A missile defense test went awry last month after a Navy sailor accidentally pressed the wrong button, an investigation into the matter revealed.
The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor in late June. A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, the MDA explained in a statement at the time. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked the missile using the on-board radars and launched an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which ultimately failed to intercept the target.
An MDA investigation into the failure revealed that a sailor pressed the wrong button, causing the missile to self-destruct. The MDA reported that there were no problems with either the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor or the Navy’s Aegis combat system, according to Defense News.
A tactical datalink controller mistakenly identified the incoming ballistic missile as friendly, causing the missile to unexpectedly self-destruct mid-flight, according to sources familiar with the recent missile intercept test.
The test in late June was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint missile defense project between the US and Japan. The new interceptor was developed to counter the rising ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
North Korea has tested a batch of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles this year, increasing the threat to its neighbors and extending the danger to targets in the US.
The failed test was preceded by a successful test in May of the ground-based, mid-course defense system, which defends the US against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Earlier this month, the US successfully tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a THAAD unit in Alaska eliminating a target missile launched from an Air Force Cargo plane to the north of Hawaii.
The failure of the SM-3 Block IIA, which was tested successfully in February, initially represented a setback. That the cause of the failure was likely human error may come as a relief for those involved in the weapon’s development.
“Raven 08, Deci Tower, cleared for take-off, wind calm.”
I’m in the backseat of a Tornado IDS belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi, currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, for the yearly training activity in the Sardinian firing ranges. The words of the controller, that I can hear quite clearly before the noise will spread through the cockpit making all the subsequent communications barely readable, have a double meaning to me: first, they give the “go ahead” to the most exciting part of my flight in a Tornado (the very first one on this kind of aircraft); second, they mark the end of the long and delicate stage of the jet flight preparation; a preparation that determines either the success or failure of the sortie from the journalistic point of view.
Italian aircraft IDS Tornado flies over a live fire range in exercise Eager Centaur II in an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, March 14, 2016. Eager Centaur II is conducted to complete initial joint terminal attack controller training and exercise the SPMAGTF-CR-CC Fire Support Coordination Center, to include combined arms live-fire tactics, techniques, and procedures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake)
A flight in a jet usually lasts between 45 and 110 minutes (longer if it includes aerial refueling, but it’s not the case): in my case, fully exploiting the (short) time available to “observe” a mission from the inside and collect all the photos and video material for both aviation magazines, this blog and its connected social networks, is paramount. A flight in a combat aircraft represents an almost unique opportunity and it is important to make the most out of it. If something in the backseat goes wrong, if a camera body fails or a lens proves to be unsuitable for the photo session, there will hardly be a second chance. In about 20 years I’ve had this opportunity quite a few times, hence here are a few suggestions based on my little (if compared to others) experience in a combat aircraft. If you are going to fly in a fast jet for the first time, because you were invited or simply because you’ve paid for a ride, maybe the following few tips will help you maximize your experience.
Even though the thrill of flying in a jet fighter is always the same, learning from the past mistakes as well as the experience gained over the years, have been pivotal to perfecting the preparation of the mission so as to minimize the risk that something unexpected can jeopardize the reportage’s success. For example, during one of my first jet flights, to have a back-up in case of problems with the main camera, I decided to put a compact camera in one of the pockets of the flight suit, the one located more or less over the right’s lower leg. Fortunately, I did not need it. In fact, I hadn’t taken into account that the anti-G suit, dressed over the normal flight suit, would have made the “emergency” camera inaccessible during the flight! Since then, I only use the pockets of the anti-G pants for all those small accessories I might need in the cockpit.
With regard to the flight gear, in addition to my mask, I always try to use my own helmet, which is also easily recognizable by the bright yellow-green checkerboard on the cover. However, this is not always possible: for instance, in the case of the Eurofighter, the aircrews have to use the specific flight equipment designed for the Typhoon flight line which differs from that used on any other Italian Air Force aircraft and includes, among the other things, a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) helmet and an EFA / ACS mask. For my flight in the Tornado, I had to use to an HGU-55G helmet, with the characteristic 154th squadron’s “red devil” symbol painted on the cover, that I was lent by the unit.
