In the wake of the Blue House Raid (where North Korean special forces infiltrated the DMZ just to kill South Korean President Park Chung-hee at home), the South Korean President launched a plan of his own. He ordered the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) to plan a retaliation. The KCIA conscripted 31 petty criminals and unemployed youth to train for a singular purpose: to assassinate North Korea’s dictator Kim Il-Sung.
They formed Unit 684 on the uninhabited island of Silmido in the Yellow Sea off of South Korea’s West coast. The training was so brutal, seven members did not survive. Unfortunately for the members of the 684, a thaw in relations occurred before their mission was launched. The entire mission was shut down.
In August 1971, members of Unit 684 inexplicably overpowered their guards, killing all but six, and made their way to the mainland. Once there, they hijacked a bus to Seoul but were stopped by the Army. Twenty members of the unit were shot or committed suicide with hand grenades. The survivors were tried and executed.
The South Korean government covered up any information regarding Unit 684 until the 1990s. They refused to divulge any information about the events even after a 2003 movie was released. South Korea did not release its files on 684 until 2006.
The U.S. military is getting out of the nation-building business and is now focusing on killing terrorists. That is among the policy changes announced by President Donald Trump in a speech delivered at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 21.
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America,” he said, while also explicitly refusing to set a timetable or to reveal how many more troops will be deployed.
Trump has already shown an inclination to not micro-manage and to give local commanders authority to make operational and tactical decisions. In April, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut in Afghanistan when it was used to hit a tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
President Trump, while not mentioning Obama by name, also criticized the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, saying that the removal of troops created a vacuum and allowed ISIS to rise and take control of a number of cities in Iraq.
President Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan over the existence of safe havens for groups like the Taliban. Perhaps the most notable terrorist provided safe haven in that country was Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a hideout in Abbottabad — a city a little over 30 miles from the capital in Islamabad.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)
Everyone knows special operators are an elite warfighting team. Not to take anything away from conventional forces, we’re just saying that everyone has their place and special operations is a hard job.
Sometimes sending 10,000 warfighters into a country with all their support units just isn’t feasible. They get the job done, sure, but when you’re conducting heart surgery, you want a doctor with a scalpel, not an axe. Also, a mission calling for a small force would require each member of the unit to have multiple specialties, so the Special Forces (SF) side of the Army gets a lot more training than the rest of big Army.
When the United States has that much invested in you, you get a little bit more leeway when it comes to daily Army life, as former Green Beret Mark Giaconia noted on Quora in June of 2021. He admits he can only speak for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but you have to admit the everyday perks are pretty good.
1. No Formations
Special Forces soldiers don’t really have the same work or life schedules as the rest of the U.S. Army. They also likely have a whole host of pretty important things to do — some of them secret, others ordinary.
This means they don’t have time for all the formations most military units often have. Some Army units have as many as three formations a day. Giaconia says his SF unit had one formation a day at most, and usually when something important needed to be discussed.
2. No Inspections
Ever see Special Forces guys out in the field or catch a photo of one of them at work? They don’t look like soldiers in the United States Army most of the time, and that’s a really important point. They aren’t necessarily supposed to look like soldiers while they’re deployed, so grooming standards are usually much more relaxed.
If this is the case, then it doesn’t really make much sense to have a uniform inspection. The same goes for their nonstandard equipment (which we’ll delve into later).
3. Better Training and Pay
Green Berets get a number of stipends, Giaconia writes. On top of those special stipends, they also get extra pay for any number of special trainings they received. This includes jump pay, HALO (high altitude, low opening) pay, scuba certification and literally anything else you can get trained to do and receive specialty pay for. These guys see it all and they get paid for knowing how to handle it.
On top of the pay, they also receive better per diem rates, as they mostly live off the local economy while deployed.
4. Better Gear
What is probably best known about how Army Special Forces operates is that they have a lot of leeway in choosing what equipment and which weapons work best for any given mission. In his own experience, Giaconia says he had a different kit setup for carrying a SAW than when carrying an M4 or M21.
5. Flying Commercial Air
Depending on the mission and which Special Forces Group they’re in, America’s Green Berets don’t always have to rely on military aircraft to hitch a ride to where they’re going. In some cases, a military aircraft won’t even be an option, as they may not want anyone to know they’re with the U.S. military anyway.
6. Drinking Is Part Of The Job
Special Forces are often exempt from the U.S. military’s no alcohol rules, where they’re applied, especially while working with foreign units whose culture centers around drinking. Giaconia says while in Bosnia and Kosovo, he and his fellow Green Berets were attached to a Russian liaison, and needed to drink vodka with them.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
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.
