve it.’
“Well, I was the guy bombing the shit houses, and I was never going to let that happen if I ever got in charge because it is not right. If you want to know whether war is going to be successful or not, just ask where the targets are being picked. If they say, ‘We picked them in Washington,’ get out of the country. Go to Canada until the war is over because it is a loser.”
The day Horner, then the commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, received the call that eventually launched Desert Storm, he was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon on an air-to-air training mission near the North Carolina coast with two F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Virginia.
He’d expected the call from Schwarzkopf since the invasion of Kuwait. But once the call came from the Federal Aviation Administration to notify him to return to Shaw AFB, he instantly knew what it meant. He and his staff had to prepare the air portion of a CENTCOM briefing for President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, the next morning.
After the invasion of Kuwait, the coalition’s first priority was protecting Saudi Arabia. Horner developed friendships with the Saudis earlier in his career during Operation Earnest Will in 1987-88 and other exercises and remained in Saudi Arabia after he and Schwarzkopf went there a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. The coalition organized for Desert Shield and Storm gave the U.S. military an opportunity to work closely with each other, as well as with forces from other nations, as they would later do during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
A massive prepositioning of equipment, supplies, munitions and fuels around the Persian Gulf, begun by the Joint Rapid Deployment Force in the 1980s, expedited preparations to conduct military operations in the area of responsibility, Horner said.
“When our aircraft landed in the Gulf airfields, they were met with spares, fuel, munitions, living facilities and all the other things they would need to survive and fight,” he wrote in “Desert Storm: A View From the Front.” “This material had been stored on ships anchored in theater and in leased warehouses throughout the AOR.”
Well before the crisis in the Gulf began, the military had trained for an eventual showdown with Iraq. A month before the invasion, a CENTCOM war game used a scenario of a “Country Orange” attacking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the north. When Schwarzkopf, who died in 2012, accepted command of CENTCOM in November 1989, he told his military leaders that since a war with Russia wasn’t likely to happen, “we have to find a new enemy or go out of business,” Horner said.
At the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, it fielded the world’s fifth-largest army at a million soldiers; larger than the U.S. Army and Marine Corps combined, according to a Los Angeles Times article on Aug. 13, 1990. The weaknesses coalition military planners hoped to exploit included an incompetent senior staff chosen for their devotion to Hussein rather than their military prowess, and only about one-third of its soldiers were experienced combat troops, according to U.S. officials quoted in the article.
After its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq owed a huge debt to Kuwait and many other Arab nations, which funded Iraq’s purchase of high-tech weapons, according to an American Patriot Friends Network article published in 2004. Kuwait’s oil made it one of the richest countries in the world and cash-strapped Iraq wanted it.
Pilot gazes out into the wild blue yonder.
“When General Schwarzkopf took command of (CENTCOM), he said we have to plan for an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because Iraq came out of the Iran-Iraq War very powerful militarily,” Horner said. “So, of course, they were sitting right next to the Fort Knox in the Middle East. So when it happened, I wasn’t surprised. We’d anticipated it was going to happen, but the speed with which we had to react was surprising.”
A United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait passed on Jan. 15, 1991, with no action from Iraq, so at 2 a.m. Jan. 17 (Baghdad time), coalition forces began a five-week bombardment of Iraqi command and control targets, beginning with eight Army AH-64 Apache helicopters led by two Air Force MH-53 Pave Hawks that destroyed radar sites near the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border, according to Putney. About an hour later, 10 Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, protected by three EF-111 Aardvarks, and Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck targets in Baghdad. The initial attacks allowed the coalition to gain control of the air for its fighter aircraft.
At the cessation of hostilities, coalition forces had destroyed 3,700 of Iraq’s 4,280 tanks and 2,400 of its 2,870 armored vehicles. The bomb tonnage dropped by U.S. planes per day equaled the average tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan during the entirety of World War II, according to the “White Paper – Air Force Performance in Desert Storm, Department of the Air Force,” published in April 1991.”