Back to the preparation of the mission, once the flight gear’s check and fitting have been completed, I think the most important thing is the inspection of the rear cockpit of the aircraft: it is essential to know how to “move” in the backseat, where to attach the GoPro so that it is both stable and reachable (to modify some settings or move it), evaluate the size of any storage compartment to see if it can be used to accommodate a camera body or lens. In fact, digital cameras have greatly simplified life in a jet: when I was still using color slide films I needed to change the rolls several times during the flight. This forced me to continuously estimate the number of photographs I could take so that I didn’t run out of shots during a maneuver: in order to replace the finished roll with a new one, it was necessary to remove the gloves, be more or less stable (that is, in level flight) and have the time to safely remove and store the used roll before inserting a new one; an operation that would take just a few seconds in other conditions but, performed in a very narrow space, strapped into the ejection seat, wearing the heavy helmet, the mask, the Secumar, etc., was, especially at the beginning, quite challenging. With the advent of digital photography, this problem has been solved.
Returning to the preparation of the flight, once understood how to move (or not move) in the rear cockpit, it is important to discuss with the crews that will take part in the mission and determine which phases of the missions will be suitable for some aerial shots. Although I have had the opportunity to arrange “pure” air-to-air photo sessions, I usually prefer to take part in missions that bring me in the aircraft’s operational environment: I am a journalist and I find it much more interesting for my readers (and for myself) to see and recount the mission from a privileged point of view, focusing on both the tactical aspects of the flight and the technical details of the employed weapon systems. This means that the time available for photography is normally reduced to about ten minutes: during the transition to the operating zone or during the RTB (Return To Base) phase.
Obviously, a sortie with well-defined operational goals leaves little room for aerobatics or formations flying in favor of light: if you are part of a 3-ship that is acting as “Red Air” in a 4 vs 3 supersonic training mission, as in my flight in the Eurofighter, the aircraft will fly towards the operational area in fighting wing, with a significant spacing from one another, and the time for close formation will be reduced to a few minutes. However, as I have already explained, I prefer a few clicks from a realistic operational situation rather than taking part in a sortie that is particularly cool from a photographic point of view, but “poor” from the operational one. Generally, “how to arrange the aircraft” and “when to take photographs” are topics discussed with the aircrews during the briefing and reviewed, if necessary, during the flight, asking the pilot in the front seat to assume a specific attitude so as to obtain a particular shot.
Dealing with the photographic equipment, in addition to the GoPro and camera, I bring with me what I need inside a large removable pocket that comes with velcro to be attached to the anti-G at the thigh: here is where I put spare batteries or extra lenses, like fisheye and zoom for the iPhone, used to take short videos or photos that complement the work of the DSLR camera. As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle. From 1999 to today, I have carried several camera bodies with me, but the lens I prefer in the back seat is almost always the Canon 28-135 USM, an extremely reliable, versatile and lightweight lens, more than adequate for my needs. If you do not have hundreds of flights under your belt, photographing air-to-air from the cockpit of a military aircraft is not an easy task: properly framing the other jets during some maneuvers requires some physical effort (the camera is subject to the same accelerations as aircraft meaning that in a 5 g turn the camera weighs five times its weight on the ground …) and gives very nauseous feelings, too. Luckily, I have never needed it, but I always bring a bag for nausea in the anti-G pocket; I also drink a lot of water and limit carbohydrates, alcohol, or spicy foods ahead of flying. Anyway, pro photographers, with hundreds if not thousands of flight hours in fast jets, such as Katsuhiko “Katsu” Tokunaga, Jamie Hunter, or Frank Crebas (to name but few), may provide much more expert advice about air-to-air photography and related tips and tricks.
The opportunity to fly in a high-performance aircraft every now and then has given me some exciting and long-lasting memories: the formation aerobatics with the TF-104, the BBQ (Ultra-low level flying) with AMX, the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) sortie with the T-346A or the supersonic BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception flown as Aggressor with the Eurofighter.
Media outlets visit one of the many impact sites created by the recent missile attacks at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2020.
An unspecified number of the more than 100 troops who were treated for traumatic brain injuries suffered in a January missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq have been recommended for Purple Hearts, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.
Officials have previously stated that Purple Heart recommendations have come from unit commanders and the individual military branches for those injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strikes on the air base.
“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military service regulations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement Wednesday. “Upon completion, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership.”
She gave no timeline for the process, but CNN, citing three defense officials, reported that “final decisions” on awarding possibly dozens of Purple Hearts could be coming soon from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and the Defense Department.
At a Feb. 3 news briefing, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman cited general standards for awarding the Purple Heart — standards that appeared to qualify most of the troops who were treated for TBI after the Iranian missile strikes.
He said Purple Heart eligibility for TBI required a doctor’s diagnosis and confirmation that the injury forced the service member to miss at least two days of duty for treatment.
Some of those injured in the Al Asad attack were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and to the states for treatment and would appear to qualify for Purple Hearts.
Hoffman said recommendations for Purple Hearts were mainly “a question for the services” with final approval coming from the Defense Department.
