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First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

 


First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

The F-14A Tomcat was a hard airplane to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Engine response was slow. A wingtip-to-wingtip distance of nearly 70 feet meant there wasn’t much room to deviate away from the centerline of the landing area on the flight deck. Any lateral stick input caused the airplane to yaw in the opposite direction, which forced the pilot to simultaneously feed in rudder to counter. The velocity vector on the heads-up display wasn’t accurate enough to be used as a flight path marker. The tail hook-to-eye distance was more than any other airplane in the wing, which made any vertical corrections very precarious in the endgame.

And for her crime of doing well in flight school, then-Ensign Carey Lohrenz was selected to fly Tomcats, the first female naval aviator to get orders to that community. And by accepting those orders, Lohrenz embarked on a pioneer’s journey, one that had more ups and downs than anyone could have predicted, and one that would have crushed the spirit of the average American woman.

But Carey Lohrenz isn’t an average American woman.

Lohrenz developed a love of sports while growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While she claims she wasn’t a tomboy, she played little league hockey on boy’s teams until high school. (“I quit when they started taking a little too long to get off of me after a check,” she jokes.) After that she took advantage of her six-foot-tall stature and joined the volleyball and basketball teams.

At the same time another love was growing inside of her: aviation. Her father was an airline pilot who’d flown C-130s in the Marine Corps, and her mother was a flight attendant. Both she and her older brother were determined to fly, and they often discussed the best routes to make a career out of flying.

But Lohrenz didn’t discuss her dream with anyone else. “I didn’t want their doubts about what females could do at that time to taint my dream,” she said.

So as soon as she had her Psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin in hand, she followed her brother’s lead and applied for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School. Months later she reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training.

Her brother was just over a year ahead of her in the training pipeline, and in spite of the fact he selected the transport community (and ultimately wound up flying E-6s) she wanted to fly tactical jets. And because her performance was at the top of her class, she got what she wanted.

But her selection for jet training came with some inherent tension. The combat exclusion law that prevented females from being assigned to carrier-based squadrons was still very much in place in the early 1990s. The only jets that females were piloting were shore-based EA-6s that flew missile profiles against surface ships for training.

“I got a lot of ‘why are you here?’ questions from instructors and fellow flight students,” Lohrenz said.

But she was undeterred and pressed on with an eye on what she hoped might happen. “If combat billets opened up I wanted to be in a position so that nobody could say I got a slot simply because I was a girl but because I was qualified,” she said.

But in spite of her hope and planning, it wasn’t looking good as she neared the end of her flight training.

“I got a call six weeks before I was supposed to get my wings that the combat exclusion clause hadn’t been lifted and there was no place for me to go,” Lohrenz said.  “I could get out of the Navy or go to a non-flying job.”

She hung up the phone and went back to her scheduled flight brief and fought the instinct to cry.

The next day she went to her commanding officer and asked him to find “a third way.”

“I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” she said.  And because she’d done well her CO went to bat for her.

But he didn’t have to try too hard because about that same time the combat exclusion law went away. Lohrenz pinned on her Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold and got orders to VF-124, the F-14 training squadron at NAS (now MCAS) Miramar in southern California, the first female to go right from winging to Tomcats. (The other females were transferred from the EA-6 community.)

But the challenges for Lohrenz didn’t end there.

“I got to Miramar as the trifecta of bad things were happening,” she said.

There was the fallout from the Tailhook scandal that resulted in careers ending for several high-ranking and popular fighter crews. There was a Navy-wide reduction in force happening that was forcing people out of the service against their will. And there was disappointment in the Tomcat community about the fact that the F-14 wasn’t getting upgraded.

One of the instructors posted two articles on the main bulletin board in the ready room: One about how the upgraded F-14 was being cancelled, and one that highlighted that the cost to retrograde ships for females was $200 million.

“There was a lot of animosity that had nothing to do with me but merely my presence,” Lohrenz said. “It wasn’t an easy environment.  It took an unwavering belief that I had the ability to do the job.”

She had the first hiccup in her flight training toward the end of the VF-124 syllabus, failing to qualify the first time she tried landing the Tomcat on the carrier. But she wasn’t alone. About 75 percent of her class failed the first time, primarily due to the weather conditions that resulted in rough seas that made an already difficult task of landing a beast of an airplane on the ship for the first time even harder.

Lohrenz focused on her additional training and qualified without any issues the second time through.

