Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.
According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.
According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.
Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.
The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).
The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.
The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.
While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.
An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.
The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.
In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.
The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
The Rev. Dr. William “Bill” Greason’s voice echoed from the curved white ceiling of Bethel Baptist Church. Direct and robustly musical, Greason’s message pulsed around his congregation.
“I didn’t buy this breath,” he said. “Somebody gave it to me.”
Greason, 90, still measures in at a lanky 5’10” and, other than a smattering of grey, resembles his 1948 Birmingham Black Barons rookie card. His eyes retain their youthful charm and twinkle with wisdom and humor.
He is slow to talk about himself and his accomplishments, but his story is one that begs to be told.
The tale of Bill Greason begins long before he was scouted as a baseball wunderkind by the Negro American League, and contains more substance than a beefy ERA.
Greason was born in 1924 and grew up in Atlanta, Ga., on Auburn Avenue, across the street from playmate Martin Luther King, Jr. Auburn Avenue, also known as Sweet Auburn, was a historically black neighborhood deep in the heart of the segregated South.
Greason explained that he and his four siblings were aware of racial inequality, but were not defined by their circumstances or overcome by anger.
“My parents taught us ‘you are somebody,’ Greason said. “Don’t let anybody make you feel that you’re not. If anybody doesn’t like the color of your skin, tell them to talk to God. But your character — that’s on you.”
Greason’s character and sense of identity fortified him when he joined the Armed Forces in 1943 after graduating from high school.
In the midst of World War II, Greason was called to enlist and serve among the first black Marine recruits, The Montford Point Marines. These exceptional men had been denied access to full democratic freedom at home and were prepared to die for their country, yet Greason and his comrades continued to experience prejudice from their white counterparts during service.
“We were told in the beginning that we weren’t wanted in there,” Greason said. “So we had to prove ourselves.”
This is exactly what they did. In what became one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, Greason and fellow Marines took to the shores of Iwo Jima, Japan to win a decisive victory for the United States, despite heavy casualties.
On Nov. 23, 2011, President Barack Obama signed legislation to award a collective Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines, the highest civilian honor.
“As the Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines is issued, it is a special privilege to extend our fullest appreciation to Reverend William Greason and salute his exceptional life and service to his community and his country,” said U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus in a tribute to Greason in 2012.
“Surviving the island,” Greason said, “was a miracle that had an everlasting impact.”
“When I was on the island of Iwo Jima, with the Marines dying all around and two of my best friends were killed, I promised the Lord that if he saved me, if I was able to get off that island, anything He wanted me to do I would do it,” he said.
Greason left Iwo Jima unscathed, but memories of the island remain with him and he is eager to share their lessons.
“It taught you something about life and how precious it is,” Greason said. “You don’t want to destroy anybody — you want to help wherever you can.”
After occupational duty in Japan for 13 months, Greason returned stateside with a rekindled passion for life and a new talent: baseball.
Most of the literature on Greason’s remarkable baseball career concerns itself with statistics: his 3.61 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 1953, the pennant he led the Black Barons to in ’48, his snappy curving fastball and his nickname, “Double Duty,” earned for his workhorse mentality on the mound and at the plate.
The numbers provide a chill, sterile glance — a press box view — of a history won in grit, nerve and determination.
When the undefeated Black Barons suffered their only loss to the Asheville Blues at the hands of 24-year-old Greason in 1948, player-manager Lorenzo “Piper” Davis was in the process of scouring the Negro League for raw talent to add to his unrivaled team. Recruiting Greason was a no- brainer.
Black players in America’s favorite pastime had a special burden according to Greason.
“We were blessed to be part of this great history of Negro League Baseball,” he said. “Wherever we would go and play, they recognized us as being gentlemen.”
The Birmingham Black Barons and other Negro League teams seemed to understand that baseball, unlike other sports at the time, held national significance. They stepped up to bat and they represented not only themselves, but also the hope of equality for their entire race.
“We were taught to retain and maintain our dignity,” Greason said. “We didn’t disgrace our parents. We didn’t disgrace the people we worked for. We didn’t disgrace the city.”
1948 proved to be the last year of the Negro League World Series, and though the Barons lost the championship in the final hour to the Homestead Grays, Greason’s physical talent and emotional maturity preceded him.
He pitched two years in the Mexican League (1950–1951); eight in the minors (1952–1959), as the first black player for the Oklahoma City Indians; and five years in the winter leagues (1951; 1954- 1958), where he notably played against Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba.
