After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.
For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.
“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.
But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.
“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.
Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.
“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”
But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.
The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.
“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.
With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.
UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.
The British navy’s newest and most expensive aircraft carrier needs repairs after a faulty shaft seal was identified during sea trials.
Officials say the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which cost roughly 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) to build, will be “scheduled for repair” at Portsmouth.
Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Dec. 19 the repairs wouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers because contractors who built the ship would be responsible.
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)
A Royal Navy statement says the problem won’t prevent the ship from sailing or interfere with the extensive sea trials program underway.
Queen Elizabeth II earlier this month attended the commissioning ceremony of the carrier, which is named after the monarch.
Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.
“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.
The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.
“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.
“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.
Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”
For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.
“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”
Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.
“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.
The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.
“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.
Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.
“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.
“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.
Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.
Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.
“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.
After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.
“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”
However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”
Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.
“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”
The Army recently drove tactical trucks with sensors, electronics, and other applications powered by commercially-developed artificial intelligence technology — such as IBM’s Watson — as a way to take new steps in more quickly predicting and identifying mechanical failures of great relevance to combat operations.
Described by participants as a “bake-off,” an Army-industry assessment incorporated attempts to use AI and real-time data analytics for newer, fast-evolving applications of conditioned-based maintenance technology.
Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems, such as Watson, to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other onboard vehicle systems.
“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information, and other vehicle technologies and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.
When created, IBM stated that “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.
Faster diagnostics, of course, enable vehicle operators to anticipate when various failures, such as engine or transmission challenges, may happen in advance of a potentially disruptive battlefield event. Alongside an unmistakable operational benefit, faster conditioned-based maintenance activity also greatly streamlines the logistics train, optimizes repairs, and reduces costs for the Army.
Army wheeled tactical vehicles, which include things like the family of medium tactical vehicles and emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, are moving towards using more automation and AI to gather, organize, and analyze sensor data and key technical indicators from onboard systems.
“We identified Army data challenges, delivered new sensors – and used different approaches – invariably bringing on different ways that data can be delivered to the Army,” Aven added.
Faster computer processing brings substantial advantages to Army vehicles which increasingly rely upon networked electronics, sensors, and C4ISR systems.
Multiple vendors took part in the industry “bake-off” event, which included participation from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the ARL is among a number of Army and DoD entities now accelerating development and integration of AI into a wide range of military technologies.
“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Mangement for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”
Technical gains in the area of AI and autonomy are arriving at lightning speed, offering faster, more efficient technical functions across a wide range of platforms. Years ago, the Army began experimenting with “leader-follower” algorithms designed to program an unmanned tactical vehicle to follow a manned vehicle, mirroring its movements.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous navigation, quite naturally, brings a range of combat advantages. A truck able to drive itself can, among other things, free up vehicle operators for other high-priority combat tasks.
AI-enabled CBM can function through a variety of methods; sensor information can be gathered, organized, and then subsequently downloaded or wirelessly transmitted using cloud technology.
IBM’s Watson also drew upon this technology when contributing to an Army Stryker “proof-of-principle” exercise last year wherein the service used cloud computing, AI and real-time analytics to perform Conditioned Based Maintenance functions.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained massive damage from a 70-ton crane falling on it after an accident at a shipyard, Russian media reports.
The Kuznetsov, a Soviet-era ship already known for having serious problems, now has a massive 214 square foot hole in its hull after a power supply issue flooded its dry dock and sent a crane crashing down against it.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, is a floating hell for the crew
“The crane that fell left a hole 4 by 5 meters. But at the same time … these are structures that are repaired easily and quickly,” Alexei Rakhamnov, the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Russian media.
“Of course when a 70-tonne crane falls on deck, it will cause harm,” Rakhmanov continued, according to the BBC. “But according to our initial information, the damage from the falling crane and from the ship listing when the dock sank is not substantial.”
Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.
Some of these characteristics may have been on display earlier this year when Northrop Grumman’s SuperBowl AD revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet. Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right.
The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft.
The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.
The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.
Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.
Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well.
Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”
Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefieldinformation.Thenew aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot.
Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.
This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.
It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.
The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”
Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.
“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.
“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.
Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.
If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.
Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.
Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.
When a teenager became seriously ill Tuesday morning on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.
From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.
Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.
That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.
The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.
The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.
The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.
When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”
The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.
While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.
Early in its combat testing, a test pilot’s damning report leaked to the press and exposed the world’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35, as a bad dogfighter that the F-16 routinely trounced in mock battles.