“The process is going to play out,” he said. “Fortunately, all the cases to date have been characterized as mild TBI, which is the equivalent of concussions.”
In the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military appeared reluctant to award Purple Hearts for TBI, but awards have been made more regularly as TBI from improvised explosive devices and other blasts became known as the “signature” combat injury of the wars.
In 2011, DoD updated the criteria for awarding the Purple Heart in cases of TBI, stating that the injury had to be caused by enemy action or suffered in action against an enemy, and had to require treatment by a medical officer or certification that it would have required treatment if available.
President Donald Trump and Pentagon officials initially said there were no U.S. casualties from the missile strikes on Al Asad, but symptoms of TBI can often take days to appear.
On Jan. 16, U.S. Central Command stated that several of the troops at Al Asad “were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”
When asked about the growing number of concussions, Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22 that, “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious. I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”
The Pentagon has since said that at least 109 troops at Al Asad on the night of the attacks suffered mild TBI.
In the early morning hours immediately after the missile attacks, and after briefing Trump at the White House, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said off-camera at the Pentagon that the launches “were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment, and to kill personnel. That’s my own personnel assessment.”
His initial judgment was that the missiles carried 1,000-2,000 pound warheads.
On April 7, Air Forces Central Command published accounts from more than 20 Airmen at Al Asad testifying to the ferocity of the attacks that lasted an estimated 90 minutes.
Capt. Nate Brown recalled taking cover with others in a bunker.
Then, “the next wave hits. Then the next, and the next. I have no idea if anyone is alive outside this bunker.”
How many of you science fiction buffs have fantasized about zipping around town in your very own flying car? Sure, a trip in a helicopter or airplane has now become the standard or even mundane mode of long distance travel, but imagine taking your very own flying machine on a trip across town, presumably withThe Jetsons‘ theme song blasting in the background. With advances in modern technology, it is only a matter of time right? What may surprise you though, is that way back in 1942, twenty years before Americans were meeting George Jetson and marveling at The Jetsons‘ flying car, the British Military actually had their very own flying jeep.
It was right smack in the middle of the Second World War and the military needed to find a way to airdrop more than messages, medical supplies or rations. They wanted to sky dive off-road vehicles to provide transportation for their infantry soldiers and other military personnel. They had previously tested the Hafner Rotachute, a rotor equipped parachute towed by an airplane with the objective of delivering armed soldiers more precisely to the battlefield, and they figured they could apply similar technology to a large vehicle.
So they looked to Raoul Hafner again. Hafner was an Austrian engineer – a contemporary and admirer of Juan de la Cierva, that Spanish pioneer of rotary-winged flight – with a passion for helicopters. Hafner first designed the Rotachute and later conceptualized its spin-off the Hafter Rotabuggy. While both machines used rotor technology, the Rotachute was actually a fabric-covered capsule with room for one pilot and a notch for his weapon with fairing in the rear and an integrated tail. After various modifications, the first successful launch occurred on June 17, 1942 from a de Havilland Tiger Moth. Taking off, the airplane towed the Rotachute on a 300 foot towline and released it at an altitude of 200 feet. A rough landing necessitated further improvements in the form of a stabilizing wheel and fins to improve stability.
In the case of the Rotabuggy the question was how to build a vehicle that they could fly and drop from a height without causing damage. They did some tests using a regular (non-flying) 4×4 wartime jeep- a Willys MB- loaded with concrete and discovered that dropping it from heights up to a pretty impressive 2.35 metres (7.7 ft) could work without damaging the unmodified jeep.
With durable jeep in hand, they then outfitted it with a 40 ft rotor as well as a streamlined tail fairing with twin rudderless fins. For added toughness, they attached Perspex door panels, while stripping it clean of its motor. Inside they installed a steering wheel for the driver and a rotor control for the pilot and other navigational instruments. So visually you had the now-bantamweight jeep in front with two guys inside, a driver and a pilot, a rotor on top and a tail bringing up the rear. Welcome to the Blitz Flying Jeep!
In November of 1943, the flying trials started at Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Leeds. The first challenge was how to get the jeep up in the air. As so often happens with first attempts, during the first test flight the jeep literally failed to get off the ground. It ended miserably as they used a lorry to tow the flying jeep but it couldn’t get enough speed to lift the Willys MB airborne. During the second attempt, the jeep was towed by a heavier and more powerful Bentley automobile and it flew, gliding at speeds of reportedly about 45 to 65 mph. Later, they tested the jeep behind an RAF Whitley bomber, managing to achieve an altitude of about 122 meters (approximately 400 ft) in one ten minute flight in September of 1944.