She joined her first fleet squadron – VF-213 “Blacklions” – at the most rigorous phase of pre-deployment training, one of two female pilots in the squadron.

The other female pilot was Lt. Kara Hultgreen. Hultgreen was senior to Lohrenz and had come to the Blacklions by way of the EA-6 community.

“Because she had a lot of flight hours people assumed she was experienced,” Lohrenz said.

Two months into Lohrenz’ tour tragedy struck.  Hultgreen’s Tomcat had an engine stall in the landing pattern behind the carrier, and she lost control and crashed. While the backseater managed to initiate ejection in time to save his own life, Hultgreen was killed.

The mishap became a lightning rod of emotions and political agendas. Experienced pilots believed Hultgreen had mishandled a basic inflight emergency and that her death was her own fault. Others resented the level of effort that was put into recovering the Tomcat from the bottom of the ocean.

“Nobody addressed the details of the situation and it caused a lot of people to feel less valuable and hurt morale,” Lohrenz said. “And there was a bit of a leadership vacuum that could have nipped the whole thing in the bud.”

Lohrenz was now the sole female carrier-based fighter pilot.

“If I thought the spotlight was bad before it was now nuclear fusion level,” she said.

She was caught in a lose-lose matrix of sorts. “If I was stoic people thought I didn’t care,” she explained. “And if I showed emotion people thought I was a bitch.”

The atmosphere on the carrier was increasingly uncomfortable, even insulting, as the deployment wore on. Female crew were made to take pregnancy tests after every in-port period. The admiral in charge stated in a very public forum that the reason he supported women aboard ships was “because they made the carrier smell better.”

She tried to simply do her job, to fly the airplane and perform as a normal first-tour junior officer should, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the forces around her.

“To be cryptic about it, the rug was yanked out from under me by a cadre of people who didn’t want women in the military . . . period,” Lohrenz said.

She saw a shift in her commanding officer’s attitude. Her previous landing grade performance that had characterized her as a normal first tour pilot dealing with an airplane that was just plain hard to control now had her listed as “unsafe and unpredictable.”

“I was set up,” she said.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Carey Lohrenz giving one of her keynote addresses.

Lohrenz was given an evaluation board that pulled her out of the Tomcat community and assigned her to fly small propeller-driven transports from a shore base. She left the Navy shortly after that.

But in spite of the challenges and the emotional turmoil, Lohrenz has used the experience as a pivot point.  “I went from Mach 2 to mom to entrepreneur,” she said.

During the course of being a homemaker, which included being a wife to a FEDEX pilot and raising four kids, she found herself increasingly being sought after for business advice, especially that pertaining to organizational change.

Lohrenz connected the dots and – after a short and semi-chaotic stint with a consulting firm run by military aviation alums – she launched Carey Lohrenz Enterprises. She is now in high demand as a consultant and keynote speaker.

Her efforts are anchored by her book Fearless Leadership that outlines her approaches to both business and life. The book is organized around the three fundamentals of “real fearlessness” — courage, tenacity, and integrity — and offers Lohrenz’ take on how to stay resilient through hard times.

And Lohrenz’ life would suggest that staying resilient is something about which she knows a thing or two.

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This is what it takes to walk on the moon

Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar that we will put American boots back on the Moon. It reaffirms his position he made at the Kennedy Space Center in July that Americans are going back.


“We will return astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” said Vice President Mike Pence.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Photo by Sgt. Amber Smith

Before we get our hopes up about signing up as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner (99Z) in the beloved Space Corps, there a long road to go. But there’s hope! We went to the Moon back in ’69 and we’re a few years past landing probes on comets. Surely sending more people to the moon with 2017 technology shouldn’t be that difficult.

Except it still is. It’s still very costly (average of $450 million per mission) to send people to space, let alone to the Moon.

To be worth the money and risk, NASA has a very brief list of requirements in astronaut selection. At least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, 3+ years of professional experience or 1,000+ hours of flight time, and the ability to pass the NASA physical. Seems easy enough, but NASA will only send the best of the freaking best to the Moon.

What better way to figure out what would make you stand out than by looking at those who’ve made the cut before?

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
This could be you. *Puppies not included* (Image courtesy of NASA)

At the time of writing this, 560 humans have been to space (according to the USAF’s definition) and only 12 have left their boot marks forever on the lunar surface. Of the 560 to go to space, 61.6% (337) have been American — including all twelve astronauts who’ve been to the Moon.