After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, there was a major decline in support for the Negro Leagues. As the players were scouted into minor and major leagues, fans followed, ultimately sealing the Negro League’s fate.
In 1954, after returning from serving in the Korean War, Greason was scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s first black pitcher. He was honored September 2014 with a Living Legend Award.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Greason said. “It gave our players opportunity to earn more money in ‘organized ball’ as they called it.”
It is the entrepreneurial spirit of the Negro League players that Ora Jerald, executive director of the American Negro League Baseball Association, is striving to inspire in Birmingham youth.
Along with Greason and other Black Barons legends, Jerald established the legacy initiative Project HELP (History Entrepreneurs Leadership Program).
What started out as baseball camps and demonstrations developed into a pointed effort to prepare economically compromised children for brighter futures.
“The spirit of entrepreneurship and leadership is very much a part of the overall history of the Negro Leagues,” Jerald said. “And the legacy then is to make sure that something profound is left in the lives and hearts of the children.”
Jerald explained that the historical impact of Greason’s life has helped inspire children beyond the baseball diamond.
“We’ve developed something that we think — entrepreneurship and leadership, certainly — is reflective of what the Negro League baseball history stands for and what it represented at the time when Greason was at his peak as a player,” Jerald said.
In addition to Project HELP, Greason, in collaboration with members of his congregation at Bethel Baptist, has curated a museum depicting not only his life in baseball: uniforms, trophies and awards, but also the lives of outstanding community members, including Michael Holt.
“We want our community to see that your circumstances don’t define who you are,” said Holt, who spent 31 years in government service as the assistant director for Homeland Security.
The Rev. William “Bill” Greason Museum of Legends is currently open to the public and is most easily accessed on Sundays after church at Bethel Baptist.
When asked what he wishes his legacy to be, Greason smiles and says, “Humility. The way up is down. It’s a paradox. Popularity wanes, but character is retained.”
Model Kate Upton, born in 1992 and in 2011 voted as “Rookie of the Year” for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, took to Instagram to share a special photograph! “Feeling pretty lucky to be able to experience a P-51 Mustang flying over Wrigley field! #chicago #wrigleyfield #bucketlist #selfie,” she captioned the photo.
Not only did she take a beautiful selfie, she also recorded a video of the three other escorting P-51 Mustangs for you to enjoy. “Thank you to all those that have served! #veterans #p51mustang #wrigleyfield @WWIImuseum,” Kate Upton wrote.
Editorial Note: Don’t blame me.. It’s all candy to the eye!
A simmering conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria could have erupted into another regional war were it not for the intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an Israeli investigative journalist.
On Feb. 10, 2018, an Israeli air force helicopter shot down what Israel says was an Iranian drone launched from the Tiyas Military Airbase in central Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The drone was shot down a minute and a half after entering Israeli airspace, the investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, wrote in an op-ed article in The New York Times.
Israel responded by sending eight F-16 fighter jets into Syria to destroy the drone’s command-and-control center. While flying back to Israel, they came under attack from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles — one of which, an S-200, took down an F-16, forcing the pilots to eject.
Israel hit back, going after Syria’s air-defense system. The Israeli military says it hit multiple Syrian and Iranian targets.
Israel has long been worried about Iran’s activities and growing influence in the region, especially in Syria, where Iran has backed pro-government forces during the country’s years-long civil war.
“The response to the downing of the Israeli jet was intended to be a lot more violent,” Bergman wrote, adding that Israeli generals brought out plans “for a huge offensive operation in Syria.”
But a “furious phone call” from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces in Syria were close by, “was enough to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cancel the plans,” Bergman wrote.
A former Israeli army general appeared to confirm Bergman’s reporting.
If the F-16 hadn’t been shot down, Israel “would be able to keep this issue at a very, very low profile,” Udi Dekel, a former Israeli army brigadier general who was the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ strategic-planning division, said Feb. 14 on a call organized by the Israel Policy Forum.
“Because we lost the F-16, we decided to respond against many important targets inside Syria,” Dekel said, among them air defenses, Syrian army positions, and Iranian positions around Damascus.
Israel wanted “to send a message that we could not accept any idea that they would try to shoot down our aircraft in our skies,” Dekel said.
Dekel said Israel did not pursue further strikes because it wanted to see the Syrian and Iranian response. But he added that there was “intervention by the Russians, who asked us not to escalate the situation anymore and to try and calm down the situation.”
These recent actions are likely to increase tensions in the Middle East — but Dekel says he doesn’t think this is the “end of the story.”
“We killed Iranians operating the UAV and in other locations, so I assume they will try to find any opportunity for revenge against us,” he said, referring to the drone with the abbreviation for an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Drones are being used by corporate and foreign spies, terrorists, and even separatists groups around the world. Here are 7 technologies that are allowing police to gain an edge against drone use by the bad guys:
In what is one of the most awesome drone hunting videos around, a Dutch company revealed that it has trained eagles to hunt down enemy drones. While the tactic seems to be effective, bird watchers are worried about drafting already small populations of eagles into drone warfare, a tactic that can be dangerous for the birds.
Net guns are exactly what they sound like. While they allow police departments and other agencies to engage drones without worrying about signals interference or firing lethal weapons, they’re extremely limited in terms of range and lack the ability to engage any drone flying more than a few dozen feet high.
7. Wireless detection systems
Domestic Drone Countermeasures fields a wireless system that scans for RF signals. During the initial setup, it determines what local WiFi networks and other devices operate in the area, then alerts the user in the future to new signals that could be coming from a drone or other mobile transmitter.
National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.
Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.
President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.
The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.
“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”
Feeding horses and shoveling manure
Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)
Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.
Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.
The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.
Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.
Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.
The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.
The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.
Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marine Corps Special Operations Command has decided to shelve its custom .45 pistols and outfit its elite Raiders with Glock 19s.
MARSOC has not yet responded to Military.com’s questions for the story, but a source familiar the effort said the command made the decision within the last month.
The move, first reported by Jeff Schogol of Marine Corps Times, follows a Marine Corps decision in February that a MARSOC operators to carry Glock pistols, since many of the elite outfit’s members prefer the popular Glock 19 9mm handgun over the custom .45 pistols the service bought them in 2012.
The reliable, easy-to-maintain 9mm pistol features a polymer frame and a 15-round magazine.
The Marine Corps just completed an exhaustive search for a new MARSOC pistol in 2012. The service awarded a $22.5 million contract to Colt Defense LLC., for up to 10,000 Close Quarter Battle Pistols.
The custom, 1911 design replaced the fleet of worn-out MARSOC M45 pistols. It features a rail for mounting lights, a custom trigger, a manual safety, improved ergonomics and glowing Tritium sights for low-light conditions.
The new .45s are nice, but many MARSOC troops prefer to carry Glock 19s instead.
One reason for the change is that 9mm ammunition and Glock replacement parts are available almost anywhere in the world, the source said.
The decision is not that surprising since U.S. Army Special Operations Command has also chosen the Glock 19 for its elite units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, the source said.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the University of Texas at Austin hosted the Mad Scientist Conference at the university on April 24 and 25, 2019. The Mad Scientist Conference brings together military, academia, and private industry experts in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, ethics in future innovation, and the future of space.
This year’s conference focused on disruption and the future operational environment. With the Army’s effort to modernize the force, it is critical for collaboration between the Army and the brightest minds of technological innovation.
Dr. Moriba K. Jah, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, presents at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“Mad Scientist and Army Future Command are two sides of the same modernization coin,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command. “We need to tap into America’s unique culture of innovation. That’s why we’re here in Austin. AFC is an opportunity for collaboration with the best minds in the world in academia and industry.”
Collaboration today to solve the complex problems of tomorrow’s battlefields requires significant imagination to predict possibilities.
Mr. Robert O. Work, former 32nd Deputy Secretary of Defense and Senior Counselor for Defense and Distinguished Fellow for Defense and National Security, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“The future of warfare will be both familiar and utterly alien,” Richardson said.
With the development of evolving artificial intelligence and robotics, Mad Scientists discussed the applications they have on future warfare.
“When technology is proliferated down to the battlefield, what happens?” asked Robert Work, senior counselor for defense and distinguished senior fellow for defense and national security at the Center for a New American Security. “We’ll inevitably go to more unmanned systems.”
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
While wars today feature manned combat vehicles, the Mad Scientists suggest wars of the future may be fought by drones and AI-controlled machines. Work referenced the Army’s next generation combat vehicle currently in development that has the potential to be optionally manned.
One way future vehicles can operate without a human crew is using AI.
“How do we make autonomous systems behave in a trustworthy fashion?” asked Dr. Maruth Akella, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at UT-Austin.
A primary goal of AI and robotics is full autonomy to perform increasingly complex tasks. The Mad Scientists questioned how to establish ethics and human oversight for automated machines used on complex battlefields where non-combatants, enemy forces and partner forces are intermingled in real-time, dynamic domains.