But new videos leaked from the US Air Force’s F-35 demo or stunt flying team show the jet making head-spinning turns that older jets could never hit.
In 2015, the test pilot’s write up of the jet’s combat performance obliterated the idea of F-35 as a capable dogfighter due to a glaring flaw: Weak maneuverability.
“Overall, the most noticeable characteristic of the F-35A in a visual engagement was its lack of energy maneuverability,” the pilot wrote.
the U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight and operators would quickly learn it isn’t an ideal regime… Though the aircraft has proven it is capable of high AOA [angle of attack] flight, it wasn’t effective for killing or surviving attacks primarily due to a lack of energy maneuverability,” he continued.
Furthermore, according to the pilot, there was basically nothing the F-35 could do to escape getting killed by the F-16’s gun. Any move he tried to escape the F-35’s cannon read as “predictable” and saw the pilot taking a loss.
But the F-35 program and its role in dogfights hadn’t been as well figured out back then.
Since then, the F-35 has mopped up in simulated dogfights with a 15-1 kill ratio. According to retired Lt. Col. David Berke, who commanded a squadron of F-35s and flew an F-22 — the US’s most agile, best dogfighter — the jet has undergone somewhat of a revolution.
New moves, new rules
In the video, the F-35 pilot takes the plane inverted, hits a tight loop, and appears to pause in mid-air as he enters a flat spin that makes his hundred-million-dollar jet appear like a leaf floating down towards earth. (Really better to watch than read about it.)
The flat spin move is often used by F-22 and Russian fighter pilots to show off the intense ability of their planes to sling the nose around in any direction they wish.
According to Berke, this F-35 stunt “demonstrates what the pilots and the people around the aircraft have always known: It’s vastly superior to almost anything out there,” in terms of agility.
Furthermore, according to Berke, an F-16 could not hit the move shown in the demo team’s video.
Berke and others close to the F-35 program have described to Business Insider a kind of breakthrough in the maneuvering of the F-35 throughout its development.
Berke said the video proves that the F-35 is a “highly maneuverable, highly effective dogfighting platform,” but even still, he wouldn’t use that exact maneuver in a real dogfight.
The flat spin is “not an effective dogfighting maneuver, and in some cases, you would avoid doing that.”
F-16 Fighting Falcons.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
“If me and you were dogfighting and we’re 2 miles away, and I had a wingman 5 miles away, you’d be super slow and predictable and easy for him to find,” due to executing the move, said Berke.
But despite the F-35’s impressive moves and ability to win dogfights, Berke said he’d stay on mission and try to score kills that take better advantage of the jet’s stealth.
“I want to avoid getting into a dogfight, but if I had to I’m going to be able to outmaneuver most other aircraft,” he said.
After all, the F-35’s makers never intended it as a straight World War II-era Red Baron killer, but a rethink of aerial combat as a whole.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. March Tighe, 60th Maintenance Squadron gives a briefing to Dr. Richard Joseph, Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., during his visit to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 12, 2018. Joseph toured David Grant USAF Medical Center, Phoenix Spark lab and visited with Airmen. Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the AF, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the AF mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // LOUIS BRISCESE)
Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.
They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.
In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.
However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)
Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.
DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS
As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.
He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.
This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.
Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)
This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.
However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.
He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.
“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”
The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superbpilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.
In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”
The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.
The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.
Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.
President Donald Trump is barring transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity.” He’s citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
Trump’s announcement on the morning of July 26 on Twitter did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
The president tweeted that after consulting with “generals and military experts,” the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”
A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban.
The Pentagon seems to have been unaware that President Donald Trump has decided to bar transgender people from the military.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, refused to answer questions about what Trump’s tweeted announcement means for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out.
“Call the White House,” he said.
The White House press office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military as “vile and hateful.”
In a statement, Pelosi pointed out Trump’s decision came on the same day in 1948 that President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order desegregating the military.
The California Democrat called Trump’s action “a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country.”
She said a study commissioned by the department found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be $2 million to $8 million a year, a small amount from what the Pentagon spends on military care.
She said the “disgusting ban” will weaken the military and the nation it defends. She said Trump’s conduct is not driven by “honor, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice.”
The Pentagon, which appeared to be caught off-guard by Trump’s tweets barring transgender people from the military, is referring all questions about them to the White House.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a brief written statement that the Pentagon is working with the White House to “address” what he calls “the new guidance” from the president on transgender individuals serving in the military.
Davis said the Pentagon will provide revised guidance to Defense Department officials “in the near future.”
The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is calling President Donald Trump’s newly announced ban on transgender military service “an unwarranted and disgraceful attack.”
