Articles

Congress wants the Air Force to prove the F-35 can take over for the A-10

Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, gets off an A-10 Warthog after his flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook


House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill that would stop the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completes comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II.

The tests would compare the two aircraft’s ability to conduct close air support, search and rescue missions, and forward air controller airborne missions DefenseNews reports.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee contend that the F-35 doesn’t possess the capabilities of the A-10, and that removing the Warthog from service would create a notable capability gap, which would be felt by the soldiers on the ground.

An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth

In March of 2015, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s claimed that F-16s and F-15s would take over the role of the A-10,  Senator John McCain unleashed the following scathing criticism:

“It’s really embarrassing to hear you say something like that when I talk to the people who are doing the flying, who are doing the combat who say that the A-10 is by far the best close-air support system we have.”

Indeed the A-10, a Cold War-era legacy plane has gained itself a cult following with forward deployed troops in heavy combat zones.

The distinctive buzzing noise made by the Warthog’s 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger has come to signal salvation to soldiers in need of close air support.

“Cutting back a one-of-a-kind capability with no clear replacement is an example of a budget-based strategy, not the strategy-based budget we need to meet our defense needs,” a letter from the legislators stated last year.

Articles

Russian fighter in ‘near miss’ with US aircraft over Syria

On the first day of the Mosul offensive in Iraq, a Russian fighter came close to colliding with a U.S. warplane in a “near miss” over northeastern Syria, U.S. military officials said Friday.


Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, told NBC News that the nighttime incident Oct. 17 was a “near miss” but said he tended to believe the Russians’ explanation that their pilot simply did not see the U.S. aircraft in the dark.

Also read: NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

However, Harrigian said similar close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria have increased in the past six weeks amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria’s civil war and now occur about every 10 days.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft flying over USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea on April 12, 2016. | U.S. Navy photo

In a later statement on the incident, Air Force Central Command said that the Russian fighter was escorting a Russian surveillance aircraft and inadvertently flew across the nose of the U.S. aircraft.

The close call was the result of a “mistake” by the Russians and the U.S. believed that it was “fully unintentional,” the statement said.

“The Russians cooperated by looking into the incident, calling back, and explaining themselves and their pilots actions as an error,” it said.

In a separate briefing to the Pentagon, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Russian fighter came within a half-mile of the U.S. aircraft, but “we don’t believe there was any nefarious intent” on the part of the Russians.

Dorrian did not name the types of aircraft involved, saying only that the Russian aircraft was a fighter and the U.S. plane was a “larger aircraft.” He said the Russian fighter “passed close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” but “no one declared an in-flight emergency or anything of that nature.”

Immediately after the incident, the Russians were contacted over the “deconfliction” hotline set up by the Russian and U.S. militaries to avoid close calls by aircraft on missions in the region.

Harrigian, speaking from a U.S. base in the Mideast, said that, in some cases, U.S. and Russian aircraft flying in close proximity are “not a big deal,” but added, “I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention.”

“We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned,” Harrigian said. “They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”

When asked why the Oct. 17 incident wasn’t disclosed until Oct. 28, Dorrian said, “There wasn’t anybody playing ‘I’ve got a secret.’ ”

He said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the task force commander, was immediately informed of the close call but did not feel that it merited being disclosed as a “breaking news event.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This is what the Army wants in a new, more powerful combat rifle

US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.


“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. (U.S. Army photo from Todd Mozes)

The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

A soldier spotting a target, EBR in foreground. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.

The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.

Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.

In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.

M16 assault rifles. (DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.

The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:

  • Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
  • Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
  • Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
  • Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
  • Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
  • Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
  • 20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
  • Folding sights

“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Strong

“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia could invade this region of neighboring Moldova

Moldova has expressed concern over what it says were unauthorized movements by Russian military forces in the breakaway Transdniester region.

The Reintegration Policy Bureau, a government department that handles the Transdniester issue and is led by one of Moldova’s two deputy prime ministers, said on June 15, 2018, that the Moldovan government had notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about what it called the unauthorized deployment of military trucks and equipment in the region controlled by separatists.


A day earlier, Moldovan authorities filmed some 40 trucks and other military vehicles with Russian symbols and license plates moving along a main road linking the northern and southern parts of Transdniester, a sliver of land along the Ukrainian border in eastern Moldova, the statement said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists have discovered a mysterious lump on the moon’s far side

The far side of the moon is hiding a colossal secret beneath its airless, pockmarked surface.

