U.S. Army weapons officials will not evaluate an improved version of the service’s Cold War-era 9mm pistol, choosing instead to search for a more modern soldier sidearm.
In early December, Beretta USA, the maker of the U.S. military’s M9 pistol for 30 years, submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program — an effort to replace the M9 with a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.
The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, Beretta USA officials said.
But by late December, it was all over for Beretta’s engineering change proposal for the M9. The Army’s Configuration Control Board decided not to evaluate the M9A3, according to a source familiar with the decision.
The move clears the way for the Army to release a pending request for proposal that will launch the MHS competition.
Program Executive Office Soldier would not comment for this story until Army Public Affairs has approved a statement, PEO Soldier spokesman Doug Graham said Thursday night.
The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.
Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017, according to PEO Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.
The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.
The effort is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a new pistol caliber.
Beretta USA officials said they have not received official notification of the Army’s decision.
“Obviously, they didn’t take a whole lot of time on this,” said Gabriele De Plano, vice president of military marketing and sales for Beretta USA, reacting to the news of the Army’s pre-Christmas decision after the M9A3’s December 10 unveiling.
Army officials “didn’t ask a single question; didn’t ask for a single sample” for evaluation, De Plano said.
The Army maintains that the M9 design does not meet the MHS requirement. Soldiers have complained of reliability issues with the M9. One problem has to do with the M9’s slide-mounted safety. During malfunction drills, the shooter often engages the lever-style safety by accident, Army weapons officials say.
The M9A3’s “over-center safety lever” can be configured to act as a de-cocker, a change that eliminates the accidental safety activation, De Plano said.
As part of the joint requirement process for MHS, Army weapons officials did a “very thorough cost-benefit analysis” that supported the effort, Army weapons officials said. The old fleet of M9s is costing the Army more to replace and repair than to buy a new service pistol, officials said.
The M9A3 is not a perfect pistol, De Plano says, but the Army should at least evaluate it.
The M9 pistol can be “improved for hundreds of millions less than a new MHS pistol,” De Plano said. “We can sell them this new pistol for less than the M9 pistol.”
Beretta currently has an open contract for M9s that the Army awarded in September 2012 for up to 100,000 pistols. Deliveries of about 20,000 have been scheduled, leaving 80,000 that could be ordered in the M9A3 configuration for less than the cost of the current M9, De Plano said.
“Why not do a dual-path like they have done in other cases,” De Plano said.
The Army was determined to do just that when it set out to search for a replacement for the M4 carbine. The service launched a competition to evaluate commercially available carbines while, at the same time, it evaluated improvements to the M4.
Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize heroic actions by service members in combat.
But they were created on the heels of serious controversy over other awards.
During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the awards were seen as questionable by some. Perhaps the most egregious of these was the case of the 27th Maine Regiment.
According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men of this regiment were awarded the medal en masse due to a poorly-worded order by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.
So, in 1917, there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total 911 Medals of Honor were revoked, including those from the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to make sure that the Medal of Honor would not be so frivolously awarded in the future, while still recognizing gallantry in action.
As America entered World War I, it was obvious there would be acts of valor. So Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (Which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to address valor that didn’t rise to the level of the Medal of Honor. It was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a host of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for valor or for other meritorious actions.
So, what sort of courageous actions warrant which medal? Perhaps one indicator of today’s standards can come from the sample citations in SECNAV Instruction 1650.1H.
Historically, though, it should be noted that in the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for making ace (an Air University bio reports that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).
Or, one can look at the actions of Leigh Ann Hester to get a good idea of what would warrant a Silver Star.
Family Readiness Groups are a mainstay in military communities. They keep the masses informed, throw awkward parties in which everyone can meet and they’re a great way to keep everyone in touch, including family members who are not on post.However, if you’ve never been to one of their events — sometimes where the fun is *forced*, you may be in for a surprise. Take a look at these memes that perfectly describe your first go-around with these right-of-passage events.
Whether you want to or not, you’ll be there
Welcome to the world of being voluntold.
2. When they say it’s not mandatory but it really is
We all know how to read between the lines.
3. When you show up wondering if it’s booze friendly or not
May the odds be ever in your favor.
4. Then you get there and there are no recognizable faces
But what’s your last name? I don’t know faces.
5. When they ask for more helpers
Who’s down to give some time?
