Incredible photos from the US Army's massive European airborne training operation - We Are The Mighty
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Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
An Italian paratrooper prepares for a static line jump in a US Air Force C-130J during exercise Swift Response 16. | Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force


Staging aircraft carriers offshore or using drones from far away can be great assets in modern warfare. However, sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the basics when responding to a global crisis.

Exercise Swift Response 16, a month-long operation led by US forces, was conducted to keep up with traditional and newer methods of combat. Over 5,000 troops from nations such as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy took part in this massive airborne exercise to conduct a rapid-response, joint forcible-entry scenario. While working with their European allies, US forces also participated in notable scenarios, such as staging a base within 18 hours of notification.

Here are several pictures of the multinational airborne exercise:

US Army and Italian paratroopers board a US Air Force C-130J Hercules during exercise Swift Response 16, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off for Germany within several hours’ worth of notice.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford/US Air Force

British paratroopers conduct a static-line jump.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/US Air Force

Dutch Army paratroopers jump into Bunker Drop Zone at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/US Army

A US paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division lands with his parachute.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/US Army

A French soldier watches soldiers descend from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

US soldiers locate a target on a map.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

Multinational soldiers move toward their target.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Multinational soldiers cut through the foliage.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Soldiers weren’t the only ones dropped from the sky. Here, a US soldier prepares to untie a vehicle that had landed in the drop zone.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A US paratrooper radios higher command while conducting defensive operations.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

A Polish soldier provides security while conducting defensive planning operations.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

Airplanes weren’t the only machines dominating the skies. Here, a United Kingdom Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma conducts an aerial-reconnaissance training mission.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Lloyd Villanueva/US Army

A British Parachute Regiment soldier prepares to load a helicopter while conducting a simulated medical evacuation.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

In any real-life war scenario, bridges will be critical to both defensive and offensive forces. Here, military tactical vehicles prepare to engage their targets.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A Polish soldier reloads his weapon while securing a bridge.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

Bridges will be fought for, from above and below.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/US Army

A British soldier provides security while conducting medical-evacuation simulations.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Nathaniel Nichols/US Army

The US wasn’t the only country that brought out their toys. Here, German Bundeswehr soldiers provide security while conducting a mounted patrol.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Allen/US Army

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy tank.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army

A US soldier from the legendary 82nd Airborne Division readies a 60 mm mortar system for a simulated-fire mission.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

US soldiers of Chaos Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to move out with their Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Spc. Gage Hull/US Army

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These photos show the amazing views of Air Force cockpits

Few people get to experience the amazing rush, and have the incredible view, that pilots with the US Air Force are able to experience.


The following pictures take us inside the cockpits of the US Air Force.

US Air Force Maj. James Silva, left, and Lt. Col. Steven Myers, both B-1B Lancer pilots, complete a flight in the first newly upgraded operational B1-B Lancer, January 21, 2014, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger

First Lt. Greg Johnston and Capt. RJ Bergman fly their UH-1N Iroquois over a mountain range, January 27, 2015, near Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Johnston

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training, April 25, 2016.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Yasuo Osakabe

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 77th Fighter Squadron (FS) settles into his cockpit before takeoff, October 5, 2011, from Shaw Air Force Base.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

A US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial-refueling aircraft connects with a Belgian F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, August 18, 2011, during aerial refueling over Afghanistan.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Staff Sgt. Michael Keller takes a self-portrait in an F-15E Strike Eagle during a local training mission over North Carolina, December 17, 2010.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

Vlado Lenoch, a pilot with Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, taxis the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016. Lenoch and his P-51 Mustang participated in Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight Training Course, a program that features modern fighter/attack aircraft flying alongside Word War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War-ear aircraft.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots, April 8, 2015.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 335th Fighter Squadron approaches a 911th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker over North Carolina during a local training mission, December 17, 2010.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

US Air Force Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., aerial-combat photographer, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, takes a self-portrait during a training mission with the 119th Fighter Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard on August 19, 2009, over the Atlantic Ocean.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force by Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

A US Air Force F-16 aerially refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
US Air Force

Not a bad office view.

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Here’s how one soldier got payback on the Iraqi version of Charlie Brown

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Devin Osburn, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C


Editor’s note: Graybeard Publishing, a company owned and operated by military veterans, is putting together a book of humorous combat stories that will be released in the fall of 2016.  Proceeds from the book — working title SNAFU — will go to military charities.

