F-35 pilot: Here's what people don't understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it - We Are The Mighty
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F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.


Detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long criticized the program as taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.

Related: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.

According to Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet’s capability in warfare.

“The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context,” Berke said in an interview with Business Insider. “We need to do a better job teaching the public how to assess a jet’s capability in warfare.”

“There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane’s ability to get another airplane’s 6 and shoot it with a gun … That hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years,” Berke said.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” said Berke, referring to the 1986 film in which US Navy pilots take on Russian-made MiGs.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
Lockheed Martin photo

But planes don’t fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes’ statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is “kind of an arcane way of looking at it,” Berke said.

Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn’t need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire “off boresight,” virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.

The F-35 can take out a plane miles beyond visual range. It can pass targeting information to another platform, like a drone or a US Navy destroyer, and down a target without even firing a shot.

While US Air Force pilots do train for classic, World War II-era dogfights, and while the F-35 holds its own and can maneuver just as well as fourth-generation planes, dogfights just aren’t that important anymore.

Berke said dogfighting would teach pilots “great skill sets” but conflict within visual range “doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other’s 6 o’clock.” Berke also made an important distinction that conflicts within visual range do not always become dogfights.

Also, “within visual range” is a tricky term.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Lockheed Martin photo.

“You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 15 miles if you got lucky,” Berke said, adding that with today’s all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can “be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions.”

“We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and Gs,” Berke said of analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilots’ insights.

Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid conflicts within visual range — and he said no plane did that better than the F-35.

Even in the F-22 Raptor, the world’s most lethal combat plane in within-visual-range conflicts and beyond, Berke said he’d avoid a close-up fight.

“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
Even in the world’s best fighter jet, nobody would choose a dogfight. US Air Force photo

Though it might be news to fans of “Top Gun” and the gritty, “Star Wars”-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a “dogfight” long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.

A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers use video games to help develop new combat vehicle

Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.

Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.


The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.

The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.

“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.

For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]

These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.

“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

More than 1,500 US National Guard troops are battling the coronavirus across 22 states

More than 1,500 US National Guard troops have been called up across the US to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected nearly 5,000 people and killed at least 94 in the US.


As of Friday, roughly 400 Guardsmen were responding to the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, in six states. By Monday, the number had increased to more than 650 Air and Army National Guard professionals operating across 15 states to combat the coronavirus, the National Guard said in a statement Monday.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

The Guard announced Tuesday that the number of Guardsmen who have been mobilized to battle the virus has more than doubled, jumping to more than 1,560 personnel, which are active in 22 states.

“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” the Guard said in a statement last Friday.

Current missions include work at drive-through test facilities, logistics support for healthcare professionals, and disinfecting and cleaning public spaces, among others. “Guardsmen and women have been distributing food, sanitizing public areas and coordinating response efforts with state emergency managers,” the Guard said in a statement Monday.

There have been calls for additional military support as the virus, which first appeared in China last year, spreads.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insists that US healthcare system is at risk of being overrun. “States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” he wrote in an opinion article for The New York Times Sunday.

“At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers.”

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“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds,” he said, “but it is our best hope.”

At a press briefing Monday morning, Cuomo said that he has been having conversations with the White House on this issue, but talks have so far been inconclusive.

The Department of Defense said in a press briefing Monday that it is aware of the governor’s comments and is evaluating its capabilities, which may be limited. At this time, the department has yet to receive a request for assistance.

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

Articles

Highly decorated Hawaii soldier arrested by FBI SWAT team for alleged ties to ISIS

An FBI SWAT team arrested Hawaii-based soldier Ikaika Erik Kang on July 8 for alleged ties to the Islamic State.


The FBI field office in Honolulu stated that the 34-year-old active-duty soldier is stationed at the Schofield Barracks and appeared in court July 10 regarding allegations of terror links, USA Today reports.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the US District Court of Hawaii, Kang, part of the 25th Infantry Division, pledged allegiance to ISIS. Kang also attempted to provide military documents to ISIS contacts, authorities allege.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
US District Court in Honolulu Image from Hawaii News Now.

