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

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

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

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

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

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

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

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

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

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

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Here’s what it took to pull off the Commander-in-Chief Forum

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Ward Carroll)


Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.

 

 

“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”

Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.

“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”

The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.

They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Ward Carroll)

“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.

“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”

Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.

“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.

In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.

“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”

And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.

“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Ward Carroll)

But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.

 

 

“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”

But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.

“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”

The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.

“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”

That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.

“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”

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9 bombers that can shoot down a fighter

When bombers beat fighters, it is very notable. But some bombers have more tools than others in an air-to-air fight. For instance, the F-105 shot down 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many thanks to its M61 cannon.


Here are some bombers that an enemy fighter would not want to get caught in front of.

1. De Havilland Mosquito

While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.

It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The Mosquito’s heavy armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannon is very apparent. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Douglas A-20G Havoc

During the Pacific War, Paul I. Gunn, also known as “Pappy” came up with the idea to make use of the extra .50-caliber machine guns that came from wrecked fighters. He put those on A-20 bombers.

Eventually his modifications were something that Douglas Aircraft began to put on the planes at the factory. The A-20G had six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose — the same firepower of a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat. Against a Zero, that would be a deadly punch. The A-20 later was used as the basis for the P-70, a night fighter armed with four 20mm cannon.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
A look at the nose of an A-20G Havoc. (USAAF Photo)

3. Douglas A-26B Invader

Designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, the Invader was equipped to carry up to 14 .50-caliber machine guns in its nose. Nope, not a misprint; this was the combined firepower of a P-47 and a P-51. That is more than enough to ruin the life of an enemy pilot who gets caught in front of this plane.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The A-26B Invader. Note the eight ,50-caliber machine guns in the nose. Six more were in the wings. (USAAF photo)

4. North American B-25J Mitchell

The medium bomber version of the B-25J was pretty much conventional, but another version based on the strafer modifications made by “Pappy” Gunn in the Southwest Pacific held 18 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One B-25, therefore, had the firepower of three F4U Corsairs.

Other versions of the B-25, the G and H models, had fewer .50-caliber machine guns, but added a 75mm howitzer in the nose.

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

5. Junkers Ju-88

Like the Allied planes listed above, the Ju-88 proved to be a very receptive candidate for heavy firepower in the nose. Some versions got four 20mm cannon and were equipped as night fighters. Others got two 37mm cannon and six 7.92mm machine guns, and were intended to kill tanks and/or bombers. Either way, it will leave a mark, even on the P-47.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Ju-88 in flight. Some were armed with two 37mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Vought A-7D/E Corsair

The A-7 Corsair is widely seen as an attack aircraft. It carries a huge bomb load, but the D (Air Force) and E (Navy) models also have a M61 Vulcan with a thousand rounds of ammo. While no Navy or Air Force Corsairs scored an air-to-air kill in the type’s service, if a plane or helicopter was caught in front of this bird, it wouldn’t last long.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
An A-7E Corsair from VA-72 during Operation Desert Shield. (U.S. Navy photo)

7. F-105D/F/G Thunderchief

The F-105 is probably the tactical bomber with the highest air-to-air score since the end of World War II. Much of this was due to its M61 Vulcan with 1,029 rounds of ammo. You know what Leo Thorsness did with his F-105 against a bunch of MiGs.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Republic F-105D in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

8. F-111 Aardvark

While it was an awesome strike aircraft that could still be contributing today, it is not that well known that the F-111 did have the option to carry a M61 cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of heat for whatever unfortunate plane is in front of it.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. A-10 Thunderbolt

Widely beloved for its use as a close-air support plane in Desert Storm and the War on Terror, the A-10’s GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be used against aerial targets. During Desert Storm, a pair of Iraqi helicopters found that out the hard way.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
BRRRRRT. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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Blinded by flak shrapnel, this airman helped save his B-17 crew

Radioman Sgt. Forrest Vosler thought he was going to die.


German fighters hit the B-17s and B-24s as they crossed the French coast, but it wasn’t that bad until they were over Bremen, Germany and Vosler’s Jersey Bounce and the rest of the 303rd Bomb Group began their runs. The flak was heavy. The formation’s escort fighters tried to keep the German fighters at bay, but the Luftwaffe pilots slipped into the contrails of the bombers and hit them from behind.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The B-17 Jersey Bounce.