Urban legends, old wives tales, myths, and folklore all come from somewhere. In the 20th century, the military was an important facet in the lives of many, especially during WWII and the Cold War years. Some of the lore was bound to find its way into civilian life, here are just a few you may have heard:
1. Carrots help your night vision
While it’s true carrots are good for your eyes, because they’re loaded with beta carotene and thus vitamin A. That’s where the ocular benefits end. In the thousands of admonished children and thousands of unfinished dinner plates between WWII and today, the idea of carrots being good for you morphed into a super power where you gain the ability to see at night.
The myth started in WWII, as German bombers struck British targets at night during the Blitz. British authorities ordered city wide blackouts in an attempt to lead the bombers off course or hope they would strike off target. The British fought off the German Blitz because of a new technology which allowed them to see the bombers coming from far off. It wasn’t carrots, it was radar.
The radar RAF fighter pilots had on their planes allowed them to detect bombers before they crossed the English Channel. One pilot, John Cunningham, racked up and impressive 19 kills at night.In an effort to keep the radar technology under wraps, the British Ministry of Defence told reporters pilots like Cunningham ate a lot of carrots.
The British public ate it hook, line, and sinker. Victory gardens began producing carrots to augment food supplies and alleviate shipping issues. BBC radio would broadcast carrot dessert recipes (this is why carrot cake is a thing, when it definitely should not be) to get the public behind carrots as a sweetener substitute.
2. You lose most of your body heat through your head
Your mother never let you out of the house on a cold day without warning you to wear a hat, but this old wives’ tale comes from an experiment the military conducted on body heat loss. They put people in arctic survival suits and put them in Arctic conditions. The survival suits only covered the people from the neck down, so there was nowhere for the heat to escape, except up through the head (You try explaining this to your mom).
The amount of heat loss from your body depends on the temperature outside, how much surface area your skin has and how much skin you have exposed to the elements.
3. The military puts saltpeter in food to curb sex drives
This one even made it to the lore of boarding schools and colleges. You had no problems before you went to boot camp or boarding school. Now it seems like your libido took a vacation. What changed? It must be the food!
The logic for this is astounding. If there really is saltpeter in the food at basic training, then this must mean Taco Bell is an aphrodisiac (pro tip: it’s not, though the food quality standards are probably similar). The problem has less to do with the food and more to do with the campaign hat. It’s your drill sergeant is stressing you out.
Even if the services put saltpeter in the food, the medical truth is saltpeter doesn’t even suppress sex. It doesn’t help your libido either. Saltpeter is an ingredient in gunpowder and in that way it helps things go bang but it will never help or hurt your ability to go bang.
4. Civilians tie yellow ribbons to support the troops
At least it didn’t start out that way. There was a John Wayne film produced in 1949 called “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” in which the female lead actually did wear a yellow ribbon for her cavalry officer lover. But the real custom of tying a yellow ribbons around things came from the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis.
In 1972, Tony Orlando and Dawn produced a song called Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, which was pretty popular. by 1979 the symbolic act resurfaced en masse as the hostages were held for 444 days. The practice came around again in 1991 during Desert Storm and was associated with deployed U.S. troops ever since.
On July 21, 1861, the first major land battle of the Civil War took place at Bull Run in Northern Virginia.
The First Battle of Bull Run, or the First Battle of Manassas as it was known in the South, focused on the railroad intersection at Manassas. The railroads that intersected there were key to Washington’s ability to send troops and supplies south into Virginia in case of an invasion of the South. Both sides knew this and wanted to control the junction.
It took more than three months after the fall of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, for Union and Confederate armies to meet on the battlefield. Groups of civilians, including women and children, joined a group of U.S. Senators to watch the first battle of the Civil War.
Many in the Union government thought the war would be a short one. The Union troops who fought the battle were mostly made up of new recruits on a 90-day enlistment. The Senators and the civilians packed lunches carried in picnic baskets to watch the grim melee. They had no idea the battle was not going to go as well as expected.
Confident the Confederacy could be defeated quickly, Union General Irvin McDowell led 34,000 troops to Manassas, Virginia. Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard raised 20,000 troops to meet him. He was joined by General Joseph Johnston’s 9,000 troops, and a concealed brigade under the command of General Thomas J. Jackson.
From their position, Jackson’s brigade managed to repel a series of Union attacks, earning him the epithet “Stonewall” Jackson.