Unlike other service members apprehended due to terror connections, Sgt. 1st Class Kang was highly decorated, having been awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal, among others. He deployed to Iraq in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2014.

“Terrorism is the FBI’s number one priority,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul D. Delacourt said in a statement. “In fighting this threat, the Honolulu Division of the FBI works with its law enforcement partners and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In this case, the FBI worked closely with the US Army to protect the citizens of Hawaii.”

Prior to his arrest, Kang worked as an air traffic control operator.

The Army and FBI had been investigating Kang for more than a year. They believe he was a lone actor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army wants to know how a soldier was shot during expert test

Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.

The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.


The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.

Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it

Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.

The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.

Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.

The incident remains under investigation, she said.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus goggles and 3 other weird COVID prevention products that work

You already know to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands often. But if you’re at high risk of getting severely sick with COVID-19, or if you’re very worried about your family’s health, you probably want something more. Isn’t there anything else you can do to boost coronavirus prevention in your family?

Yes, but, they’re not exactly accepted by science — or society. Some of them are backed by limited evidence; others are just bizarre; none are part of the blanket CDC recommendations (although Anthony Fauci has personally endorsed the first). You probably don’t need them for a trip to the grocery store, but if you want that extra sense of security or have to go into a high-risk environment, they can help. Here are extra ways to reduce your COVID-19 risk, even if you’ll look wild doing them.


Wear Goggles

Slapping a pair of goggles on your face can prevent you from getting infected by the coronavirus. The same way that the virus can get into your body via your mouth and nose, it also can from your eyes — one reason that you’re not supposed to touch your face without washing your hands. “If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it,” Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist in the U.S., told ABC News. The same way masks offer some protection to your mouth and nose against droplets containing the virus, goggles do for your eyes.

If you don’t want to look like a mad scientist, glasses and sunglasses can protect your eyes, though droplets can get in from the sides, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. If you wear contacts, it may be best to switch to glasses during the pandemic, especially because people with contacts touch their eyes more often.

Experts recommend wearing eye protection in high-risk situations, such as when caring for someone with COVID-19 or traveling on a crowded airplane. But don’t put all your bets on goggles. A review study from June found that eye protection decreases coronavirus risk, but it also concluded that the evidence was weak. And the path to your respiratory system is less direct from the eyes than the nose and mouth, so it may be harder to get COVID-19 this way.

Sanitize Your Nose

Sanitizing your nose the way you sanitize your hands could reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. But don’t go shooting hand sanitizer up your nostrils. There are specific products made to help, such as the Nosin Nasal Sanitizer, which you swab on the inside of your nostrils for 12-hour protection and a “soft smell of citrus.” Think of it like washing your hands, but for your sniffer. Do it in private and no one even needs to know.

Though it sounds ridiculous, nose sanitizing actually works. The Sanitize Your Nose campaign is backed by a full board of qualified doctors and nurses. The nose is a “perfect warm, moist, hairy reservoir where harmful germs can grow and multiply,” Ron Singer, an orthopedic surgeon, and advisor to the campaign, told FOX Rochester. Nasal sanitizers kill those germs and offer daily protection against them, though they have not been tested against COVID-19 specifically

Wear Masks That Open When You Eat

Though staying home is your safest option, there are masks that allow you to eat on the go if you must. Some of these masks have a zipper you can unzip to pop food into your mouth, like this black number that would be equally at home in a bondage film. Others come with a hole you can stick a straw through for drinking and close when you’re done, like these floral masks. They look absurd, but in theory, they make it less likely you’ll get or transmit COVID-19 while chowing down. However, they aren’t tested. Many of the designs don’t have perfect coverage, so don’t treat them as your go-to mask. But if you need to eat or drink in public, they can offer extra protection.

Get Your Vitamin D

Sounds like bullshit, right? Take these vitamins and you’ll be COVID-free! But Vitamin D may reduce your risk of coronavirus infection or help you get better if you do get COVID-19, according to a new commentary in The Lancet. Though there isn’t any conclusive evidence in regard to COVID-19, past studies have shown that Vitamin D protects against other acute respiratory infections. It makes sense Vitamin D would help fight against the coronavirus too because it supports antiviral mechanisms in the body. If you want more Vitamin D, take a supplement or spend 5 to 10 minutes outside without sunscreen most days of the week.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This epic World War I movie was made with Legos

In early 1918, American troops were reaching France and beginning to make an impact on the ebb and flow of the war. While the previous combatants had been largely deadlocked for years, fresh American troops could turn the tide of otherwise evenly matched fights.