The discussions examined how much autonomy should autonomous machines have in military operations.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)
“How much human control do we want or need to have over these autonomous systems?” asked Dr. Paul Zablocky, program manager for the strategic technology office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
To further understand the implications of autonomous machines in the operational environment, the conference speakers discussed how AI learns and how humans are involved in the AI-learning process.
“We need to look at integrated human-in-the-loop systems,” said Dr. Garrett Warnell, a research scientist with Army Research Lab. “When robots are becoming autonomous, they need a lot of human interaction. They slowly depend less and less on humans and become more autonomous.”
If robotics are considered for warfare in the future, Work said we must pursue systems with tele-operated capabilities. Additionally, the panelists strongly emphasized that robotics must be disposable, which opened the conversation to how much these technologies might cost. Work pointed out that China could pass the US in absolute GDP in about 10 years.
Sharon Wood, Dean of University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.
(U.S. Army photo)
“The U.S. cannot spend our way back to military dominance,” said Work. “That means that we have to out-think, out-innovate, and out-maneuver our competitors.”
The opportunity to collaborate, out-think and out-innovate is the reason that Army Futures Command was created and based in Austin amongst a variety of tech companies, start- ups, and innovators.
The US Department of Defense announced today the selection of Kelly McKeague to be the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. McKeague was sworn in this morning during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
McKeague, who retired from the US Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.
“I know the importance of the agency’s mission and I look forward to working with DPAA’s team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.
Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.
“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of US personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”
McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.
“I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency’s solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor.”
A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters US Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer.
His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.
The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.
Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.
“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.
An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.
“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.
By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.
And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.
The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.
New vs. old
In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.
The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.
F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.
If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.
“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.
“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.
By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.
The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.
Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.
“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.
“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.
Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.
Running the numbers
Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.
The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.
“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”
Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.
Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.
For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.
A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.
“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”
“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”
The way forward
Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.
So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.
Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.
“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”
For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.
The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.
“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.
There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.
“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deployments — F-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”
It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.
“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Most service members and their families will see a reduction in their tax bills in 2019, but there are a number of changes in U.S. federal tax laws that they need to be aware of, said Army Lt. Col. Dave Dulaney, the executive director of the Pentagon’s Armed Forces Tax Council.
“The last tax year has been quite exciting with all the changes that were made,” Dulaney said. He noted that the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting tax returns Jan. 28, 2019, for tax year 2018.
A number of pieces of legislation affect military taxpayers, he said: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act are just a few.
Tax cuts for troops
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will mean that most service members will see a reduction in federal taxes for 2018, he said. There is an overall reduction of 3 percent for most military families under this act, Dulaney said, in addition, the standard deduction doubled, as did the Child Tax Credit. “Because of these three things, most of our military families are going to see a substantial reduction in overall tax liability,” he said.
There are also some special provisions that apply to military personnel. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula since June 9, 2015, are now eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion, the colonel said.
“This was retroactively applied and what that means is that since taxpayers have up to three years to file an amended tax return to make a claim for refund, those service members who served in the Sinai back in 2015 would be eligible to file an amended tax return, and they need to do it quickly,” he said.
Service members with questions should go to their local tax assistance centers, Dulaney said, noting that this change should affect about 2,000 service members.
Members of the armed forces are still able to deduct their unreimbursed moving expenses incurred during permanent change of station moves, he said.
There are changes to deductions for travel to drill for reservists. “Reservists cannot take deductions for drill duty expenses that are under 100 miles,” he said. Those driving more than 100 miles can still take deductions.
For military spouses there is a significant change as part of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018. “This allows military spouses to elect to use their service member’s state of legal residence for state and local taxes,” he said. “
In the past a spouse may have had to file a different state tax return because they had split legal residences. For example, if a service member with a legal residence of New York moved to Virginia and married a person with a legal residence from that state.
“Now, our military spouses can now elect to use the legal residence of the military member for purposes of filing their state and local taxes,” Dulaney said. “Now military couples will no longer have to file different state tax returns … additionally it will reduce the overall tax burden for military families.”
Finally, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act has been implemented for veterans who received disability severance pay and had tax withholding applied to the pay. “Now under the tax code, disability severance pay is not taxable under certain situations,” he said. More than 133,000 veterans who have received this pay are eligible for relief under the act.
The vets have until July 2019 to file for a refund.
There are a number of aids for military personnel and their families as they prepare their taxes. Each base has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program office that will help. To find your local office, visit Military OneSource.