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington says preventing transgender people from joining the military and pushing out “those who have devoted their lives to this country would be ugly and discriminatory in the extreme.”
Smith also is challenging the estimates cited by conservative lawmakers that show the Pentagon end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to pay for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies.
He says those figures “have no basis in fact” and likely were “cooked up by right-wing advocacy organizations whose real interest is not to support military readiness but to further discrimination.”
Ash Carter, who as secretary of defense last year ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, is criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to ban their service.
Carter issued a statement July 26 saying that the important thing for choosing who is allowed to serve is whether they are best qualified.
“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualification,” he said, “is social policy and has no place in our military.”
Carter added that transgender individuals already are serving capably and honorably in the military.
A national LGBTQ advocacy group says President Donald Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from military service is an “all-out assault” on these individuals.
Stephen Peters, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, tells The Associated Press that Trump’s decision was “alarming” because it comes after a decade of progress toward inclusion in the military. Peters says the decision is “morally reprehensible,” ”patently unpatriotic,” and dangerous because it “puts a target on the backs of thousands of service members.”
Trump announced on Twitter that he is barring transgender people from service in the military “in any capacity.” He cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
Peters says the decision doesn’t appear to have factored in the effect on military morale and readiness.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.
Duckworth said in a statement July 26 that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”
The Illinois senator said anyone willing to risk their lives for their country should be able to serve no matter gender or sexual orientation or race.
She said, “Anything else is discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security.”
The September 11, 2001, attacks saw numerous acts of bravery and courage from Americans from many walks of life — be they ordinary citizens, emergency services personnel or members of the military.
Of special note was the sacrifice this National Guard fighter pilot and her comrades were willing to make when their fighters were sent up without any armament to protect the nation’s capital soon after word of the attacks spread.
Among the many fighter pilots sent to the skies in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York was Heather “Lucky” Penney, a fighter pilot with the District of Columbia Air National Guard. At the time a 1st lieutenant with the 121st Fighter Squadron, Lucky was the only female in her fighter training class, and the only female pilot serving with the squadron.
When air traffic controllers in Cleveland, Ohio, saw a potential hijacking aboard a United Airlines flight, Penney and her flight lead, Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, were called into action.
Launching from Andrews AFB near Washington, D.C., at 10:42 local time, the pair saw smoke billowing out from Arlington, Virginia, the site of the Pentagon. A second pair of fighters piloted by Brandon Rasmussen and Daniel Caine – also of the DCANG – were sent up as well.
The Secret Service and defense sector controllers responsible for watching over the airspace surrounding the capital requested an aerial presence to ward away or destroy any other hijacked airliners, lest they attack juicier targets like the White House or the Capitol, or hit crowded civilian areas.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon – the fighters these four pilots flew – is very capable in the air-to-air arena. However, in the rush to get airborne, none of the four DCANG F-16s were armed with missiles or live rounds for their cannons – not that any were immediately available.
Sasseville and Penney briefly discussed a plan of action, noting that their lack of armament would make downing a larger airliner considerably more difficult. The two agreed that the only option would be using their aircraft as rams, where Sasseville would hit the cockpit and Penney the tail.
Though, hypothetically, the two pilots could have aimed their fighters for the engines of the aircraft and ejected quickly after, they knew that the only way they could be sure of bringing down their quarry was if they stayed with their F-16s all the way through.
Word came in over their radios that an aircraft was heading at a low altitude over the Potomac River, possibly towards the White House. This ultimately proved to be a false alarm, though military and Secret Service operations officers initially concluded that the inbound aircraft was United 93, a Boeing 757 similar to the American Airlines jet which had slammed into the Pentagon earlier in the day.
United 93 never showed up in Washington. After recovering at Andrews AFB, the four DCANG pilots would learn that United 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Penney, Sasseville, Rasmussen and Caine would soon refuel and have their aircraft armed with weaponry before returning to the skies for their second sortie on Sept. 11.
This time, Penney and Sasseville were directed to fly as escorts for Air Force One, carrying President George W. Bush from Offutt AFB to Andrews AFB. The duo were almost engaged in combat yet again when a Learjet approached Air Force One at high speed, though the event was short-lived with the private aircraft diverted, having been on its way to finding a suitable airport to land.
Both Penney and Sasseville went on, post-9/11, to fly combat missions overseas in support of the Global War On Terror. Penney has since left the DC ANG and works with Lockheed Martin in a senior position, while Sasseville remains active in the Guard, now as a major general.