Germany was on the losing side of this power shift and needed to win the war before more American troops and equipment could arrive. A grand offensive was planned that would come to be known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres or the Battle of Lys.

If successful, it would have forced the British back to the channel ports and possibly caused an evacuation like that in nearby Dunkirk 22 years later.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
A British artillery crew maneuvers its 18-pounder field gun at Saint Floris during the Battle of the Lys, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

A two-day artillery bombardment preceded an attack on April 9, 1918, that drove the Portuguese defenders in the Ypres Salient back five miles and cost 7,000 Portuguese lives.

British troops in the area were forced to pull back and cover the gaps of the withdrawing Portuguese soldiers and nightfall on April 9 found them in a precarious position. They held the high ground that the Germans desperately needed and they were outnumbered. The British 19th Division was attempting to hold off a concerted attack by the entire German Fourth Army.

In this brickfilm, a stop-animation movie made almost entirely with Legos, YouTube user Snooperking recreates that disastrous morning for the allies in April 1918 as the British attempt to hold the line and prevent the Germans taking the high ground.

Snooperking, YouTubeSnooperking does a pretty impressive job with the Legos, representing dead bodies from previous fighting with small skeletons and using different Lego heads to capture the fear of the attackers, the resolve of the defenders, and the utter panic when any soldier finds himself on the wrong end of the bayonet.

Luckily, while the middle weeks of April 1918 were disastrous for the British in terms of lost territory, they did bleed the Germans heavily for every yard of territory lost. The German offensive stalled and was called off at the end of April. German losses during the attack allowed for their stunning defeats a few months later as Allied forces, bolstered by American reinforcements, went on the offensive.

(h/t Doctrine Man)

Articles

The brazen origins of the 1st Special Service Force

In 1942, the culmination of a crazy idea from a British officer — known as Project Plough — yielded one of the most top-notch fighting forces of World War II.


The project called for a small, highly-trained group to parachute into Norway to conduct guerrilla operations against the Germans there. When the plan came across the desk of Lt. Col. Robert Frederick at the War Department in 1942, he reported to his boss, then-Maj. Gen. Eisenhower, that the plan was unworkable.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
Frederick while in command of the 1st Special Service Force, 1944. (U.S. Dept. of Defense)

However, Eisenhower needed to build cohesion between the British and Americans and decided to form the unit anyway. To Eisenhower’s knowledge there was no man more well-versed in Project Plough that it’s biggest detractor, Robert Frederick.

Frederick was an interesting choice to lead this new guerrilla unit. He had graduated middle of his class from West Point and had been commissioned into the Coastal Artillery. He had never made much of an impression on anyone, though he soon would.

Frederick’s new unit, the 1st Special Service Force, was activated July 9, 1942, at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The unit would be a joint venture of the Americans and Canadians.

The unit also had a different structure made up of three “regiments” of 800 men each consisting of two battalions. Frederick was in overall command while a Canadian served as his executive officer.

Every member was to be parachute qualified and trained to be adept at cold weather combat. They also trained on a variety of weapons, both American and German, and even developed their own fighting knife, the V-42.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
V-42 Stiletto (Photo courtesy of John Gibson)

In late 1942, the Norway mission that the unit had been training for was scratched. However, the men continued to train and by 1943 a suitable mission presented itself: the battle for the Aleutian Islands.

After further training, the 1st Special Service Force embarked for its first mission along with other American forces to liberate the Aleutian Islands. For the rough and ready men of the force, the campaign was a letdown. Their only action was storming ashore on the abandoned island of Kiska. They left eager for a new mission.

With the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, a new opportunity presented itself. Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, commanding U.S. forces in Italy, requested the unit to help break through the German defenses in the cold and treacherous Italian mountains.