“As soon as we got over the target, they smashed hell out of us,” Capt. Don Gamble, commander of the 303rd Bomb Group said.

Vosler’s B-17 was able to complete her bomb run but by then, there were holes in one wing, an engine was ablaze, and the plane had been knocked out of formation. As she pulled out to head home, a 20mm shell hit the plane’s tail. Shrapnel flew through the body of the plane and Vosler was hit in both legs. He huddled in his radioman’s chair for a few minutes, “terribly scared” and feeling the blood run down his legs, before realizing, as he later said, “This is stupid… I’ve got to do something to protect myself or I’m not going to make it.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The pin-up nose art on the Jersey Bounce.

Vosler, a western New York native, had volunteered for the Army Air Corps shortly after his nineteenth birthday, was picked for radio school and sent to Scott Air Field in Illinois and gunner school in Texas, then to England, and finally onto to Jersey Bounce for the Dec. 20, 1943 raid on Bremen factories.

At gunner school, he was told that, on a B-17, “everyone is a gunner.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The crew of Vosler’s Liberator.

Vosler moved to one of the Bounce’s empty guns and began firing, knocking off chunks of a fighter’s wing with his first burst. He kept firing and when his goggles steamed up, he flipped them back to continue. Just then, another 20mm shell hit the Bounce. Vosler was knocked away from his gun, sustaining multiple small wounds and more serious ones in his hand and chest.

“He was shrapnel from his forehead to his knees, everywhere,” Ball Turret Gunner Ed Ruppel recalled“There was blood all over him.” Vosler could see blood pouring through his right eye. The blood, he found out later, had been inside the eye.  

“I [thought] I had lost the whole side of my face… I thought I only had half a face,” he said.

He prayed.

“I became very content, very calm, very collected,” he said. “I no longer feared death, [and] I slowly realized that if God didn’t want to take me at that particular point, then I had to go on and do the best things I could do.”

Almost blind, he returned to his gun until the Jersey Bounce cleared Bremen and then began trying — by touch — to fix the radio that had been damaged in the fighting. Pilot Lt. John Henderson took the Bounce as low as he dared, and the crew busied itself throwing out anything they could to lighten the craft — including damaged guns, ammunition boxes, and seats. As they scoured the plane for material to jettison, Engineer Bill Simpkins passed the radio room where Vosler was working.

“I looked him right in the face,” Simkins said, “and I saw there was stuff dribbling down his right cheek from his eye. He was in a daze, groggy, visibly shook up. He wasn’t normal.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Forrest Vosler, the second enlisted Airman to earn the Medal of Honor.

As the Bounce cleared the French coast and flew over the North Sea, Vosler, having fixed the radio, began sending an SOS and then a holding signal so rescuers could find the plane. With England in sight, Lt. Henderson put down in the water. As the crew climbed out on the plane’s wings, Vosler grabbed wounded tail-gunner, George Buske, who was slipping into the water and held him until a raft could be deployed.

Vosler spent the next several months in the hospital, part of that time completely blind.

He lost his right eye, but he survived.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Retired serviceman Forrest T. Vosler, a World War II air mission Medal of Honor recipient, examines a medal during a memorial reunion of US Air Force Medal of Honor recipients.

Eight months later, in August 1944, he received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for, as his citation says, “extraordinary courage, coolness, and skill… when handicapped by injuries that would have incapacitated the average crewmember.”

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Navy standout safety says he’s transferring a month after pro policy change

An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.


Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.

“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.

A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stan Parker

The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.

Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.

“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.

Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell

It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.

Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.

So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.

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This movie taught 16,000 Soviet Army extras 150-year-old infantry moves

The 1970 movie “Waterloo” was one of the most intricately filmed war movies of all time. A story about Napoleon’s famous last stand could not be told accurately without battle scenes on a grand scale. But these were the days before CGI and other computer wizardry, so Dino De Laurentiis had to get the extras — lots of them.


