A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.
The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.
Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.
Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.
Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.
“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”
Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.
VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.
Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.
Improvements in memory and energy way up
“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”
During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.
When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.
“It’s worth every second.”
“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”
Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
It is one of the sneakiest, most insidious things in warfare. It can creep up on you, and you’ll suddenly find out that you no longer can do all that you wanted to do. It’s called “virtual attrition,” and while it doesn’t make many headlines, it matters more to military operations than you’d think.
So, what exactly is “virtual attrition?” Well, plain old attrition is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as “the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time.” In war, these are the planes that are shot down, the ships that are sunk, the tanks that go “jack in the box,” the troops that are killed. In other words, you lost them for good.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 conducts a captive carry flight test of an AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)
Virtual attrition, therefore involves “losing” the assets. Only it doesn’t involve actually destroying the asset. Here’s a couple of examples:
Scenario One: There is a factory complex in Bad Guy Land that you want to remove from the landscape. It will take 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions to destroy. Now, four F/A-18E Super Hornets from one of the squadrons in the air wing of USS Enterprise can each carry four JDAMs, that should put enough bombs on target, right?
Well, not quite. You see, Mr. Sleazebag Swinemolestor, the dictator of Bad Guy Land, just got some brand new Russian S-300 missile systems (the SA-10 Grumble). He’s got one defending the factory complex you want to go away. He also got some brand new J-11 Flankers from China that he’s using to protect the place.
Now, sending planes into the teeth of air defenses doesn’t work out so well. We found that out the hard way in more than a couple wars.
So now, you may need some escorts. Well, we can add a couple more F/A-18Es with AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AGM-154A Joint Standoff Attack Weapons to deal with the S-300s, and two more loaded with a ton of AIM-120 AMRAAMs for the Flankers.
Aviation Ordnancemen assigned to the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Two (VFA-102), load a CATM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missile on one of their squadrons F/A-18F Super Hornets aboard the conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). The CATM-88 is an inert training version of the AGM-88 HARM missile, which is a supersonic air-to-surface tactical missile designed to seek and destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems. Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) are currently conducting operations in the Western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler)
Only those four additional Super Hornets have to come from somewhere. On a carrier (or even a land base), there are only so many airframes. The S-300s and the Flankers just forced the United States to double the size of the “package” they are sending to service the target.
A carrier usually has 24 Super Hornets. Some will be down for maintenance. Some will be needed to provide air cover for the carrier or planes like the E-2 Hawkeye or EA-18 Growler. There will be other targets to hit, like bridges, air bases, headquarters buildings… you get the picture.
Now, you can’t hit all the targets you want to hit, because you need to not only make the factory go away, you need to make the defenses go away. You have lost the use of the planes as strike assets. In essence, other missions get shortchanged. That is one way virtual attrition works.
Scenario 2: China’s DF-21 has gotten a lot of hype as a threat. That ignores the fact that the RIM-161 SM-3 Standard Missile is already capable of defeating it. But the DF-21 still inflicts the “virtual attrition.”
Let’s assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, the aforementioned Sleazebag Swinemolestor, has bought 30 DF-21s. Now, while the SM-3 has proven reliable (a success rate of about 90 percent in tests), the usual practice will be a “shoot-shoot look” approach — firing two missiles at each target, and looking to see if you got it. That is a quick way to eat up missiles, especially when you miss.
An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test and successfully intercepted a complex short-range ballistic missile target off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. (U.S. Department of Defense photo/Released)
So now, the Enterprise’s escorts have to load more SM-3s into their Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems. The problem being, of course, they only have 96 cells each. And if you are carrying more SM-3s, you have to take other missiles out, like BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs.
Now, you could fix this by adding the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (originally planned for a WESTPAC deployment), with her escorts, the Bunker Hill, the Winston S. Churchill, the Harmon Rabb, and the Cole. But that carrier group has to come from somewhere… so you now have to make up for that or pray that the region stays calm.
The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) during Exercise Invincible Spirit. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)
The other alternative is to add more escorts. You could strip the Mac Taylor from anti-piracy duty off Somalia, or call in the John S. McCain from her Freedom of Navigation exercise in the South China Sea, or maybe even have the Dave Nolan detach from the replenishment ships. But then you take risks by pulling those ships from those missions.
In essence, virtual attrition means you have to pull in extra assets – and the assets you pull in, no matter how good they are, cannot be in two places at once. It is not spectacular. It doesn’t make headlines, but virtual attrition is a real problem that the military has to address.
