Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You - We Are The Mighty
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Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Kayla Williams (right) with unidentified female soldier next to an up-armored Humvee during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The title of Kayla Williams’ 2005 book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army uses an old marching cadence to seemingly thumb its nose at what some might consider the more antiquated ways of US Army culture, especially when it comes to women. Fifteen percent of the Army is female, but Williams would come to learn during the Iraq War, the only women in the Army the public knew well were Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch… and those were not the people Williams wanted representing women in the Army.

“When I came home from Iraq, I realized people can be ignorant about the role of women in combat,” Williams told me. “Some people asked if I was allowed to carry a gun, some asked if I was in the infantry, even though women still can’t be. I was acutely aware women’s roles were largely unknown to the general public and I wanted to give a nuanced perspective of what women experience in the current conflicts.”

Williams was an Army signals intelligence linguist, specializing in intercept and direction finding. She enlisted in 2000 because she wanted to learn another language. The language the Army chose would dramatically affect the way she looked at her career.

“I got Arabic as opposed to Korean or Chinese,” Williams says. “I was at the Defense Language Institute on 9/11 and it was clear to us then the world had changed.” In 2003, Williams was part of the initial invasion of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Air Assault. Though her primary function was signals intelligence, she found there was a huge need for Arabic translation on the ground. Beyond any of her expectations she found herself doing foot patrols with the Army infantry.

“This was the very early days of the war,” she recalls. “The Iraqi people were still hopeful they would see a better future in the aftermath of the down fall of the regime. I was making a difference in the lives of those Iraqis and in the lives of my fellow soldiers.”

Williams’ work took her all over the American area of responsibility in Iraq.  She worked her way North to Mosul, Sinjar, and Tal Afar, and spent a great deal of time on the Syrian border.

“In my experience,” she says, “everyone has to prove themselves in a new unit, male or female. Everyone is going to test you. It’s inevitable. In the combat arms units I was attached to, how they treated me depended on how well I did my job. When they saw me translating for them, they could see I could help them. And when commanders treated me with respect, the troops would too.”

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Williams getting promoted in Iraq.

Though far from a support structure, Kayla Williams remembers those first days in the Northern areas of Iraq as relatively peaceful.  By the time her deployment was over, however, the situation had completely changed. They had electricity and running water in their camp, but now the insurgency had taken root.

“When we drove back to Kuwait at the end of my tour we had to do it at night in a blackout drive.”

Despite personal feelings about the war, Williams approached every mission to the best of her ability. She knew her skill as a translator could be the most necessary help to the war, and thus the troops. She thought at the time though we went to war for the wrong reasons, maybe we still did a good thing. Now, with a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University, her observations are more grounded in fact than feeling.

“Maybe in a generation or two the Middle East will be better off,” she says. “But who knows? Who predicted the rise of ISIS? I’m not sure that anyone can predict the long term. It’s the polite way of saying I hope we didn’t fuck it up too bad.”

Williams sees the roles of women in the Armed Forces as a necessary one, especially given cultural sensitivities in predominantly Muslim countries. To her, being able to assign women to combat units will give field commanders better command and control capability without sacrificing readiness or discipline.

“The decision to lift the exclusion policy for women in combat was a validation and vindication of the more than 280,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Williams says. “The former Secretary of Defense made the decision with the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now commanders will be able to train like they fight and function better as a military by putting the right people in the right jobs.”

Williams’ second book, Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War is the story of her return home, her husband’s struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an IED attack during his own time in Iraq, and how they struggled to overcome; it was published in 2014.

Now: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

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Why a zombie apocalypse will never happen on America’s watch

Let’s face it. The world likes — and America loves — zombie movies.


The idea of having to fight across the countryside and through clustered cities, cutting down hordes of the undead with a shotgun is enticing.

That’s why zombie movies and video games do so well. The “Resident Evil” franchise released its sixth film 20 years after its first video game hit the market. That’s a two-decade run for, “Zombies, but like, monsters, too.”

But, sorry, Milla Jovovich fans. There is no way that a zombie outbreak is taking over the U.S. or any allied country while the American military is around. Here’s how the U.S. would respond to a zombie outbreak, shutting it down quickly.

First, let’s assume that an entire country was ravaged before America geared up, just for funsies. (But, really, military human intelligence collectors and signal intelligence should have given us the heads up before a single town was wiped out). And let’s assume it’s a country that emphatically said the U.S. military wasn’t welcome, and that’s why the outbreak went on as long as it did.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Seriously, we’re always looking for somewhere cool to send these. We’d be happy to come hang out. (Photo: U.S. Army)

So, Russia is gone. (It’s the country that hates the U.S. the most, according to this recently Googled list). While the rest of the world is sad that they’ll never again see such awesome paratrooper music videos as Russia makes, it’s time for someone to put a stop to the epidemic.

Enter the U.S. military. If the Russian military managed to wipe out only 10 percent of their zombie population while trying to contain the outbreaks — a pretty low estimate for any modern military facing off against shambling, diseased civilians — that would leave approximately 130 million zombies for the U.S. to kill before they can cross any of the 12,421 miles of border.

In other words, varsity numbers.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Troops would probably pay for the chance to mow down zombies, even if it had to be done in the snow. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

But America has a varsity military. On active duty, the U.S. has over 450,000 soldiers; 182,000 Marines; 323,000 sailors who man and support 274 battle force ships; and 325,000 airmen supporting and flying 5,032 aircraft.

And, Russia has good topography for containing zombies. Because of the mountain ranges (in black, below) and the Arctic Circle (in red), there are only a few places where zombies could conceivably break out of Russia to threaten the rest of the world in large numbers.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Zombies can only get out of Russia through some limited breakout zones, and that one to the east is pretty useless because it runs straight into the Sea of Okhotsk. (Map: Public domain. Graphics: crudely drawn by Logan Nye)

So, small contingents of the Navy can patrol the Arctic and a few dozen companies of POGs can guard the mountain ranges, picking off the few zombies lucky enough to make it through the mountain passes.

But the western and southern breakout zones could be huge problems for American allies and the world as a whole.

The southern breakout zones would give the zombies access to Kazahkstan and maybe Mongolia. The western gives a large front that hits Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. It also hits Belarus, but they hate America nearly as much as Russia does, so screw ’em.

And Russia’s population is centered near that breakout zone, meaning that most zombies will be in good shape when they try to pour into NATO.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
There’s nothing in so good a shape that it can resist an Apache, though. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

So what could 632,000 ground combatants supported by the largest navy and the most advanced air force in the world possibly do against 130 million zombies?

Lol. They would kill an average of 205.7 zombies each, and it would be awesome.

The Navy would park multiple carriers in the Baltics and Barents seas. From there, they could fly strike aircraft and sensor platforms to find and target large clusters of zombies.

The Air Force would bring its own strike and ground attack planes as far east in Europe as they could hold the line. From there, A-10s and AC-130s would rain hot lead in support of ground pounders while B and F-series planes blanket the countryside with bombs.

Finally. Guilt-free carpet bombing is back.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
We’re going to need more zombies. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

And sure, none of these are the headshots needed to permanently put down a zombie. But a few hundred pounds of explosives will mess up a zombie’s legs pretty badly, as will 30 mike-mike through the chest. Pretty sure that will make the infantry and other ground maneuver forces’ jobs a little easier.

Speaking of which, the Marine Corps and Army are going to love the most entertaining range they’ve ever held. Think about it. What sucks most about range days? First, being put on target detail. And, second, having to shut down the range every time a turtle wanders by.

Guess what? No one is going to order a range halt because of a turtle when a bio menace is marching towards Paris. And there’s no need for a target detail when the targets can be lured with the sound of gunfire.

So, the Marines and soldiers basically get to call shots to each other as they gun down crippled zombies over a couple of thousand miles of the Russian border. If the engineers can wait to shoot zombies long enough to dig a couple of trenches and raise concertina obstacles, it’ll delay the already wounded zombies even further.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
The best is going to be when people start stealing AAVs, tanks, and Strykers and driving them over zombies. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Xzavior T. McNeal)

And don’t think the artillery and mortarmen are going to let a chance to practice against undead targets pass them by.

The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that all those cavalry, infantry, etc. have enough ammo. But remember, American logistics troops train to maintain operations in a contested environment. This time, they would have completely safe roads, railways, and rivers to use without fear of significant enemy resistance.

Hell, the operation could probably be catered.

So soldiers and Marines could simply mow down the oncoming hordes, talking the machine guns and interchanging barrels to prevent a meltdown. No Milla Jovovich needed (though she would probably be welcome on a USO tour or something).

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Yeah. Probably welcome. (Photo: YouTube/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Of course, the Navy SEALs can be used to clean out river deltas where zombies were washed downstream attempting a crossing, and the Green Berets can jump into zombie-held territory to try and train up survivors for resistance operations if they like.

But zombie operations are basically just the world’s easiest siege. None of the enemies can tunnel, or use weapons, or conduct coordinated military operations. Easy, peasy.

Articles

This famous author started his career drawing timeless cartoons as a drafted US troop

A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”


That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.

A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.

For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.

But there is at least one book missing from that list.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.

“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”

As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”

Sound familiar?

But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”

 

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

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Air base commander arrested by Turkish government in wake of failed coup

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Turkish F-16 taxis for takeoff at Incirlik Air Base. (Photo: TAF)


Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan continued his move to secure his increasingly Islamist regime in the wake of the failed coup from this past weekend. Among those arrested in the crackdown is the commander of Incirlik Air Base, where the United States Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing is based.

During the coup, Turkish F-16s reportedly had Erdogan’s plane in their sights, and harassed it, but they did not shoot it down. The Federal Aviation Administration has extended the ban on flights to and from Turkey through September 1, a sign that this crisis is expected to continue for weeks at the very least.

According to one media report, Turkish state media claimed that former air force commander Akin Ozturk had confessed to planning the coup, but in an appearance before a prosecutor, Ozturk denied any involvement. Erdogan has banned all “public servants” from leaving Turkey – an attempt to ensure that none of those who plotted the coup escape. The Turkish President is also stating that he will approve the reinstatement of the death penalty, abolished in 2004, should the Turkish legislature approve it. Such approval may well happen given the fact that Erdogan’s party has control of the Turkish Parliament. The European Union has stated that any use of capital punishment will end any chances of Turkey entering that body.

Erdogan has also begun a series of purges, with the total number of police, judges, and military personnel being suspended or detained totaling at least 14,000. Many of those were supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan’s until they fell out over a 2013 corruption investigation. The BBC reported that Erdogan helped the Gulen supporters get jobs in the police prior to the end of their alliance.

On the diplomatic front, the United States and Turkey are heading towards a falling out. Erdogan has said that Turkey may need to “reconsider” its friendship with the United States. The Turkish president is also continuing to demand the extradition of Gulen, an influential cleric who supports education, religious tolerance, democracy, and is, by all appearances, a genuinely moderate Moslem. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry is saying that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could expel Turkey. Gulen has raised the possibility that Erdogan staged the coup himself to justify the purges. One European Union commissioner speculated that Erdogan’s regime may have had lists of people to arrest prepared beforehand, a claim that was dismissed by Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The arrest of the commander of Incirlik Air Base came after the officer’s request for asylum from the United States was denied. Tweets from Americans stationed at Incirlik vouched for the officer, who was taken into custody, and who is likely to be imprisoned, if not killed. Reports have surfaced that Turkish police and prosecutors are searching the air base, where the Federation of American Scientists believe that a number of B61 gravity bombs are stored.

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Check out these 17 awesome photos of military working dogs at war

In his new book, “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf), Kael Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.


Among the details of military life that “The Mirror Test” highlights are military working dogs and their handlers. As these 17 photos illustrate, these loyal animals have served with valor and distinction alongside their human counterparts.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Nick Lacarra, a dog handler with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 20-year-old native of Long Beach, Calif., and Coot, an improvised explosive device detection dog, hold security in a field during a partnered security patrol with Afghan Border Police in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. A sign hangs on the gate of the improvised explosive device detection Dog (IDD) kennel, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) compound at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. IDD dog handlers, often volunteers from their home units, are matched with a dog and work together to perform route clearance and other duties in a combat environment. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, pause for a break while sweeping a chokepoint during a patrol in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Cpl. Danny Reetz (left), 21, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., an assaultman and a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Blue, an improvised explosive device detection dog, after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Winter Offensive in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., and Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, both attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search a compound for hidden threats during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, and Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, hunt and clear a hill for weapons, drugs and IED component caches during a patrol through Sre Kala village in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 5, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Lance Cpl. Isaiah Schult, a dog handler with Jump Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 20-year-old Indianapolis native, jokes with Afghan children while providing security with Big, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a shura outside a local residence in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Cpl. Clint Price, a dog handler with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB), directs Ace II, an improvised explosive device detection dog (IDD), during a training session at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Cpl. Kyle Click, a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 22-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Mich., shares a moment with Windy, an improvised explosive device detection dog, while waiting to resume a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., and Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, both attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search a compound for hidden threats during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Cpl. Kyle Click, a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 22-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Mich., walks past a produce vendor with Windy, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a security patrol here, Feb. 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Ken Bissonette, a dog handler with 4th Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 21-year-old native of Babbitt, Minn., scans a nearby road while halted with Chatter, his improvised explosive device detection dog, on a security patrol with Afghan National Police during the Garmsir district community council elections in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez, left from Burbank, Calif., Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, and British Royal Air Force Regiment Lance Cpl. Thomas Bailey from Burnley, England, all attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search the area for discarded weapons during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, a working dog handler with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and his dog Blue provide security while clearing two city blocks during Exercise Clear, Hold, Build 1 on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 4, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler and infantry automatic rifleman with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 21-year-old native of Arlington, Texas, and a policeman with the 2nd Tolai, 1st Afghan Border Police Kandak watch Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, roll around in the mud while posting security during a patrol through Sre Kala, Afghanistan, March 23, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
1. Yeager, an improvised explosive device detection dog, lies in front of a battlefield cross as Staff Sgt. Derick Clark and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Dale Reeves observe a moment of silence in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during a memorial service in Marjah District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 22, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

For more on this amazing book go here.

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Iraqi pilot killed in F-16 crash during training in southeastern Arizona

An Iraqi student pilot was killed when an F-16 jet crashed during a training mission in southeastern Arizona, authorities said Sept. 6.


First Lt. Lacey Roberts of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing said the Air Force has activated a team to investigate the crash, which occurred Sept. 5 about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Tucson.

The pilot’s identity was not released. His death was the second of an Iraqi pilot flying an F-16 that crashed in Arizona in recent years.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

Roberts said the plane belonged to the Iraqi air force and that the routine training mission was being conducted in conjunction with the 162nd Wing, which is based at Tucson International Airport.

The US military is training Iraqi pilots to fly F-16s at the request of Iraq’s government, Roberts said.

In July 2015, an Iraqi brigadier general flying from the 162nd died when his F-16, a newer model recently delivered to the Iraqi air force, crashed during night training near Douglas.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
US Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Hayden Johnson

In January 2016, a Taiwanese pilot on a training flight from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix was killed when his F-16 went down in Yavapai County.

The 162nd Wing is the Air Guard’s biggest F-16 training operation and conducts training missions across military ranges in southern and central Arizona.

The wing has hosted training for allied nations since 1990 and trained pilots from nations such as Iraq, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Oman, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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Here is how the Lancer stops Russia in the Baltics

When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.


So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
(U.S. Navy Photo by Michael Larsen)

Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.

That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group 41-6265 identifiable. (U.S. Army Air Force Photo)

Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.

The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.

While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.

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CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.

Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.

That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.

The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.

In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

More at Military.com:

Needing Trops, Army Offers Up To $90K Bonuses To Re-Enlist

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Pair of Raids in Tehran

Pentagon: China Could House Fighters on 3 South China Sea Outposts

 

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How the F-35 proved it can take enemy airspace without firing a shot

An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.


This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).

Also read: Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.

So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.

This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.

The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.

The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.

The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.

This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.

This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.

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Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). | Lockheed Martin photo

Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.

“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.

“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.

“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”

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9 ways you can show appreciation on Armed Forces Day

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Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) practice for the San Diego Padres’ opening day flag ceremony. | US Navy photo


On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.

The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.

Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:

1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group. There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.

2. Talk to veterans or an active service member. Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.

3. Visit a memorial. All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8 but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation. If you’re near D.C., we suggest reflecting in Arlington National Cemetery.

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The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington April 12, 2014. | U.S. Marine Corps

4. Put together a care package. With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package. Microsoft is matching gifts to servicemen and women during May in honor of Military Appreciation Month so send a gift to a soldier.

5. Donate to a worthy cause. Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Homes for Our Troops or Disabled American Veteransall work to assist military members, both active and vets, in rebuilding their lives. Organizations like Operation Homefront assist the families of servicemen and women with food, school supplies, finances and housing.

6. Attend a parade. Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.

7. Offer to help a military spouse. While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.

8. Fly a flag, the correct way. Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.

9. A simple thank you. Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.

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Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.


Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”

It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Also read: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”

However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”

He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.

Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.

“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”

Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.

“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.

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U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.

Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”

In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”

The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”

There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.

He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.

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DARPA just announced it’s one step closer to building a hypersonic space plane

The Pentagon’s research and development shop is moving one step closer toward building a hypersonic space plane that could shuttle satellites or people into space in record time.


In an announcement on Wednesday, DARPA said that Boeing, which was selected for phase one of the project, would keep working on its advanced design for the Experimental Space plane (XS-1) program with additional funding for phases two and three.

While Phase One of XS-1 was more of a drawing board/concept phase, phases two and three are all about actually building a space plane and conducting flight tests, demonstrations, and hopefully, delivery of a satellite into orbit.

Here’s how DARPA describes what it hopes XS-1 may one day pull off:

The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.

Related: Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Since it’s DARPA, the project is focused on national security, and there’s no doubt the Pentagon could save plenty of money and time by launching satellites via a low-cost space plane. But the agency also notes in its announcement that another goal is to “encourage the broader commercial launch sector,” and it will release testing data out to companies who are interested during phases two and three.

So it looks like the military won’t be the only ones having fun flying planes into space, Mr. Skywalker.

DARPA has been behind a number of huge technological advances that have made their way to the private sector, like the Internet, a ton of the components of modern-day computing, and GPS, just to name a few.

“We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”

Check out the demo video below:

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