While the records show that in the end the Flying Jeep worked very satisfactorily, there is an account of a witness who observed a rather shaken and exhausted pilot emerge to lie down relieved after one terrifying test flight. Apparently it had taken superhuman effort for him to handle the control column on that particular flight, which led to a rather scary, bobbing and weaving, bumpy ride. When the jeep finally dropped safely to the ground, the driver took over. After the vehicle came to a stop, reports say the ensuing silence was protracted, then the pilot was helped out to a spot adjacent to the runway where he lay down to rest and collect himself.
Although the Flying Jeep machine was improved with upgraded fins and rotor functionality, perhaps it was just as well that its further development was abandoned after military gliders, like the Airspeed Horsa, that could transport vehicles, were introduced.
Raoul Hafner was an Austrian national and thus was classified as an enemy alien and placed in an internment camp in England during the start of WWII. He obtained his naturalization and was soon released and put to work by the government as previously described. He later became interested in applying his knowledge to sailboat design and died in a sailing accident in 1980.
Raoul Hafner’s daughter Ingrid became a British actress. She was best known for playing Carol in the TV seriesThe Avengers.
In the 1950s, the Americans developed a prototype of a flying jeep known as the Airgeep but like it’s British predecessor it didn’t make it to the battlefield.
Tommy Prince was a member of the Ojibwa, one of Canada’s First Nations tribes (what the United States calls Native Americans or American Indians), who tried many times to join the Canadian Army during WWII.
Prince became a sapper first, then a paratrooper, and a member of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Eventually, he was sent to a special forces unit, the 1st Special Service Force — a combined special forces operation with the United States known to the enemy as “the Devil’s Brigade.”
These are the unbelievable missions that helped Tommy Prince become one of Canada’s most celebrated soldiers, the country’s most decorated indigenous veteran, and the most decorated member of the Devil’s Brigade:
5. Attacking an impenetrable mountain fortress.
The Italian Campaign was young in 1943, but the Special Service Force was assigned to go behind the enemy lines at the Battle of Monte La Difensa. It was a steep, mountainous fortress that already repelled three full-scale Allied assaults.
The Devil’s Brigade changed the situation in a hurry.
Prince walked across the entire front line near the village of Majo, infiltrated every single machine gun bunker, and killed everyone inside. Without making a sound. When the Allies advanced the next morning, the machine guns were silent.
4. Reporting on German movements right in front of them.
In 1944, Prince was in Italy running a communications line. He was reporting enemy movements back to the Allied forces near Littoria. As a Nazi artillery position fired on his allies, Tommy Prince was about 200 meters away, watching every move the Nazis made and reporting it to his command.
The comms wire was accidentally cut during the battle. Prince disguised himself as a farmer and began to work the land. He shouted curses at both Axis and Allied troops.
When his work took him to the cut in the wire, he bent over to “tie his shoe,” repaired the wire, and pressed on with his 24-hour long watch.
3. Walking three days to fight an entire enemy camp, then capturing everyone.
Just after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Summer 1944 invasion of Southern France, Prince was assigned to locate an enemy camp in the nearby mountains. He walked across the terrain for three days with little food or water to find it. Once he did, he walked back to the Allied lines only to lead the assault force on the camp.
The small assault team captured some 1,000 enemy prisoners. He was called to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with the Military Medal and the American Silver Star.
2. Rescuing the French Resistance along the way.
As Prince hiked around Southern France, he ran into resistance partisans in a firefight with some Germans. To level the playing field, the Canadian started to pick off as many Nazis as he could with just a rifle and his elevated position.
The young Native was an expert marksman from childhood, so the Nazis were easy pickings.
They quickly broke off the fight and ran. When Prince came down to talk to the Frenchmen, they told him his fire was so intense, thought they were rescued by an Allied infantry company.
1. Using Moccasins to sneak into German barracks…just to show them he could.
His compatriots in the Devil’s Brigade knew Prince carried moccasins in his kit bag. Using these instead of his boots allowed Prince to sneak into anywhere he wanted, including enemy barracks.
At night, he would enter Nazi barracks as they slept, steal their shoes (sometimes off their feet), and slit the throats of every third soldier.
Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has apparently survived a bloody coup attempt that has left over 160 people dead, over a thousand injured, and over 2800 military personnel detained. Massive protests by Erdogan supporters, who were rallied by an address by the Turkish President on FaceTime, helped thwart the coup. The coup was condemned by many elements in Turkey, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Among events Friday night and Saturday were the shutdown of power for Incirlik Air Base, where the 39th Air Base Wing is deployed. British, Saudi, and German forces are operating from the air base, which is less than 70 miles from the Syrian border. That is a convenient locale for operations against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice Saturday that left 84 people dead.
