The F-35 and the US's newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas - We Are The Mighty
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The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

The F-35B Marine variant just completed important developmental tests designed to push the joint strike fighter to its limits aboard the US’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS America.


The F-35B proved it can perform its short takeoffs with a variety of weapons loadouts, some of which can be asymmetrical. These tests had been done on land before, but carrier takeoffs are a different beast.

Also read: The F-35 just proved it can take Russian or Chinese airspace without firing a shot

“There is no way to recreate the conditions that come with being out to sea,” than going out there and testing onboard a carrier, said Gabriella Spehn, an F-35 weapons engineer from the Pax River Integrated Test Force in a Navy statement.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America and F-35B Lightning II Marine Corps personnel prepare to equip the aircraft with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during flight operations. US Navy

But even at sea aboard the America, which can get up to 25 mph, the F-35B performed as expected.

“As we all know, we can’t choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader and F-35 test pilot Andy Edgell.

International partners, like Edgell, participated in the testing onboard. While other nations lack the large deck aircraft carriers that the US has, several other nations, like the UK and Japan, operate smaller carriers that await the F-35B.

“The last couple of days we went and purposely found those nasty conditions and put the jets through those places, and the jet handled fantastically well. So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions,” Edgell said.

“We know the jet can handle it. A fleet clearance will come — then they can go forth and conduct battle in whatever environment.”

However, another first occurred on board. The America’s weapons department assembled over 100 bombs for the F-35B to carry.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Ordnance is prepared for an F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft on the amphibious assault ship USS America. | US Navy photo

For many of the sailors in the Weapon’s Department of the America, part of a new class of US carriers meant specifically to accommodate the F-35, this was their first chance at actually handling and assembling ordnance.

“Being able to do this feels like we are supporting the overall scope of what the ship is trying to achieve. Without ordnance, to us, this ship isn’t a warship. This is what we do,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Hung Lee.

According to sailors on board, the team went from building one bomb in four hours, to building 16 in three hours.

After a troubled road filled with cost overruns and setbacks, the F-35B finally appears to be nearing readiness.

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Number of American troops wounded fighting ISIS spikes

Newly-released data from the Department of Defense shows an alarming spike in the number of American personnel wounded in the fight against ISIS.


Since October, at least 14 US troops were wounded in combat operations under Operation Inherent Resolve — nearly double the number wounded since the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in August 2014. At least 8 Americans were killed in combat since the campaign began, while 23 have died in “non-hostile” events.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Green Berets rehearse close quarters combat. (U.S. Army photo by 3rd Special Forces Group)

The Pentagon’s quiet acknowledgement of a spike in casualties was first reported by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

The increase in combat wounds — which can be caused by small-arms fire, rockets, mortars, and other weaponry, though the Pentagon does not release specifics of how troops are injured — lines up with ongoing offensives against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

US military officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region, saying they are there mainly to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish personnel fighting on the front lines.

The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.

With 15 combat injuries, the Marine Corps has the most wounded in the campaign so far. The Army, Navy, and Air Force had 11, 3, and 1 wounded, respectively.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy making a show of force near Russia’s ‘doorstep’

The US Navy deployed two carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean Sea to send an unmistakable message to Russia.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis and their escort ships began dual carrier operations in the region April 23, 2019, the US Navy said in a statement. The combined force includes more than 130 aircraft, 10 ships and 9,000 sailors and Marines, a force that no other power has the ability to bring together.


The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

USS John C. Stennis.

(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

In addition to the carrier, a strike group typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two to three guided-missile destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship.

The last time two carriers operated in the region simultaneously was in 2016, when the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman carrier strike groups were deployed to the Mediterranean.

Current operations are being conducted alongside allies and partners in the region.

“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Adm. James Foggo III, the head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said.

“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nation’s shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”

Standing on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he stressed that “we are not going to be deterred by any potential adversary and we are going to support our interests as Americans and also those of our allies as we steam throughout the world,” CNN reported.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

USS Abraham Lincoln.

(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean since 2015, when the Russian military joined forces with Damascus in Syria.

Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, said that the carriers, each of which represents “100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” are intended to send a message. “Diplomatic communication and dialogue coupled with the strong defense these ships provide demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”

“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said,” Huntsman added, according to CNN.

“You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”

Russian media accused the US military and the ambassador of unnecessary “saber-rattling” near Russia’s “doorstep.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan just accidentally raised alarm about North Korean missile

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK issued a false alarm about a North Korea missile test.