US European Command announced August 4 that 10 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, an MC-130J Commando II, and approximately 270 Air Force personnel will deploy to Estonia to train with allied air forces.
“We are strong members of the NATO Alliance and remain prepared with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our Allies,” Maj. Gen. Jon K. Kelk, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, said in an August 4 EUCOM press release. “When we have the opportunity to train with coalition air forces, everyone benefits.”
The airmen and aircraft will deploy from bases in the US and Europe to Amari Air Base from August 4 to 20 to participate in the Forward Training Deployment, or FTD.
The A-10s are from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland. The MC-130J is from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
While deployed, the A-10s are scheduled to train with Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia, and multinational joint terminal air controllers in Latvia, according the release.
Known officially as the Thunderbolt II and more commonly as the Warthog, the A-10 entered military service in the late 1970s and has flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The twin-engine aircraft is designed to decimate tanks, vehicles, and other ground targets with its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm seven-barrel gatling gun, and up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including Mk-82 and Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and laser-guided munitions.
The Air Force has made several attempts to retire the decades-old aircraft beginning in fiscal 2015 in an effort to save money, but congressional opposition has forced the service to reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 to 2021.
The MC-130J Commando II is designed to fly clandestine, or low visibility, single, or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.
It can perform infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces in hostile territories.
Norway summoned the Iranian ambassador in Oslo on Nov. 1, 2018, to protest a suspected assassination plot against an Iranian Arab opposition figure in Denmark that allegedly involved a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin.
Denmark said on Oct. 30, 2018, that it suspects the Iranian intelligence service tried to carry out an assassination on its soil. It is now calling for new European Union-wide sanctions against Tehran.
A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested in Sweden on Oct. 21, 2018, in connection with the plot and extradited to Denmark, Swedish police have said.
“We see the situation that has arisen in Denmark as very serious and that a Norwegian citizen of Iranian background is suspected in this case,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.
She said that during her meeting with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Habibollah Zadeh, “we underlined that the activity that has come to light through the investigation in Denmark is unacceptable.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The target of the alleged plot was the leader of the Danish branch of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), Danish authorities said.
Danish police said they temporarily closed bridges and halted ferry services to neighboring Germany and Sweden at the end of September 2018 as part of their attempts to foil the plot.
ASMLA seeks a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran’s oil-producing southwestern province of Khuzestan. Arabs are a minority in Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy.
The Norwegian citizen has denied the charges, and the Iranian government has also denied the alleged plot.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen on Oct. 31, 2018, met with other Nordic prime ministers in Norway and said he hoped to secure broader support for a unified response to Iran.
US Air Force weapons developers plan to begin a new phase of construction and development for the emerging Long-Range Standoff Weapon in 2022, a move that will bring a new nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile closer to operational status amid fast-growing global nuclear weapons tensions, service officials said.
Due to emerging nuclear weapons threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s — as opposed to prior thoughts that it may not be ready until the 2030s.
“The decision to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase is on track for 2022,” Maj. William Russell, Air Force spokesman, told Warrior Maven.
US Air Force weapons developers believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long-Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.
Early prototyping and design work is already underway with Air Force industry partners, Raytheon and Lockheed, now working on a $900 million Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction deal with the service.
Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven the developing LRSO is, by design, closely aligned with the Pentagon’s recently released nuclear weapons review.
“The Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms LRSO is critical to the airborne leg of the nuclear triad,” and “…will maintain into the future the bomber force capability to deliver stand-off weapons that can penetrate and survive advanced integrated air defense systems, thus holding targets at risk anywhere on earth,” Russell said.
The LRSO will provide an air-launched component to the Pentagon’s current wish to expand the attack envelope possibilities for its nuclear arsenal; the NPR calls for the addition of a new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile. The move is described by Defense Secretary James Mattis as an effort to further deter potential Russian aggression and bring them back into compliance with the INF Treaty.
These developments are receiving additional attention in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inflammatory remarks about new Russian nuclear weapons.
A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers, given the growing pace at which modern air defenses are able to detect a wider range of aircraft — to include the possibility of detecting some stealth bombers.
As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapon with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
Therefore, in the event of a major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended lifespan, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-52 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
Despite some earlier discussion about the weapon being integrated into the B-2 bomber, Russell said there are no current plans to arm the B-2 with the LRSO at the moment.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
Ruby Bradley was an Army combat nurse on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Bradley survived the attacks, days on the run, years as a prisoner of war, and years as one of the top combat nurses treating and evacuating the wounded from Korea.