All twelve men were between the ages of 36 and 47. All from very prestigious universities, with seven of them having degrees in various military academies. And all but one, Harrison Schmitt, served in either the Air Force or Navy as well as ten being on active duty. Neil Armstrong was a veteran at the time of his flights.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Basically, Neil Armstrong won ETS-ing. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Of the eleven military personnel, all were pilots. The least amount of flight time logged was by Neil Armstrong, who had over 2,400 hours. The standard just went up from there. John Young, the 9th person to walk on the moon, had 15,275 hours flying jets, props, helicopters, rocket jets; 9,200 hours in a T-38; and 835 hours in space.

You would need to also be fairly high in rank. Neil Armstrong, still the exception, was the lowest rank at Lieutenant Junior Grade — and a veteran, at that. Everyone else was an O-6, (Air Force Colonel or Navy Captain) and above.

If you want to walk on the Moon – you’re going to need to either be an aviation golden child, have a PhD from Harvard, or be veteran AF like Neil Armstrong.

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US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

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New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

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A shoulder to cry on? Service secretaries bemoan lack of progress on the job

In what should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the current state of Washington, the three service secretaries complained Oct. 24 about how hard it was to get anything done because of the cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy and Congress’ inability to approve a spending budget on time.


In a forum sponsored by the Center for a New American Security in D.C., Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said she had been surprised by “how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington, how difficult it is to move your agenda.”

James specifically mentioned the political stalemate in the Congress and “the need to get back to compromise.”

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said his biggest surprise and frustration was “how slowly the bureaucracy moves, particularly DoD-wide.” If you want to do something, he said, the response is “we have to study this, or you have to do it DoD-wide” instead of letting the individual services act.

Army Sec. Eric Fanning said he was surprised by “how much time that would be spent on the budget every year,” because “we don’t have any stability” in the congressional budget process.

All three of the secretaries said they were trying to take steps within their service to bypass the ponderous procurement process, with James and Fanning citing the rapid capabilities offices their services have established to get gear fielded quicker — even if it wasn’t “a 100 percent solution.”

The procurement system is set up to seek the ultimate solution, which is a problem because the adversary moves quicker, Fanning said.

Mabus endorsed that view and said the Navy has “been doing pilot programs,” to move prospective systems out to the fleet instead of following the lengthy process for a program of record. The idea, he said, “is to get something out faster,” and possibly to “fail faster.”

He cited the Navy’s deployment of an experimental laser defensive weapon system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf, which is influencing decisions on follow-on weapons.

James said the advice she would offer her successor in the next administration would be to spend less time on review and oversight on smaller programs so the acquisition specialists could have more time for the biggest programs.

The three secretaries, who would be expected to leave office when a new president and defense secretary take over next year, said they are involved in a detailed process run by Defense Sec. Ash Carter’s office to prepare briefing papers on programs, budget and personnel issues for their successors.

The secretaries were introduced by Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS, who is widely rumored to be the next defense secretary if Hillary Clinton becomes president.

The three officials insisted that their services were ready to fight the current battles against violent extremists, such as ISIL, but said they were concerned about their ability to prepare those forces for a future fight against a high-end adversary due to the uncertain and constrained defense budgets, the intense pace of operations and reductions in their force levels.

Among the emerging threats they were trying to prepare for, the secretaries cited cyber attacks from high-end rivals such as Russia, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which already are showing up in Iraq.

James noted the explosive loaded UAV that killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq recently. And she said the Air Force detected an “unmanned system in the vicinity” of its deployed forces and “was able to bring it down with electronic means” rather than shooting it down. She declined to say how that was done.

Asked if they would be able to conduct a “no-fly zone” over rebel-held areas of Syria, which some have advocated, James said, “we know how to do this,” but it would require money, people and resources that would have to come from other commitments.

But because the Air Force would be supported by the Navy and perhaps coalition partners, “I have to believe we would figure out how to do it,” she said

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Coming to a highway near you: Finnish F-18s

Things you should expect to see on the highway include people texting and driving, dead animals, and Finnish F-18s landing and taking off.


