Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps - We Are The Mighty
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Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)


The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.

The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.

Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.

Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).

The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.

This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.

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US servicemember dies in Syria

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq says a U.S. service member has died in northern Syria.


A statement released May 26th says the serviceman died of injuries sustained “during a vehicle roll-over.” It was not immediately clear whether the incident was related to a combat situation. No further details were made available.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The U.S. has hundreds of troops and advisers in Syria in various roles, assisting local allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Last year, a U.S. service member died from wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in the vicinity of Ayn Issa in northern Syria while another soldier died from suspected natural causes in March this year.

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An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)


EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.

So here we go again. Another professional athlete has decided to protest about the evils of the country that has given him more than any other country would. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem of two NFL pre-season football games and has said that he intends to continue to refuse in the future.

Related: Another open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a (more understanding) military veteran

Kaepernick made a blanket statement about his actions: “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let’s dissect this a little.

“I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This statement implies the government takes an active role in keeping minorities subjugated, like making laws that say “everyone but black people can do X.” That argument has been debunked so many times that you’re clearly uneducated on the issue and makes it hard to even take you seriously (forget the fact that our President is black, we have a Black Congressional Caucus and a long list of extremely successful black entrepreneurs). Truly active government oppression is a thousand times more brutal than what we have here. If you want to see what it really looks like, I invite you to Google El Salvador, Venezuela, Stalinism, North Korea, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Or let the USO set you up with a trip to Afghanistan. While there, ask about women’s rights and then tell us all how oppressive America is when you get back.

“It would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

So how is sitting down selfless and not looking the other way? If you really want to make a difference, get off the bench and actually do something. You signed a $114 million dollar contract with the 49ers and have an average salary of $19 million. How much of that did you donate to black causes or use to help the suffering that has suddenly offended you? I made 1 percent of what you did last year and I’d bet all of it that I donated more of my time to help others than you did.

“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Embellish much? Sounds like we’re living in South Africa under Apartheid. The high-profile events you’ve launched off of are real problems, no doubt, but the actual law enforcement data suggests your statement is hyperbolic. Rule of law exists in America. Wrong-doers don’t get away with murder. (Well, OJ did, maybe, but that’s another story, isn’t it?)

When you decided to “sit in,” did you think you were the champion of a cause and every African American would agree with you? I’m willing to bet there are plenty who are rolling their eyes right now because they feel you’re doing more harm than good and wish you would just keep your thoughts to yourself. You’re not Che Guevara and this is not Bautista’s Cuba. You’re not a freedom fighter leading your people out of bondage. You’re an ill-informed athlete who’s only fanning the fires of racism by sitting on the sidelines for a principle that you only understand through a simplistic pop narrative that’s little more than a hashtag campaign.

Look, Colin, I get it. You want to show your anger and dissatisfaction about an issue that means something to you. The problem is you’re going about it all wrong. Instead of inspiring others or sparking change, you’re angering your fellow citizens (especially veterans) and losing respect instead of gaining it. You are an American citizen and this is your country. You have the right to say and do what you like, a right forged by the efforts of millions who actually put their lives on the line, the real freedom fighters.

If you’re pissed, fine. And if you’re pissed enough to take action, even better. Just do it in the right way. Write an insightful article about what ails you. Hire someone to write your memoir that outlines a proposed solution. Go on a speaking tour to raise awareness and inspire others. Use some of those NFL millions to fund a study that helps define the problem and the solution. Fund a scholarship or two for black kids who have the grades to get into college but not the money. Find an inner city high school and donate football equipment or (even better) spend some time on the field mentoring them.

You’re probably wondering why so many people disagree with you, even to the point of burning your jersey in the streets. Simply put, this country isn’t perfect, but even a passing knowledge of history (the kind usually possessed by a guy with a bachelor’s degree) should make you proud to be an American. We liberated Europe from genocidal Naziism, won the Cold War, landed on the moon, made more breakthroughs in technology and medicines that save lives every day than any other country, and given athletes the opportunity to make a ton of money to play a game. The list could go on and on, but it all points to one undeniable fact – the world would be a much worse place than it is without America.

Despite all that, you’ve decided America sucks and chosen to express your dissatisfaction by offending 99 percent of the 324 million Americans who have nothing to do with the issue you’re protesting. That’s your right and you certainly don’t have to respect the flag or the anthem.

But, in return, I don’t have to respect you. Now, instead of seeing a skilled athlete tearing up opposing defenses, millions of people are going to see a misguided man who chose to help break our country instead of help fix it. Sitting on the sidelines during the anthem only makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Need a role model, Colin? Look to U.S. Army Lieutenant Sam Kendricks, who stopped his Olympic pole vault to stand and show respect when he heard the anthem. That guy gets it, but, of course, he’s actually serving something bigger than himself.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A Beechcraft twin-engine aircraft performs a routine at sunset during the Sound of Speed Air Show above the Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 26, 2016. The air show was hosted by the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing to thank the surrounding community for its support.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson

B-2 Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., taxi toward the flightline prior to take off at Andersen AFB, Guam, Aug. 11, 2016. Bomber crews readily deploy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to conduct global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, services, and appropriate U.S. government agencies to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies and partners.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Miguel Lara III

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, provide enemy fire from a mountaintop during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2016.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Army photo by Spc. JD Sacharok

Two U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Special Operations Command-Europe, engage opposing forces at an objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016. Jackal Stone 2016 is a bilateral Georgian, U.S. counter terrorism and crisis management exercise.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

NAVY:

The guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island during its maiden voyage from Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Bath, Maine. The port visit marks Zumwalt’s first stop before the ship ultimately sails to her new homeport of San Diego. During the transit, the ship is scheduled to take part in training operations, a commissioning ceremony in Baltimore and various additional port visits. Zumwalt is named for former Chief of Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Sept. 7, 2016) Lt. Carleigh Gregory from Herndon, Va., takes inventory of 5 inch ammunition aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) Sept. 7, 2016. Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine drinks from his canteen before participating in a mechanized raid drill on Landing Zone Swallow at Camp Davis Airfield, North Carolina, August 16, 2016. The drill was part of their pre-deployment training in preparation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s upcoming deployment. The Marine is with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

A Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams Tank, with Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division conducts offensive and defensive tactics during Large Scale Exercise (LSE) on August 16, 2016, on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. LSE-16 is designed to enhance the command and control, and interoperability between I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and its higher, adjacent and subordinate command headquarters.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake

COAST GUARD:

I hope all of you have enjoyed the week with us here on Instagram. CGC Charles Sexton and her crew wish all of you the best and cannot thank you all enough for following along with us this week and supporting the USCG.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Every American has a different memory of the September 11 attacks. Though some people are too young to remember or weren’t even born yet, the events of that day for those who do remember remain burned into their psyche and remembrance often begins with the sobering question, “Where were you when the towers fell?” Some sat before their televisions, frozen in disbelief. Others were in Lower Manhattan, working their way through panic and smoke blanketing the city in search of safety. As the city reeled in the immediate aftermath of the attack, hundreds made their way toward the danger to do their duty.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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The first ‘battle’ of World War II was a Nazi war crime

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps


The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.

On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.

At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

Nick Siekierski translates this article from a Polish newspaper:

Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.

In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.

The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.

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Navy SEAL vet looks to break wing suit distance record

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps


Andy Stumpf is a former Navy SEAL who hasn’t lost one iota of his drive since he took off the uniform. The same motivation that took him to harm’s way and back is now pushing him to break the wing suit overland distance record of 17.83 miles. At the same time he’s putting it all on the line to accomplish an even more important feat: raising $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs.

You can help Andy raise 1$ million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.

Andy will attempt the jump on November 1.

Here’s an infographic of Andy’s (planned) profile:

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

And check out this video about Andy’s motivation and the jump:

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Fear of killer flood prompts pause in Syria offensive

U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.


The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.

Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.

The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.

The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.

The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.

The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.

The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.

SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.

The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.

On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.

Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.

Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.

Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.

The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.

On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.

The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.

The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.

Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.

The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.

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The 5 greatest warships of all time

The US Naval Institute completed a poll of its readers to determine the best warships of all time. The Naval Institute urged readers to consider vessels from ancient times to now, and with more than 2,600 votes and almost 900 written responses, they’ve developed a diverse list spanning hundreds of years.


Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

In some cases, readers wrote in recommending whole classes of ships, like aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, but the list below will only reflect the five specific ships that made the grade.

5. USS Nautilus

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
The USS Nautilus permanently docked at the US Submarine Force Museum and Library, Groton, CT. | Victor-ny via Wikimedia Commons

Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine in 1951, and in 1954 first lady Mamie Eisenhower christened it.