She also rose to the rank of colonel and became one of America’s most decorated female veterans before retiring in 1963.
Hours after the Pearl Harbor attacks began, other Japanese forces began striking U.S. troops and ships across the Pacific, including at bases in the Philippines which was a U.S. commonwealth at the time. Bradley ran a hospital in northern Luzon and treated patients there during the Japanese landings and follow-on attacks.
In a 1983 interview with the Washington Post, Bradley said of the incident, “The Japanese thought it was wonderful we could do all this without any instruments.”
Bradley assisted in hundreds of operations and the delivery of over a dozen babies during her time in captivity. None of the patients experienced an infection from their surgeries despite the conditions, most likely thanks to the firm attention to detail by the Army and civilian nurses who sterilized the area and tools before each procedure.
But Bradley didn’t just deliver babies, she also helped care for many of the children captured by the Japanese soldiers or born in the camp. Prisoners were allotted only one cup of rice per day. Bradley would save rice from her portions to give to children who were struggling.
The nurses even made birth certificates and stuffed animals for the children from hemp that they gathered from plants in and around the camp.
Then-Cpt. Ruby Bradley is evacuated with other prisoners from a Japanese POW camp after its liberation. (Photo: U.S. Army)
The medical staff established a number of other lifesaving measures in the prison camp — everything from forced hand washing to making sure utensils were covered when not in use to assigning people to swat flies.
When the war ended, Bradley returned to normal service and earned a new degree in nursing. By the time the Korean War broke out, she was a major with experience running nurse teams. She was sent forward with the 171st Evacuation Hospital from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and evacuated troops wounded in combat.
Her duties often took her to bases near the front lines. During the evacuation of Pyongyang, she refused to leave while any of her patients were still on the ground. She got the last one onto a plane and was running up the ramp when an artillery shell struck her ambulance.
The aircraft made it out safely and Bradley remained in the Army. The next year, she was featured on an episode of “This is Your Life,” a TV program that sought to tell the stories of amazing Americans.
She retired in 1963 as possibly the most decorated woman in military history to that point. She died on July 3, 2002, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The aircraft, which have been launching strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since July, are now conducting high-intensity, seven-day-a-week operations to protect the ground forces moving into Mosul.
Rear Adm. James Malloy, the commander of the Eisenhower carrier strike group, told Military.com in an exclusive interview this week that the crew of the carrier has been tireless as conditions on the ground intensify.
“The sailors are motivated and focused and understand the sense of urgency with this enemy,” he said. “And the ground [conditions are] a direct result of naval power projected ashore. So it’s pretty easy to explain to them both what they’re doing and the effect that they’re having on the enemy.”
The carrier, which deployed in June, launched about 116 airstrikes on Islamic State targets during its transit through the Eastern Mediterranean sea, and more than 1,330 since its arrival in the Arabian Gulf as of Sunday, Malloy said. But these numbers, he noted, did not take into account the aircraft that were at that moment in the air over Mosul.
While strikes have been ongoing in and around Mosul for months in anticipation of the last major offensive into the city, operations have changed in recent weeks as the assault began.
Navy pilots are destroying fewer deliberate targets — fixed objectives they’re assigned to hit before they launch from the carrier deck — and more dynamic targets, often moving objectives that they are assigned after they arrive in the region and check in with the air controller.
Nearly 90 percent of strikes launched from the Eisenhower are now assaulting dynamic targets, Malloy said.
“The reason why [dynamic] targeting is much more critical now is because that is in direct support of troops on the ground moving against the enemy,” he said. “So by the time the pilots get to their targets from the carrier, the forward line of troops may have moved and the surgical precision of Navy air is critical to be able to impact the battle as it is occurring.”
Typical dynamic targets are command and control nodes and key areas where Islamic State militants will attempt to conduct resupply and ground maneuver in response to being attacked.
“They are being targeted as they try to do that, so we are accelerating the ground campaign with the airstrikes,” Malloy said.
The Eisenhower will likely remain in the region for several more months until its deployment concludes. On Thursday, multiple media outlets reported that Iraqi and Peshmerga troops, shored up with a small contingent of U.S. advisers, had finally breached the limits of Mosul.
For the Super Hornets, known for speed, precision and maneuverability, it’s an opportunity to show off what they can do.
“As a major offensive is occurring, the dynamic targeting capability of the aircraft come to fore,” Malloy said. “And that is where they shine for the most part: their responsive capability from the air.”
The Air ForceWC-130H aircraft veered to the left on the runway, almost rolling into the grass before the crew was able to get it airborne.