Well, that last one may be only true in the Finland. While it’s a myth that the Interstate Highway System in America requires one straight mile for every five miles of road, many military aircraft are perfectly capable of landing and taking off from civilian highways. Finland practices this capability to ensure they can disperse their fighters if necessary during a conflict.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
(GIF: YouTube/Александр Ермаков)

And as you can see in the above GIF from a similar exercise, the fighters don’t need anywhere near a mile of road. The minimum takeoff distance for an F-18C on a flat surface is 1,700 feet, about 0.33 miles. The Finnish F-18 taking off in the video is using a downhill slope, letting it gather speed a little more quickly and get off the road.

The whole video from the Finnish Defence Forces is fun, but skip to 0:18 if you only want to watch the jets.

(h/t: War History Online)

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This Russian mobile Howitzer is a beast

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement on Sept. 4 saying that its new Koalitsiya-SV howitzer, which Moscow claims shoots farther than any western gun, will be ready for service by 2020.


While Russia is well known for making outlandish claims about its military hardware, the new 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV, by all accounts, may live up to the hype.

First unveiled in 2015, the Koalitsiya-SV, also known as “Coalition-SV,” is a 152mm self-propelled gun that can reportedly fire up to 15-20 rounds a minute, according to The National Interest.

This range of automation is far superior to western guns, like the US M109 Paladin, which fires 6 rounds a minute.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
A US Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq. US Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht.

The Coalition-SVs high level of automation also allows it to be operated by a two or three-man crew, while the Paladin requires six.

The Koalitsiya-SV can reportedly fire rounds up to 43 miles, much farther than the Paladin at 18 miles and Great Britain’s AS90 Braveheart at 24 miles.

It’s also capable of firing a variety of rounds, like standard and rocket-assisted, high-explosive, fragmentation projectiles, cluster projectiles, and jammer projectiles, according to military-today.com. These projectiles, however, unlike Russia’s new long-range precision-guided shell, have firing ranges of less than 43 miles.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
The Russian Koalitsiya-SV. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vitaly Kuzmin.

Given Moscow’s budgetary problems, we’ll have to wait and see if the Coalition-SV is mass produced.

In any event, the “introduction of … the Koalitsiya-SV [is] a significant boost to the Russian Ground Forces’ artillery forces,” Dave Majumdar wrote in The National Interest in June.

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Bin Laden shooter Robert O’Neill threatened by ISIS as ‘number one target’

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes


The former Navy SEAL who says he shot Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid had his address made public while being named the “number one target” by a purported member of the ISIS terrorist group, Military Times reports.

After monitoring extremist chatrooms, the UK’s Daily Mirror reported a British ISIS member giving out the SEAL’s name and address to others, which has been shared by jihadis in recent days.

“I leave this info of Robert O’Neill for my brothers in America and Al Qaeda in the U.S., as a number one target to eventually hunt down and kill,” the ISIS supporter wrote.

Since O’Neill is no longer on active duty, the Defense Department told the Times it would likely not be opening an investigation. But the SEAL, who retired in 2012 as a senior chief petty officer, doesn’t appear to be worried.

“All soldiers who serve their country assume certain risks. It’s part of the deal,” O’Neill told The Daily Caller. “But I am alert, I am vigilant and I take precautions. My bigger concern is a lack of a clear strategy for containing and or neutralizing ISIS as a national security threat.”

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It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Look Ma! No pilot! (Or RIO, for that matter.) (Photo: U.S. Navy)


Phantom Phanatics have loved the F-4, even though the legendary fighter has been out of United States service for two decades. But that may not be an accurate way to think of it. Because theF-4 actually has still been serving – and still has about two months of life left with the United States Air Force.

According to an Air Force release, these Phantoms that have been serving just haven’t been manned – for the most part. QF-4 Phantoms (the Q standing for “drone”) have been providing “live” targets for the testing of air-to-air missiles (like the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM), usually by simulating an enemy aircraft during those tests. Any number of pilots who have used air-to-air missiles in combat can thank those target drones for helping make sure those missiles worked.

How did the Phantom provide two decades’ worth of target drones? Well, it’s not hard when you realize that almost 5,200 were built by McDonnell-Douglas. Now, that includes those that were exported, but even with combat losses in Vietnam (73 for the Navy, 75 for the Marine Corps, and 528 for the Air Force). The Air Force arranged for 324 airframes to become QF-4s. The Navy also used the QF-4 after retiring its last F-4 from USMC service in 1992 – getting another 12 years of service from the “Double Ugly” until the last airframe retired in 2004.