The unit arrived in Italy on Nov. 19, 1943, and began preparations for an assault on the German position at Monte La Difensa.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
1st Special Service Force near Venafro in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)

At the beginning of December, the unit began moving into place through freezing rain and bitter cold. Their plan was to climb up a sheer cliff face and to attack the German position from the most unlikely direction. Col. Frederick had personally surveyed the route and planned his units’ first combat action.

On Dec. 4, 1943, with men and equipment in place, they began to climb up the 200-foot cliff face in a freezing rain. Stealthily, they ascended the cliff and crawled into positions so close to the German lines they could hear the men talking and smell their food cooking.

The attack began not with overwhelming force but by surprising German sentries and quietly killing them with their knives. There was to be no shooting until 0600, but a slide of loose rocks alerted the Germans that something was amiss. As German flares and mortars began to rain down, the commandos sprang into action.

The fighting was close and intense but the unit had secured the hilltop. Within just two hours, Frederick’s men accomplished what numerous other units had failed to do.

Still, their work was far from done.

The top of Monte La Difensa was only weakly held by Frederick’s small force. Rather than wait for the inevitable counterattack, Frederick decided to launch an attack of his own. The Special Service Force, perpetually outnumbered by the Germans, fought on taking out position after position and helping to open the path for the Fifth Army.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
Personnel of the First Special Service Force being briefed before setting out on a patrol, Anzio beachhead, Italy.(Photo: Library and Archives Canada)

In February 1944, after a brief rest, Frederick and his men were moved to the Anzio beachhead to shore up the precarious Allied lines. It was at Anzio that the unit acquired its enduring nickname — the Devil’s Brigade.

Not content to simply hold the line, the unit began launching small patrols to harass the Germans and gather intelligence. The men became quite adept at capturing prisoners and were known to bring back entire formations — platoons and companies — of Germans.

An enterprising lieutenant also declared himself the mayor of an abandoned town behind German lines, renaming it “Gusville” after himself. The unit even began circulating a newspaper (“the Gusville Herald-Tribune”) and reporters in the Anzio area would make the trek to the town — through German fire — in order to file their stories from “Gusville, Italy”.

However, despite their antics, there was also serious combat around the Anzio beachhead. Frederick, now a Brigadier General, would be wounded on numerous occasions leading his men from the front.

When the Allies broke out of the beachhead, the force was a leading element in the drive towards Rome. Who entered Rome first is often disputed but a patrol by the Devil’s Brigade was certainly one of the first to get there.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
1st Special Service Force before an evening patrol near Anzio in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)

After the successful capture of Rome, the men were given a reprieve from combat. It was also announced that Frederick was leaving the force to take command of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force that would be spearheading Operation Dragoon.

Although airborne capable, the unit would not jump with the task force and instead was assigned to assault several small islands near the landing beaches that had been fortified by the Germans. This would be the last major effort undertaken by the unit.

After light action along the French coast, the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on Dec. 5, 1944, in France. Most of the men, American and Canadian, were sent as replacements to airborne units.

The modern day 1st Special Forces Group traces its lineage to the 1st Special Service Force.

Articles

ISIS militants are now using civilians as bait

The Pentagon says Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul are holding civilians in buildings by force and then deliberately attracting coalition strikes.


A Pentagon spokesman on March 30 said the U.S. military will soon release a video showing IS fighters herding people into a building, then firing from the structure to bait coalition forces.

F-35 pilot: Here’s what people don’t understand about dogfighting, and how the F-35 excels at it
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The comments come as the U.S. military responds to criticism from within Iraq and internationally over a separate incident in which as many as 240 civilians are believed to have been killed.

“What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields,” said Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the coalition. “Now it’s something much more sinister.”

He said militants are “smuggling civilians so we won’t see them” into buildings and then attempting to draw an attack.

He said he was working on declassifying a video showing militants conducting such an operation.

Human rights group Amnesty International, Pope Francis, and others have urged for better protection for civilians caught in the war, with calls intensifying after a separate March 17 explosion in the Mosul al-Jadida district, killing scores of people.