The following excerpt from SNAFU was submitted by an anonymous lieutenant who came up with a unique way of dealing with belligerent civilians in Iraq:

Charlie Brown by Lieutenant Anonymous

I was about to hit the road from Baghdad to Al Jaber Air Base one day and stopped by the TOC to get the latest intel updates. When I got there I found another Lieutenant freaking out about an incident he’d just had. He was driving through Safwan when he approached a bridge and saw a bunch of kids holding hands blocking the road. This Lieutenant stopped his convoy and suddenly got ambushed by citizens throwing bricks down onto his convoy from the bridge overhead. But that wasn’t the worst part. While his troops were covering up from the bricks, a bunch of Haji’s dropped grappling hooks and took everything they could off the vehicles. Rucksacks, boxes of MREs, you name it, they got it. And some were even bold enough to run up to the Hummers and steal stuff straight off them.

So before I left I told my guys “when we get to that bridge, we’re going to blow right through anyone there. I don’t care who’s on the road, we keep going.” They all nodded and away we went. Sure enough, we were driving down MSR Tampa and got to that bridge and a bunch of kids were holding hands blocking the road.

“Keep going!” I yelled at my driver, knowing they would move if he hit the gas. “Don’t slow down!”

But he did. He slowed and stopped dead under the bridge, which was the wrong place to be.

Next thing I know bricks and cinder blocks were raining down from above, which could have killed my guys since we weren’t in armored Humvees. In seconds we we’re surrounded by a bunch of Haji’s who were trying to steal stuff off the vehicles.

One guy in particular was wearing a yellow Charlie Brown shirt. He reached into my window and tried to steal my radio right in front of me until I punched him square in the face four times. I nearly stabbed the fucker, but I hit him solid in the face enough that he backed away.

Finally we get going again and I’m fucking livid. I yelled at my driver repeatedly all the way to Al Jaber Air Base and then spent the next few days steaming mad about the incident. We got punked. Our vehicles were damaged, we lost some shit, and the worst part was we didn’t have to. We knew it was coming and still they got us.

So I’m sitting there for days wondering how to get back at those fuckers until one night I had to take a piss. The latrine was too far away, so I got out of my hooch and pissed in a water bottle. A big one too, something like a gallon. And then it hit me. An idea. For the next few days I filled that thing with as much piss as I could muster then went to the chow hall to get as much powdered grape drink mix that I could find. I mixed it up, found myself a cooler and iced it down for a day before we were scheduled to leave.

The next day we hit the road and I’ve got this big bottle of purple piss in my cooler and a whole shitload of skittles and candy packs. I made my guys secure everything inside the trucks so nothing else would get stolen and told my driver to go ahead and slow down when we hit that bridge.

So we approached the bridge and sure enough the crowds came out to stop us. I immediately threw out all the skittles bags to keep the kids away and looked for Charlie Brown because I knew he only owned one t-shirt and would be wearing it again. It took a minute, but sure enough I spotted him, his shirt, and the bruises I gave him a few days ago. When he ran up to my vehicle I pulled out the ice-cold bottle of purple piss, gave it to him, and told my driver to take off.

As the convoy started rolling I watched him like a hawk in my rear view mirror. Charlie Brown lifted the frosty bottle high above his head and drank my piss. And he didn’t just take a swig and spit it out, but he kept drinking, probably thinking it was some exotic tasting American energy drink that would give him vim and vigor. I watched him as long as I possibly could and laughed my ass off for the next ten miles.

He may have puked it out a few minutes later. He may have fallen ill and been in agony for days. Or he may have died. I really don’t care either way. All I know is I went past that spot at least three more times before I redeployed, but never saw Charlie Brown again.

If you have a funny story to tell or are a veteran trying to get published, send a note to Kelly Crigger at kcrigger@graybeardbooks.com.

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

While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.


And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.

And that has some analysts worried.

Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”

What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
The T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicle. This baseline version has a 30mm cannon and four AT-14 missiles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.

When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”

“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
A captured S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun in an Israeli museum. This gun is the centerpiece of a new turret for the T-15, the AU-220M. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.

“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”

But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.

“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”

Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.

“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.

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This soldier showed up without an eye and was reprimanded…then given the MOH

When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.


Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.

The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.

It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.

Also read: Meet the 4 heroes who earned Medals of Honor for heroism on D-Day

A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.

The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.

Fearless Rescue

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.

After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”

The dire situation didn’t deter him.

Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.

He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.

As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.

He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.

But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.

Heroes: Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated war heroes of World War II

With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.

When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.

Drowley was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 6, 1944.

After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.

In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.

‘What Did You Do?’

“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”

Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.

He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.

While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.

Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.

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This is what a fancy Russian spy compound actually looks like

President Barack Obama will shutter an alleged Russian spy compound in Maryland Dec. 30 in retaliation for nearly a decade’s worth of cyber espionage activities.


The compound was reportedly purchased in 1972 by the then-Soviet Union as a vacation retreat. The Russian government confirmed its ownership of the compound in 1992 to The Associated Press.

Washington Life also appears to have featured some parts of the compound in a 2007 profile on one of the main houses, used by the Russian ambassador as a vacation get away.

Obama also announced he would expel 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., mainly from Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Another compound owned by the Russian government will also be shuttered Dec. 30.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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The famed Gurkha warriors have taken Everest

For the first time in history, currently serving Gurkha soldiers have summitted the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest.


The team reached the summit on May 16 and received congratulations from the British Army on their achievement.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
The Gurkha climbing team poses during the 2015 attempt that was eventually abandoned after a massive earthquake struck the Gurkhas’ homeland and destroyed the Everest base camp. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

The Gurkhas had previously attempted the climb the mountain in 2015 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Gurkha Brigade, but the climb was abandoned when a massive earthquake struck the area around the mountain, triggering an avalanche that destroyed the base camp.

The 2015 team abandoned the climb and rushed to aid those affected by the quake. Gurkhas are recruited out of a small region of Nepal that sits in the same mountain range as Everest, and many of the team members had immediate family affected by the quake.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Gurkha soldiers celebrate their successful climb of Mount Everest after they reached the summit on May 15,2017. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

They returned in 2017 thanks to a decision by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism to honor all 2015 Everest permits for an additional two years.

The climb is a grueling challenge under even the best of conditions. The base camp sits over three miles above sea level and each camp above that is more than half a mile above the previous camp.

The summit sits 5.5 miles above sea level, where the air is so thin that most climbers rely on bottled oxygen for much of the climb.

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Don’t miss out on these 6 veteran education opportunities

While every veteran probably knows about the GI Bill, there are a number of other education benefits offered that they might be unaware of. Here are a few of them:


1. VA Work-study Programs

These work-study positions are part-time jobs, up to 25 hours a week, for students-veterans usually at local VA facilities (i.e. hospitals, Vet Centers, etc.) that allow veterans to earn extra money and gain experience while in school. The job may only pay minimum wage but since it is considered an education benefit it is tax free. To utilize this benefit a veteran must be enrolled at least three-quarters of the time and are using veteran education benefits, such as the GI Bill.

Bonus:

If you are a veteran working for the VA, a company, or non-profit that is dedicated to serving veterans you can apply to host a work-study program and employ your own student veterans.

2. Vocational Rehabilitation

Also known as Voc Rehab this is a benefit provided by the VA to assist veterans with service connected disabilities to obtain education or training in a new field. This can be particularly useful for veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill but wish to continue their education.

3. Veterans Upward Bound

A pre-college program designed to help veterans reintegrate into higher education after their service. Unfortunately there are only 49 programs nationwide, but they cover most states and many major universities. Check to see if there is a program in your area.

4. Veterans Success Program at your school

Much like the Veterans Upward Bound program, many colleges and universities have implemented their own in-house programs to assist veterans with the transition to college. The nationally recognized program at the University of Arizona offers specialized classes to help transitioning veterans and also has a VETS Center on campus.

5. State Veteran Education Benefits

Many states have enacted their own benefits for veterans, such as the Hazelwood Act in Texas, which pays the tuition of Texas veterans after they have exhausted their GI Bill. Other states have varying types of veteran assistance, check with the Veterans Services Representative at your school for more information.

6. Veteran Scholarships

Many veteran and unit organizations (i.e. the 82nd Airborne Division Association, or the 1st Marine Division Association) offer scholarships to their members. A quick search for your unit’s association (or just asking your buddies) should get you started.

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These fighters are doing the heavy lifting against ISIS

Older U.S. Air Force jets — including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, eyed in recent years for retirement, and the F-15E Strike Eagle — are leading the air war against the Islamic State, statistics show.


U.S. military fighter-attack jets, bombers and drones have dropped more than 67,000 bombs since the 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department’s mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to information provided by Air Forces Central Command.

Notably, fighter-attack aircraft released more than three times as many weapons as bombers did, the figures show. Drones dropped the least of any category of aircraft.