To save on production costs, necessary to build everything seen in the movies – from palaces to artillery – De Laurentiis decided to film the movie in the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War. The USSR agreed to allow the filming of the movie in Ukraine and also gave access to Soviet men and equipment.
The Red Army offered up some 16,000 men to the filmmakers, along with honest-to-Lenin cavalry and civil engineers.  The civil engineers recreated the entire Waterloo battlefield, including roads, thousands of trees, and Belgian farmhouses. They even bulldozed a few hills, cultivated rye, barley, and wildflower fields, and piped in water via an irrigation system to recreate the mud of the battlefield.

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

Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk housed the troops in tents near the battlefield and trained them in the infantry tactics and weapons of the time, 1815. The men were able to grow their facial hair and live like Napoleonic-era troops. They were more than just glorified battle re-enactors, they became bona fide Napoleonic Warriors, learning drills as well as saber and bayonet tactics.

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

The total price tag of the film came to a whopping $40 million – $247 million adjusted for inflation. The resulting battle scenes are worth every penny. Aside from a few anachronisms, the battles are epic depictions of the French Empereur’s last 100 days.

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

Take that, Peter Jackson.

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The A-10 is getting a new mission in Europe: Countering Russia

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Photo: US Air force Chief Master Sgt. David L. Stuppy


PARIS — U.S. allies are happy to have the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft back in Europe to counter a resurgent Russia, airmen here at the Paris Air Show said.

The Defense Department brought the Cold War-era tank busters stateside in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But it sent them back to the continent as part of a theater security package earlier this year — including countries in the former Soviet bloc — in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists.

The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Romania, among other countries, according to crew members.

“It’s pretty amazing because that’s what this jet was designed for — Russian tanks — so it’s pretty wild that we’re helping them out for the original cause,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Nugent, a crew member who works on the aircraft’s avionics systems, said on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, held at the historic Le Bourget airfield outside the city.

“They’re small countries, they’re small forces, so seeing us out there with them,” he added. “They love it just as much as we love it — maybe a little more — so it’s pretty awesome. The way Russia’s been acting — it keeps people at ease on both sides.”

Tech. Sgt. Teddy McCollough, an A-10 weapons maintainer with the 355th Air Force Maintenance Squadron, agreed. “They absolutely love our presence there,” he said. “You can feel how gracious they are for us being there.”

About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departedDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force also deployed 12 F-15Es in March in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The units have traveled across Europe taking part in a wide range of exercises and working with NATO partners. U.S Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday at the Paris Air Show that the additional airmen and aircraft have helped reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.

NATO EXPERIENCE

A-10 pilots Capts. Joseph Morrin and Paul Wruck with the 354th Fighter Squadron said they have benefited from the time training with joint terminal air controllers from across NATO on calling in airstrikes.

“We get to do close air support training with our allies and get to see how they do business and show them how we do business, and all of us together as an overall CAS team get better,” Morrin said.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James this week at the show said the U.S. may also deploy a squadron of F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Europe in response to Russia’s actions.

“I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia and the activities of Russia, and indeed that’s a big part of why I’m here in Europe and having those discussions,” she said. “It’s extremely worrisome on what’s going on in the Ukraine. We’ve seen the type of warfare, which someone dubbed it hybrid warfare, which is somewhat new. So I would put that at the top of my list.”

The A-10 is known as the pre-eminent close air support aircraft in the U.S. fleet with its low, slow-flying gunship’s snub-nose packed with a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to shred the armor on tanks, combat vehicles and other targets.

As a weapons maintainer, McCollough is responsible for maintaining all weapons on the aircraft, including the gun, air-to-air AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and air-to-ground AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

“I love this aircraft,” he said. “I love the gun system. It’s reliable. It has few hiccups. When it does, it’s usually minor. It holds a lot of rounds, 1,150 rounds — that’s a lot. It’s a beast.” He added, “When they go and fly day-to-day missions, they usually do shoot, do some target practice. I just make sure it’s clean, lubed up and ready to go.”

A-10 RETIREMENT

The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.

Congress rejected the service’s request to begin the process of divesting the A-10 this year and approved $337 million in funding to keep them in the inventory. While lawmakers did allow the Air Force to move up to three dozen of the planes to back-up status, they blocked the service from sending any to the bone yard in Arizona.

Morrin said his unit tries not to get caught up in the debate and the politics surrounding the issue.

“We let them do the debating and we keep flying,” he said.