The broadcaster sent a push alert to users of its disaster prevention app, warning of them of an imminent launch from Kim Jong-un’s regime.

But soon after, NHK said the warning was raised incorrectly and it apologized. The error was spotted by The Japan Times and The Wall Street Journal’s Japan editor Alastair Gale.

 

 

It comes after the people of Hawaii received a false alarm on Jan. 13, warning of an inbound ballistic missile. It was apparently caused by an employee at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency pushing the “wrong button” by accident.

Also Read: The Hawaii worker who ‘pressed the wrong button’ has been reassigned

 

The false alarm in Japan is a sign of increased tension over North Korea’s military aggression. Pyongyang fired intercontinental ballistic missile’s towards Japan and fired missiles over Japan’s territory in 2017.

Japan has since signaled its intention to shoot down the tests if they present a threat. Japanese people have also been conducting nuclear attack drills.

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS on the run, Iraqi guns turn toward each other

Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.


With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.

Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
A Kurdish peshmerga soldier takes the lead during urban combat maneuvering training held near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2015. Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden.

Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.

Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.

That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.

“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.

“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.

“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Referendum fallout

While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.

“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.

The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Kurdish pershmerga soldiers securing an oil field in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo from Voice Of America.

The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.

“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.

Outside players

Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.

“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.

Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.

Also Read: Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.

Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”

While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.

Articles

7 quotes that perfectly capture the US Army

The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:


1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
(Photo: Public Domain)

The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.

2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
(Portrait: Public Domain/Herbert Abrams)

America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.

3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell

This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.

4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
(Photo: Public Domain)

U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.

5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
(Photo: US National Archives)

Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.

6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I

When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.

7. Front toward enemy

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s the typical Friday schedule: Memes, then shamming, then safety/Libo brief. Just don’t let anyone task you for weekend duty.


1. “Don’t say hanging out in the barracks, don’t say hanging out in the barracks …”

(via Air Force Memes and Humor.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

2. For the Air Force, just finding the gym is worth 50 PFT points (via Air Force Nation).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Using the equipment properly is a senior NCO skill.

3. D-mnit, Schmuckatelli. You’re not really supposed to answer that (via Team Non-Rec).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Now there is so much more paperwork.

4. The Army was trying to help you …

(via Team Non-Rec.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
… but you just had to ask for tattoos and black PT socks.

5. When you absolutely, positively need chief to know you’re out of uniform:

(via Sh-t my LPO says).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
The only way he could stand out more is with a strobe light.

6. Not everyone can be a high-speed, low-drag, turbojet-driven airframe (via Air Force Nation).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Besides, the little guy can takeoff from dirt roads like they’re international airports.

7. “You can’t dismiss my Scottish heritage like this, staff sergeant.”

(via F’N Boot.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
He might’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for the white socks.

8. Never go full Hooah! in a job interview (via Grunt Style).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

9. The Navy calls this “The Coast Guard cuddle.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
The Coast Guard: Sort of like a military branch, sort of like a lost puppy.

10. “Never leave a Marine behind …!”

(via Marine Corps Memes.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

11. He’s just trying to keep his boots clean for inspection, chief (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
If you want to be haze grey and underway, just leave him to his painting.

12. Camouflage + PT Belts = Victory

(via Team Non-Rec.)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
DARPA is working on a vehicular PT belt that could revolutionize mechanized warfare.

13. You will never be first because the warrant officers start leaving before the Libo brief starts (via Team Non-Rec).

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
But keep trying.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Stunning photos of Marines hitting the beach in Norway

US forces are currently participating in the largest NATO war games in decades, practicing storming the beaches in preparation for a fight against a tough adversary like Russia.

The Trident Juncture 2018 joint military exercises involve roughly 50,000 troops, as well as 250 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 vehicles. During the exercises, US Marines, supported by Navy sailors, rehearsed amphibious landings in Alvund, Norway in support of partner countries.


A landing exercise on Oct. 29, 2018, consisted of a combined surface/air assault focused on rapidly projecting power ashore. During the training, 700 Marines with the Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division took the beach with 12 amphibious assault vehicles, six light armored vehicles, and 21 high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles.

The Marines conducted another assault, which can be seen in the video below, the following day.

These photos show US Marines, with the assistance of their Navy partners, conducting amphibious assault exercises in Norway on Oct. 30, 2018.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Lyndon Schwartz)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Lyndon Schwartz)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Menelik Collins)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Menelik Collins)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick Osino)

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

Marines come ashore in armored assault vehicles after disembarking from the landing craft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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WATM is looking for veterans who’ve made their homes epic

We Are The Mighty is looking for veterans from across the country who have gone above and beyond to make their homes epic and unique places to share with their family and community. These can be home additions, renovations, new constructions, or anything else as long as they are home areas designed to bring people together.