“The things that guided our strategy was to be unrelenting and to bring such a powerful force, so quickly and so thoroughly on the enemy, that they would be forced to leave Kuwait,” Horner said. “It was not going to be piecemeal. It was not going to be to play Mr. Nice Guy. It was going to be as vicious as possible, and that drove the strategy. The second part of our strategy was to get control of the air first and foremost, which we did not do in Vietnam.”
Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson.
The result was a prolonged air campaign that set up a short but decisive ground campaign. As the air war kicked off the first night of Desert Storm, Horner watched from the tactical air control center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as coalition aircraft flew north. At first, he wasn’t completely confident about how successful the attack would be or the cost it would take in aircraft and personnel.
However, Horner knew it was going well when he saw CNN’s live feed from Baghdad disappear. As CNN’s television satellite transmission equipment was not allowed entry into the highly controlled, secretive, authoritarian state, they had to transmit through antennas atop the ATT building in downtown Baghdad. It was the same building that housed Iraq’s air defense operations and from which communications emanated from Iraq’s air command control system. It was the target of one of the first bombs dropped from U.S. planes. When CNN reporter Peter Arnett went off the air at the precise moment the strike was scheduled, cheers went through the air operations center, Horner said. If CNN was off the air, so was Iraq’s air defense system.
“So as the sun came up the next morning and all of our airplanes were coming home except one, we became aware that this was going to go a lot better than even the best critics thought it might,” Horner said.
By Feb. 23, the air campaign was mostly complete and coalition ground forces swiftly drove the Republican Guard from Kuwait and advanced into Iraq, forcing a ceasefire within 100 hours. Desert Storm was won at a much lower cost than even in the most optimistic prognostications, with 148 Americans killed in action and another 145 non-battle deaths. The Defense Intelligence Agency numbered the Iraqi casualties at about 100,000, although later the figure was disputed to be more in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.
Horner said bombing campaign proved most productive attacking Republican Guard and armor units because Hussein depended on them to retain power. The attacks to gain control of the air, coupled with medium-altitude operations, air-to-air excellence and defense suppression attacks were also effective, he said.
“When the ground war started, I expected rapid gains given the fact that we had reduced the Iraqi ground units to a level of ‘not combat ready,’ using our Army’s definition,” Horner said. “What surprised most of us was the surrender rate. That was beyond our expectations. Once I became certain, early in the war, that our losses were manageable, I knew the ground war would go well, but I underestimated how well.”
Horner, who co-wrote his account of the air war with the late Tom Clancy in “Every Man a Tiger,” gives much of the credit for the training of the force he led during Desert Storm to Creech and Marine Corps Gen. George B. Crist, Schwarzkopf’s predecessor as CENTCOM commander-in-chief, who both placed great importance on making training as close to real world as possible. They led the push for more realistic exercises, an emphasis on aircraft maintenance, bomb scores, and the right tactics, which all came together during Desert Storm.
A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm.
Another lesson from Crist that played into Horner’s strategy was to force decisions down to the lowest level and hold those people responsible. Horner saw the benefits of that policy during a meeting with a munitions technical sergeant. Horner was visiting the bomb dock where munitions were built and saw the NCO sitting on a dust-covered wooden crate, and he asked him how things were going and if he was running into any problems.
“He said, ‘Well, those dumb guys in Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), meaning me, told me one day to load 2,000-pound bombs on each F-16,” Horner said, smiling. “Those dummies didn’t know that I didn’t have any 2,000-pound bombs, so I went ahead and put four 1,000-pound bombs on each of the airplanes, and the mission flew. If he had not been empowered, all he had to do was say I don’t have two 2,000-pound bombs, and we would have never gotten those two planes off. It was empowerment that made the difference, and that was one of the secrets we saw in Desert Storm.”