The pilot quickly made the decision to return to the Georgia airfield they had just departed. The pilot directed the shutdown of engine one, operating on the remaining three.
“Coming back,” the pilot repeated five times over the next 30 seconds.
Investigators said that within those few seconds the pilot improperly applied nine more degrees with the left rudder, “which resulted in a subsequent skid below three-engine minimum controllable airspeed, a left-wing stall, and the [mishap aircraft’s] departure from controlled flight.”
No other “meaningful direction” was given to the crew other than an order to “brace” just before impact.
The plane was airborne for two minutes overall before it crashed down into Georgia State Highway 21 roughly 1.5 miles northeast of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, killing all aboard.
A newly released mishap report determined that the WC-130 crash that claimed the lives of nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 2018 was largely due to pilot error. But troubling engine and maintenance issues documented in the aging aircraft raise more questions about the cause of the catastrophic May 2, 2018 mishap.
C-130J Hercules and WC-130J Hercules fly in formation during an Operation Surge Capacity exercise April, 5, 2014, over the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone)
The WC-130, which belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing, Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, had recurring issues with its first engine, according to the Aircraft Accident Investigation
Board Report released Nov. 9, 2018. The issues were documented a month before the aircraft’s final flight, as well as the day of the deadly crash.
The crew should have more closely followed emergency procedure and called for immediate action after discovering one of the aircraft’s engines was malfunctioning, Millard said. Instead, the malfunction led to loss of control of the plane, causing it to crash, the report found.
Experts who spoke with Military.com, however, pointed out that lapses in maintenance deeply disadvantaged the crew even before the aircraft left the runway. The plane, which had been in service more than 50 years, was on its final journey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona when it went down.
“The engine malfunction is most definitely large factor and I would say the catalyst for the events that unfolded,” said an Air Force instructor pilot who flies a mobility aircraft and agreed to speak to Military.com on background about the report’s findings. “It appears the [report] narrowed in on a particular piece of the engine (the valve housing assembly) which had intermittent issues with [revolutions per minute] over its lifetime with multiple different engines.”
Nine died in the crash: Maj. José R. Román Rosado, the pilot; Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, the navigator; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, loadmaster; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, crew member; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, crew member; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, crew member.
The Air Force ordered an immediate investigation into the accident. Days later, after Military Times published an in-depth report showing that military aviation accidents have increased over the last five years, the service directed its wing commanders to hold a one-day pause in order to conduct a safety review with airmen, assessing trends and criteria that may have led to the recent rash of crashes.
Unsolved maintenance problems
The newly released investigation shows that the plane was cleared for flight even though the recorded oscillation data of the plane’s outermost left engine did not match its intended performance.
The WC-130 made its ferry flight from Puerto Rico to Savannah, Georgia, on April 9, 2018. And the flight crew operating the [mishap aircraft] “experienced an RPM issue with engine one, and reported the incident for troubleshooting and repair,” the report said.
While the crew found a fix, maintainers struggled to replicate both the in-flight operations and the solution the pilots used to better understand the what went wrong. They found they couldn’t recreate the crew’s original solution, which was to switch “on the propeller governor control to mechanical governing,” to see if that rectified the issue, it said.
A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules (s/n 64-0510) from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, prepares to take off from Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 29, 2004.
According to post-mishap interviews, during a second maintenance engine run, the “mishap maintainers observed engine one produced 99% revolutions per minute,” the report said.
But the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) said otherwise.
The DFDR indicated “engine one never reached sustained RPM above 96.8% and had significant oscillations between 95% and 98%,” it said.
The Air Force investigators said that when performing an engine run, the [technical order] requires a range “of 99.8% to 100.02% RPM, as displayed on a precision tachometer, to verify an engine is operating properly at 100%.2.”
The maintainers, who failed to use a precision instrument, missed a chance to diagnose a fluctuating, weaker engine.
“Good enough” mentality
The maintainers should have noted these red flags, the instructor pilot who spoke with Military.com said.
“The maintainers… failed to properly conduct the inspection of the engine,” the instructor pilot said. “The crew likely would have never stepped to the aircraft that day, at least not without the engine being verified to have reached the required power threshold, versus over 2 percent lower than the minimum.”
In the report, maintainers are faulted for having a “good enough” mentality about the aircraft’s condition.
Twitter user @MikeBlack114, a self-identified Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, also faulted the “good enough” mentality as a reason mistakes were made in a tweet thread. Furthermore, leadership should have paid better attention, he said.