Air operations from Incirlik ordered to stop, although aircraft currently flying missions were allowed to land. American troops have not been threatened, although the apparent blockade of Incirlik, which has gone to THREATCON DELTA in the wake of the coup, is not a good sign. Nor is the FAA shutting down flights to and from Turkey. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the United States reportedly has many as 50 “special stores” located at Incirlik, adding to the stakes at Incirlik.
Erdogan in the past has not exactly been a friend to the United States. One of the more notorious incidents came early in his rule as prime minister, in 2003, when he suddenly denied permission for the 4th Infantry Division to land in Turkey and attack into northern Iraq during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lately, during his rule, he has shown a decided pattern of suppressing dissent, including seizing control of newspapers, throwing people in prison for “insulting” him, and drawing charges of both acting like a dictator and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIS.
Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is residing in the United States after falling out with the Turkish President in 2013 over a corruption scandal and the closure of schools run by his group, Hizmet. According to reports, Gulen is a true moderate Moslem and a supporter of democracy, interfaith dialogue, and education.
With the failure of this coup, Erdogan will move to ensure that there will not be a chance to launch a more successful one. The Turkish president has declared the attempted coup a “gift from god” and has vowed to use it as a pretext to “cleanse our army” and said the elements who took part in the coup are guilty of “treason” and vowed they will “pay a heavy price” for trying to topple his regime.
The effects of this coup will reverberate through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East. Turkey will likely slide further into an Islamist regime, one that becomes increasingly repressive as Erdogan asserts his rule in Turkey.
Receding ice in the Arctic and Antarctic has drawn the attention of the world’s ocean-going powers, and the U.S. military, led by the Coast Guard, has been pushing for more resources to catch up to other countries operating in those regions.
The Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet is the backbone of its operations around the North and South Poles, but that fleet is comparatively small. Of the three it has, only two are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and medium icebreaker Healy, which mainly does scientific work.
The Polar Star is charged with keeping navigation lanes open in the Arctic and Antarctic, but it was built in the mid-1970s and is already beyond its 30-year service life.
Crew members have had to shop online for replacement parts for the ship’s aging computers, and it sails with a year’s supply of food in case it gets stuck, according to CBS News. Considerable repair work is needed to keep the ship afloat. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”
The Coast Guard is grappling these difficulties amid what has been called an “icebreaker gap” with Russia. (Though some have said Russian naval expansion, not icebreakers, is the real concern.)
As of May, Russia — which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline — had more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational nuclear-powered heavy polar icebreakers and 16 medium polar icebreakers.
The Coast Guard’s Pacific Area chief, Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, whose command ranges from the U.S. West Coast to Asia and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, told CBS News this week that Russia is still outspending the U.S.
“If you look at what Russia is doing, there’s almost a mini arms buildup going on in the Arctic,” he said.
Not all of Russia’s more than 40 icebreakers are of the same type, but Moscow is not the only country with an advantage over the U.S.
Finland has seven medium polar icebreakers, though four are designated for Baltic use. China has three, but all of them are light polar icebreakers. Canada has two operational medium polar icebreakers and two under construction, while Sweden has seven, though three are medium icebreakers designed for Baltic use.
‘The Coast Guard must be funded as a military service’
Zukunft and the Coast Guard are pushing for more icebreakers. The Homeland Security Department has said the Coast Guard may need up to six new icebreakers — three heavy ones and three medium ones — to meet mission demands at high latitudes.
This fall, the Coast Guard and Navy released a joint draft request for proposal for the construction of a heavy icebreaker, with an option to build two more. The acquisition cost of a new polar icebreaker has been put at $1 billion, though the Coast Guard and Navy believe it could cost less than that.
But Zukunft told Defense Aerospace Report last week that there was still doubt about the service’s funding going forward, saying that the Coast Guard needed to be on the same footing as the other service branches and that it “cannot continue to operate on the margins” of the defense budget.
The Coast Guard draws the vast majority of its funding from non-defense discretionary spending, Zukunft said, and the potential for a reduction in that pool of money in order to expand defense discretionary spending threatens to further hinder Coast Guard finances after five years of funding below floors set in the Budget Control Act.
“Our funding mechanism has got to change,” he said. “The Coast Guard must be funded as a military service.”
Zukunft said he was proposing was a 5% annualized increase in the service’s operating expenditures, which “gets us out of the basement” and provides “parity with the four armed services.”
The commandant also suggested a floor of $2 billion for the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget.