No one is quite sure what it is — the most precise wording researchers can muster is a “large excess of mass.”

The feature lurks dozens of miles beneath a 1,550-mile-wide impact crater called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which we can’t see from Earth. Ideas for what the mysterious lump may be include the splattered core of a giant metallic asteroid or an ocean of red-hot magma that slowly froze in place.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground,” Peter B. James, a geoscientist at Baylor University, said in a press release. “That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”


James is one of a handful of US scientists who announced their discovery in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The gravitational force of “whatever it is, wherever it came from,” James said, is so great that it drags down the floor of the basin by more than half a mile.

A rendering of a lunar rover for China’s Chang’e-4 moon mission.

(China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

A giant secret below the solar system’s oldest, biggest preserved crater

The South Pole-Aitken Basin is believed to be the site of a horrendous collision that occurred about 500 million years after the moon formed. It’s thought to be the largest and oldest intact crater on any planetary body within the solar system.

Whatever formed the basin nearly 4 billion years ago remains a mystery, but the blow was so strong that it likely punched all the way through the moon’s crust and tossed part of the lunar mantle — a deeper geologic layer — onto the surface.

For these reasons, geologists are eager to explore the basin to glean clues about the moon’s formation and composition. In fact, China recently landed its Chang’e 4 mission there (specifically within a roughly 111-mile-wide crater called Von Kármán) to study part of the basin.

James and his colleagues discovered the anomaly beneath the basin by merging data from two NASA missions at the moon. One is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which continues to constantly photograph the lunar surface and has led to high-definition surface elevation maps.

The mysterious lunar lump exists below the surface of the lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin (in blues and purples).

(NASA/LROC/Arizona State University)

The other mission was the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which involved two spacecraft — GRAIL A and GRAIL B — working in tandem to detect variations in the strength of the moon’s gravitational field. Larger variations helped tease out information about the moon’s core, and subtler ones revealed unseen mineral deposits, asteroid impact sites, and subsurface features.

“When we combined that with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin,” James said. “One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the moon’s mantle.”

If the mass is a metallic asteroid core, it didn’t get stuck inside the moon intact; instead, computer simulations suggest it could have spread out as it struck. The researchers think such splattering may have kept the metal floating about 186 miles beneath the crust; otherwise it might have sunk down into the moon’s core, which starts about 310 miles deep.

Another explanation is that, following the impact that formed the basin, a huge ocean of metal-rich magma pooled inside of the lunar crust and solidified into a dense slab.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you train for brotherhood

A lot of important learning about leadership and pecking order and magnanimity toward one’s inferior gets worked out for men in the childhood scrum of fraternal warfare. We learn to take heaps of sh*t and like it. We learn to administer a beat down without leaving incriminating bruises. We learn to distrust a man who can’t engage in a round or two of emasculatory sting-pong without losing his cool.


Photo via John Oxley.

Brothers, of course, are fantastic preparation for military service.

Max never had a brother. As a baby he left the cradle for a pre-dawn ruck, lost track of HQ and ended up being raised to manhood by mastodons. Way down range. So, as you can imagine, it can be hard for him to relate to the rest of us, we the sibling-enabled.

Max played Super Mario™ with Cave Bears.

All fun and games until you make them play Luigi. Photo via Flickr, John Solaro, CC BY-ND 2.0

He played Marco Polo with Casteroides. (That’s a Giant Beaver!)

All fun and games until you get an accidental woody. Photo via Flickr, James St. John, CC BY 2.0

He even fought the real Punch-a-saurus Rex and won by KO in Round 5.

All fun and games until the bout photographer bets on Max.

But he never had a brother. So he joined the Army instead.

And then Max suddenly had hundreds of brothers. And a bunch of sisters, too. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Max already knew about taking sh*t from grumpy beasts and holding his own in the Wild Rumpus. He already had plenty of muscle for beating brothers back. What he learned in the Army is that sometimes, it’s the other way. Sometimes, you gotta help your brother out.

In this episode, Max demos some drills for building your brother- helping muscles, the ones that make you good at the fireman’s carry. Make some time for these. And call your brother while you’re at it. Because it can’t all be sting-pong and prehistoric beaver. There’s gotta be some love in there too. And that’s the gospel, according to Max “The Body” Phili-delphia.