The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

Tree houses, bunkers, outdoor areas, and other spaces are also great.

We’d love to hear your stories about construction, community, and the military experience.

If you or someone you know has a home they’d like to highlight, please collect the following and email it to nicholas.gibeault@wearethemighty.com.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Photo of the house or area

Selected homes will be featured in a WATM series that will feature homes and communities that meet at them.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
Photo courtesy Hector Salas

Articles

This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Coast Guard snipers are the real deal

Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has their own elite troop, proficient in using a sniper rifle — and the Coast Guard is no different. Surprised? You’re not alone. One of the only times troops sing their praises is when they “come out of nowhere” and beat most branches’ snipers in competition, year after year.

Sure, it’s always hilarious to poke fun at our tiniest brother branch for being puddle pirates, but when it comes down to it, mission after mission, the Coast Guard has continuously proven themselves as cut from the same cloth. Okay, maybe just the MSRT guys — but still.


The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

Everyone wants to mock the coasties until they realize what the coasties actually do…

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)

The Coast Guard equivalent to special operations is the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT. They’re the front line troops shouldering the burden of the War on Drugs. And they’re not just busting college frat boys who’re smoking a bit of weed on their daddy’s yacht either. These guys are constantly going toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest cartels in the world. These are the guys that are bringing billion-dollar criminal enterprises to their knees.

When the Coast Guard goes out to stomp narcoterrorists, they send the MSRT to interdict them. Among them are the often-forgotten snipers.

Snipers across the Department of Defense focus their training on several factors, depending on the role they play. A Marine recon sniper, for example, must train in camouflaging themselves and moving without being seen — often through miles of difficult terrain for weeks at a time. Coast Guard snipers don’t worry about because that’s not in their area of operations — there’s no hiding on the open ocean.

The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

There’s very little technological assistance — that’s all skill from the sniper.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Instead, they focus their entire training on balancing the perfect shot — often from a helicopter or vessel, compensating for the ebb and flow of the waves, into another speeding vessel. It is an art form that they’ve definitely mastered.

Another key difference between Department of Defense snipers and the coasties is that they’re rarely aiming for individual enemies. They are armed with a Robar RC-50 anti-material rifle and their goal is to disable the engines of speeding boats. They need to capture and imprison the drug traffickers, after all.

When the engine is disabled, the interdiction team boards, and the enemy fights back, well, the rifle is meant to disintegrate reinforced steel. Even criminals aren’t dumb enough to keep fighting when they see what it can do to a comparatively squishy human being.

Last year, the snipers of the Coast Guard’s HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron), successfully made their 500th interdiction (or drug bust) since their founding in 1998. Check out the video below that celebrates hitting this milestone.

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This ill-fated PR flight kept the Valkyrie from changing Air Force history

Before the advent of stealth technology, the variable that mattered more than any other in terms of tactical aircraft survivability and lethality was speed. So in 1955 the U.S. Air Force issued a request for a high-altitude, long-range bomber that could go Mach 3 while carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload.  After a few trips to the drawing board and some mods to the Air Force’s requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a developmental contract based on their submission.


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The Valkyrie XB-70 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Enter the B-70 Valkyrie, a revolutionary scream-machine that was nearly four times as fast as the legacy B-52s it was designed to replace. The Valkyrie was huge — 185 feet long and 30 feet tall with a maximum takeoff weight at a whopping 542,000 pounds. The bomber was powered by six General Electric J-93GE turbojet engines that could each deliver 30,000 pounds of thrust in full afterburner. But it’s massive size and power was belied by sleek lines that made it arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing aircraft ever built.

The B-70 had a crew of four — a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and defense systems operator each seated in comfortable cocoons with clamshell doors. In the event of an emergency each cocoon could rocket away from the aircraft individually.

The Valkyrie used “compression lift” — a phenomenon that occurs when a conical body (the fuselage) under the center of a wing pushes air to the sides, which increases pressure and therefore lift — to travel upwards of 7,500 nautical miles supersonic. At takeoff the wingtips were straight, but a high speeds they’d angle down as much as 65 degrees to create the necessary compression.

The bomber had a number of unorthodox moving parts including movable canards on the nose and a ramp in front of the windscreen that would raise at high speed to create a more aerodynamic airframe (and it also gave the pilot very poor visibility in that regime).