Morrin explained that the A-10 pilot community is still not sure what the potential retirement of the A-10 would mean for their careers. A-10 pilots have not been told what aircraft they would fly next, but there is hope that many would fly the F-35, Morrin said.

“We might have to go back to flight training for a while. We just really don’t know,” Morrin said. “They haven’t told us because it’s not official yet. It’s sort of the expectation though that since the F-35 is the future that we’d go there and then take our CAS knowledge to the table and make sure that community is well versed in it.”

BONE YARD

As the Air Force pushes to retire its fleet of A-10 attack aircraft, Boeing Co. doesn’t want the planes to waste away in the Arizona bone yard — it wants to sell them abroad.

The company has begun discussions with the service about potentially selling the Cold War-era gunship to U.S. allies, according to Chris Raymond, a vice president at the company.

“We need to see what they want to do first, and then we’d certainly want to try to help market some of those around the world, if they choose to want to do that,” he said.

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The story of the last American to die in World War II

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


The last American to die in World War II was killed three days after the war was over.

After Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945 — what would be called V-J Day (“Victory over Japan”) — the war in the Pacific ended just like it had started in 1941: with “a surprise attack by Japanese war planes,” wrote Stephen Harding in Air Space Magazine.

With just one other bomber alongside and no fighter escort, Army photographer Sgt. Anthony Marchione was flying in an Army Air Force B-32 Dominator bomber aircraft on Aug. 18 with a mission to take reconnaissance photos and ensure Japan was following the cease fire.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Consolidated B-32-1-CF (S/N 42-108471), the first B-32 built after modification to Block 20 standards. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But some in the Japanese military had other plans that day. The two B-32’s were shot at by anti-aircraft and enemy aircraft fire soon after they got over Tokyo, and three airmen were wounded, including Marchione.

Japanese Emperor Hirohito had announced over the radio that his country had surrendered, but there were a number of military diehards who vowed to fight on until a formal document was signed (Japan’s formal surrender was not signed until Sep. 2).

“When I got there, Tony was bleeding from a big hole in his chest,” 2nd Lt. Kurt Rupke told Air Space Magazine’s Stephen Harding in 1997 (other eyewitnesses said Marchione was hit in the groin). “He was still conscious when I got to him, and I told him everything was going to be all right. He said ‘Stay with me,’ and I said ‘Yes, I’ll stay with you.’ I did the best I could to stop the bleeding and I held him in my arms.”

From Robert F. Dorr writing for the Defense Media Network:

According to government microfilm records, when the two B-32s reached Tokyo, anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on them. With flak bursts exploding at what appeared to be a safe distance, the bombers then came under attack from what the American side identified as Nakajima Ki-44 army fighters, known to the Americans as “Tojos” and by Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero naval fighters, dubbed “Zekes” in U.S. parlance. In fact, the Tojos were probably Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden, or “George,” fighters.

According to Dorr, another soldier with Marchione remembered hearing unusual radio transmissions when the pilot of the damaged B-32 asked the other to slow down so it could keep up. One of the Japanese pilots said over the radio in English, “Yes, please slow down so I can shoot you down, too.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Marchione’s crew when he was flying on B-24 Liberators (he is second from right)/Photo via Together We Served

The voice may have belonged to Lt. Saburo Sakai — an English-speaking Japanese ace who confirmed he participated in the engagement — though there is some dispute over whether he fired his guns that day, Defense Media Network reported. But he seemed to take credit for the B-32 shooting and rationalize it in this quote, captured in the book “Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45” by Henry Sakaida:

“What we did was perfectly legal and acceptable under international law and the rules of engagement. While Japan did agree to the surrender, we were still a sovereign nation, and every nation has the right to protect itself. When the Americans sent over their B-32s, we did not know of their intentions,” Sakai said. “By invading our airspace they were committing a provocative and aggressive act … It was most unwise for the Americans to send over their bombers only a few days after the surrender announcement. They should have waited and let things cool down.”

Regardless of who fired the shots, there is no dispute over what happened before the B-32 landed safely back in Okinawa. Nineteen-year-old Sgt. Anthony Marchione succumbed to his wounds, the last of more than 407,000 Americans to die in World War II.