Watch as Max gives your laziness a chocolate swirly, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

Our trainer will make you a leopard

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

Articles

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

When a stranger says “Thank you for your service” to a veteran, it’s often an awkward — and short — conversation. For some veterans, being thanked for their job seems odd: I didn’t really do much, some may think. You’re thanking me for something you don’t even understand is another thought that may come to mind.


When I hear it, I cordially say thank you back. In my opinion, it takes some guts for a random stranger to approach and express that appreciation. But I sometimes think it may be the wrong sentiment. Sadly, “Thank you for your service” has become the end of the conversation, not the beginning. It’s a phrase that has become a punchline in military circles — thought as empty and overused — and takes away from what could be a chance for civilians to ask questions and really understand what troops have done.

Air Force veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin responds in a similar way, saying “my pleasure” in response. But was it really? As she explains in a wonderful essay at the website Medium, the exchange of pleasantries can take a quick turn:

Upon returning home, being thanked for my service became something I found awkward. My experience was not that traumatic. It was not that dangerous. It didn’t truly feel like a sacrifice. Other people certainly deserved a thank you, but not me. Not when I remembered leaning over a guy who had just lost his leg, scrubbing blood from his hands, attempting a conversation to soothe him when he was incoherent, doped up on morphine. Digging through his bag to find his Purple Heart because he became panicked when he couldn’t remember where they put it. I dug through the normal shit he packed in his bag earlier that day, back when he had two legs, like bubble gum. “Thank you for your service.”
I didn’t deserve much thanks for anything.

O’Herrin, who helped fuse bombs on jets that were later dropped on the bad guys, is and should be proud of her service. Like many of the post-9/11 military generation, she volunteered at a time of war and performed an essential job that most certainly resulted in saved lives on the ground.

In her essay, she recalls seeing a wounded veteran on the D.C. metro, and making eye contact with his mother. She struggles in that moment with wanting to tell the mother — who has no idea she is a veteran — that she understands at least some of what she’s going through. She wants to empathize with her, and tell her that she feels her pain.

“But I knew I couldn’t say something without sounding vapid and empty, swiping at some semblance of shared experience and missing entirely,” O’Herrin writes.

In this experience, she learns an important point, and one that perhaps all veterans should take to heart. While “thank you for your service” can sometimes sound like an empty phrase, just remember in that time before you heard it, that person had to work up the courage to approach when they were not obligated in any way. Far from the awful homecoming of our Vietnam veterans who were sometimes cursed by those who never served, this generation of veterans should accept that phrase and embrace it.

“They wanted me to know they felt something, and chose to say it,” O’Herrin writes in her closing. “And I feel grateful for their words.”

Now read the entire thing over at Medium

MIGHTY HISTORY

The truth about why the US released ISIS’ leader in 2004

In President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address, he mentioned that the U.S. military captured Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but released him. This may have been a surprise to many watching.


“We have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi,” Trump said.

President Trump delivers the State of the Union address to Congress, Jan. 30, 2016 (U.S. Army photo)

The U.S. did capture Baghdadi in February 2004, in the early days of the Iraq War. He was held at Camp Bucca, a prison facility in Garma, Iraq, along the country’s border with Kuwait.

But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.

Baghdadi was captured in a house raid near Fallujah in 2004; he was described by U.S. officials as a “street thug” at the time.

Nine U.S. military review boards worked six days a week reviewing the detainees’ cases over the lifetime of the prison system, resulting in 20-45 percent of captured prisoners being released.

Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

The man who would become the Islamic State’s caliph was held from February to December of 2004. But the U.S. didn’t simply release him, they transferred him to the Iraqi justice system.

It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.

Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.

Baghdadi was not one of them.

At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi around 2005.

Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.

No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.

Articles

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

A continuous, heavy reliance on the most elite U.S. forces is threatening to erode what many officials now see as an increasingly indispensable set of military capabilities.


Already on the front lines in the battle against terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida, U.S. special forces are increasingly being called upon to help combat a growing variety of threats from state and non-state actors at a pace that Pentagon officials fear may not be sustainable.

A 75th Ranger Regiment task force trains. (U.S. Army photo)

“We’ve been operating at such a high op-tempo for the last decade-plus,” Theresa Whelan, acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations.

“That has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted the development of the force for the future. And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse,” she added.

Deployed

Approximately 8,000 U.S. special operations forces are currently deployed to more than 80 countries, according to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

That figure includes high-profile missions in Syria and Iraq, where about 600 special operations forces have been working with local partners to help defeat IS.