The QF-4s were not the first planes to serve as target drones. The QF-86 Sabre, QF-80 Shooting Star, QF-100 Super Sabre, and the QF-106 Delta Dart have been among former fighters that provided additional service beyond their “official” retirement date by serving as target drones. Even the legendary B-17 had a version that served as a target drone. In fact, just as the F-4 Phantom was replaced in active service by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the QF-4 Phantom will be replaced by QF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The surviving QF-4 Phantoms at White Sands Missile Range will get one more round of maintenance, mostly to remove hazardous materials, and then they will serve as ground targets.

Here’s a video of QF-4s taking a few for the team:

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This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

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This was the most devastating submarine attack in World War II

Submarines have killed a lot of ships over the course of history. Granted, in the 72 years since World War II ended, the total has been very small. Prior to that, tens of thousands of ships were hit by submarine attack.


Ironically, while an American sub has claim to the largest ship ever sunk by submarine, a Japanese sub, the I-19, can arguably claim it deserves credit for the most devastation in a single attack.

The date was Sept. 15, 1942. The United States was running a large convoy to support elements of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. The carrier USS Wasp (CV 7) was among the escorting force, which included the battleship USS North Carolina (BB 55), the cruisers USS Helena (CL 50) and USS Salt Lake City (CA 25), and a number of destroyers, including USS Laffey (DD 459) and USS O’Brien (DD 415).

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
Japanese submarine I-19. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Wasp’s design had been dictated by limits imposed by the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. In essence, she was a scaled-down Yorktown-class design, displacing about 14,900 tons compared to the 20,100 tons of Yorktown (CV 5), Enterprise (CV 6), and Hornet (CV 8). At the time of the Guadalcanal campaign, Wasp carried 25 F4F Wildcats, 26 SBD Dauntless, and 9 TBF Avengers. A potent force, it had missed the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the I-19 made her attack around 2:44 PM, firing six torpedoes. Three hit the Wasp forward, where aircraft fuel and munitions were stored. The torpedoes fatally wounded the carrier. In 36 minutes, it was obvious the Wasp had to be abandoned. But the spread did more.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes
USS O’Brien (DD 415) hit by a torpedo fired by I-19 as USS Wasp (CV 7) burns fro three other torpedo hits from the same spread. (US Navy photo)

One torpedo hit the battleship North Carolina, tearing a good-sized hole in the fast battleship, but only did minor damage. A 5.5-degree list got corrected in less than six minutes, per DANFS. A fifth torpedo hit the destroyer USS O’Brien in the bow, in what appeared to be minor impact at first. O’Brien would sail under her own power to a series of forward bases. But on Oct. 19, 1942, effects of the hit caused the destroyer to break in half and sink after a 3,000 mile journey.

The I-19 would escape after this brilliant attack, but eventually karma exacted its price. During the Gilbert Islands campaign, the submarine was located by the USS Radford (DD 446) and sunk with all hands. The video below shows some of USS Wasp’s moments of agony after the torpedo attack.

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11 military propaganda posters that are surprisingly convincing

Rifles, grenades, and heavy machinery are the weapons of war, but there’s another, subtle and powerful form of warfare. Images, words, films, and even songs engage the hearts and minds of citizens to support wars.


The following posters are examples of persuasion used in the past to sway public opinion and sustain war efforts.

1. Fear is a powerful motivator. After all, it’s either them or us.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

2. Nothing like a woman and child in imminent danger to jump-start our natural protective instincts.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

3. This poster draws on the similarity of a child’s college fund.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

4. Events like the massacre at Lidice gave Nazis a reputation for their brutality. This poster is a reminder of the atrocities that await should they invade American cities.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

5. Posters like the one below alerted citizens to the presence of enemy spies lurking in everyday society. These posters reminded well-meaning citizens of the consequences careless talk may cause, such as compromising national security and troop safety.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

6. “Uncle Sam” was extensively used during World War II. He was a fighter, a laborer, a recruiter and more.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

7. “Avenge Pearl Harbor” was a popular cry after the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

8. Posters like the one below encouraged continued support for the war.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

9. Humor was also used in propaganda posters.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

10. But direct and emotional messages were more effective.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

11. World War II took place during the golden era of comic books, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. This poster made in the popular comic book style was a sure fire way to promote a message.

First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

NOW: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

OR: Watch 5 Hollywood directors who served and filmed real wars: