Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee's bigger, badder replacement - We Are The Mighty
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Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement

The U.S. military’s HMMWV, or “Humvee,” was the backbone of U.S. mobile military might for thirty years. Over that time it became as iconic as its predecessor, the Jeep. That kind of legacy is hard to replicate.


Enter the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.

The JLTV program demanded “a flexible vehicle that balances the payload, performance, and protection critical in the operating environments of today and tomorrow.” The program awarded the contract to Oshkosh Defense’s Light Combat All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV).

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Oshkosh Defense

The L-ATV combines the protection of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles used in Iraq and the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) used in Afghanistan, but it’s much lighter. It’s maximum weight of just over 15,600 pounds allows the vehicle to be transported by helicopter, reach speeds of over 100 mph, and cover rugged terrain 70 percent faster than the M-ATV.

The new vehicle comes in a four-door model combat vehicle or two-seater combat support vehicle. It also has the armor protection of the MRAP and a Crew 1080 protection system like those equipped in racing vehicles that allow drivers to walk away from horrific crashes.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Oshkosh Defense

The vehicle reportedly drives like a modern pickup truck. It runs on a GM Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel engine and features a TAK-4i independent suspension and an optional hybrid electric-diesel drivetrain.

Here are some other program requirements that the L-ATV has to meet:

  • It must comply with U.S. Army’s Long Term Armor Strategy (LTAS)
  • It has to be able to be transported by their current and planned systems. In April 2009, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway warned that the Marines “will not buy a vehicle that’s 20,000 lb.”
  • Passengers must be able to easily escape after the vehicle has taken damage
  • It needs an automatic fire extinguishing system
  • The crew compartment temperature has to be able to go from minus 40 to 65 degrees in one hour
  • Conversely, the crew compartment temperature has to be able to drop from 120 to 90 degrees within 40 minutes
  • It must have a diagnostic monitoring system that will electronically alert the operator of equipment failures so that they can be fixed. The electronic monitoring will observe the fuel, air intake, engine, cooling, transmission, energy storage, power generation and vehicle speed as well as other systems
  • It needs a trailer capable of carrying the same payload as its prime mover over the same speeds and mission profile

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Oshkosh Defense

The Army is set to introduce L-ATVs to the force around 2018, and the Marines are getting theirs in 2022.

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The Air Force will no longer fire three volley salutes at veteran funerals

When a veteran or member of the armed forces dies, he or she is entitled to a ceremony that includes the presentation of a U.S. flag to a family member and a bugler blowing Taps. Most of the time, there is a three-volley rifle salute if requested by family members. But now, if the deceased served in the Air Force, the three-volley salute is not an option because the Air Force can no longer support riflemen for funeral services for veteran retirees.


Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Staff Sgt. Sean Edmondson and other new honor guard members exit the field after the funeral ceremony at the honor guard graduation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Seven member services for retirees included six members to serve as pall-bearers, a six member flag-folding detail, and a three riflemen to fire the salute. Veteran’s funerals now only receive the services of two-member teams, who provide a flag-folding ceremony, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to the next of kin.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

“To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial,” veteran Wayne Wakeman told Honolulu’s KHON 2 News. “I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they’re giving, that they had to hit the veterans.”

Wakeman is correct in supposing the cut is due to sequestration, the 2013 automatic federal spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Rose Richeson, from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Press Desk, told We Are The Mighty the policy of restricting the funeral honor is an Air Force-wide requirement.

“The requirement is consistent with  DoD policy which require a minimum of two personnel,” Richeson said. “Any number of personnel above two that is provided in support of military funeral honors is based on local resources available.”

A three-volley salute is the correct term for what is commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as a 21-gun salute. There are often seven riflemen, totaling 21. The origin of the three-volley funeral honor lies elsewhere, according to the Tom Sherlock, an Arlington National Cemetery Historian. A 21-gun salute is reserved for Presidents of the United States or visiting heads of state.

 

 

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The top 5 stories around the military right now (August 11 edition)

Good morning.  Here’s the news:


Now: This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever 

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15 veterans taking the comedy world by storm

Comedy greats Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, and  Rob Riggle all started their working lives in the military, and all of them have credited their service for giving them unique perspectives that shaped their routines or approaches to roles they played. And now a new generation of veterans are finding success in comedy.


Here are 15 veterans currently making names for themselves on stages and elsewhere around the country:

1. Julia Lillis

Julia is a Naval Academy graduate who has had great success as a stand up comedian and writer.  She has appeared on E! and MTV and is a recurring guest on the Dennis Miller show. Julia has also done multiple tours entertaining the troops overseas.

2. James Connolly

James is a veteran of Desert Storm and Harvard graduate. He has appeared on VH1, HBO, Comedy Central, and is one of the most played comedians on Sirius XM. In addition, he has done multiple tours entertaining the troops and holds an annual “Cocktails and Camouflage” comedy show that raises money for veterans organizations.

3. Jose Sarduy

Jose is currently an aviator in the Air Force reserves. He’s made a big impact with comedy festivals, has toured overseas with the GI’s of Comedy, and currently co-hosts NUVOtv’s “Stand up and Deliver.”

4. Thom Tran

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCgJGAvRSg4

An Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Thom launched a successful comedy career after leaving the Army. He founded the GI’s of Comedy, raising money for veteran organizations, and has toured throughout the U.S. He is currently producing a new series called “Comedy Stir Fry.”

5. Jon Stites

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXIMVuTQDPM

Jon is a veteran of the Army infantry and founder of Operation Comedy, recruiting some of the biggest comedians in the industry to give free shows to veterans at signature venues like the Improv in Hollywood.

6. Justin Wood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6ZH7LpUAcA

An Army veteran turned stand up comic, Justin has performed at major venues throughout Los Angeles, toured with the GI’s of Comedy, and founded “Comics that Care” recruiting comedians to perform for homeless veterans. He recently made a viral satire video of him committing “stolen valor” (posted above).

7. Benari Poulten

Benari is currently a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a comic he has toured with the GI’s of Comedy and was hired this year as a writer on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.

8. Shawn Halpin

After serving in the Marine Corps infantry, Halpin has had success as a comedian opening for Pauley Shore, Tom Green, and as a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. He has entertained the troops performing with Operation Comedy, GI’s of Comedy, and Comics on Duty.

9. PJ Walsh

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCdn-64XHkc

After serving in the Navy, Walsh has shared the stage with many comedy greats including Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He has performed for troops in several countries including Iraq and Afghanistan and is committed to raising funds for veteran organizations.

10. Jody Fuller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU4TRSeyWtk

Fuller currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve with three tours overseas. His performance highlights include a opening gig in front of comedy great Jeff Foxworthy.

11. Will C

Will C served in the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. He has had great success as a comedian touring across the country and has appeared in numerous television roles. He founded The Veterans of Comedy, a group that tours nationally to entertain active duty military and veterans.

12. Tom Irwin

A U.S. Army veteran, Tom’s success as a comedian includes an invitation to perform at The White House. He has done multiple tours overseas entertaining troops and created a “25 Days in Iraq” show about his tour in Iraq.

13. Erik Knowles

Knowles is a Marine Corps veteran turned stand up who was a finalist at the California Comedy Festival and The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. He has worked with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and also tours with The Veterans of Comedy.

14. Katie Robinson

Katie is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns where she worked as a chem-bio-radiation officer. Known as “Comedy Katie” she is a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood and won critical acclaim at MiniFest: Los Angeles.

15. Ibo Brewer

A Marine and Iraq war veteran, Brewer is a Los Angeles based comedian and regular at various major comedy clubs.

BONUS:

Check out the amazing documentary Comedy Warriors (2013) which follows wounded warriors who aspire to become comedians and are mentored by A-list comics including Zach Galifianakis and Lewis Black.

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

OR: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

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Sparta’s ‘special operators’ had ruthless training tactics

Every elite special operations group has its own storied rite of passage. Navy SEALs undergo a simulated drowning. Green Berets drink snake blood. North Korean special operators do whatever the hell this is.


Also read: 5 military training drills that’ll blow your mind

Such rituals have been an important component in warrior cultures for centuries, and the famed citizen-soldiers of ancient Sparta are no exception. The Spartan are often viewed as among history’s most elite warriors, with a culture built to breed and groom the perfect fighting force. Rank-and-file Spartans were trained since birth to be strong, loyal, and ruthless fighters. But a select few were singled out to join the Krypteia — the closest thing the Spartans had to ‘special operators.’

Scholars believe that the Krypteia served as the Spartans’ reconnaissance soldiers, shock troops, and even military police. As such, their loyalty and commitment to the state was just as important as their skill at arms. And just like today’s special operators, the Krypteia had their own initiation ritual. It’s believed that in order to complete their training, candidates had to ambush and murder a Helot — a member of the Spartan servant class. Only then, could they prove their willingness to kill in the name of the state.

This video from the American Heroes Channel explains the ritual.

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The Military Took These Incredible Photos In Just One Week-Long Period

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 is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Senior Airman Peter Reft/USAF

Pilots in an F-15E Strike Eagle receive fuel from a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker March 17, 2015, over North Carolina. The pilots and F-15E aircraft are from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Airman Ashlyn J. Correia/USAF

NAVY

Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hopkins/USN

EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Dickinson/USN

ARMY

Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, sit in the door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it lifts off. The airborne operation held March 19, 2015 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, is the final preparation for the unit before they conduct multinational exercises across Europe.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: 2nd Lt. Steven Siberski/US Army

Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Marie Berberea/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson/USCG

Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart/USCG

NOW: This Is What It Was Like To Feel Zero G Aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

AND: Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villian

OR WATCH: The Most Evil Weapons Ever Created

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The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during an especially dangerous period of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985 — a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.

This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.

In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.

There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.

Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”

This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.

In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.

As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.

Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its

At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.

The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”

But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.

The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.

There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.

That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”

Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.

Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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China’s hack on the US ‘is a significant blow’ to American human intelligence

A second data breach allowing hackers to acquire the security clearance information of 14 million federal employees could compromise the success and safety of American intelligence officers operating abroad.


Experts fear that the hackers’ alleged theft of employees’ SF86 forms — a 120-page questionnaire detailing the personal history of anyone applying for government security clearance — from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) could be used to blackmail, exploit, or recruit US intelligence officers.

Some CIA, National Security Agency and military special operations personnel were potentially exposed in the attack, according to AP.

Joel Brenner, who from 2006 to 2009 served as the Intelligence Community’s top counterintelligence official, described the hack to AP as “crown jewels material, a goldmine” for China, adding: “This is not the end of American human intelligence, but it’s a significant blow.”

The SF86 form is an exhaustive examination of the applicant’s life, including their financial records (including gambling addictions and any outstanding debt), drug use, alcoholism, arrests, psychological and emotional health, foreign travel, foreign contacts, and an extensive list of all relatives.

“I’m really glad to be out of the game,” a recently retired CIA senior operations officer told former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler in a Daily Beast article.

“There’s bad, there’s worse—and there’s this,” he said, referring to the breach. “CIA officers are not supposed to be anywhere in OPM files, but I’m glad I’m not posted overseas right now, hoping that’s true.”

“When you add this to Snowden, it’s really not a good time to be posted abroad anywhere less safe than maybe Canada or Australia,” a currently-serving CIA officer told Schindler. 

The OPM “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies,” Reuters reported last week.

The government agency also stores the results of polygraph tests, which is “really bad, because the goal of government-administered polygraph tests is to uncover any blackmailable information about its employees before it can be used against them,” Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday. “So it’s really a goldmine of blackmail for intruders.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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GI Bill gets huge boost with this new law

Military veterans are getting unlimited access to college assistance under legislation President Donald Trump has signed into law.


The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately. The measure increases financial assistance for National Guard and Reserve members, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state, public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.

Purple Heart recipients forced to leave the service due to injury are eligible for benefits, as are dependents of service members who are killed in the line of duty.

Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology, and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare them for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes mid-semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting education,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a briefing after Trump signed the measure at his New Jersey golf club following two nights at his home at New York’s Trump Tower.

Trump is staying at the New Jersey club on a working vacation. Journalists were not permitted to see the president sign the bill, as the White House has done for other veterans’ legislation he has turned into law. That includes a measure Trump signed at the club August 12 to provide nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for a temporary veterans health care program.

The August 16 signing came the day after Trump was rebuked for continuing to insist that “both sides” were culpable for an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. One woman was killed.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Photo by Michael Vadon

Also, two Virginia state troopers died in the crash of their helicopter. They were monitoring the rally.

A wide range of veterans groups supported the education measure. The Veterans of Foreign Wars says hundreds of thousands stand to benefit.

Student Veterans of America says that only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

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Use Memorial Day to educate not shame

On Memorial Day, U.S. citizens from coast to coast will pay tribute to the nation’s fallen military members who died in service to their country. Many will participate in parades, visit cemeteries to place flowers on grave sites, and attend memorial services in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.


Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Sgt. Titus Fields, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery during May 24, 2013. Each year, Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) carefully placed flags by hand, one by one, in front of each of the gravestones at the cemetery in tribute to the service and sacrifice of the nation’s fallen service members who rest there. (U.S. Army Photo)

Memorial Day weekend is also widely considered the unofficial start of the summer season. Many will take advantage of the long weekend to relax from a hectic work schedule and spend some time with their families. Americans will be heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and kicking back with a cold one. American capitalism will be in full force as businesses advertise sales and consumers hit retail stores looking for a great deal. Memorial Day sales have been part of American society for decades.

In recent years, however, there’s been an increase in shaming those who partake in any leisure activities at a time designated to honor America’s fallen heroes. Memes with imagery of grieving widows and children fill social media sites attempting to make people feel guilty people about enjoying themselves.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement

While the purpose of the meme may be to aid the public’s understanding of the true meaning of the holiday, it also tends to rub people the wrong way.

Veterans have the ability to change the conversation – and their voices need to be heard. Veterans have the perspective to understand the sacrifice of military service and may have a personal connection understanding the loss of a comrade during his or her time in uniform.

The civilian-military divide is well documented. Most Americans don’t have a personal connection with someone in the military, let alone someone who has died in a war. The efforts of veterans shouldn’t increase this divide.

The American people work hard. In fact, many reports show Americans work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time off. Disgracing our fellow citizens by posting these memes regardless of the intent only serves as a cheap shot and doesn’t do any good to remember the fallen.

This Memorial Day weekend, veterans should honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms by celebrating them and sharing their stories, both online and off, with others who may not have an affiliation with the military or don’t understand the meaning of the holiday. Whether you’re a veteran, active member, or military family member, this weekend should be about educating, not shaming our fellow citizens.

Those who died in service to the nation did so in the course of protecting our country’s way of life for generations to come. And, yes, that way of life includes poolside BBQs on the last Monday in May. Our fallen heroes wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

 

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This was the Littoral Combat Ship before there was a Littoral Combat Ship — Video

During the 1980s, the United States had a small squadron of vessels intended to work close to shore. These ships gave good service, and proved to be decent at not just their primary purpose. Yet when the peace dividend came, they got retired, and most were scrapped. One has been saved as a museum.


Meet the Pegasus-class missile-armed patrol hydrofoil. They were 255 tons. They could go up to 48 knots. They had a 76mm Mk 75 gun and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

That was a lot of firepower on a small vessel. With a crew of four officers and 17 enlisted, these were not very manpower-intensive ships.

Meet the L-ATV, the Humvee’s bigger, badder replacement
Six vessels of Patrol Combatant Missile Hydrofoil squadron 2 travel in formation en route to Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. for decommissioning. The formation includes the USS PEGASUS (PHM-1), USS HERCULES (PHM-2), USS TAURUS (PHM-3), USS AQUILA (PHM-4), USS ARIES (PHM-5) and USS GEMINI (PHM-6). (DOD Photo)

The Pegasus patrol boats never did have to carry out their primary mission to take out enemy ships. But GlobalSecurity.org notes that these ships did prove very valuable in other missions, including the drug interdiction role.

The “Seventh Edition of Combat Fleets of the World” notes that the ships were very steady weapons platforms for their size. Since they were based out of Key West, Florida, the patrol boats could keep an eye on Cuba.

Original plans to base them in the Med were scrapped, according to the “Thirteenth Edition of The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Navy.”

Think about what these ships could do with 255 tons. Now, let’s look at the Littoral Combat Ship.

What do we get for the 3,500 tons on a Freedom-class LCS? Well, we get roughly the same top speed (47 knots). We get a hangar with two MH-60 helicopters (primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but they have Hellfire missiles, which don’t do jack against anything larger than a Pegasus). We get a 57mm gun (the Mk 110), a Mk 31 RAM launcher … and a few .50-caliber machine guns.

While there is some improvement in air-defense (matched by the DART round for the 76mm gun), it’s weak when it comes to the anti-ship side of things.

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Looking at the LCS, while it has had its shining moments — particularly USS Freedom’s 2010 Southern Command deployment — it has also had problems galore.

Perhaps the Navy should have gone back to the proven Pegasus design while it got the LCS right.

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‘Transpecos’ offers a gritty, detailed look inside the world of Border Patrol agents

“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.


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Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason.  Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.

“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.

“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”

That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.

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(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.

“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”

The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.

“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”

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(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.

“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”

At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.

“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”

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“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.

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The US Navy just issued an eerie report outlining Russia’s naval capabilities

A 68-page US Naval Intelligence report, titled “The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition,” outlines the rising credibility and threat of Russia’s navy.


The report details a situation in which Russia’s navy, behind only those of the US and China in size, may soon be capable of denying the US Navy access to the Black and Baltic seas.

Russia’s landgrab in Crimea as well as its enclave in Kaliningrad could lock US forces out of the Black or Baltic seas.

US Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges spoke to this in a Pentagon news briefing earlier this month, saying the nearly 25,000 Russian troops illegally stationed in Crimea had “the ability to really disrupt access into the Black Sea.”

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Google Maps/Orvelin Valle/We Are The Mighty

Earlier this year, Russia’s defense ministry announced plans to revive and increase the size and scope of the country’s Black Sea submarine fleet.

The new submarines are designed to excel at warfare in shallower water while being arguably the quietest submarines in the world.

“The new submarine and ship classes will incorporate the latest advances in militarily significant areas such as: weapons; sensors; command, control and communication capabilities; signature reduction; electronic countermeasures; and automation and habitability,” the report states.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

The report also describes Russia’s Kalibr missiles, which were put on display in October when Russian boats in the Caspian Sea fired missiles at ground targets in Syria.

The report also speculates that Russia’s fifth-generation aircraft, the PAK FA aka T-50, could be ready for deployment as soon as 2016.

The increased stealth capabilities of the plane, as well as its potential role aboard a new Russian aircraft carrier, could spell big problems for the US.

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Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

According to the report, Russia is “reorganizing its personnel structure to more accurately reflect the needs of modern warfare” and will do so by attempting to transition to an all-volunteer force.

The report acknowledges that Russia is under heavy financial strain because of sanctions and historically low oil prices, but the country is nonetheless determined to create a modern navy that is capable of undermining the military superiority of the West.

Here’s the full report:

Russia Pub 2015 High