F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Iraq’s air force was almost non-existent during Desert Storm. Hussein hoped to wait out the coalition bombardment, which he didn’t expect would last more than four or five days. As a result, gaining control of the air almost immediately allowed the coalition forces to interdict supply lines and degrade command and control links, according to a GlobalSecurity.org article. Air supremacy also drastically destroyed the will of the Iraqi army; they surrendered in droves when the ground war began 38 days later.
Aside from the superior training that was on display during Desert Shield and Storm, Horner believes another legacy of the first war in the Gulf was the technological advances it put on display for the Air Force.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
“I think the American public and the world were amazed at the technology that was exposed by Desert Storm,” he said. “The stealth of the F-117 and its ability to go anywhere in heavily defended areas of the world and carry out its mission with absolute precision, the training of our air-to-air combat people and the ability to defeat a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile threat all came into play, and they weren’t appreciated because of our experiences in previous wars such as Vietnam. It served us very well and created an illusion that we were more successful than we really were. But I’ll accept that.”
The moment newly-arrived Marines entered the jungles of Vietnam, they were faced with a question from the most persistent recruiter. The call of the Blue-Eared Barbet, a bird indigenous to southeast Asia and beyond, has a distinctive, high-pitched warble:
In the elephant grass, there lives a bird whose call sounds like reeeuhuuup, and of course Marines call it the RE-Up Bird. As I am sure you know, re-up means to re-enlist, an idea not popular with the Marines over here.
It was the question no one was ready to answer right away. Luckily for the soldiers and Marines in the Vietnamese jungles, night time brought out the Tokay Gecko, who had the perfect answer to the Re-Up Bird.
Yes, the nocturnal lizard’s own distinctive call earned it a nickname as well. And the nights in the central highlands of Vietnam were filled with the refrain of this continual question-and-answer game.
Elbert Franklin Evans recounted his earliest encounters with Vietnam’s nighttime sign-countersign between the Barbet and the Gecko in his 1997 book, “Night On The Perimeter:”
“I heard the snickers from the soldiers on the bunker on my left. They enjoyed this jungle sonata, which echoed their own sentiments. Re-up? F*** you. You found humor in unlikely places in the bush, and this small bit of humor was peculiarly calming.”
Vietnam veteran John Podlaski writes extensively about the sounds of the jungle at night on his blog, which is named after his book, “Cherries, a Vietnam War story,” about his 1970 deployment to the country.
Also known as “Washington’s Birthday,” Feb. 16 is now known as a federal holiday to honor all U.S. presidents. Military service is not a prerequisite to be President of the United States, but plenty had it on their resume when they took the oath of office.
We took a look back at four ex-commanders-in-chief throughout history and found the ones with the craziest war stories. Here they are.
President George Washington secretly planned an icy river crossing on Christmas day before surprise attacking enemy forces.
It was the winter of 1776 and then-Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army — low on morale after a series of defeats at the hands of the British — desperately needed a victory to prove their revolution would not be short-lived.
On Dec. 26, 1776, they got it. After secretly crossing the Delaware River the previous night with approximately 2,400 troops, Washington pulled off a daring raid on Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, N.J.
The freezing and tired Continental Army assembled on the Jersey shore without any major debacles. Once ready, Washington led his army on the road to Trenton. It was there that he secured the Continental Army’s first major military victory of the war. Without the determination, resiliency, and leadership exhibited by Washington while crossing the Delaware River the victory at Trenton would not have been possible.
He kept the operation completely secret — even from his own men — and eventually captured nearly 1,000 Hessian fighters, at the cost of just four of his own men, according to The History Channel.
With just four or five men, Teddy Roosevelt led a daring charge up a heavily-defended hillside.
Teddy Roosevelt was serving as the assistant secretary of the Navy at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, but he resigned his position to get himself out from behind a desk and into the fight. He organized and led a diverse mix of western cowboys, Native Americans, blacks, and easterners into the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry — better known as the “Rough Riders” — that later took Cuba’s San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898 from 500 Spanish defenders who had held off previous attacks throughout the day, according to The History Channel.