The Nautilus changed the game when it came to naval warfare, and it ushered in an entirely new era for submarines. This nearly silent sub could hide among the ocean floor undetected, while offering up substantial contributions to surface warfare with cruise, or even nuclear, missiles.

The nuclear sub would go on to form one-third of the US’s nuclear triad.

4. HMS Dreadnought

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
Wikimedia Commons

The HMS Dreadnought ushered in a new era of “all big-gun ships.” Unlike battleships before it, the Dreadnought only had 12-inch cannons aided by electronic range-finding equipment. For defensive, the ship was completely encased in steel.

The Dreadnought presented a suite of technologies so cutting edge that it is often said that it rendered all battleships before it obsolete.

Though the Dreadnought did not have a distinguished service record, it did become the only surface battleship to sink a submarine. It is remembered largely for shifting the paradigm of naval warfare, as opposed to its victories in battle.

3. USS Enterprise

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
USS Enterprise in 1939. | US Navy

Unlike the Dreadnought, the historians remember the USS Enterprise for its outstanding record in combat.

As the sixth aircraft carrier to join the US Navy in 1936, the Enterprise was one of the first craft to respond after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it survived major battles in Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo during World War II.

After the war, the Enterprise was decommissioned as the most decorated ship in US naval history.

2. Korean Turtle Boats

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
Wikimedia Commons

Korean Turtle Ships served with the Korean navy for centuries, first coming into play in the Seven Years’ War (1592-1598) between Korea and Japan.

The idea behind the Turtle Ship was to provide an impenetrable floating fortress optimized for boarding enemy craft. The side of the ship is dotted with holes from which the crew can fire cannons and other artillery, while the top of the ship is covered in iron spikes, making it especially dangerous for enemy sailors to board the vessel.

With up to 80 rowers pulling along the heavy craft, the Turtle Ships were brutal but effective.

1. USS Constitution

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
The USS Constitution underway. | Wikimedia Commons

The USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” as it is affectionately known, first hit the seas as one of the first six frigates in the newly formed US Navy of 1797.

The Constitution had both 30 24-pound cannons and also speed. Not only was it technologically sound for its time, but it was also simply unparalleled and undefeated in battle.

Famously, in 1812, the Constitution fought against the HMS Guerriere, whose guns could not pierce the heavily armored sides of the Constitution.

The Constitution is still commissioned by the Navy today, considered the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and the only currently commissioned US Navy ship to have sunk an enemy vessel. It is in every way worthy of the title “greatest warship of all time.”

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Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
(Photo: ARTEC)


Lithuania is boosting its military by purchasing 88 “Boxer” infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) from Germany. The purchase comes amid increasing concern about Russian intentions towards Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Boxer is an eight-wheeled vehicle with a three-man crew that can hold eight infantrymen. The version procured by Lithuania will include Israeli gear, notably the Samson Mk II turret, which has a 30mm autocannon and Spike-LR anti-tank missiles. The Spike-LR is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that has a range of roughly 2.5 miles, and can defeat most main battle tanks. The Boxers will join about 200 M113 armored personnel carriers currently serving in the Lithuanian Land Forces.

The Boxer is in service with the Dutch and German armies, with the Dutch using it to replace M577 command vehicles and  YPR-765 infantry fighting vehicles in support roles. The  Germans are using the Boxer to replace the M113 and the Fuchs armored car. The two countries have purchased or plan to purchase over 700 Boxers, and the total may well increase.

The purchase of 88 vehicles seems small, but the Lithuanian Land Forces consist of a single full-strength mechanized infantry brigade with a “motorized infantry” brigade currently forming. This force does not have any heavy armor, and is also very short on artillery, featuring a grand total of 54 M101 105mm howitzers and 42 M113 120mm mortar carriers. Lithuania has purchased 21 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers and a few dozen 120mm mortars that can be carried by infantry. Lithuania has a couple hundred FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles with a range of just over 1.5 miles, joining older 90mm towed recoilless rifles and Carl Gustav shoulder-fired recoilless rifles.

Despite the modernization program, when facing a formation like the newly-reformed 1st Guards Tank Army, the Lithuanian Land Forces will be facing some very long odds, particularly when they are dependent on a four-plane detachment in Lithuania proper for air cover (the Baltic Air Policing program also has a four-plane detachment in Estonia). The Lithuanian Air Force has one L-39 trainer/light attack plane in service.