Mach 3 creates a lot of air friction, and friction creates heat, so the Valkyrie was built with honeycomb stainless steel and (sparingly, like 9 percent) titanium, which was expensive and in short supply back in those days.

North American was funded to built a single test aircraft — designated the XB-70 — at a cost of $750 million. The inaugural test flight was delayed by maintenance and other technical issues by three years. All of the Valkyrie’s revolutionary subsystems came with their own problems — honeycomb structures broke, hydraulic systems hemorrhaged fluid, and control surfaces didn’t fit right.

At the same time the tactical world began to change.  Better ICBMs made Air Force planners wonder whether they needed long-range bombers at all. And the introduction of the Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile rendered even the speedy B-70 vulnerable. Based on these factors as well as the projected cost of the Valkyrie, the Eisenhower administration grew sour on the program. The Air Force reduced the program funding to a single asset that would be used for experimental research testing only.

But the presidential election of 1960 changed the landscape. President Kennedy believed the Valkyrie was important in the arms race. The program budget was upped by $265 million and the test plan was reworked to include warfare capabilities and not just research.

A year later the Kennedy administration understood the Eisenhower administration’s issues with the airplane, and the Valkyrie was once again relegated to a research program — however the requirement was reworded with the caveat that if the Air Force requirement necessitated the need for the B-70 the program would be quickly modified to also test for combat operational capabilities.

The Valkyrie’s maiden flight occurred on May 11, 1964 out of Edwards Air Force Base. The plan was to take the airplane supersonic on the first flight, but a landing gear problem kept them subsonic. The XB-70 also had a minor hydraulic fire but managed to land safely.

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North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight. (Official USAF photo)

The airplane finally went supersonic on it’s third test flight and eventually broke a number of speed records including 70 sustained minutes of supersonic flight, 50 of them at greater than Mach 2.

But the test team also discovered that extended supersonic flight punished the airframe beyond its existing design limits, and they had to modify parts of the intake system and fuselage as the test plan went forward.

The first XB-70 reached Mach 3 only once — on it’s 18th test flight on October 14, 1965 — and that speed did substantial damage to the leading edge of one of the wings. (Luckily nothing was sucked into the intakes.) After that the airplane was limited to no greater than Mach 2.5.

A second XB-70 was built after comprehensive wind tunnel testing that yielded a modified design of the intake system, the hydraulics, and the wings. The new design made the airplane more stable, especially at high speeds. On May 19, 1966 the second Valkyrie flew Mach 3 for 33 minutes.

But test problems persisted. One flight forced test pilot Joe Cotton to jump a circuit breaker with a paper clip to get the landing gear to come down. (Basically, a $750 million airplane was saved with a 39 cent paperclip.)

Then one of the contractors pushed the notion of a “family photo,” an idea that proved to be the true beginning of the end for the Valkyrie. General Electric wanted to use a private Learjet to shoot both film and still photos of the XB-70 flying in formation with a T-38, F-4, F-104, and an F-5 — all GE-powered jets.

The requisite approvals were obtained, and on June 8, 1966 the four Air Force test jets launched to rendezvous with the XB-70 at the end of a test event. The five-jet formation flew around the Edwards AFB airspace for about 40 minutes without incident while the Learjet got the desired footage and photos. But as the formation was breaking up to return to base, disaster struck.

The F-104 drifted left until its left wing hit the XB-70’s right wing. At that point the Starfighter flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (who was flying the F-104) and Carl Cross (the XB-70’s co-pilot who was on his first Valkyrie flight) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm crushed by the closing clamshell-like escape crew capsule moments prior to ejection.

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F-104 in flames after hitting the XB-70 during a PR formation flight over Edwards Air Force Base on June 8, 1966. (Official U.S.A.F. photo)

The investigation concluded that Walker was unable to properly perceive his motion relative to the Valkyrie, leading to his aircraft drifting into contact with the XB-70’s wing. The accident investigation also pointed to the wake vortex off the XB-70’s right wingtip as the reason for the F-104’s sudden roll over and into the bomber. There was also a lot of CYA and finger-pointing among Air Force leadership regarding who had actually approved the “family photo,” and ultimately the punishment for improperly vetting the event fell to the lowest levels of the chain of command.

Although the remaining Valkyrie continued to fly test events, the mishap crushed any chance of the airplane being used as an operational asset. On February 4, 1969 the XB-70 flew to Wright-Patterson AFB to be made into an exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the final flight for a powerful and visually stunning airplane the likes of which will never be seen again.

Here’s a video that shows the Valkyrie in action:

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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.

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F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”

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(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.

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