Mr. Roosevelt later said that the “charge itself was great fun” and “we had a bully fight.” He was nominated for a Medal of Honor, though he did not receive it during his lifetime. The battle buoyed his political career, as he won the governorship of New York in 1899, was elected vice president in 1900 and became president in 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley.
Although his nomination for the Medal of Honor was rejected at the time (The American Legion’s Burn Pit has an interesting look at the reasons why), Roosevelt finally received his recognition on Jan. 16, 2001 from President Bill Clinton. Roosevelt remains the only president to receive the nation’s highest award.
“Facing the enemy’s heavy fire, he displayed extraordinary bravery throughout the charge, and was the first to reach the enemy trenches, where he quickly killed one of the enemy with his pistol, allowing his men to continue the assault,” his citation reads. “His leadership and valor turned the tide in the Battle for San Juan Hill.”
After his small patrol boat was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer, John F. Kennedy saved the lives of his men and survived in enemy territory.
As a Navy lieutenant in charge of a patrol torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands, John F. Kennedy and his men were tasked with engaging and (hopefully) damaging Japanese destroyers that were supplying enemy troops. On the moonless night of Aug. 1, 1943 however, it was Kennedy’s PT-109 that was damaged — or more specifically — it was sliced in half.
The destroyer, later identified as the Amagiri, struck PT-109 just forward of the forward starboard torpedo tube, ripping away the starboard aft side of the boat. The impact tossed Kennedy around the cockpit. Most of the crew were knocked into the water. The one man below decks, engineer Patrick McMahon, miraculously escaped, although he was badly burned by exploding fuel.
After he personally recovered some of his men and helped them to a nearby island — including towing a wounded sailor using a life-vest strap clenched in his teeth — Kennedy would later swim out from shore and to other nearby islands to look for food, fresh water, and American patrols.
They finally reached Cross Island (which was thought to be Nauru Island) and met up with some natives who agreed to pass a message along for them. On a coconut shell, Kennedy carved out: “Nauro Isl. Commander. Native knows posit. He can pilot. 11 alive need small boat. Kennedy.”
Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for the incident, along with the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained, according to the JFK Library. He later tried to downplay his role in the incident, as his chance for heroism “was involuntary,” he quipped, according to The Smithsonian. “They sank my boat.”
After getting hit by anti-aircraft fire that set his plane’s engine on fire, George H.W. Bush still finished his bombing mission and then bailed out in the Pacific.
On Sep. 2, 1944, then-Lt. George H.W. Bush and his squadron was conducting a bombing mission on a Japanese installation on the island of Chichi Jima when they were attacked by anti-aircraft fire. The 20-year-old Bush, piloting a Grumman TBM Avenger, continued with the mission despite the damage to his aircraft.
With him on the mission were two men — Radioman 2nd Class John Delaney and Lt. Junior Grade William White. Their aircraft was struck by intense anti-aircraft fire on the mission. With the cockpit filling with smoke and with Bush expecting the plane to explode at any minute, he completed his bombing run, flew as far as he could over the water, instructed the two men to bail out, and then parachuted out of the aircraft.
After ditching his aircraft, Bush survived for roughly four hours in a life raft before he was picked up by a Navy submarine, according to The History Channel. The only one rescued on that day, the future president would later receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery. The rest of his squadron however, suffered a gruesome fate at the hands of the Japanese, as James Bradley uncovered in his book “Flyboys.”
The US military is sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force to Iran. There is a ton of firepower heading that way.
The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which consists of the carrier and its powerful carrier air wing, as well as one cruiser and four destroyers, is moving into the region with an unspecified number of B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers, according to US Central Command.
