Here's how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

Instructors at the U.S. Army‘s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course said they would serve under the first 13 female lieutenants who graduated the course “in a heartbeat.”


“They blew us away during our field training exercises,” said Staff Sgt. William Hare, an instructor at the course. “Their ability to plan, adapt on the fly and execute that plan in a clear and concise manner and communicate plan changes on the go — it was amazing.”

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Hare was among a handful of instructors and leaders who spoke to reporters about the first gender-integrated class of ABOLC that graduated 53 male and 13 female officers at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Thursday.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Students from the Armor Basic Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, train during a combined competitive maneuver exercise at Benning’s Good Hope Training Area on Nov. 16, 2016. | U.S. Army photo

Two women and six men did not meet the standards and will recycle, Benning officials said. Two males were medically dropped from the course.

This is the latest step in the Army’s effort to integrate women into combat arms jobs such as armor and infantry.

In late October, 10 female lieutenants graduated from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leaders Course at Benning.

And in August 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from Ranger School two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December 2015 ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Thursday’s graduation of the 13 female officers from ABOLC is “consistent with what you have seen over the last 18 months,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning.

“We always knew that when we entered this effort that we wanted the process to be standards-based,” Wesley said. “In the case of Ranger School, we wanted to make sure there were clear objective standards to determine qualification to become a Ranger. In terms of IBOLC the same thing — it was all standards-based. And now, in the armor community, we have done the same thing.”

The 13 female graduates performed as well as their male counterparts on the High Physical Demands Test, a series of tasks designed to validate that any soldier serving in an MOS has “the right physical attributes to perform in that particular military occupational specialty,” said Brig. Gen. John Kolasheski, commandant of the Armor School at Benning.

“It’s gender-neutral, and they performed at the same rate as their male peers in all of those tasks.”

The new graduates now will go to the Army Reconnaissance Course at Benning. After that, some will go to Airborne School and Ranger School before being assigned to operational units, Benning officials said.

Once they leave Benning, female combat arms officers are being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sgt. George Baker, another instructor at ABOLC, said he had his doubts initially about women in the armor community.

“There was some skepticism at first, just to see can they do it … but as soon as they started performing to those same standards — because we didn’t change anything and they performed to those same standards, and they met and exceeded those same standards — it solidified that they have a place here,” Baker said.

Articles

The Navy’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ stealthy destroyer is one step closer to activation

The Navy’s new “first-of-its-kind” stealthy destroyer will soon go to San Diego, Calif., where it will go through what’s called “ship activation” – a process of integrating the major systems and technologies on the ship leading up to an eventual live-fire exercise of its guns and missiles.


As part of this process, the Navy will eventually fire long-range precision guns and missiles from its lethal, stealthy new destroyer — in anticipation of its ultimate deployment on the open seas, service and industry officials explained.

The new Destroyer, called DDG 1000 or the future USS Zumwalt, is a 610-foot land and surface warfare attack ship designed with a stealthy, wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

On Friday May 20, 2016,  the new ship was formally delivered to the Navy at Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine.

“The shape of the superstructure and the arrangement of its antennas significantly reduce radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea,” a Navy statement said.

“The US Navy accepted delivery of the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen,” Rear Adm. (select) James Downey, DDG 1000 Program Manager, said in a written statement.

Several reports have indicated that ships off the coast of Maine recently thought the DDG 1000 was a small fishing boat due to its stealthy design. That is precisely the intent of the ship – it seeks to penetrate enemy areas, delivery lethal attack while remaining undetected by enemy radar. The ship is engineered for both land attack and open water surface warfare, Navy officials explain.

“In the next phase, the Navy will be driving, connecting, integrating and proving the functionality of the ship systems such as the radar, sonar and gun. The Navy will test out the basics make sure the ship can work then by testing those components of the ship that actually make it a warship,” Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 Program Manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The Navy will be making sure that the propulsion system works to create the power to drive the ship at the speeds it is supposed to go.”

Ship delivery follows extensive tests, trials and demonstrations of the ship’s Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical systems including the ship’s boat handling, anchor and mooring systems as well as major demonstrations of the damage control, ballasting, navigation and communications systems, Navy officials said.

The ship is slated to be commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland Oct. 15.

“Zumwalt’s crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the US Navy,” Capt. James Kirk, commanding officer of the future Zumwalt, said in a written statement.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
US Navy photo

DDG 1000 Weapons

The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.

The ship also fires Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets, or ASROCs. ASROCs are 16-feet long with a 14-inch diameter; a rocket delivers the torpedo at very high speeds to a specific point in the water at which point it turns on its sensors and searches for an enemy submarine.

