The F-35 may finally be getting its act together - We Are The Mighty
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The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings on Tuesday.


Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.

Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted  a record high of $261.37 in early trading on Tuesday. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.

And all of this is great news for the troubled fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), flies near its base a MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.

The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack of all trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all while using the most advanced available stealth capabilities.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

As it stands now the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 of these supersonic warplanes.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.

The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.

Highlights from Lockheed Martin’s quarterly earnings report:

  • Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)
  • Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015
  • Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations
  • Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)
  • Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)

Defense giants Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are expected to report quarterly results next week.

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Air Force advances massive B-52 overhaul

The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.


Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Photo: US Air Force

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over  Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. Photo: U.S. Air Force

Weapons Upgrade

The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

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A-10 looks like it’s here to stay after new Air Force upgrades

In another positive sign for the beloved A-10, Air Force maintainers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona have outfitted the Warthog with an upgrade for combat search and rescue missions, or CSAR.


Dubbed the lightweight airborne recovery system, the upgrade helps A-10 pilots “communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen, and joint terminal attack controllers,” according to an Air Force statement.

Also read: F-35 fighter pilot says he can take on any stealth fighter in the world

Of all the fixed-wing aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory, no plane carries out CSAR missions like the A-10.

CSAR missions jump off with little warning and often involve going deep into enemy territory, so becoming certified to perform CSAR missions takes tons of training, which only A-10 pilots undergo.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen

The A-10’s rugged survivability, massive forward firing power, newly acquired communication capabilities, and long loiter times at low altitudes make it ideal for flying low and slow and finding the lost person.

According to the Air Force, an “urgent operational need arose in August” for increased CSAR capabilities. Within a few months, the “massive logistical challenge” that required the Air Force to “build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement” came together, and now 19 A-10s sport the upgrade, according to the Air Force.

“A-10 pilots take the combat search and rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot, according to the Air Force statement. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to US soil safely.”

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Government Office of Accountability

While the A-10 still faces the chopping block in 2018, new investment in the Warthog and the reopening of the production lines in October bode well for the plane’s future protecting American interests and infantry soldiers.

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The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

In the opening days of the 2003 Iraq War, automated Patriot Missile batteries downed a British Tornado fighter, killing both pilots. A few days later, another Patriot shot down an American F/A-18 over Southern Iraq, killing that pilot. The people manning the automated missile launchers trusted that the system would work as advertised. Why didn’t it?


Benjamin Lambeth wrote in his exhaustive Iraq memoir The Unseen War that “many allied pilots believed that the Patriot posed a greater threat to them than did any [surface-to-air missile] in Iraq’s inventory.”

“The Patriots scared the hell out of us,” one F-16 pilot remarked. In one case an Air Force pilot actually fired a HARM anti-radar missile at a Patriot battery, destroying its radar dish. No one in the Patriot crew was hurt, and the airman said, “they’re now down one radar. That’s one radar they can’t target us with any more.”

When asked if the error was human or mechanical, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, then-director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said “I think it may be both.”

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

A software malfunction in 2008 caused US. Army robots to aim at friendly targets. No one was killed because a human was at the trigger. Those robots were still in Iraq with troops as of 2009.

An analysis of the U.S. Navy’s own data on the development of automated weapons says “with hundreds of programmers working on millions of lines of code for a single war robot, no one has a clear understanding of what’s going on, at a small scale, across the entire code base.”

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

An Air Force unit called the Human Trust and Interaction Branch — that interaction being between humans an automated equipment — based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is looking to study this interaction to develop new types of recon and intelligence tools via a propose research contract called “Trust in Autonomy for Human Machine Teaming.”

On FedBizOpps (the official government contracting website with a domain name as trustworthy as any payday lender) the Air Force listed a contract for research in understanding “the most significant components driving trust and performance within human-robotic interaction. We need research on how to harness the socio-emotional elements of interpersonal team/trust dynamics and inject them into human-robot teams.”

The $7.5 million contract listing continues with this: “These human-machine teaming dynamics can involve research studying the interplay of individual differences, machine characteristics, robot design, robot interaction patterns, human-machine interaction, and contextual facets of human-machine teaming.”

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

In plain language, the research is focused on how humans use machines, when they trust the machines and when they don’t. In the cases of when Patriot missiles shot down friendly pilots, an automated system notified the human crews via a popup that warned the machine would fire if no one stopped it. When no one did, the Patriot intercepted the allied aircraft, just as programmed.

The Air Force contract is another example of the military “not knowing what’s going on.” As the Air Force explores our trust issues with robots, the Navy is warning us that “early generations of such [automated] systems and robots will be making mistakes that may cost human lives.”

Humans do come to trust their machines. Previous studies found that humans will bond with machines. U.S. Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians have been found to form emotional attachments to their bomb-disposal robots. They are awarded homemade medals and given names, ranks, and sometimes funerals. This level of trust could be misplaced as the bots are armed and the stakes of malfunctioning become higher.

Other current automated units in the U.S. military arsenal include Air Force Predator and Reaper drones, the Navy’s Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, the Army’s tracked, unmanned ground vehicle called TALON (or SWORDS) and the Marines’ unmanned ground vehicle called the Gladiator.