He is buried in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

NOW: Amazing WWII photographs you’ve never seen before 

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5 key pieces of military technology developed by the US to fight the Vietnam War

Whenever America enters a new battle, it faces a different enemy on new terrain where new technologies are needed to combat the bad guys.


The Vietnam War was one of those combat zones, and it forced military planners to adapt their technology to an enemy that didn’t wear uniforms and could blend in with the population seemingly at will.

So as troops penetrated the Southeast Asian jungles, these five influential pieces of technology helped combat Americans newest adversaries.

Related: How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

1. The Huey

This single-engine, twin-blade helicopter became one of the key troop transport aircraft of the Vietnam War. The Huey was durable and could fly into tight spots to drop off and pick up troops where needed.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Troops from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment load up onto a Huey in Vietnam, 1966.

2. Claymore mines

This directional, anti-personnel mine was used primarily to ambush VC forces and protect U.S. rear areas. Its kill radius of ball bearings boosted by C4 explosive was effective up to 100 meters.

Due to the “front towards enemy” explosive feature, this mine was ideal for the defensive position and could be set up for destruction in a matter of moments.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The famous and always trustworthy, Claymore mine.

3. The TOW missile

Short for “Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided,” the TOW was a state of the art missile that could destroy tanks, trucks, and enemy artillery stations with a push of a button.

Due to its versatility, the TOW missile could be successfully mounted on a Huey for both defensive and offensive operations.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
M274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. (Source: USMC photo, 1967)

4. Grenade launcher

The China Lake Launcher was commonly used by the Navy SEALs in Vietnam due to his lightweight and rapid ability to fire four shells in a short period — making it the ideal weapon for secret missions.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Source: History/YouTube/Screenshot)

5. F-100 Super Sabre

This well-designed jet was the first fighter to maintain supersonic speed during flight and flew 360,283 combat missions, making it the most efficient and utilized fighter plane on the U.S. side during the Vietnam War.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
F-100 Super Sabre fires its cannons onto and enemy target. (Source: History/YouTube/Screenshot)

Also Read: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

Check out this HISTORY video to see these tech developments in action.

(HISTORY, YouTube)
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These kids volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI

In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.


But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.

After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.

The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.

Related: Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

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These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.

Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
This young boy mans his post. (Source: The Great War /YouTube /Screenshot)

Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Also Read: Here’s proof that every group of military buddies mirrors the kids from the movie ‘The Sandlot’

Typically, when a soldier was “confirmed” killed in the war, his family would receive word by telegram of the passing — if the proper forms were filled out, which in too many cases they weren’t.

The military has improved in this aspect. Today, an officer and a chaplain would show up on the families’ doorstep to deliver the dreadful news.

Fun fact: The word infantry derives from Italian word “infanteria” which means “youth, foot soldier.” That is all.

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The 2016 Mighty Movie Awards

This year is almost over but 2016’s military movies are all available for the world to see. They came and went like so many celebrity deaths. Some were better than others.


We wanted to honor the ones who stood out with awards, and present them with statues.

We don’t have any to give but we wanted to.

Best Film North Korea Should Have Been Pissed About: “Operation Chromite”

Yeah, “The Interview” made Kim Jong-Un look like a twerp but “Operation Chromite” makes the entire country look stupid.

 

A sub-Award goes to Liam Neeson, who looks and acts so much like General MacArthur, you’ll be afraid he might kill you for asking for your veteran’s benefits.

Best Last Stand: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “Anthropoid”

Operation Anthropoid was the Czech government-in-exile’s plot to kill SS General Reinhard Heydrich – the man who designed Hitler’s extermination of Europen Jews. Two Czech agents do the job and are tracked down in a cathedral by what seems like a battalion of Nazi soldiers. They and other members of the Resistance opt to not surrender.

Best Depiction of a Veteran Who Still Fits in his Old Uniform: Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Weaving plays Tom Doss, father of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the medal of honor as a medic in WWII. In the film, he uses his status as a WWI veteran to get access to a general, but first he has to get in his old uniform. You know, for dramatic effect.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Summit Entertainment)

The elder Doss was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. Since Hacksaw Ridge takes place in 1942 when the younger Doss enlisted, we have to give credit to Tom Doss for being able to fit in that thing 24 years later.

I’ve only been out for eight years and I doubt I could get my blues pants up to my waist.