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China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

By 2020, China could be setting the stage for a massive naval confrontation in the South China Sea if it tries to enforce new rules that are currently in draft form.


Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

According to a report by Stars and Stripes, China wants to require all ships to ask permission before entering “Chinese waters” and all submarines to surface, announce their presence, and fly a flag. China has been taking steps to enforce its claims in the South China Sea, including a bomber flight and the construction of air bases on artificial islands.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

Reuters has reported that China has begun construction of what appear to be facilities intended to support long-range missiles at Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef. The news breaks after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) carried out what the Navy described as “routine operations” in the maritime flashpoint.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

An international arbitration panel ruled against China’s claims last July, but the Chinese boycotted the process and have ignored the ruling against their claims. Last November, the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out what were, for all intents and purposes, “freedom of navigation” exercises. This past December saw a Chinese vessel carry out the brazen heist of an American unmanned underwater vehicle.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

Quartz Media reports that the Chinese will fine any vessel that fails to comply $70,000. No word on how they intend to collect, but the U.S. has a lengthy tradition of refusing to pay such fines, going back to the XYZ Affair, when a South Carolina Rep. Robert G. Harper, famously coined the phrase, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

It should be noted that deagel.com, an online encyclopedia of military hardware, prices a Standard surface-to-air missile at $750,000 per unit, and a Harpoon anti-ship missile at $720,000 per unit.

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Coalition launches 84 strikes against ISIS as Iraqi army squeezes Mosul

Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.


Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.

The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.

“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”

The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.

As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.

In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.

According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.

A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.

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This C-130 crashed testing a system designed for the (second) mission to rescue the Iranian hostages

Operation Credible Sport was hatched in the wake of the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran that resulted in a collision at a refueling point in the desert that destroyed two aircraft and killed 8 service members. The mishap caused commanders to call off the mission.


But the hostages were still in Iranian hands and a new attempt at rescue had to be made. The Air Force decided to attempt the mission using a C-130 modified with rockets to takeoff and land in short distances. The modified aircraft would land in a soccer stadium near the U.S. embassy, allow the assault team out to rescue the hostages, then pick everyone up and fly them out.

 

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
The burned out C-130 from the failed Operation Eagle Claw sits in the Iranian Desert. At far right is the destroyed helicopter. (Photo: US Special Operations Command)

Rocket-assisted takeoffs, or RATOs, is a technique where rocket engines provide the lift necessary to let heavy aircraft takeoff on a short runway. The tactic had been in use since World War II and C-130s had already successfully employed the technique. The more well-known JATO, jet-assisted takeoffs, worked in a similar manner with jet engines doing the heavy lifting.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
A C-130 conducting a Rocket-Assisted Takeoff. GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

But Operation Credible Sport called for rockets to also assist in the landing, which required three sets of rockets to fire at precise times in the process. First, a set of forward-facing rockets would act as an air brake. Then downward-facing jets would slow the aircraft’s descent and after touchdown a third set of rockets would stop the C-130 on the short runway.

Unfortunately the C-130 test flight was less than successful. When the pilots attempted to land the plane, the first set of rockets blinded the pilots. Then the flight engineer was dazzled by the first rockets and thought the plane had already reached the ground. Thinking he just needed to stop the aircraft, he fired the final braking rockets and halted the plane’s forward momentum.

This stopped the wings from creating lift. The second set of rockets, designed to slow the plane’s descent and soften the landing, had not been fired. So the plane fell the final twenty feet to the runway almost straight down.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
GIF: Youtube/Crediblesport’s channel

The shock of the landing broke part of the right wing off. The rockets then lit the jet fuel on fire, and the entire airplane was destroyed.

Luckily, the crew made it out of the wreckage alive. The Air Force buried the plane at the test site and ordered the rockets placed on a backup C-130 so testing could continue.

But negotiators were able to reach a settlement that freed the hostages and made the modifications unnecessary. The plans for a rocket-landed airplane were then scrapped.

Watch the modified aircraft fly below, (and check out 1:40 to see the crash):

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The 19 most important years in the history of military drones

We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:


1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.

1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.

1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)

1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.

1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
(Official U.S. Navy photo)

1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.

1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”

1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.

1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”

1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.

2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.

2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.

2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.

Now: 7 ways drones are ruining everything

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