“That would allow me to put icebreakers on budget within the United States Coast Guard,” he said. “That 5% and $2 billion floor allows me to grow my workforce by 5,000 active-duty and 1,100 reserves, and at the same time I don’t have to cut my equally valued civilian workforce. It’s not a big ask.”
‘Is it to create chaos in the Arctic?’
As ice around the North and South Poles recedes, icebreakers are gaining importance beyond maintaining sea lanes and assisting other ships.
Their ability to navigate in harsh conditions makes them useful for projecting power. And a number of countries already outstripped the U.S. when it comes to the icebreakers that can be deployed.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th district — which encompasses Alaska and the Arctic — has said the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the area, including Russia and China, with whom the U.S. cooperates on waterway management, search and rescue, and law-enforcement matters.
But Washington has eyed Russian plans for its icebreakers warily.
“In 2020 — and we’re monitoring this very closely — Russia plans to launch two icebreaking corvettes,” Zukunft told Defense Aerospace Report.
“So these are designed warships that can break ice and that can carry cruise missiles. To what end is opaque,” he added. “Is it to create chaos in the Arctic? Is it to make this an area that the United States would be denied access? We have to assume the answer to that question … is yes.”
Zukunft said he was encouraged by the both President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy as well as the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the latter of which includes a provision for the construction of at least one heavy icebreaker, which he said could be in the water by 2023.
But the Coast Guard commandant said there needed to be flexibility in how that icebreaker, and any that follow it into service, would be outfitted and deployed over its 30- to 40-year service life.
“We do need to look at potential militarization in the Arctic, so we need to reserve space, weight, power, if we have to put what I would call modules on an icebreaker to include an offensive weapon capability,” Zukunft said. “We’ve had great interactions with the Navy as part of this integrated program office to look at all potential requirements for an icebreaker well into the 21st century to include something more than just point-defense weapons systems.”
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”
These three words are the motto of the 109th Airlift Wing – at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York – and though short, it is an accurate synopsis of the unit’s mission.
“We fly missions to Greenland, which is near the North Pole, and Antarctica, which is the South Pole,” said Maj. Emery Jankford, the wing’s chief of training. “So, we literally fly pole to pole.”
During the spring and summer months, the 109th AW operates out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and flies scientific researchers with the National Science Foundation and their materiel to remote field camps across the Arctic Ice Cap. In the fall and winter months, the unit conducts similar missions out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze.
Antarctica and Greenland are among the coldest, windiest, and most inhospitable places on the globe and they provide a challenging opportunity to demonstrate the reach and flexibility of airpower, the capabilities of the joint force, and the integrated support of active-duty, Guard, and Reserve military personnel.
“Basically, we go from cold to really cold,” Jankford said. “The Greenland operating season helps us train and prepare for when we operate in Antarctica.”
Each year, the 109th AW flies more than 800 hours during the Greenland support season and transports 2.1 million pounds of cargo, 49,000 pounds of fuel, and nearly 2,000 passengers.
“If it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, the wing’s chief of Greenland Operations.
To accomplish this, the unit flies the world’s only ski-equipped LC-130s, called “skibirds,” which allows the planes to land on and take off from ice and compacted snow runways.
“We do have some traditional “wheelbirds” in our unit, but the LC-130s give us the unique capability of being able to land in snowy arctic areas,” Garren said.
While the LC-130s are able to operate without a traditional runway, the arctic environment does present challenges the crews must overcome long before the planes’ skis touch down on the ice.
“Our biggest challenges are weather and navigation,” said Capt. Zach McCreary, a C-130 pilot with the 109th AW.
Because most of Greenland is within the Arctic Circle near the North Pole and Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, there is a lot of magnetic interference when flying in these areas. This interference makes GPS navigation difficult, so the aircrews have to resort to old-school tactics.
“Our navigators are some of the only ones in the military who still use celestial navigation,” Jankford said. “We still break out the charts and formulas to determine our positions and headings.”
Weather is another challenge. It can change quickly and it can get nasty, so aircrews try to stay as up to date as possible when flying missions.
“We receive regular weather briefings, before we leave and while we’re in the air,” McCreary said. “But there are times the weather changes quickly and you have to react and adapt to it on the fly.”
In some cases, usually with cloud cover, this means landing with limited to no visibility. At times the land and sky blend together with no visible horizon line.
“It’s like flying inside of a ping pong ball,” McCreary said. “Everything is white and it all looks the same.”Capt. Zach McCreary, C-130 pilot, 109th AW
In these situations, the aircrew uses a spotting technique where the copilot and loadmasters will look for flags lining the runway and help the pilot line up the aircraft during its approach.