A special forces team on patrol. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Special operations forces have also been playing a key role in Afghanistan, where just last week two Army Rangers were killed in a large raid with Afghan counterparts that is thought to have killed the leader of IS in that country.

Additionally, SOCOM has been given new responsibilities, taking the lead in coordinating military actions against terrorist organizations and also maintaining the Defense Department’s efforts to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“Special operations forces are more relevant than ever,” SOCOM Commander General Raymond Thomas told lawmakers. “The evolution, the change in terms of the threat environment, is almost kind of at a frantic level in terms of number of threats.”

But Thomas and Whelan cautioned that the additional responsibilities combined with a larger role on the ground, in many areas, have led to increased strain, especially in a tight budget environment.

In some cases, support staff has taken a hit, Whelan said.

“In fact, we have actually downsized because of requirements for downsizing of the federal workforce, particularly major headquarters organizations,” she told lawmakers.

Funding

Officials also worry about the lack of certainty when it comes to funding.

Nearly 30 percent of SOCOM’s money comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget — meant to help fund current military operations. But SOCOM said the vast majority of that money pays for long-term functions or capabilities.

Members of Special Boat Team 22 participate in a Special Operations Craft Riverine demonstration at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller/Released)

The renewed concerns about special operations funding came the same day President Donald Trump touted a $20 billion military spending increase, included in a bill expected to be approved by the House of Representatives this week.

“We are at last reversing years of military cuts and showing our determination and resolve to the entire world,” Trump said May 2 while welcoming the U.S. Air Force Academy football team to the White House Rose Garden.

“These long-awaited increases will make America more safe and more secure and give our amazing service members the tools, equipment, training, and resources they need and they very much deserve.”

Still, the impact when it comes to stabilizing SOCOM funding is unclear, as the military spending increase includes billions of dollars for OCO.

Also read: This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

But even if funding is stabilized, there remain deep and long-standing concerns about trying to do too much with not enough, possibly pushing special operations force (SOF) troops past their breaking point.

“SOF leaders are worried about that,” a former SOCOM staff officer warned VOA last year, pointing to a continuous surge in the number of missions over the past 15 years.

“They continually say ‘yes,’ ” the officer said. “When do we say ‘no’ in contemporary times to be able to say ‘yes’ to perhaps something more critical in the future?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this new tool will save the Air Force millions

In early May, 2018, Tech. Sgt. Chance Cole, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight line expediter, came up with an idea – and it’s going to save the Air Force a lot of money.

“We were wrapping up a twelve-hour shift, and two of my guys just spent nearly an entire day replacing a single part on the MQ-9 Reaper,” Cole said. “It was frustrating, because we knew there had to be a more efficient way of doing this job.”

Cole described the issue, saying the part they were replacing actually didn’t need to be replaced at all. The real culprit was just a $53 sub-component held within, named the “spline insert.”


According to Cole, each time maintenance personnel were unable to replace the insert, they actually had to remove and replace a much larger and more complex assembly, the Permanent Magnetic Alternator. This process had been accomplished multiple times in the past due to an inability to remove a damaged insert and it added unnecessary time and expense.

Cole asked co-worker Staff Sgt. Hermann Nunez, 386 EAMXS crew chief, to stay after his shift to help him create a solution. Mere hours later, they brought their idea to life and fabricated what they described as a crude prototype designed to remove the damaged insert.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

Although the prototype was functional, Cole and Nunez concluded they needed assistance in creating a more-refined product to be used the next time the need arose. The next morning, they decided to bring the tool to the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Combat Metals Flight. There, Senior Airman Alex Young and Senior Airman Elio Esqueda, aircraft metals technicians, decided to take action.

“They brought their prototype to us and asked for some advice,” Young said. “One look at the tool and we knew exactly what to do – so we got to work.”

According to Young, the tool initially provided was simply a long bolt that matched the insert threads, which the crew chiefs used to extract the insert. However, use of the tool required a decent amount of strength – as the user had to physically pull the crude tool to remove the insert from the PMA.

Young and Esqueda fabricated something called a slide hammer, which provides the user a counter-weight to slide along the tool’s shaft in order to hammer the piece out with ease.

The device, which the four Airmen named the “Spline Insert Extractor,” was completed May 5, 2018. The four Airmen then routed the product through their chain of command before implementing its use. After passing multiple inspections and approval from their leadership, the tool was put into service locally.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

According to the maintainers, the finished product prevents at least four hours of maintenance each time they use the tool to replace the insert instead of replacing the PMA. Use of the tool is projected to save more than $123,000 annually – and that’s just at the 386th EAMXS.