Aircraft like “the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 are breaking their backs because they are the right platform for the job and providing the right function,” Brian Laslie, an air power historian and author of the book, “The Air Force Way of War,” said in an email to Military.com.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
F-15E Strike Eagle as it refuels. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua A. Hoskins)

Weapons Released by Aircraft

U.S. aircraft have released a total of 67,333 weapons from Aug. 8, 2014, through May 16, according to the data. While the F-15E released the most, the F-22 Raptor — one of the most advanced stealth fighters — dropped the least.

Here are the figures for the 10 types of U.S. aircraft flying combat sorties: F-15E Strike Eagle, 14,995 weapons released; A-10 Thunderbolt II, 13,856; B-1 Lancer, 9,195; F/A-18 Super Hornets, 8,920; F-16 Fighting Falcon, 7,679; B-52 Stratofortress, 5,041; MQ-1 Predator drone, 2,274; MQ-9 Reaper, 2,188; AV-8B, 1,650; and F-22, 1,535.

Broken down by aircraft type, fighter and attack planes dropped a total of 48,635 weapons, or 72 percent of the total; bombers released 14,236, or 21 percent; and drones dropped 4,462, or 7 percent, according to the statistics.

 

Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff, a spokeswoman for Air Force Central Command, or AFCENT, cautioned that the numbers released by the command — which includes assets and actions under the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC — don’t reflect the “entirety of kinetic activity in OIR,” such as assets belonging to coalition partners or other U.S. components, like the Combined Joint Land Component Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force.

“The amount of weapons employed by each aircraft varies due to a number of factors, such as time in theater, types of missions (i.e. close air support, air-to-air, escort, interdiction, etc.), ordnance type, etc.,” Atanasoff said in an email last week.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
F-15Es parked during Operation Desert Shield. (Photo by: Wikimedia)

‘Lion’s Share of the Work’

While the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets actually flew the most combat missions, the Air Force’s F-15Es dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount, according to AFCENT.

As the workhorses of the ISIS fight, the “E” model Strike Eagle is a dual-role jet with the ability to find targets over long ranges and destroy enemy ground positions.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, the gunship popularly known as the Warthog or simply the ‘Hog’, has released almost as many weapons, albeit with a special type of accounting. Every 100 rounds from the Hog’s 30 mm Avenger gun is counted as one weapon, Atanasoff said.

Laslie said he wasn’t surprised that commanders are turning more frequently to fighters and close-air support aircraft in the campaign against ISIS — an operation estimated to cost roughly $13 billion so far.

After the Vietnam War, the service has operated as “a much more tactical Air Force,” he said. “From El Dorado Canyon in 1986 [campaign in Libya], to Desert Storm in ’91 and the Balkan campaigns of the mid-to-late 90s, tactical assets have done the lion’s share of the work.”

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

‘See the Airpower’

Atanasoff said the relatively lower strike number for the B-52 doesn’t mean the bomber isn’t as active as other aircraft, but rather that it simply hasn’t been in theater as long. The B-1 left the campaign in early 2016 and was replaced by the B-52 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in February said, “You’re just going to see a continual rotation of both of those weapons systems.”

Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, last year noted the Stratofortress’ unique ability to stay airborne for a long duration.

“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” he said at the time. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”

Laslie said, “GPS and stand-off weapons (and permissive environments) have kept the B-52 in the game, but it really is a tactical conflict in OIR.” He said bombers like the B-52 — though strategically useful — “aren’t really optimized for this mission set” in quick, one-off strike sorties.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
An F-22 deploys flares. (Photo by: US Air Force)

Hunting for Intel

Similarly, the relatively lower strike numbers for the F-22 stealth fighter and the MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones may be attributed to the fact that they’re often used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center.

“We have refined our targeting process and become more efficient in layering our ISR to uncover targets that have made themselves available to us, which also has facilitated the number of weapons we’ve been able to deliver,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters last week.

Leaders have also “relied on the F-22’s ability to fuse information, understand where our friendly forces are,” to watch, and deconflict with multiple forces on the ground, he said.

At times controllers are using Reapers, Predators or both “combined in a formation” as a more efficient way of using their sensors, according to Lt. Col. Eric Winterbottom, chief of the Commander’s Action Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Remotely piloted aircraft are likely the first aircraft dictating “strike or no strike calls based off what we’re seeing” from the sensors, Winterbottom said in October. They’re an example of why officials ask for more ISR assets to ease pressure on manned aircraft and to minimize collateral damage from airstrikes.