6. You might be diving in deep
Welcome to the team.
7. When they get down to the informational portion
Be sure to take notes in pencil.
8. When the meeting is a pop-up and no one told you
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicization of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US, and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.
“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”
However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.
David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, said it was “disconcerting” that Trump appeared to have come to a conclusion about Iran before finding the intelligence to back it up.
“It stands the intelligence process on its head,” Cohen told CNN. “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicized in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”
In another move reminiscent of the Iraq debacle, the US administration is putting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be more aggressive in its demands to investigate military sites in Iran, just as George W Bush’s team pushed for ever more intrusive inspections of Saddam Hussein’s military bases and palaces.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited IAEA headquarters in Vienna to press the agency to demand visits to Iran’s military sites. Haley described IAEA inspectors as “professionals and true experts in their field”.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites, but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”
Unlike the case of Iraq and the Bush administration, where there were deep divisions in the US intelligence community over the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is now a general consensus among US intelligence and foreign intelligence agencies, the state department, the IAEA and the other five countries that signed the JCPOA, as well as the European Union, that there is no significant evidence that Iran has violated its obligations under the deal. Tehran scaled down its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear fuel stockpiles soon after the deal was signed in Vienna.
However, Trump, who denigrated the agreement throughout his election campaign, has appeared determined to torpedo it.
On July 17, the latest deadline for presidential certification of the JCPOA deal required by Congress, the announcement was postponed for several hours, while Trump’s senior national security officials dissuaded the president from a last-minute threat not to sign.
“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on July 25. He hinted it was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had persuaded him to certify the agreement.
“Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply,” the president said. “And so we’ll see what happens… But, yeah, I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”
Trump said his administration was doing “major” and “detailed” studies on the issues.
Richard Nephew, who was principal duty coordinator for sanctions policy in the Obama administration state department and a member of the team that negotiated the JCPOA said government agencies were producing such studies all the time. He said the difference under the Trump administration was that they were being told the conclusions should be.
“Behind the scenes, there is a huge machine that is pumping up reports and updates and status checks for the administration and Congress,” Nephew, now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said. “You have intelligence officers and analysts in a bunch of agencies who spend literally every day scrubbing every single report they have got of what is going on inside Iran trying to find instances of non-compliance.
“What I suspect is happening now is that those intel officers have been asked to go to the cutting room floor, [and are being asked:] ‘What have you forgotten? What have you discounted? What have you said doesn’t really fit and not really relevant?’
“I actually think that’s healthy if it’s an honest question,” Nephew said, but he added: “It seems there is a faction within the administration that is trying to lay the basis for getting out [of the agreement] on the basis of cooked books.”
He predicted that intelligence analysts would resign if they were pushed too hard.
“The intelligence community learned the lessons of Iraq hard,” Nephew said. “And the analysts I know who are attached to this effort I am quite convinced would resign and resign loudly before they would allow… their words to be twisted and turned the way it happened with Iraq.”
Robert Malley, who was a senior US negotiator at the nuclear talks with Iran, said that the Trump administration was discounting the information it was getting from its agencies because it viewed them as the “deep state” or “Obama holdovers.” But Malley predicted it would be harder for Trump to ignore the reservations of US intelligence and US allies and drive towards confrontation with Iran than it was for George Bush to go to war in Iraq.
“The main difference is that Iraq has already happened, which means that both the American public and the international community have seen a similar movie before, and therefore might well react differently than the way they reacted the last time around,” he said.
The other principal avenue of attack on the JCPOA being pursued by the Trump administration has focused on the question of inspections of Iranian military sites. Under the agreement, the IAEA can present evidence of suspect activity at any site to Iran and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not accepted by the IAEA, Tehran would have two weeks to negotiate terms of access for the agency inspectors. If the Iranian government refuses, a joint commission of JCPOA signatories could vote to force access, andIran would have three days to comply.
“There is a mechanism, a very detailed one and one of the issues we spent the most time on in negotiation,” Malley said. But he added: “There are people on the outskirts of the administration, and who are pushing hard on the Iran file, saying they should be allowed to ask for inspection at any sensitive site for no reason whatsoever, in order to test the boundaries of the agreement.”
During her visit to Vienna, Haley suggested that Iran’s past practice of using military sites for covert nuclear development work was grounds for suspicion. But Laura Rockwood, a former legal counsel in the IAEA’s safeguards department (which carries out inspections), said the US or any other member state would have to provide solid and contemporaneous evidence to trigger an inspection.