The Confederates broke McDowell’s line and sent the Union troops scrambling in a demoralizing and scattered retreat.
To make matters worse, the hundreds of civilian spectators who turned out to watch the battle were horrified at the bloodshed, seeing some 5,000 men killed or wounded.
After the battle, Lincoln’s government was faced with the sober realization that the rebellion would not be so easily quelled.
Featured Image: A Union artillery battery is overran at the First Battle of Bull Run.(Sidney King, public domain via Good Free Photos)
Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.
He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.
“That was such a “good war,” he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.
In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.
“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”
His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:
“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”
He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”
He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.
“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”
For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.
Unless your dad owns a car dealership or your last name is “Trump,” your transition out of the military is going to be full of challenges. So the last thing you want to do is make the process harder by doing things that might give a potential employer anything but the best possible impression. Here are four major examples of things to avoid while attempting to land that job you want:
1. Make sure your resume doesn’t read like military message traffic
You didn’t work at CENTCOM or AIRLANT from 22DEC05-26Nov07. You didn’t have OPSEC training or go to SERE School. And in no case did you ever return CONUS after a tour in WESTPAC.
2. Don’t accessorize your business dress with uniform items
No mini warfare devices or unit pins on your lapel. No regulation tie tacks. And absolutely no corfam shoes.
3. Don’t speak in acronyms, jargon, or colloquialisms
Don’t call the interviewer “ma’am” or “sir.” Don’t say “roger that” when you mean “yes.” And never start an answer to a question with “This is no shit . . .”
4. Don’t end the interview with a really cool “there I was” story
Guaranteed, the interviewer will bait you to regale him or her with one of your best tales of valor and glory. Don’t do it. Save it for that first office happy hour after you get the job. Or save it, period. Just don’t tell it during the interview.
One of the habits we develop as veterans is to watch military-themed movies and TV shows and point out everything that is wrong with them, from jacked-up uniforms to what appears to be “STOLEN VALOR!”
But something I have caught myself doing is watching shows that have absolutely nothing to do with the military and point out characters I believe would benefit from heading down to the local recruiting office.
Here are five television characters from the 90s who probably should’ve served in the military.
1. Cody Lambert from “Step by Step”
This guy, it’s the Code man! Of course we all loved him. He was the adorable nephew who lived in a van behind his Uncle’s house. You have to respect his Uncle Frank for allowing his grown nephew to stay there while he was working on a new marriage with 3 new step kids who really didn’t appreciate him.
But Cody, of all people, needs to realize he’s intruding and the lifestyle he’s leading is not a good influence on the six kids in the house. What are you trying to teach them Cody? That it’s perfectly acceptable to live in a van and that somebody will bail you out when you’re older? No, Cody, that’s not what you teach them!
How about you be a better influence? Cody should have signed up for the military and shown them that there are other options in life than what he has been living. I mean, come on, how many “Codys” did we have in the barracks? He would have fit in just fine. Then maybe after his time in the service was done, ol’ Code man could have used that sweet, sweet VA loan to buy himself a little two-bedroom ranch with a little white picket fence.
I’m happy the show stopped when it did because after the influence he was putting on the Lambert family, I would hate to see how those kids turned out. This mainly applies to J.T., of course.
2. Dylan McKay from “Beverly Hills 90210”
Time to trim up those side burns and turn those sexy locks into a high and tight, Dylan McKay. This guy’s life was a mess to start with but I think he had all the tools to make a decent soldier. Dylan was the loner out of those seven featured students from West Beverly High. No I don’t mean loner when he got to school, but in life.
His parents divorced and left McKay by himself to live. After receiving that nice inheritance, Dylan took off to Beverly Hills and lived by himself WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL! Dylan was winning the war on life. He showed all the Army values before he even graduated high school, but then he became arrogant in life.
This guy, when he should have joined the service, decided to hit the bottle and lose his girlfriend. He then turned into a Blue Falcon and started sleeping with all of his friend’s girlfriends. Not a good move, Dylan, not a good move! I have a feeling that if he would have joined, Brenda would respect his decision and turn into a great military wife and would have ran Bingo games at the local NCO Club.
3. Jazz from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
This guy, more than anything, needed guidance. If you ask me, Jazz was that neighbor that Will just kept around to feel better about himself. Pretty selfish move, Will. In a few episodes, Jazz showed off some serious basketball skills which might have led him to a community college for two years of college hoops but probably not much after that.