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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.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
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.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
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.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
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.

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VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

More from VAntage Point:

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

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The 13 funniest military memes this week – battle buddy edition

This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:


1. Battle buddies depend on each other.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.

2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.

3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

This is their version of “kick me.”

4. You get in trouble together.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.

5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.

6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.

7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.

8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

Seriously, how do those dixie cup hats stay on?!

9. They settle things differently.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

The quickest way to getting over a disagreement. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

10. Your pain is the butt of their jokes.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

They brandish bumps and scars like badges of honor, but more importantly, to show you how much tougher they are.

11. Despite all the shenanigans, buddies will always have your back.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

They’ll follow each other to the gates of hell. (from Military Memes Facebook fan page)

12. They’ll look after each other like their life depends on it.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of letting your buddy down.

13. Battle buddies forever.

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation

Battle buddies keep their promises. If they said they’ll be there, they’ll be there.

NOW: 10 tips for dating on a forward operating base

AND: 9 Military terms that will make you sound crazy around civilians

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Hello, Seaman: Navy ditches ratings after review

Incredible photos from the US Army’s massive European airborne training operation
Rear Adm. speaks to the crew of USS Iwo Jima during an all hands call. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray


The Navy is jettisoning its complex ratings system to make sailors’ jobs more understandable and allow them to more easily transfer occupations.

The move, which allows sailors to be addressed by rank, such as seaman, petty officer and chief, aligns the service for the first time with the other three military branches, which address troops by rank instead of job specialty.

“I’ve never heard of a Marine who introduced himself as ‘Infantry Corporal Smith,’ ” Cmdr. John Schofield, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command, told Military.com. “This is exactly what every other service does; it completely aligns us with the other services. I would just say that it makes complete sense in terms of putting more emphasis on rank and standardization.”

The changes are the result of an eight-month review initiated by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in January in as part of an effort to make job titles gender neutral as women entered previously closed fields.

In June, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke announced that the review was being expanded with input from the master chief petty officer of the Navy and other senior leaders to examine ways to make job descriptions more inclusive, improve the job assignment process, and facilitate sailors’ transition between military jobs or into civilian ones.

A Navy administrative message published Thursday announced that the ratings system that included job and rank information — intelligence specialist first class or chief hospital corpsman — is being replaced with a four-digit alphanumeric Naval Occupational Specialty, or NOS, parallel to the military occupational specialties used by the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.

Sailors in ranks E-1 to E-3 will be addressed as “seaman;” those in ranks E4 to E-6 will be called petty officers third, second or first class; and those in ranks E-7 to E-9 will be called chief, senior chief or master chief, in keeping with their paygrade, according to the message.

“There will no longer be a distinction between ‘Airman, Fireman, and Seaman.’ They will all be ‘Seamen,’ ” the message states.

The new NOSs will be categorized under logical job fields, similar to the organizational system used by the other services. According to a ratings conversion chart provided by Navy officials, the old ratings of Navy diver, explosive ordnance disposal specialist, and special warfare operator will be classified as NOS E100, E200 and E300, respectively.

Schofield said sailors will be able to hold more than one NOS, a shift that will allow them to collect a broader range of professional experience and expertise while in uniform. Each NOS, he said, will be ultimately matched with a parallel or similar civilian occupation to “enable the Navy to identify credentials and certifications recognized and valued within the civilian workforce.”

“This change represents a significant cultural shift and it is recognized that it will not happen overnight, but will take time to become fully adapted,” the message states.

While the review began with an eye to gender neutrality, the ranks of “seaman” in the Navy and “midshipman” at the Naval Academy will stay, Schofield said. The terms were allowed to remain, he said, because they are ranks, not job titles.

While the new NOSs will largely retain the original ratings titles, some — such as yeoman — may change to become more inclusive or more descriptive of the sailors’ jobs. The updated list of job titles is still being finalized, Schofield said.

The Navy’s message to sailors is that the process isn’t over yet, and it’s not setting timelines for the completion of the ratings changeover.

“Changes to personnel management processes, policies, programs and systems will proceed in deliberate and thoughtful phases that will enable transitions that are seamless and largely transparent to the fleet,” the message states. “Fleet involvement and feedback will be solicited during each phase of the transformation. All aspects of enlisted force management to include recruiting, detailing, advancements, training, and personnel and pay processes are being carefully considered as we move forward.”