The U.S. military previously acknowledged that coalition planes probably had a role in the explosion and subsequent building collapse, but it said the ammunition used was insufficient to explain the amount of destruction observed.

Officials said they suspect the building may have been booby-trapped or that the damage may have been caused by the detonation of a truck bomb.

U.S.-backed forces are attempting to push IS fighters out of west Mosul after having liberated the less-populated eastern part of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Scrocca estimated that some 1,000 militants remain in west Mosul, their last stronghold in Iraq, down from 2,000 when the assault was launched on February 19.

They are facing about 100,000 Iraqi government forces, he added.

Articles

Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

Als read: Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story behind the Frecce Tricolori video that has become the symbol of Italy’s battle against coronavirus

The scene of the Italian Air Force display team performing their trademark final maneuver has gone viral, so much so President of the United States used it for a message of encouragement to Italy.


Italy is, after China, world’s most affected country by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures tell of about 2,500 tested positive to Covid-19 and more than 1,800 people deaths. For about a week now, the whole country is on lockdown to slow down the new infections and death toll and the Italians have relied on emotional flashmobs and social media initiatives to break monotony and lift spirits.

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Among all the things that have been used to boost morale in this tough period, one has really emerged as a symbol of unity: the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force display team. A clip showing the Frecce’s ten MB.339A/PAN aircraft performing their final maneuver went viral quickly reaching well beyond the (virtual) borders of the Italian social media channels.

As aviation enthusiasts (especially those who attend airshows) know, the Frecce Tricolori display is constituted by an uninterrupted sequence of some thirty figures, the performance of which requires on average some 25 minutes. Following the performance of the first part of the programme with all ten aircraft, the solo display pilot detaches, alternating his own manoeuvres with the ones flown by the remaining nine aircraft. The display, which has a more or less fixed structure, but can occasionally be modified, always concludes with the Alona (Big Wing), the long curved flypast with a tricolour smoke trail by nine aircraft with undercarriage down, performed in harmony with the broadcasting of the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma”, the famous aria from the opera “Tourandot”.

The first time the team broadcasted the “Nessun Dorma” performed by Luciano Pavorotti during their final maneuver was in 1992 during the Frecce Tricolori’s second North American tour for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Boosted by the experience accrued during their preceding overseas transfer, the Frecce Tricolori achieved a remarkable success with the public, flying, between Jun. 11 and Jul. 31, 1992, 14 displays and flybys in the USA and Canada. It was at that point, during “Columbus 92”, that the practice of broadcasting the famous aria became the norm: the “Nessun Dorma” was preferred to other musical pieces test-broadcasted during the displays carried out during the North American tour.

As an Italian who has watched the Frecce Tricolori perform their display hundreds times, that final maneuver that draws in the sky the longest Italian flag, always gives me shivers.

As said, the clip posted these days (that, based on the setting, was probably filmed at Jesolo, on the Adriatic coast near Venice, during one of the airshows held there in the last years), has gone viral. Some users on social media said the scene symbolized the end of the Coronavirus: the larger formation trailing a tricolor smoke encompasses the smoke trail of the soloist “virus plane”, turning it invisible. Whatever the meaning you give it, it’s the moving end of the Frecce’s display.

Even President Trump used the clip for a tweet of encouragement to Italy.

For those who don’t know them, the Italian Frecce Tricolori are one of the world’s most famous display teams. They also hold several records.

First of all the team’s size: the Italians are the only ones to fly with 10 aircraft.

Another peculiary which makes the Frecce (also known as PAN – Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale – Italian for National Aerobatic Team) unique is the fact that the whole display is executed in sight of the public. Separations, transformations and rejoins are always performed in front of the spectators, a circumstance which requires absolute preciseness in all phases of the display.

By the way: another record accomplished by the Frecce Tricolori is the fact that they separate into two formations (one flight of 5 and another of 4 aircraft) which then fly an opposition pass and subsequently rejoin in less than two minutes. Rejoin time is a factor that can influence deeply a flying display.