“It’s a very unique airlift wing,” Garren said. “We’re landing on snow and ice, we’re using the sun and stars to navigate, and we’re using our eyeballs to land – I’m not sure there’s another unit that flies like this.”
Because the 109th AW operates in such unique environments, utilizing dated techniques, effective training is only possible within the areas of operation.
“We can only train for these missions when we’re in Greenland and Antarctica,” Garren said. “We can’t train at home, so new crewmembers are learning and being signed off on tasks while they’re landing and taking off from the ice.”
The uniqueness of the polar mission is one reason it was given to the 109th AW. Being a guard unit, its members stay in place longer and are able to train, develop, and enhance their skills and experience without having to move or relocate every few years like their active duty counterparts.
“We have guys here who have been flying this mission for 30 years,” Garren said. “That amount of experience is invaluable and the knowledge they pass on to the junior guys is irreplaceable.”
Also irreplaceable are the capabilities of the wing’s unique “skibirds.”
“We can fly into an austere area and land with our skis with no runway somewhere no one has ever been,” Garren said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s what we train to do.”
As commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3’s “Task Unit Bruiser,” the most highly decorated special-operations unit of the Iraq War, Jocko Willink learned what it takes to lead people in incredibly dangerous and complex situations.
The mantra that Willink instilled into his men was “Discipline Equals Freedom,” and it’s the idea that with structure and a strict dedication to it, one can act with more efficiency and freedom.
Business Insider asked Willink to share some simple habits anyone could adopt in the next 24 hours that could build discipline for the benefit of their well-being, health, and career.
1. Wake up early.
As he writes in the 2015 book “Extreme Ownership,” cowritten with Babin, Willink noticed as a new SEAL that the highest performers he served with were the ones who woke up earliest, beginning their days while others were sleeping. Willink quickly adopted the habit and has long had his alarm set to 4:30 a.m.
“That nice, soft pillow, and the warm blanket, and it’s all comfortable and no one wants to leave that comfort — but if you can wake up early in the morning, get a head start on everyone else that’s still sleeping, get productive time doing things that you need to do — that’s a huge piece to moving your life forward,” Willink said. “And so get up early. I know it’s hard. I don’t care. Do it anyways.”
Willink clarified that he’s not asking people to run on just a few hours of sleep each day. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to feel well rested and energized for the next day, he said, and if you’re someone who needs eight hours of sleep, then simply start going to bed earlier. And don’t sleep in on the weekends, he said, or else you’ll ruin any progress you’ve made optimizing your schedule.
2. Prepare your gym clothes tonight.
As soon as Willink wakes up, he heads to the home gym he built in his garage. And even if you don’t want to try one of the workout routines in the “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual,” you should do some form of exercise, Willink said.
“Just do some kind of workout,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s going for a walk around the block, going for a jog, doing some calisthenics, lifting weights, going to a pool and swimming — you name it. But do something that gets your blood flowing and gets your mind in the game.”
The biggest obstacle for people developing workout routines is putting in extra effort to make them work. To make it easier on yourself, Willink said, prepare your workout gear at night so that you can throw it on as soon as you slide out of bed.
3. Finish making tomorrow’s to-do list before you go to bed.
As a SEAL, Willink developed a habit of kicking off his day by moving, not thinking. The way he sees it, you’re defeating the purpose of waking up early if you gradually shake off your lethargy and plan out your day over a cup of coffee. Go ahead and drink some coffee, but go work out instead.
“Don’t think in the morning,” Willink said. “That’s a big mistake that people make. They wake up in the morning and they start thinking. Don’t think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some.”
To facilitate this, make tomorrow’s to-do list tonight. You already know what you have to accomplish tomorrow, and you’re better off planning your day out quickly and efficiently.
4. Make use of extra-short power naps.
Willink said a napping habit he borrowed from one of his high-school teachers came in handy during SEAL training and on patrol.
“So if you’re going to wake up early all the time, and you’re working hard, and you’re working out, sometimes you’re going to get tired,” Willink said. “It’s OK. It’s acceptable — somewhat. We’re all human, unfortunately.”
Willink made a habit of getting on the ground with his legs elevated either on a bed or on his rucksack, setting his alarm for just 6 to 8 minutes. As a SEAL, his exhaustion would cause him to actually fall asleep, but even the extra rest is, surprisingly, quite effective.
As for elevating your legs, not only does it feel good, but Carmichael Training Systems notes that while a healthy body can circulate blood well against gravity, swelling of the feet and ankles from extracellular fluid can occur after extended periods of sitting, standing, or athletic activity, he said. Resting your legs above your head may alleviate this swelling and enhance your rest.