Best Trailer: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

No military movie was as anticipated as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” the film adaptation of Ben Fountain’s book of the same name. Ang Lee’s movie looked spectacular but was received to mixed reviews.

Viewers may disagree but the one thing you can’t argue about is how great this trailer is.

 

So if you don’t like the movie, think of this as a trailer for the book. The book is really good. Really, really good.

Best Acting: Steven Lang, “Beyond Glory”

Most actors get an award nod for playing one role, but if WATM were handing out actual statues, we’d give Steven Lang eight of them for “Beyond Glory.” The actor travels around the world, for troops and civilians, telling the story of 8 Medals of Honor, as the guys who received them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG4Alda6A_U
 

Go ahead, try to watch this movie without getting goosebumps. If you can, then check yourself into the nearest psych ward, because you might not be capable of feelings.

Breakout Performance by a Duo: John Krasinski and David Denman, “13 Hours”

The two men from the NBC series “The Office” reunited on the silver screen in 2016 as Jack Silva and Dave ‘Boon’ Benton in this obscure indie hit. They portray two security contractors working for the U.S. State Department in Libya in a plot to bring down Hillary Clinton. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t follow politics.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
They look awesome though. (Paramount Pictures)

Krasinski’s career as an operator clearly began while he was an Air Force pilot at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, when he asked Chris Kyle to teach him how to be operator AF.

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

Best Villain: The Sharks, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”

It’s hard to blame the Japanese submarine for sinking the Indianapolis. the Pacific War was still a war, after all (besides, the skipper of the Japanese boat came to Capt. McVay’s defense at his court-martial). What you can blame are the sharks who ate the survivors of the ship’s sinking.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Sharks are assholes. (Saban Films)

For the days they spent waiting to be rescued, the sailors of the Indianapolis just hung out, waiting to be gnawed on like some shark’s pickled chum.

Best Combat Action Sequence: Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge”

Leave it to the guy who brought you a medieval combat scene where someone gets hit in the face with a hammer to bring you World War II combat that tosses body parts around like confetti.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Summit Entertainment)

Nothing says “war is terrible” like showing the worst parts of it. Mission complete, Mel Gibson. On that note…

Best On-Screen Improv: This guy from “Hacksaw Ridge”

Using what’s left of your Battle Buddy like Captain America uses his vibranium shield isn’t exactly in the Army field manual, but the guys who wrote that weren’t writing it at Okinawa. If your Battle is supposed to save your life, then this guy did the right thing.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
At least he didn’t throw his shield at the enemy. (Summit Entertainment)

Best “Eat Pray Love”-style war movie: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

That movie would have been waaaaaaaay different if Julia Roberts went to Afghanistan instead of, say, Italy.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Marines radically altering someone’s worldview… not just the guys in that truck, either. (Paramount Pictures)

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” even calls itself “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard” in the middle of the movie. Special props to WTF for having Margot Robbie explain the “Desert Queen” principle, a longtime staple of deployment lore.

Best Director Who Actually Looks Like He’s In Combat: Michael Bay, “13 Hours”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Paramount Pictures)

I’m starting to believe everything Michael Bay does features explosions. Like, when he goes to get coffee or to the post office, a car down the street explodes. Most of us will never have a work photo take that looks this cool.

Drill Sergeant of the Year: Vince Vaughn, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Many cinematic instructors have come and gone over the years, from ones as memorable as Gunny Hartman to the less memorable Merwin Toomey.

You can decide where Vince Vaughn’s Sgt. Howell falls in the pantheon, but for 2016, he’s tops.

[dailymotion //www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x5395jo expand=1] 
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5 new technologies that could save your skin on future battlefields

It’s no surprise that the U.S. military is constantly trying to stay on the bleeding edge of technology to give its troops the upper hand. But what might raise eyebrows is how deep they’re thinking about every strategic and tactical advantage.


Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Still no Iron Man suits. (Marvel/Paramount)

What also might not be so obvious is the civilian tech out there that’ll help troops on the ground in the future.