These assets, according to US Central Command, are being deployed in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” This is in addition to strategic assets already in the area.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
Aircraft carrier: USS Abraham Lincoln
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, previously described aircraft carriers as “tremendous expression of US national power.” A carrier strike group is an even stronger message. “CSGs are visible and powerful symbols of U.S. commitment and resolve,” US European Command said in a statement on May 7, 2019.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, a mobile sea-based airfield, is the lead ship for the carrier strike group that bears its name and is outfitted with a highly capable carrier air wing.
Carrier air wing: fighters, electronic-attack aircraft, early-warning aircraft, and rotary aircraft
Carrier Air Wing Seven consists of F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, and a number of rotary aircraft from multiple squadrons capable of carrying out a variety of operational tasks.
The USS Leyte Gulf.
(US Navy photo)
Cruiser: USS Leyte Gulf
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are multi-role warships that run heavily armed with 122 vertical-launch-system (VLS) cells capable of carrying everything from Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles to surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine-warfare rockets.
The USS Mason.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anna Wade)
4 destroyers: USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason, and USS Nitze
Like the larger cruisers, destroyers are also multi-mission vessels. Armed with 90 to 96 VLS cells, these ships have air-and-missile defense capabilities, as well as land-attack abilities.
Early in the Trump presidency, two US Navy destroyers devastated Shayrat Airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to punish the Syrian regime in the aftermath of a chemical-weapons attack.
The B-52 with all its ammunition.
(US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert Horstman)
The B-52 is a subsonic high-altitude bomber capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads. These hard-hitting aircraft can carry up to 70,000 pounds of varied ordnance and can be deployed to carry out various missions, including strategic attack, close air support, air interdiction, and offensive counter-air and maritime operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.
CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview
“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”
During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.
“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”
Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)
The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.
Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.
“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.
Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.
“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)
During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.
He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.
“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”
With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.
Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)
“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”
In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.
He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.
“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”
After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.
Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.
In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)
Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.
“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”
Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.
“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”
With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.
Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)
That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.
As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”
Oil prices were driven higher for the third consecutive day on July 26, 2018, after Saudi Arabia closed a strategic shipping lane in the Red Sea following an attack on two of its large oil-tankers by Iranian backed Houthi fighters.
Brent crude oil futures rose 0.6% to $74.35 per barrel on July 26, 2018, at 6 48 GMT, after a gain of 0.7%, and US oil reserves fell to a three and a half year low, Reuters reported .
US West Texas Crude futures were also up 5 cents to $69.35 to the barrel.
“The announcement this morning that the Saudis have closed some shipping lanes in the Gulf because of rebel Houthi attacks also gives the bulls something to launch off,” Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, told Reuters.
On July 26, 2018, Saudi Arabia said it was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb shipping lane after the two tankers were attacked, closing off a vital export channel for the world’s largest oil producer.
Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister said in a statement that the two oil tankers, each carrying two million barrels of oil, had been attacked and one sustained minimal damage.
“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” said the minister.
Much of the Crude oil that leaves Saudi Arabia to the North West via the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline is first shipped through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which passes close to Yemen.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, around 4.6 million barrels of crude and refined petroleum exports per day flowed through the Strait in 2016, headed towards Europe, Asia and the United States.
The Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and Djibouti is just 20km wide, making shipping vulnerable to attack from the Houthis in war-torn Yemen. The Iranian backed Houthis have been fighting a Saudi-Arabian led coalition in a bloody civil war in Yemen for around three years, with the Saudi’s exports presenting a strategic target.
The latest disruption is another impact of a conflict which has cost around 50,000 lives through famine and war, which the US and UK have fueled through arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.
In the opening days of the 2003 Iraq War, automated Patriot Missile batteries downed a British Tornado fighter, killing both pilots. A few days later, another Patriot shot down an American F/A-18 over Southern Iraq, killing that pilot. The people manning the automated missile launchers trusted that the system would work as advertised. Why didn’t it?