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USMC Gladiator: Are you not entertained?

Recent news about the increased ability of machines to deceive their human masters and the warnings from the scientific and computing community about the overdevelopment of artificial intelligence (AI) as weapons don’t seem to be a concern, even though the Army is developing an automated RoboSniperCopter and is trying to remove humans from the battlefield altogether. This 2013 Gizmodo piece listed the robots debuted for the Army at a Fort Benning “Robotics Rodeo,” featuring an entry from the company who brought you the Roomba:

Major commercial and scientific computer experts believe AI weaponry would be the third revolution of warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. An open letter from this community expressed the concern that unchecked arms races of automated death robots would result in drones becoming the new AK-47 (presumably meaning cheap, deadly and ubiquitous).

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together

The UN is urging the world’s nations to ban the development of automated weapons, citing the “legal and ethical questions” the use of such a weapon would raise.The aforementioned U.S. Navy report recommended building a “warrior’s code” into the weapons to keep them from killing us all once Skynet becomes self-aware.

 

NOW: 7 Ways Drones Are Ruining Everything

OR: The Use of Military Drone Aircraft Dates Back to WWI

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5 awful military haircuts that would fail inspection

Service members are held to a pretty high standard when it comes to grooming practices. The military requires that work uniforms look as neat as possible, men’s faces need to be clean shaven, and haircuts fall with in regulation.


Staying within these standards can be difficult, especially if you’re deployed. But for many, it’s just a matter of heading to the local base and getting a $12 haircut at the PX or NEX. The cut may not turn out celebrity style perfect, but you will be within regs.

Grooming standards vary amongst the branches, but at least one aspect remains the same — the hairline needs to be tapered. A fellow troop’s haircut is one of the first things veterans and service members notice.

Check out our list of military haircuts that would fail inspection:

1. War Daddy

In David Ayer 2014’s war movie “Fury,” Brad Pitt plays a hard-charging tank commander with a pretty awesome hair cut. But we can’t imagine how the Army managed to get a talented hair stylist out on the German front lines to keep his hair perfectly gelled.

 

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We guess everyone in the 1940s cut their hair like Macklemore. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)

 

2. American Sniper

The story of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle hit the big screen in 2014 directed by the iconic Clint Eastwood. With all the excellent production value the film had one aspect was over looked — this Marine’s sideburns.

We could mention he also needs to shave, but that’s not what this article is about — maybe next time.

 

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We bet he just asked the barber to take a little bit off the top before attending his big brother’s wedding. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

 

3. Broken Arrow

Christian Slater plays Riley Hale, a military stealth pilot who needs to track down a war head, defeat the villains, and locate a pair of Osters.

We know it makes you sad to trim around the ears, but you know what else is sad? Terrorism. Now go shave.

 

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
This haircut is so freakin’ bad; he’s pointing out exactly what’s wrong with it. (Source: Fox/ Screenshot/YouTube)

4. Full Metal Jacket

Although this Stanley Kubrick film is epic on multiple levels, it’s a hard fact to swallow that these Marines stationed on a large military base in Vietnam can’t find a pair of hair clippers. We’re just saying.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Joker (in the middle) looks depressed as he waits on the base barber to show the f*ck up. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

 

5. Jarhead 3: The Siege

The Jarhead franchise just won’t stop making bad movies. Not only does the corporal standing on the left need a quick touch up, but he may want to consider switching out his 8-point cover before the sergeant major rips him a brand new a**hole.

 

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Maybe they bought the cover at an airsoft store? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

 

Bonus: Basic

John Travolta plays DEA investigator Tom Hardy (not that Tom Hardy) in 2003’s “Basic.” Although the character isn’t on active duty, his backstory in the film states he’s a former soldier. So before he goes out on a mission to locate a rogue soldier, we think he should clean it up around his ears.

 

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
That look you give to your hair stylist after to see your reflection in the mirror for the first time. (Source: Fox/YouTube/Screenshot)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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If you can help capture this terrorist, you’ll be $10M richer

The Trump administration is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information about the whereabouts of the military leader of Syria’s al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front.


The State Department says the reward will be paid for information “leading to the identification or location” of Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The offer is the first under the department’s “Rewards for Justice Program” for a Nusra Front leader. In a statement, the department said that the group under Golani’s leadership had committed numerous attacks in Syria, including many against civilians, since 2013.

Golani has been identified by the U.S. as a “specially designated global terrorist” since 2013 and subject to U.S. and international sanctions, including an asset freeze and travel ban.

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This Black Cat was bad luck for the Japanese navy

The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.


According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.

The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
PBY-5A Catalina flying over the Aleutian Islands during World War II. (US Navy photo)

The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.

The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”

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Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.

These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.

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Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.

Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.

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A PBY Catalina in service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After World War II, many Catalinas were retired, but some served on. The last military unit to operate them was Brazil’s 1st Air Transport Squadron until they were retired in 1982, according to the website of the Brazilian Air Force Aerospace Museum.

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This is how officials are reacting to White House ban on transgender troops

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.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore

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.”

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Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi

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.”