“I’ll let someone with wings address the aircrew piece, but the mx [maintenance] portion is almost unfathomable,” Black said in a Twitter thread. “If you’re in a leadership position of an organization involved with flying and you aren’t uncovering the skeletons (believe me, they’re there, just a question of how severe they are) you aren’t looking hard enough.”
Another problem, according to the report, was the maintainers observing the aircraft did not use a tachometer to justify the data.
The report noted that they had conducted the engine test runs without the instrument because the compatible adapter plug to connect the precision tachometer to the aircraft was not available.
“During the engine runs and without the use of a precision tachometer, [mishap maintainer one] and [mishap maintainer two] knew that 100% RPM was the speed the engine should operate at, but believed 99% was sufficient to conclude their maintenance because of the wider gauge range provided in the [technical order],” the report said. “Thus, the mishap maintainers never corrected the engine one discrepancy and did not resolve the RPM issue.”
On May 2, 2018, engine one’s RPMs once again revealed an anomaly.
During takeoff, engine one’s RPMs fluctuated and couldn’t be stabilized when the first mishap pilot “advanced the throttle lever into the flight range,” according to the report.
“Engine one RPM and torque significantly decayed, which substantially lowered thrust,” investigators added.
While the banked turn the pilots made into the failed engine “was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft, the [mishap aircraft] did still have enough airspeed to maintain flight,” the report said.
“The crew put the aircraft in a disadvantageous energy state by rotating (lifting off) 5 knots early and failing to accelerate as required by the procedures,” the instructor pilot said. “Unfortunately, this was not an unrecoverable situation by any means, and one crews in all airframes train to regularly.”
The reason for the initial flight in April 2018 was to conduct routine in-tank fuel cell maintenance in Georgia. The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base had the means to do this, unlike the Puerto Rico Guard’s 156th Wing.
Puerto Rico’s facilities sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Maria and could not offer the maintenance at home station, the report said.
Although Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, the commanding officer of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said at the time of the crash the aircraft was more than 60 years old and one of the oldest C-130s in the fleet, its history and maintenance record say otherwise.
The aircraft, tail number 65-0968, rolled off the assembly line in 1965 as a standard C-130E, its records show.
“Sometime in the early 1970’s, it was converted to a WC-130H for use in weather reconnaissance (the “W” designation indicates the weather modifications),” the report said.
The engines were also “upgraded from T56-A-7 to the T56-A-15 at that time (which changed the “E” designation to “H”),” it said.
The aging aircraft life was extended because the wing had been expected to change missions. But that transition never came.
The fiscal 2016 budget “initially divested the six WC-130H aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard “and provided direction to move the 156th Airlift Wing to the RC-26, a manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform,” the report said. “However, this direction did not prove viable, as there was no requirement for a manned ISR mission in the United States Northern Command Theater.”
Millard, the investigator, said in the report there were no outstanding time compliance technical orders that would have restricted the plane from from flying.
Still, there should have been more transparency, the instructor pilot said.
“As an aircraft commander, there’s a ‘trust but verify’ mentality with the maintenance crews, but our knowledge is limited. So when a crew chief hands me the signed forms,” he said, “I have to trust those procedures and previous discrepancies have been fixed in accordance with the maintenance technical orders.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The United States has welcomed Japan’s planned introduction of a land-based variant of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, but there are growing calls in Washington for Tokyo to acquire strike capability to further boost deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.
American experts say the deployment of Aegis Ashore will be a significant step in strengthening Japan’s missile defense, but that even such an advanced platform is not perfect for interception, especially because North Korea is stepping up its ability to launch multiple missiles simultaneously.
“With North Korea demonstrating increasingly sophisticated missiles and threatening to sink Japan with nuclear weapons, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe should consider making strike capability a top priority,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a Washington-based political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank.
In a meeting Nov. 6 with Abe in Tokyo, President Donald Trump underscored the “unwavering” commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence backed by the full range of US nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, according to the White House. Trump urged Abe to purchase more defense equipment from the United States.
But it was not known if Abe and Trump discussed Japan’s potential adoption of strike capability, or what some refer to as “counterattack capability,” as the US envisages Tokyo acquiring the ability to undertake retaliatory strikes against an opponent’s missile facilities and supporting infrastructure, as opposed to first-strike capability.
Such capability would surely bolster security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and alliance management between the United States and Japan, a development that security experts say would be effective in deterring any kind of attack against the two countries.