Benjamin Lambeth wrote in his exhaustive Iraq memoir The Unseen Warthat “many allied pilots believed that the Patriot posed a greater threat to them than did any [surface-to-air missile] in Iraq’s inventory.”
“The Patriots scared the hell out of us,” one F-16 pilot remarked. In one case an Air Force pilot actually fired a HARM anti-radar missile at a Patriot battery, destroying its radar dish. No one in the Patriot crew was hurt, and the airman said, “they’re now down one radar. That’s one radar they can’t target us with any more.”
When asked if the error was human or mechanical, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, then-director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said “I think it may be both.”
A software malfunction in 2008 caused US. Army robots to aim at friendly targets. No one was killed because a human was at the trigger. Those robots were still in Iraq with troops as of 2009.
An analysis of the U.S. Navy’s own data on the development of automated weapons says “with hundreds of programmers working on millions of lines of code for a single war robot, no one has a clear understanding of what’s going on, at a small scale, across the entire code base.”
An Air Force unit called the Human Trust and Interaction Branch — that interaction being between humans an automated equipment — based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is looking to study this interaction to develop new types of recon and intelligence tools via a propose research contract called “Trust in Autonomy for Human Machine Teaming.”
On FedBizOpps (the official government contracting website with a domain name as trustworthy as any payday lender) the Air Force listed a contract for research in understanding “the most significant components driving trust and performance within human-robotic interaction. We need research on how to harness the socio-emotional elements of interpersonal team/trust dynamics and inject them into human-robot teams.”
The $7.5 million contract listing continues with this: “These human-machine teaming dynamics can involve research studying the interplay of individual differences, machine characteristics, robot design, robot interaction patterns, human-machine interaction, and contextual facets of human-machine teaming.”
In plain language, the research is focused on how humans use machines, when they trust the machines and when they don’t. In the cases of when Patriot missiles shot down friendly pilots, an automated system notified the human crews via a popup that warned the machine would fire if no one stopped it. When no one did, the Patriot intercepted the allied aircraft, just as programmed.
The Air Force contract is another example of the military “not knowing what’s going on.” As the Air Force explores our trust issues with robots, the Navy is warning us that “early generations of such [automated] systems and robots will be making mistakes that may cost human lives.”
Humans do come to trust their machines. Previous studies found that humans will bond with machines. U.S. Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians have been found to form emotional attachments to their bomb-disposal robots. They are awarded homemade medals and given names, ranks, and sometimes funerals. This level of trust could be misplaced as the bots are armed and the stakes of malfunctioning become higher.
Other current automated units in the U.S. military arsenal include Air Force Predator and Reaper drones, the Navy’s Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, the Army’s tracked, unmanned ground vehicle called TALON (or SWORDS) and the Marines’ unmanned ground vehicle called the Gladiator.
Recent news about the increased ability of machines to deceive their human masters and the warnings from the scientific and computing community about the overdevelopment of artificial intelligence (AI) as weapons don’t seem to be a concern, even though the Army is developing an automated RoboSniperCopter and is trying to remove humans from the battlefield altogether. This 2013 Gizmodo piece listed the robots debuted for the Army at a Fort Benning “Robotics Rodeo,” featuring an entry from the company who brought you the Roomba:
Major commercial and scientific computer experts believe AI weaponry would be the third revolution of warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. An open letter from this community expressed the concern that unchecked arms races of automated death robots would result in drones becoming the new AK-47 (presumably meaning cheap, deadly and ubiquitous).
The UN is urging the world’s nations to ban the development of automated weapons, citing the “legal and ethical questions” the use of such a weapon would raise.The aforementioned U.S. Navy report recommended building a “warrior’s code” into the weapons to keep them from killing us all once Skynet becomes self-aware.
Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.
He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.
“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.
“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’
“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.
It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.
Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.
“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.
He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.
“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.
The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.
For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.
The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.
Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.
“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.
The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.
“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”
He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.
Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.
“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.