5. Ignore your office’s free food.
Willink’s diet is primarily based on meat and vegetables, with very few carbohydrates, and while he doesn’t recommend you adopt his specific diet, he says anyone could benefit from discarding the habit of eating free food at the office.
He said that when people want to be nice, they’ll bring in some comfort food to their break rooms, but “they’re actually sabotaging the health of their coworkers.”
“So what do you do in those situations?” he said. “It’s really easy. Don’t eat. Don’t eat the donuts. Don’t eat the bagels. Don’t eat the slab of pizza.”
“We have food all around us all the time, and if we haven’t eaten for three hours we think we’re starving,” he said. “You’re not starving. Human beings can go for 30 days without food.”
Skip the free food and either get something healthy or skip snacking completely, he said.
Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.
As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.
“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.
According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”
The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.
This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.
According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.
Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”
As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.
“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”
In November 1978, 909 members of a fanatical cult died — killing themselves and their children using a cyanide and Valium-laced grape drink — to make a political statement: they would die on their own terms in a “revolutionary suicide.” It would be the largest single loss of civilian life until the September 11th terror attacks.
The People’s Temple, as the cult was called, was founded by Jim Jones, a former monkey salesman and self-ordained minister in 1950s Indianapolis. He later moved the church to California. There, the size of the cult grew to around 20,000.
With that growth, Jones became a public figure and fled to the South American country of Guyana to escape the negative press surrounding the People’s Temple. Jones faced accusations of financial fraud and child abuse and sought to escape what he thought was the persecution from U.S. intelligence agencies.
More than 1,000 members went with him.
Jones and his cult founded Jonestown, an agricultural cooperative on 4,000 acres of poor soil and limited access to fresh water. Temple members worked long days and were punished for disobeying Jones’ orders. They were allowed limited contact with friends and family. Jones even confiscated their passports.
Toward the end of the Jonestown experiment, Jones became inceasingly paranoid as his mental state broke down. Congressman Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to investigate allegations that his contituents’ loved ones were actually hostages there. People’s Temple members asked to return home with the Congressman, who took them back to his plane.
That’s when tragedy struck.
After arriving at the airstrip that took Congressman Ryan to the People’s Temple collective, Jones’ armed thugs gunned down the contingent, along with members of the press and some of the defectors. At the same time, Jones was distributing the poisoned punch (which was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as the saying goes) to the cult members.
An aerial view of the bodies of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. U.S. Army personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina (NC), are placing the remains into body bags. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Nov. 20, 1978.)
There is evidence that those who didn’t want to imbibe were forced to drink the punch. Jones himself was found dead with a bullet in his head, among the other 900+ bodies.
Within hours of learning about Congressman Ryan’s death, the U.S. State Department received assistance from the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Charleston C-141 Starlifters led what would be “the most unusual airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift.”
Col. Bruce M. Durvine, vice commander of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, and members of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron carry boxes of plastic body bags to an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter for use in the evacuation of bodies from Jonestown. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Jonestown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Air Force Combat Controllers were the first American forces on the ground, securing the airstrip area, providing security, and operating the airspace. The Starlifters had to be staged more than 150 miles away from the dirt airstrip where Ryan’s body was found because they were too large for the field.
The military Aeromedical Evacuation Team repatriated eight wounded survivors from the area. It wasn’t until November 20th that Guyanan Defense Forces could reach the Jonestown Compound. The small contingent was overwhelmed by what they found there and asked the Americans to take over.
A U.S. Air Force HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter from the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron stands by to assist in the removal of the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jonestown victims’ bodies were to be airlifted to Dover Air Force Base, but first they had to be moved by three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters to the Starlifter staging area. There were so many bodies, the Air Force ran out of remains transfer cases.
U.S. Army UH-1 Iroquois helicopters are loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport back to their home base in the Canal Zone. The helicopters were used during humanitarian relief efforts following the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
“Stacked like cordwood,” the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. It took 30 helicopter sorties carrying 30 bodies each to get the remains to the Starlifters for transport. Each C-141 could handle 81 remains cases — as long as they were stacked on pallets.
The stench of death in the helicopters was so bad, they were deemed medically unsafe. Task Force personnel who handled the bodies burned their clothing on the runway at the end of the mission.
U.S. military personnel place a body bag containing the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy in a coffin for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Gonzalez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jeff Brailey, the Army medic who entered Jonestown, wrote a book about his experience, “The Ghosts of November.”
Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.
Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.
He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.
He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.
A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.
There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.