According to Cole, the tool is currently in the process to be approved for use throughout the Air Force on all MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers. Once adopted by the enterprise, he expects the tool will be modified and adapted for usage on the MQ-9 Block 1, as well.

“When we first started the process to create the tool, we only had the intention of fixing a problem we were having here locally,” Cole said. “Thanks to Airmen like Staff Sgt. Nunez, Senior Airman Young and Senior Airman Esqueda helping me with this simple fix, we now have the opportunity to make a lasting impact for our peers across the globe.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia’s new missile ships aren’t really all that powerful

A new ballistic missile submarine wasn’t the only new vessel the Russian Navy got this November.


The new Karakurt-class corvette — dubbed “Typhoon” — was launched at the Pella shipyard in St. Petersburg Nov. 24, after a short ceremony.

The Typhoon, only the second Karakurt-class corvette made so far, is the latest example of the Russian Navy’s increased reliance on small and heavily armed ships that can carry a massive payload of missiles. Russia plans to make 18 Karakurt-class corvettes in total.

The small vessels, comparable to the US Navy’s littoral combat ships, and known in the naval world as corvettes, were originally designed for use in the littoral zone, the area of water close to the shore. As such, the corvettes are much smaller than the frigates and destroyers that are the traditional focus of navies around the world.

Russia, however, has always had difficulty competing with its rivals in this regard, and now seems to have turned to smaller vessels. Russia used its corvettes for missile strikes on targets deep inside Syria, proving that corvettes are just as capable and threatening as their bigger naval brethren.

What makes the Karakurt-class so potentially dangerous is the fact that it is a much more improved version of Russia’s previous corvettes.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrWFu0SL25o

 

The Karakurt-class corvettes have a displacement of only 800 tons (compared to over 900 for Russia’s Buyan-M class), can operate in the deep sea for fifteen days, has an operational range of 2,500 nautical miles, and has stealth technology that will make it even harder for potential enemies to target, given their small size.

But it’s the Karakurt-class’ armament that makes the threat so apparent. It is equipped with eight vertical launching systems that can carry either supersonic P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles or Kalibr-NK cruise missiles.

The Kalibr-NK missile has a range of 2,500 kilometers (approximately 1,553 miles), while the p-800 Oniks has a range of 500 kilometers (approximately 310 miles). The Kalibr-NK was the missile used against ISIS targets deep inside Syria.

The ship also has an AK-176MA 76.2mm automatic gun in the front, capable of firing 150 rounds per minute, and can engage targets as far away as 15km.

Read Also: This is why the Russian Navy is such a basket case

In terms of anti-air defenses, the Karakurt is equipped with a naval version of Russia’s Pantsir-S1, called the Pantsir-M. It is a combined surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system that can shoot down targets up to 20km away.

In essence, the Russians seem to have created a small ship that is as fast as a destroyer and just as capable, but smaller.

However, the Karakurt-class may not be the thing that keeps NATO commanders awake at night.

Michael Kofman, a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses specializing in Russian military affairs, told Business Insider that although the corvette is very capable, its threat level “must be placed in perspective.”

“Russia and NATO are, in some respects, on the same team when it comes to over-blowing Russian military capabilities and engaging in a bit of threat inflationism,” Kofman said in an email.

“It is true the corvettes can hold most of Europe at risk with cruise missiles,” Kofman said. “But conventional cruise missiles don’t do all that much and it would take quite a few corvettes to equal the strike power of even a single US destroyer.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at its new homeport in San Diego. Zumwalt, the Navy’s most technologically advanced surface ship, will now begin installation of combat systems, testing and evaluation, and operation integration with the fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Emiline L. M. Senn)

Kofman also notes that despite its stealth technology and increased seafaring capabilities, it still has lower endurance and survivability in comparison to other vessels, making the Karakurt not cost-effective for any type of ground-attack role.

Rather, the corvette is most likely to excel in an anti-ship role. “It is more than likely intended to venture out and fire salvos at enemy surface action groups or carrier strike groups should they get near Russian maritime approaches,” Kofman said.

However, he said that despite this, the Karakurt-class corvette is a good investment for Russia, saying that “it is an effective platform for fielding long-range, anti-ship weapons, and thus deterring in conflict NATO or US forces.”