The first weapons to fire from the Mk 57 vertical launch tubes will be the ship defensive weapons called the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and the Standard Missile 2, or SM-2.

The ship is also built with Mk 57 a vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.

Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage.  Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Artist’s rendering of the USS Zumwalt | U.S. Navy

In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Knudson added.

“It has a common launcher to you can change the adapter or computer function which connects the ship to the missile,” he said.

The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.

Most deck mounted 5-inch guns currently on Navy ships are limited to firing roughly 8-to-10 miles at targets within the horizon or what’s called line of sight. The Advanced Gun System, however, fires GPS-guided precision 155m rounds beyond-the-horizon at targets more than three times that distance.

New Sonar, Power Systems, Radar Technology

The DDG 1000 is unique in that it uses what’s called a dual-band sonar system; this includes both medium and high frequency sonar designed to detect both submarines as well as mines and incoming enemy fire. Most ships have only longer-range, lower frequency medium frequency sonar which provides an ability to detect submarines at long distances. Higher frequency brings a much more precise degree of detection, Knudson explained.

Sonar works by sending out an acoustic “ping” and then analyzing the return signal to process information through a receiver designed to help determine the shape, distance,  speed and dimensions of an object or threat.

“High frequency is better for detecting small objects. If you are only going after submarines, then medium frequency would be sufficient. You are going to find the submarine — then you would be able to fire one of the vertically launched ASROCs to engage that target,” Knudson said. “What makes this unique is that high-frequency enable mine detection and mine avoidance,” he added.

It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.

“It has a dome that is transparent to those acoustic waves. The acoustic signal detects sea life and submarines and then sends the signal back to the receiver which processes the information. Inside the bulb, ceramic tiles transmit the acoustic wave out through the water,” Knudson said.

The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.

The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.

Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.

Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, Knudson explained.

“The induction motors drive the propellers,” Knudson added.

The speed of the propellers is run through the total computing environment as part of the ship’s controls.

The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added.  The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.

The ship will employ active and passive sensors along with its Multi-Function Radar capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over-land, throughout the extremely difficult and cluttered sea-land interface, Navy officials said.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer is delivered to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway at Bath Iron Works, Portland, Maine. The DDG 1001, the Michael Monsoor, is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002, the future Lyndon B. Johnson, is already underway, Navy officials said.

Articles

Well, on second thought, maybe you can’t have all the troops you want Sec. Mattis

Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.


The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.

Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali. DoD photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.

Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from DoD.

Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.

Articles

This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

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.

Articles

These are the former KGB bodyguards protecting Kim Jong-un from harm

Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who lives in constant fear of assassination, has reportedly hired Russian ex-KGB bodyguards to protect him in case of an attempt on his life.


Japan’s Asahi Shinbum reported that Kim hired about 10 former KGB counter-terrorism agents to train his bodyguards on how to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.

The KGB, the former Soviet Union’s main security and spy agency, had decades of practice in defending high-value targets against attempts at regime change.

The source told Asahi Shinbum that Kim was particularly scared of US advanced-weapons systems, like the Gray Eagle drone the US is set to operate in South Korea in 2018.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
An MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed with Hellfire missiles revs up before taking flight. DoD Photo by 1st Lt. Jason Sweeney.

However, it’s unclear how counter-terrorism bodyguards could protect Kim against a drone high in the sky raining down bombs.

South Korean media has reported that the US and South Korea have been working together on a “decapitation force” to kill the North Korean leader in the event that Pyongyang becomes intolerably aggressive.

Kim has a history of going to extreme measures to shore up his reign over North Korea, with some reports saying he killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam to thwart a Chinese-backed coup attempt.

Articles

Pentagon expects ISIS to use mustard gas in Mosul fight

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki


The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”

Also read: What the alleged mustard gas attack on US troops in Iraq could mean

Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.

In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.

“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.

However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.

Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.

At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”

U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. | U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.

Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.

“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”

“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.

In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.

In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.

U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.

To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.

The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.

Articles

The US military may soon get an R2-D2 of its own to help fix combat equipment

With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.


SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.

Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
R2D2 fixing a spaceship in Star Wars Episode I (Photo Star Wars via YouTube screengrab)

Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.

Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo US Air Force)

The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.

If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.

SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pulls away from harbor in Singapore in 2016 (Photo US Navy)

Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.

By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.

Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.

Articles

Historic AC-130 gunship gets more lethal

The historic, lethal and combat-tested AC-130 gunship — known for attacking ISIS and Taliban fighters during close-air support high-risk combat missions — is getting a massive technological upgrade with newer weapons and avionics to increase the effectiveness of the attack platform and extend its service life into future decades, service officials said.