“If the US has actionable intelligence that is useful for the IAEA to take into account, and I mean actual and honest intelligence, not fake intel that they tried to use in 2003, then I think the agency will respond to it,” Rockwood, who is now executive director of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said. “But if they try to create evidence or if they try to pressure the agency into simply requesting access because they can, I think it will backfire.”
Some analysts, however, believe that the Obama administration was too willing to let Iranian infractions slide and that a more skeptical view of the agreement and implementation is overdue.
“Asking the system for knowledge of violations is different than asking anyone to falsify them,” said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. “This is a highly technical subject and the Obama administration downplayed and even hid violations and problems. So, there is a need to establish the true situation and ensure decision makers understand these issues. Spinning this as equivalent to Iraqi WMD claims is not only unfair but highly inaccurate. Certainly, the pro-JCPOA advocates would love to do that.”
Any Iranian objections to new inspections could be cited by Trump if he carries out his threat to withhold certification of the JCPOA in October. It would then be up to the US Congress whether to respond with new sanctions, and then Trump would have to sign them into law, in potential violation of the agreement. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that elements of the program that had been stopped under the agreement could be resumed “within hours” if the US walked out.
Ultimately, Tehran and the other five national signatories to the agreement would have to decide whether to try to keep the deal alive without US participation. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested over the weekend that if the other signatories remained committed, Iran would continue to observe the deal. It is an issue that would split Europe from the US, likely leaving the UK perched uneasily in the middle.
“As a practical matter, you’re not going to have the rest of the international community, you’re not going to have our allies in Europe, you’re certainly not going to have the Russians and the Chinese coming along with us to reimpose real pressure on the Iranians,” Cohen said. “So you’ll have this fissure between the United States and essentially the rest of the world in trying to reinstate pressure on Iran.”
DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”
If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.
Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.
Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.
If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.
“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.
“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”
Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.
Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:
In London’s Westminster Abby there is St. George’s Chapel, where on one of the chapel’s walls hangs the Commando Association Battle Honors flag that lists where the Commandos fought and died during World War II from 1940 to 1945.
Under the word COMMANDO in gold letters is a stylized portrayal of a singular knife – the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
Soldiers throughout history have always carried blades as weapons and as tools. Yet, no other knife is more commonly associated with WW II elite forces or possesses more mystique than the Fairbairn-Sykes knife.
Commonly referred to as the “F-S knife” or “F-S dagger,” it is still issued to British Royal Marine Commandos, the Malaysian Special Operations Force, Singapore Commandos and Greek Raiders. In addition, the image of the knife is part of the emblem of the United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) as well as the emblems of special forces units in Holland, Belgium and Australia.
Yet, it is a weapon born out the experience of dealing with 1930’s knife fights in Shanghai and developed by two men who had no scruples about dirty fighting. In fact, William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught an entire generation of warriors that one of the quickest, quietest and deadliest ways to kill Germans was cold steel thrust into Nazi vitals – preferably from behind.
“The Commando dagger would become a symbol not just to the men who were issued it, but also to British civilians at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and any deadly way to strike back at the Germans was considered a boost for morale,” wrote Leroy Thompson is his book Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger.
Whether it was the Roman pugio (a short-bladed dagger that served as a legionnaire’s backup weapon), bowie knives wielded on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, or the “knuckle duster” trench knives of the Great War, soldiers have always carried blades for use in close-quarters fighting.
However, from the late 19th century until World War II many European generals thought it was unseemly for soldiers to bring personal knives into combat. Some thought it would reduce reliance on the bayonet and diminish the fighting spirit of soldiers.
Other commanders deemed rough-and-tumble knife fighting downright “ungentlemanly” – there’s a reason why betrayal is often called a “stab in the back.” Killing face-to-face with the bayonet was considered the more honorable way to dispatch the enemy.
However, the beginning of World War II reinvigorated belief in the close-combat knife as an essential weapon.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was less fussy about how British troops killed the soldiers of the Third Reich. He placed great stock in commando forces, covert operations, and what he called “ungentlemanly warfare.”
The newly created Special Operations Executive taught knife-fighting as part of agents’ training. So did the British Commandos and airborne forces.
That meant there was a demand for a specific kind of knife that would be used to quietly kill the enemy, preferably in a surprise attack.
“In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife,” Fairbairn wrote in his manual Get Tough! How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting (1942). “An entirely unarmed man has no certain defense against it, and, further, merely the sudden flashing of a knife is frequently enough to strike fear into your opponent, causing him to lose confidence and surrender.”
Fairbairn would have known: During his 20-year career with the Shanghai Municipal Police, he fought in hundreds of street fights against assailants armed with knives and daggers. His friend and colleague Sykes served on the same police force and faced the same adversaries in what was at the time one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
In 1941, both men collaborated on the knife’s original design. Although the knife went through several variations during the war, it remained a double-edged stiletto well-balanced like a good sword and suited to thrusting and cutting more than slashing an opponent.
The models made by high-quality cutlers were manufactured from carbon steel so they could be honed razor sharp.
David W. Decker, a U.S. Navy veteran, knife-fighting expert, and collector of F-S knives, said a man trained in the use of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife learned confidence and aggression. In the hands of a properly-trained individual, it is a fearsome weapon.
“The knife has tremendous capacity for penetration of an enemy’s clothing, web gear and person,” Decker said. “A vital part of the training was the instruction in hitting lethal targets on the human body. Many of these targets had to be reached through the rib cage, so the slender blade was most efficient. The approximately seven-inch blade is capable of reaching all vital organs. Fluid in the hands, the grip was designed like that of a fencing foil to enhance the maneuverability of the knife.”
Another advantage of the F-S dagger was its ease of carry, said Decker, whose website chronicles the development of the knife and has photographs of many examples.
Relatively lightweight compared to other combat knives of the time, it was easily concealed or secured in a battle dress cargo pocket. Some men carried them strapped to their legs, tucked behind their pistol holster, or in a boot.
The needle-nosed point and razor-like edges of the dagger sometimes caused problems, Decker said. For example, one British commando could not pull the dagger out of the body of a German sentry because the knife was stuck in his ribs.
“At least one knife-maker was quoted as saying he made knives for stabbing Germans, not peeling potatoes,” Decker said, indicating some manufacturers made F-S knives with smooth edges so a soldier could remove the blade more easily from the enemy’s body.
Despite differences in quality and manufacture, the F-S knife gained popularity with both British and American soldiers during the war.
Members of the U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders carried versions of the knife. U.S. Army Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the 1st Special Service Force known as The Devil’s Brigade, based his design for the V-42 stiletto issued to his troops on the F-S knife.
Today, the F-S knife remains an iconic symbol on both sides of the Atlantic of what it means to qualify as an elite soldier.
At Fort Benning, Georgia, there is the Ranger Memorial. Behind two stone pillars holding a stylized Ranger tab are two smaller pillars and a knife sculpted in stone – a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.
Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.
“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicle in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.
The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters; this is about twice the range of existing .50-cal guns. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.
Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.
As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.
“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins,” Bassett said.
The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.
“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said. “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.
The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.
While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and overrun the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.
It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.
For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more on the immediate future.
Air Force legend Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager turned 93 this year, but don’t let that milestone fool you into believing that he’s too old to be tech-savvy. A couple of years ago he started to tweet about his exploits during his long flying career, which spanned more than sixty years. Here’s an example:
My friend, James “Jimmy” Doolittle, was born on December 14, 1896 in Alameda, California. He promoted me to 2nd lt. then Captain during WWII
Reading General Yeager’s tweets is like looking back at his life, and what an amazing life it’s been. Here are a few reasons why the private who rose to become a general just might be the greatest military pilot ever.
1. He enlisted to be a mechanic. Within two years, he was a pilot.
In September 1941, 18-year-old Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an an aircraft mechanic. His eyesight and natural flying ability earned him a Flight Officer (Warrant Officer equivalent) slot at Luke Field, Arizona. By November 1943, he was in England flying P-51 Mustangs against the Nazi Luftwaffe.
Mar 4, 1944. 72 years ago today, WWII, I shot down my 1st enemy a/c. (Also my 2nd but did not get credit). — Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) March 4, 2016
2. After being shot down, he aided the French Resistance.
Yeager was shot down over France in March 1944 on his eighth air mission. He taught the Maquis (as the French Resistance was called) to make homemade bombs, a skill he learned from his dad. Yeager escaped to Spain through the Pyrenees with their help. He also helped another airman, who lost a leg, escape with him.