Here’s what should have happened: Uncle Phil needed to stop being a bully. As we all know, Uncle Phil felt big and bad throwing poor Jazz out of the house all the time. This isn’t an Olympic sport, Uncle Phil, this is a HUMAN BEING!
Uncle Phil should have taken Jazz to a military career office and perhaps put those basketball skills to use for a military academy. He would have gotten to shine while gaining a military work ethic. He would have then become the man that Hilary needed. I’m putting this one on you, Uncle Phil. Oh yeah, and don’t think we weren’t dumb enough to notice that you switched out wives in the middle of the show. I guess that’s a privilege of being a judge. Shame on you, Your Honor.
4. Six Dorothy Lemeure from “Blossom”
She arguably had a much harder life than everyone else on this list. Six once said that she got her name from the amount of beers that her dad fed her mom to get her pregnant. But that’s not even the worst thing: During the show, Six battled alcoholism, dated a much older man, and even had a pregnancy scare. Sounds like she’s already lived the life of an Army private.
Six had an undying passion for Blossom’s brother, Joey. WOAH! Here’s the thing though, Six. You’re putting your family and friends through stress because of these poor decisions. If you were as passionate about bettering yourself as you are about Joey, you would do just fine in the service and realize that it would be a great decision for you.
5. A.C. Slater from “Saved By The Bell”
So many of you are probably saying it should be Zach Morris and not A.C. Slater. But let me remind you, Zach scored a 1502 on his SAT test (the highest of all of the gang) and he had something special with Kelly. If Zach would have went to boot camp he wouldn’t have been able to keep his head in the game with that beautiful woman back home.
Slater, on the other hand, already lived the experience. He was an Army brat so he was familiar with the lifestyle. He also showed signs of weakness when he decided to attend Cal U. and not attend Iowa (a national powerhouse in wrestling) on a wrestling scholarship. He was a proven leader in a group environment but still needed a little more discipline. The biggest fear, for me, with Slater being in the service is his pride in being a “male chauvinist pig.” He better not call any female service member “mama.”
German Weather Station Kurt set up in Labrador (Newfoundland, Canada) in 1943 (Bundesarchiv).
Germany didn’t have a lot of luck in the United States during the second world war. Its spy ring was wrapped up and captured before the U.S. entered the war. When the German navy tried to land saboteurs on the U.S. coast, they were caught by the Coast Guard, hunted down by the FBI and eventually executed.
Where the Abwehr failed, however, the navy and army succeeded, but it wasn’t in the United States. The Germans managed to establish a weather station in the very far north of Canada, establishing Weather Station Kurt in northern Newfoundland.
It was incredibly difficult for the Germans to establish reliable weather stations during the war. The Allies were able to build a network of weather forecasting stations all across the northern Atlantic because they effectively controlled most of the coastline between the Western and Eastern hemispheres north of the equator.
Germany, on the other hand, had to build their stations in secret, especially in places like Iceland and Greenland. These remote locations were often found and captured by Allied patrols. They also tried to use aircraft and specially fitted weather ships. The problem with the aircraft is that the data gathered was often incomplete or unreliable. Ships at sea reporting weather patterns were tracked down and captured by Allied ships.
As a result, these stations were the only reliable means of getting accurate, real-time weather reports from the Atlantic Ocean. To facilitate its network, Nazi Germany created automated weather stations that would mitigate the risk of putting men in harm’s way to be captured by Allied patrols. One station in particular would get a special kind of camouflage: garbage.
The German submarine U-357 was dispatched to establish one of these automated stations in September 1943. The vessel made its way from the German homeland on the Baltic Sea coast.
By October, it had arrived in northern Labrador and found a spot that would be far from any accidental discovery.
To protect the site, the Germans not only used a remote location but also used empty packs of American cigarettes to litter the ground around it to deter any potential suspicions that it was a German weather station if anyone should happen upon it. Then, it was completely forgotten.
It took the crew of U-357 just 28 hours to build the weather station and repair their boat (it had been damaged by Allied aircraft on its way to Newfoundland). Once everything was in operational order, the crew and the boat departed.
After a combat patrol off the coast of Canada, where it engaged more aircraft than ships, it returned to France and then made its way to the Caribbean. It was sunny there by the USS Flounder, with all hands lost.
The station itself stopped sending weather reports just one month after it was set up, most likely due to its radio being jammed. There it stood for the next 30-plus years until a Canadian scientist stumbled upon it in 1977. After doing a little research, he learned its true origin and purpose. Once he did, the station was taken to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, where it sits today.