Some argue the resounding victory by Abe’s ruling coalition in the Oct. 22 general election could stimulate debate in Japan about the possible pursuit of strike capability, especially as the Defense Ministry plans to draw up its next five-year plan for defense procurement and update the National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2018.
“Prime Minister Abe has the political capital and the reasoning to begin to talk more specifically about the need to prepare or consider counterattack capability,” said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, citing the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
“I think the chance of that happening or that becoming a more high profile issue is greater now as a result of the election,” Schoff said.
Referring to the political stability in Japan after Abe’s victory, Hornung said, “Now the Abe administration can have a more long-term view about defense policies and what capabilities they want to acquire in the years ahead.”
Debate about Japan adopting strike capability gathered steam in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party following the simultaneous firing on March 6 by North Korea of four ballistic missiles — three of which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan — and Pyongyang’s announcement that the action was a drill simulating a strike on US military bases in Japan.
On Aug. 6, Abe said in a news conference that “at this point,” he was not considering acquiring such capability. North Korea, however, has continued to increase its bellicose threats and provocative acts against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
Pyongyang conducted intermediate-range ballistic missile launches over northern Japan into the Pacific on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15, as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, with the detonation of what it said was a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
On Sept. 13, Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said, “The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” launched by North Korea, and that “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.” The committee issued a similar warning on Oct. 28.
With North Korea accelerating development of deliverable nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the United States, Pyongyang has suggested it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean — a threat that prompted Japanese defense officials to speculate that a nuclear-tipped missile may fly over Japan.
Schoff and Hornung recommend that Japan pursue strike capability in “a modest form” so that it will not become too expensive. They also stress the need to make sure that such capability falls within Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, because the issue would be politically sensitive not only domestically, but to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.
Schoff said the proposed measure, therefore, should not involve hardware such as long-range strategic bombers and attack aircraft carriers, but equipment like Tomahawk cruise missiles for Aegis-equipped destroyers and air-to-surface missiles that can be loaded onto new F-35 stealth fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force.
“You don’t want to spend your whole defense budget on this capability that you hopefully will never have to use,” he said.
Despite the likelihood that Seoul and Beijing would criticize Tokyo for “re-militarizing” itself with the proposed capability, Hornung said Pyongyang’s advancing military capabilities have “drastically changed the threat environment.”
“If the existing ballistic missile defense system has gaps, any means for Japan to strengthen its deterrence capabilities should be welcomed,” he said. “Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats.”
What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.
Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.
Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.
“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”
It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.
Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.
Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.
Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.
You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.
Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.
Bell Helicopter’s next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-280 Valor, has made its first flight, the company announced in a release Dec. 18.
The black prototype, which resembles the older V-22 Osprey, also made by Textron Inc.’s Bell unit and Boeing Co., completed the roughly maiden flight around 2 p.m. local time at the company’s Amarillo, Texas, facility, according to the company.
“This is an exciting time for Bell Helicopter, and I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight of the Bell V-280,” Mitch Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter, said in a statement.
“First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership’s modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives,” he added. “The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake.”
Bell’s V-280 Valor is slightly bigger than a UH-60 Black Hawk and hold a crew of four and carry up to 14 passengers. By comparison, the Black Hawk can hold a crew of four and transport 11 troops fully loaded or 20 lightly equipped.
The Valor is competing against SB-1 Defiant, a more conventional helicopter with a pusher-prop for added speed designed by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit and Boeing, for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program.
The demonstrator effort is designed to hone requirements for a Future Vertical Lift acquisition program to fill the Army’s requirement for a mid-sized, next-generation rotorcraft with twice the speed and range of a conventional helicopter to replace its UH-60 Black Hawks probably in the 2030s.
Bell wants to sell the V-280 to all the services, but the Army — with its thousands of Black Hawks alone — offers the biggest potential market. To land the deal, the firm will have to overcome the service’s traditional opposition to tilt-rotor aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a conventional propeller-driven aircraft.
The SB-1 Defiant, meanwhile, is expected to make its first flight in the first half of next year. Lockheed’s Sikorsky earlier this year released footage showing a smaller coaxial design, the S-97 Raider, undergoing flight testing.
The Raider was initially designed for a $16 billion U.S. Army weapons acquisition program called the Armed Aerial Scout to replace the OH-58Kiowa Warrior, one of the smallest helicopters in the fleet, which was retired from Army service this year.
While the Army put that acquisition effort on hold due to budget limitations, Sikorsky, maker of the Black Hawk helicopter and other aircraft, still plans to sell the coaxial design in the U.S. and abroad, and the firm along with its suppliers have spent tens of millions of dollars developing the technology.