Visited w/ some WWII Maquis who saved my life. They reminded me I helped them blow up bridges by fixing the fuses… http://t.co/Ti3oXbnJUW
During WWII, pilots who were helped by resistance groups during evasion couldn’t return to air combat in the same theater. The reason was that if they pilot were downed and captured, he could reveal information about the resistance. Since the Allies were already in France and the Maquis were openly fighting against the Nazis, Yeager argued there was little the he could reveal that the Nazis would learn. Eisenhower agreed and returned him to flying status.
Jan 16, 1944 – Gen Eisenhower took command of Allied invasion force in UK.He’s the 1 let me back on combat after being shot down o’er France — Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) January 17, 2016
4. Yeager downed five enemies in a single mission. Two of those without firing a shot.
On October 12, 1944, he flew into firing position against a Messerschmitt BF-109 when the enemy pilot panicked, broke to starboard and collided with his wingman. Both pilots bailed out.
5. He scored one of the first kills against jet aircraft.
The German ME-262 was the second jet-powered fighter aircraft. It didn’t appear in the war until mid-1944, too late to make a difference in air superiority. It was still able to take down more than 500 allied fighters, however. Not before Yeager took down two ME-262s. He finished WWII with at least 11 kills and the rank of captain.
When the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, Yeager stayed in and became a test pilot at what would become Edwards Air Force Base. He was one of the first U.S. pilots to fly a captured MiG-15 after its North Korean pilot defected to the South.
7. Yeager broke the sound barrier with two broken ribs
This is one of Yeager’s highest achievements. After civilian pilot “Slick” Goodin demanded $150,000 to do it, Yeager broke the sound barrier in an X-1 rocket-powered plane. The night before this flight, he fell off a horse and broke two ribs. Worried the injury would get him booted from the mission, he had a civilian doctor tape him up. The injury hurt so much he couldn’t close the X-1’s hatch. His fellow pilot Jack Ridley made a device with a broom handle that allowed Yeager to operate it. His plane was named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife.
After Scott Crossfield flew at twice the speed of sound in a U.S. Navy program, he was to be dubbed “the fastest man alive” during a celebration for the 50th anniversary of flight. Yeager and Ridley launcher what they called “Operation NACA Weep,” a personal effort to beat Crossfield’s speed. They did it in time to spoil the celebration.
9. He was cool under pressure.
On December 12, 1953, Yeager reach Mach 2.44 in a Bell X-1A. He lost control of the aircraft at 80,000 feet, unable to control the aircraft’s pitch, yawn, or roll. He dropped 51,000 feet in 51 seconds before regaining control and landing the plane without any further incident.
Q: General, what is the enemy plane you feared the most? A: None. — Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) September 7, 2013
10. He trained astronauts and test pilots.
Yeager was the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, producing astronauts and test pilots for the Air Force. Since Yeager only had a high school education, he could not be an astronaut, but he still trained to operate NASA vehicles and equipment.
11. He was the first pilot to eject in full compression gear and the story is epic.
He was flying a Lockheed NF-104 Starfighter, which is basically an F-104 attached to a rocket that would lift the plane to 140,000 feet. The pilots wore pressure suits like astronauts, training in weightlessness to work the thrusters used in space vehicles at the time. One morning, Yeager topped 104,000 feet but the air was still too thick to work the thrusters while Yeager’s 104 was still pitched up. He fell into a flat spin and started dropping back to Earth. He fell at 9,000 feet per minute in a spin. He deployed the craft’s chute to pitch the plane back down. Once he jettisoned the chute, the plane pitched back up. Since he couldn’t restart the engines and had no power, he ejected from the plane at 8,000 feet. His suit was covered in propellant and caught fire. The fire spread to the oxygen in his suit and turned the inside of his helmet into an inferno. His finger was broken, he was covered in burns, and he almost lost his left eye… but he still walked away from the crash.
Chuck Yeager-ism: Find what you like to do, earn a living at it, and then make your lifestyle fit your income. — Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) November 3, 2013
12. He flew combat missions in the Vietnam War.
In 1966, Yeager was a full-bird colonel in command of the 405th Fighter Wing in the Philippines. He flew 414 hours of combat time over Vietnam in 127 missions while training bomber pilots. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1969.