It was Nazi Germany’s only successful military or intelligence operation in North America, and it came at a hefty price. Two submarines with the same mission to establish the weather stations we dispatched. One was sunk right away, and the other, though successful, was short-lived.
It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.
Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.
It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.
Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.
The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.
Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.
The latest Air Force Chief of Staff’s world is a complete departure from his predecessor’s – one where things are not “pretty darn good.”
General David Goldfein is no stranger to agression. He’s a trained fighter pilot who flew missions during Desert Storm and over Serbia in Operation Allied Force.
Goldfein’s Air Force has 12 core functions and one of those is space defense. The top air officer says space is no longer going to be considered a “benign environment.” Instead, the Air Force will see it as a “war-fighting domain”– but space doesn’t need foot soldiers just yet, according to Goldfein.
“Anything that separates space and makes it unique and different, relative to all of the war-fighting missions that we perform that are reliant on space, I don’t think that will move us in the right direction at this time,” he told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill..
His comments come in response to Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and two subcommittees for readiness and strategic forces.
Rogers wants to create a “Space Corps” — a new military branch for operations in Earth’s orbit.
Despite the Air Force being a “world-class military service,” space should not be led by people who “get up each morning thinking about fighters and bombers…you cannot organize, train, and equip in space the way you do a fighter squad,” Rogers said at the 33rd Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs.
The Alabama Congressman went on to note that of the Air Force’s 37 newest one-star generals, not one had extensive space experience – they are predominantly pilots.
Rogers called for a Space Corps within the Air Force that would one day break off to form its own branch, much like the Army Air Corps broke from the Army in 1947.
“Whether there’s a time in our future when we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we probably ought to keep that dialogue open,” Goldfein said. “But right now, I think it would actually move us in the wrong direction.”
Secrecy and classification parameters of Air Forces’ new “in-early-development” next-generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be analyzed by the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate just how many details, strategies, and technological advances related to the emerging platform should be highly classified.
While Air Force developers say the long-range bomber is being engineered to have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed. Very little about the bomber has been released by the Air Force or discussed in the open public. Perhaps that is the most intelligent and “threat-conscious” approach, some claim. Nonetheless, Congress directed the Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into this issue, asking if there is sufficient transparency and communication about the new weapon.
Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told reporters May 15 that the service hopes to “balance program classification with the transparency we are shooting for to make sure we are not releasing too much or hindering too much information flow. They are analyzing what should be released.”
The Air Force of course wants to maintain the openness needed to allow for Congressional oversight while ensuring potential adversaries do not learn information about advances in stealth technology and next-generation methods of eluding advanced air defenses. Such is often a challenging, yet necessary balance. Pentagon developers have often said there can be a fine line between there being value in releasing some information because it can function as a deterrent against potential adversaries who might not wish to confront advanced US military technologies in war. At the same time, US commanders and Pentagon leaders, of course, seek to maintain the requisite measure of surprise in war, meaning it is also of great value for the US military to possess technological advantages not known by an enemy.
Furthermore, funding, technology development, and procurement questions related to the new bomber are also subject to extensive Congressional review; the question is whether this should be limited to only certain select “cleared” committees – or be open to a wider audience.
While the Air Force has revealed its first sketch or artist rendering of what the B-21 might look like, there has been little to no public discussion about what some of its new technologies may include. Analysts, observers and many military experts have been left only to speculate about potential advances in stealth technology.
Bunch did, however, in a prior interview with Scout Warrior, clearly state that the new bomber will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Bunch, and former Air Force Secretary Deborah James, have at times made reference, in merely a general way, to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image last year.
However, while Air Force developers say the emerging B-21 will introduce new stealth technologies better suited to elude cutting-edge air defenses, Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.
Nevertheless, James and other service developers have added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
Although official details about the B-21 are, quite naturally, not available – some observers have pointed out that the early graphic rendering of the plane does not show exhaust pipes at all; this could mean that the Air Force has found advanced “IR suppressors” or new methods or releasing fumes or reducing the heat signature of the new stealth plane.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer its new bomber. The next-generation stealth aircraft is intended to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber. Beyond these kinds of general points, however, much like the Air Force, Northrop developers have said virtually nothing about the new platforms development.
“With LRS-B (B-21), I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate, and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges. These frequencies include UHF, VHF and X-band, among others.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges, noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons, or other easily detectable aircraft features, radar “pings” have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object. However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existence or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft.
At the same time, advances in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particularly in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors, and maneuverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of the B-21 does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
The B-21 will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained. If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will like have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO – Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, although one does not want to speculate often, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.