One more peculiarity of the PAN is the Downward Bomb Burst, a maneuver which has been part of the Pattuglia’s tradition since its creation, having been part of the Italian Air Force heritage for 90 years now. It is a maneuver in which the aircraft, starting from a high altitude and in formation, dive towards the ground and then separate into 9 individual elements which depart in different directions, finally returning for an opposition pass, at three different levels, over the same point. This is a very spectacular and complex manoeuvre, which no one else is capable of reproducing, especially due to the difficulty in opposition passing and rejoining in the very short time frames required for a display.

The other record of the Frecce Tricolori is tied to the Solo’s Lomçovak. This is a display which is typically executed by propeller aircraft, and foresees a “standing roll” followed by a vertical spin, reverse and subsequent aircraft pitch down. Such a manoeuvre is usually “outside the flight envelope” for most jet aircraft, but the PAN’s Solo pilot can execute it in complete safety, thanks to the outstanding handling capabilities of the MB.339.

The aircraft the team flies is the PAN variant of the single engine tandem seat training and tactical support aircraft. Apart from the livery, it differs from the standard model serving with the Aeronautica Militare’s 61° Stormo (Wing) at Galatina (Lecce) airbase by the presence onboard of the coloured smokes generation system; this device is controlled by two buttons: one on the stick, for white smoke, and one on the throttle for coloured smoke. The system is fed from an under wing fuel tank filled with a colouring agent which is discharged through nozzles placed in the jet exhaust. The agent, vaporised in the jet exhaust, produces a coloured trail. Another PAN aircraft peculiarity is that in order to enhance manoeuvrability along the aircraft longitudinal (roll) axis, and to reduce wing loading, it flies with no tip tanks. These are cylindrical 510 litre tanks which are only mounted on the aircraft for long-range ferry flights. They are replaced by an ad hoc wingtip fairing which covers the wingtip tank attachment points. Since 2002, the PAN also received Mid Life Updated MB.339s. This MLU programme has integrated the previous series models with updated structural features and avionics, such as GPS, formation flying position lights, a new V/UHF radio equipped with a new tail antenna, in addition to reinforced nose and tail. The MB.339 has equipped the PAN since 1982, when it replaced the FIAT G.91, a light fighter bomber aircraft which entered service with the Frecce Tricolori in 1963. The MB.339A/PAN will be replaced by the M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer).

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

It looks like Turkey-backed forces are taking pot shots at US troops in Syria

US troops fighting in the coalition against ISIS came under direct attack near Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers in Northern Syria.


Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman told Business Insider that “unknown groups” have engaged with US forces on “multiple occasions over the past week or so Northwest of Manbij,” a town in Syria formerly held by ISIS.

“Our forces did receive fire and return fire and then moved to a secure location,” US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Reuters. “The coalition has told Turkey to tell the rebels it backs there that firing on US-led coalition forces is not acceptable.”

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A fighter for the Free Syrian Army loads a US-made M2. The YSA is supplied by the US, but opposes the YPG, also supplied by the US.

Sources told CNN that no casualties occurred on either side.

Turkey backs a number of forces that oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad and has made efforts to keep its border area clear of ISIS and other militants.

The US supports several Syrian militias that also oppose Assad, though the US now only supports them in their fight against ISIS. However it seems that the Turkish-allied forces likely knew they were exchanging fire with US soldiers.

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Image from Google Maps via Business Insider.

“These patrols are overt. Our forces are clearly marked and we have been operating in that area for some time,” said Dillon. “It should not be news to anyone that we are doing this, operating in that particular area.”

“We’re there to monitor and to deter hostilities and make sure everyone remains focused on ISIS,” said Pahon. “We’re going to have to continue our patrols but we have had to move to some protected positions.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.


“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

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“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.

The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.

“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”

Changing the calculus of an adversary

The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.

Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.

The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.

The missile is already deployed aboard Navy littoral combat ships, one of which deployed to the Pacific with the missile last year.

The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.

The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.

Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.

“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.

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US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey conducts a Tomahawk missile flight test in the western Pacific, August 17, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Devin M. Langer

Range beyond restrictions

The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.

“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.

The Navy is pursuing a number of long-range anti-ship missiles, among them the Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a maritime variant of the land-attack cruise missile with an active seeker to track moving ships.

Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”

With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.

Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”

“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.

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