“AC-130 gunship work involves upgrading the plane with weapons, targeting systems and sensor packages,” Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Early variants of the AC-130 gunship first entered combat in the late 1960s during the Vietnam war. Later variants served in the Gulf War, War on Terror and war in Afghanistan, among other missions.

The gunships, operated by Special Operations Command, are often used to support Special Operations fighters on the ground engaged in combat.

The aircraft is known for its 105mm side-firing cannons which enable it fire from a side-axis position during close-in combat supporting ground troops. The AC-130 Gunship also has a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm weapon, according to Air Force statements.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida | Airman Magazine, December 1984.

The Lockheed-Boeing built aircraft uses four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, each with 4,300 shaft horsepower; the 155,000-pound aircraft has a 132-foot wingspan and hits speeds of 300 miles per hour. Its crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officers, flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection operator, loadmaster and four aerial gunners.

The AC-130  gunship is a C-130 aircraft engineered for close-air support combat. Its variants include versions of a 105mm gun, called a M102 Howitzer, fires 33-pound high explosive shells at a firing rate of 10-round a minute. The weapon has a range up to seven miles and is the largest gun ever operated from a US Air Force aircraft, reports have said.

Air Force Special Operators ultimately plan to operate 37 of the newest version of the aircraft, the AC-130J Ghostrider, service officials said.

The aircraft’s 25-millimeter Gatling Gun, the GAU-12, is the same weapon now on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the weapon fires both High-Explosive-Incendiary and Armor Piercing-Incendiary rounds against enemy fighters, buildings and light vehicles, Air Force officials confirm.

In a recent attack, AC-130 gunships and A-10 Warthog close-air support aircraft together destroyed an ISIS fuel convoy of more than 100 vehicles.

 C-130 Fleet

The AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.

The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.

As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.

“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.

C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.

“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.

The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
A C-130E from the 2nd Airlift Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean along the North Carolina coast. The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the intratheater portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for paradropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair

Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.

C-130 Modernization

The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Toth added.

“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service life, we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,” Toth said.

As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.

“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.

Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.

Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air.  Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.

AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.

“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.

As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.

“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.

Articles

Air Force advances massive B-52 overhaul

The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.


Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Photo: US Air Force

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over  Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. Photo: U.S. Air Force

Weapons Upgrade

The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

Articles

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Iowa’s turret two on fire immediately following the explosion. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.

The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.

In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.

On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.

The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.” D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.

Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.

Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Moosally presenting Hartwig with a duty award during the summer of 1988. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.

Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.

Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”

Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”

Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”

Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!” Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”

At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.

The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.

When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.

Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns. Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.

Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowas crew.

During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”

The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.

At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.

On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Navy brass briefing press on the release of the first investigation. (Photo: DoD)

When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.

In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.

A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.

Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.

Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.

Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.

Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.

From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.

Articles

Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.


Only wing nuts need apply.

Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Paul Giamatti could play him in the movie.

After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
Shoulda kept his guard up.

Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wptn5RE2I-k

So the next time you’re at the Smithsonian and think you see strings in the footage of the moon landing, remember how much wallop a Buzz Aldrin punch packs. And by the way, Aldrin wasn’t charged in the assault.

Articles

The Coast Guard and Navy just saved real-life castaways from a desert island

It’s not a movie this time.


The U.S. embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia’s city of Kolonia reported via Facebook that two castaways were rescued on the remote Pacific island of East Fayu after being lost at sea for 11 days.

The merchant vessel British Mariner reported seeing a flashlight signal them as they passed the otherwise uninhabited island on August 24.

The U.S. Navy overflew the island the next day in P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The Navy reported seeing a help message from castaways to the U.S. Coast Guard at the Guam Command Center.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
(U.S. Navy photo)

Navy observers saw “SOS” written in the beach sands by Linus and Sabina Jack, who left nearby Wenu Island on an 18-foot boat with limited supplies and no emergency equipment. They never reached their reported destination.


 

The pair left on August 17th and the Coast Guard began its search two days later when they failed to arrive at Tamtam Island. The multi-agency team searched some 16,571 square miles before the British Mariner saw their flashlight.

A patrol boat picked the castaways up on August 26.

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics
(U.S. Navy photo)

The international search for the couple lasted seven days and used a Coast Guard-sponsored ship reporting system designed to assist vessels under these exact conditions. Called AMVER, the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, the network is voluntary but is used worldwide. With AMVER, users can identify ships in the area of distress and ask them to respond or assist.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information