1. DNA reconfiguration to resist radiation.

Researchers at the university of Tokyo isolated the cells of a microscopic organism called the tardigrade. It looks like a fat cross between a walrus and an anteater, but the little guy is resistant to boiling temperatures, extreme cold, crushing pressures, and intense radiation that would instantly kill any human.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The mighty tardigrade. (Eye of Science)

The December 2016 issue of Foreign Policy magazine reported the same researchers added the resistant DNA to human cells in a petri dish and bombarded the cells with X-ray radiation. They found that human cells configured with tardigrade DNA were 40 percent less damaged than regular human cells – resistant enough to withstand the radiation on the surface of Mars.

2. Bomb-detecting spinach.

It’s not just for Popeye anymore. A research team at MIT embedded nanoparticles onto spinach plants and when these particles come in contact with explosives, they bind together, causing a reaction that gives off an infrared signal and can be alerted to mobile phones via wifi.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The jury is out on eating nanomodified spinach. Probably.

Not only does the plant modification detect explosives in soil, but it can also detect them in groundwater. Moreover, the plant can be used to decontaminate soil and take reclaim environmentally damaged Earth.

3. Solar Cell Uniforms.

Not solar-powered uniforms, solar power uniforms – wearable solar cells. the University of Central Florida estimates a typical rucksack weighs 60-100 pounds and is full of devices that require batteries — NVGs, radios, and GPS devices, to name a few. Those same researchers estimate that U.S. troops in Afghanistan carry 16 pounds of batteries for every 72-hour mission. Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t have to carry that extra weight?

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The supercapacitor ribbon can be reused more than 30,000 times and can fully charge an iPhone in minutes. (UCF photo)

That’s why they developed a supercapacitor, a strip of electronic ribbon they want to interweave with cotton for American uniforms. The new fatigues would come with clip-on adapters to use in charging their needed devices. The troops would be walking solar panels, never running out of juice while on the mission.

4. e-Tourniquets.

The tourniquet is a long-standing staple of the battlefield and has been since before recorded history. The standard tourniquet has come a long way in that time; strips of torn cloth are now specially designed for ease of use and maximum pressure. But now it’s about to make its biggest leap ever.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Vaguely-related stock photo.

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., is developing a “neural tourniquet” that is placed on a wound to electronically stimulate the spleen, ordering the red blood cells to clot wounds everywhere on a body. So far, researchers note that clotting with the e-tourniquet begins in as little as three minutes, cutting blood loss by 50 percent and bleeding time by 40 percent.

5. Electric training headphones.

The Halo Sport is currently in the realm of Olympic athletes. It’s a $700 headphone device containing electrodes that send an electrical current to the brain’s motor cortex. This strengthens the connection between the brain and muscles, improving muscle memory – giving athletes a bigger edge in competition.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The Halo Sport in use. (Halo)

If training with the Halo Sport gives athletes a performance edge in training, it could probably do wonders for getting new recruits and foreign armies up to speed on the tactics of future battlefields.

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The UK has ordered British special operators to stop ISIS in Libya

The UK’s Special Boat Service has deployed to Libya to stop ISIS fighters and supplies from crossing over with the waves of migrants entering the European Union.


The commander of NATO, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, has said that the movement of refugees from Libya into Europe is a security concern for the alliance since ISIS fighters can infiltrate the migrant flows.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Screenshot: British Ministry of Defence. Crown Copyright

This year over 30,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean between Africa and Italy. SBS operators have been ordered to look out for suspected terrorists trying to enter Europe posing as migrants, according to the Daily Star Sunday

Currently, migrants from Libya, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan pay nearly $1,500 to be smuggled to Europe on small boats. ISIS makes money off the smuggling operations and could conceal their fighters among the boat passengers.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Screenshot: British Ministry of Defence. Crown Copyright

The SBS is perfect for disrupting the ISIS effort.  One of their skills is clandestine coastline reconnaissance of beaches and harbors. SBS operators are trained to conduct surveillance. From the coasts they can develop a list of smugglers and fighters, sink boats and ships, destroy warehouses and smugglers’ camps, and kill or capture key leaders.

The SBS was formed during World War II and is like the US Navy SEALs and has defended Britain since its founding in 1940. The SBS began as the Special Boat Section, a British Army commando unit tasked with amphibious operations. They operated in canoes launched from submarines, sabotaging infrastructure and destroying enemy ships. The modern SBS conducts both naval and ground operations and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

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