Q: General, which Wing in Vietnam, Sir? A: 405th. I had B-57s, F-100s, F-102s, F-4s. I liked the B-57s the best. — Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) September 8, 2013
13. After retiring, he continued to fly as a consultant for the Air Force.
Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975, and continued to work for the Air Force until 1995. President Reagan appointed him to the Rogers Commission, the body that investigated the 1986 Challenger Shuttle disaster. He continued to break light aircraft speed and endurance records. Two years after his retiring from flight, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier by doing it again in an F-15D named Glamorous Glennis III.
Q: Isn’t flying expensive to learn for a profession. A: Uncle Sam will pay to teach you, if you’re willing to bleed a little. 🙂
The Marine Corps will now require most of its troops to wear a single camouflage uniform during both summer and winter months, changing a post-9/11-era rule that allowed Marines the option to don either a desert pattern uniform or a woodland one.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller addresses Marines wearing the woodland MARPAT cammie uniform. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
In a Corpswide administrative message issued Dec. 8, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller ordered most Marines at bases and stations in the U.S. and overseas to wear the green, brown and black woodland pattern camouflage uniform in all seasons.
Neller said in All Marine Corps Message 038/16 that Marines must wear their uniforms with the sleeves rolled down in the winter — marked by the end of daylight savings time — and rolled up in the warmer months when the clocks change again.
“This ALMAR prescribes the seasonal uniform change and applies to all Marines and Navy personnel serving with Marine Corps units,” Neller said. “The seasonal uniform transitions will occur semi-annually on the weekend in the Fall and Spring concurrent with change to and from Daylight Saving Time.”
The order does allow for commands to adapt to weather and missions that would make the desert cammies more appropriate for Marines to wear, including for Leathernecks in boot camp, in officer training or readying for deployment.
“MARFOR Commanders, due to the breadth of their area of responsibility, are authorized to set policy/guidance that may vary throughout their region, to include the adjustment of dates of transition and the respective [Marine combat uniform] for wear,” Neller said.
The new policy reverses a trend that began after Operation Iraqi Freedom and was officially adopted in 2008 to switch between the tan desert MARPAT uniform in the summer and the woodland green MARPAT in the winter months. Many Marines saw wearing the desert uniform on bases on installations in the U.S. and overseas as a tribute to their deployed brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The order also says Marines will wear the Service “B” uniform with long-sleeve shirt in the cooler months, with Service “C” short-sleeve uniform in the warmer months.
The order was to take effect for all Marine commands Dec. 8.
One minute you set your rifle down against a tree to go take a leak, the next minute you realize it’s nowhere to be found. Your rifle — the one thing you cannot lose during this training exercise — is missing. Here is what goes through your head in that moment:
Oh my God. Oh God. Oh no. I’m doomed. My life is over.
Well, maybe my platoon sergeant won’t notice.
If I just pray enough, it will appear and everything will be just fine.
Jones over there isn’t paying attention. Maybe I can steal his.
Crap, that won’t work. My rifle is serialized, so they are going to know it’s a different number.
Ok that’s it. I’ll fake an injury and tell the Lt. I fell down and my rifle was lost in a swamp.
No that’s not going to work. There are no swamps anywhere. Oh my God. Oh God. I’m doomed. My life is over.
The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”
Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.
One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.
In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.
Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.
“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”
What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.
Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.
“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.
However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.
In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.
Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”
Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.
“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.
Choi Son Hui, director general for North American Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, spoke briefly to reporters in Beijing en route to Pyongyang. She was traveling from Norway, where she led a delegation that held an informal meeting with former U.S. officials and scholars.
Choi did not elaborate on what the North’s conditions are, but her comments raise the possibility of North Korea and the U.S. returning to negotiations for the first time since 2008, when six-nation talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program fell apart.
Tensions have mounted in recent months after the Trump administration said it would keep “all options on the table” to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including a military strike. The North responded by pledging to retaliate with a devastating nuclear counterattack, a threat it has made in the past.
In recent weeks, North Korea has arrested two American university instructors and laid out what it claimed to be a CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim. Choi did not address the matter of the detained Americans on Saturday.
In Norway, Choi met with former U.S. officials and scholars for what are known as “track 2” talks. The talks, which cover a range of nuclear, security and bilateral issues, are held intermittently, and are an informal opportunity for the two sides to exchange opinions and concerns.