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Washington State Representative Adam Smith (left) and former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter (right). DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.

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.

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Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

“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.

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Tammy Duckworth (right) is sworn in as assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs by Judge John J. Farley on May 20, 2009. Photo from Department of Veterans Affairs.

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.”

 

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Here are some other name suggestions for future US Navy ships

In light of the controversy over the announced names of new fleet replenishment oilers, including one after Korean War veteran and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, here some other suggestions for future U.S. Navy ships:


Suggested America-class Amphibious Assault Ships

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(Photo: U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill)

USS The Battle of Fallujah

During the Global War on Terror, the Marines have been fighting far from the ocean. However. those battles have featured just as much valor as was seen during Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, or Tarawa. Notable among these was the Battle of Fallujah in November of 2004. Perhaps the most iconic picture of Operation Iraqi Freedom was the one of First Sergeant Bradley Kasal gripping his M9 Beretta as he was assisted out of the house where he heroically protected a wounded Marine. No matter what you think of the Iraq War, the valor American forces showed during the battle should be honored.

USS Battle of Khe Sanh

During the Vietnam War, the Marine outpost at Khe Sanh was besieged for nearly three months as part of a six-month battle. Unlike the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Marines at Khe Sanh held out – with the aid of massive air power. This is one proud moment of Marine Corps history that deserves to be remembered – and it should not have taken nearly five decades to honor.

USS Battle of Khafji

One of the biggest fights the Marines had during Operation Desert Storm, the Battle of Khafji lasted three days. The Marines worked with Saudi and Qatari forces to free the city from its brief occupation by Saddam Hussein’s forces, knocking out at least 80 armored vehicles. That heroism is well worth remembering.

Suggested John Lewis-class replenishment ship

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Joe Foss

He’s a Medal of Honor recipient, and either a Zumwalt or a Burke would seem more fitting, but Joe Foss was more than a Marine Corps ace. He was governor of South Dakota for four years, the first commissioner of the American Football League (now the AFC), and he was President of the National Rifle Association for two terms – leading America’s foremost defender of the Second Amendment.

Suggested Zumwalt-class destroyer

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Robert A. Heinlein

While best known as the best American science-fiction author of all time, Robert Anson Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy. While his career ended due to tuberculosis, Heinlein worked with Isaac Asimov at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. This is a cultural giant of American literature and deserves to be recognized with the Navy’s most advanced surface combatant.

Suggested Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly)

USS Tom Clancy

The inventor of the techno-thriller genre made the United States Navy the big star in his first two novels. His iconic character, Jack Ryan, was a former Marine. Clancy was one of the few civilians to receive the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement from the Navy League.

USS Joe Rochefort

Rochefort is the unsung hero of the Battle of Midway. His code-breaking efforts gave Admiral Chester W. Nimitz the advance warning needed to send Raymond Spruance and Frank Jack Fletcher to ambush the Japanese fleet. Rochefort waited over 30 years to see his story told, and a decade afterward to be officially recognized.

USS Edwin T. Layton

There was one officer that Nimitz kept by his side throughout World War II. Edwin T. Layton was retained when Nimitz took over for Husband E. Kimmel and stayed until Japan signed the  surrender documents in Tokyo Bay. If Rochefort was the unsung hero of Midway, Layton is the man who ensured Rochefort got some of the official recognition he deserved.

USS Brian Chontosh

Brian Chontosh received the Navy Cross for heroism during the initial invasion of Iraq. During a firefight on March 25, 2003, he personally cleared over 200 meters of trench and killed over 20 enemy troops. Sheer awesomeness (that arguably should have resulted in him receiving the Medal of Honor).

USS Justin Lehew

Then-Gunnery Sergeant Justin Lehew received the Navy Cross for his actions during March 23 and 24. On the 23rd, he led a team that rescued some of the members of the 507th Maintenance Company. The next day, he continuously exposed himself to enemy fire during an attack on a bridge, then while recovering Marines from an Amphibious Assault Vehicle that was hit.

USS Bradley Kasal

During the Battle of Fallujah, a photograph featuring then-First Sergeant Bradley Kasal being helped out of a building, clutching his M9 Beretta became an iconic image of Operation Iraqi Freedom. What happened before the photo, though, was the real awesome story: Kasal had shielded a fellow Marine from an insurgent’s grenades with his own body after both had been wounded. Kasal then refused evacuation until the other Marines in the house were safe. He got the Navy Cross. It should have been the Medal of Honor.

USS Justin A. Wilson

Corpsmen have long had a tradition of valor when it comes to treating wounded Marines on the battlefield. Justin Wilson is just one of the latest. He earned the Navy Cross by leaving his position, despite the threat of IEDs, to treat a wounded Marine explosive ordnance disposal tech, then did so again to find other wounded.

USS Arthur D. Struble

It is rare that a Vice Admiral is awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, but Stuble is one of two who got that honor. Struble received the Army’s second-highest decoration for valor for helping oversee the mine-clearance operation at Wonsan during the Korean War. Not too many people know about Admiral Struble’s service, and naming a ship after him would be a suitable way to change this.

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An anonymous administration official just gave an incoherent defense of Obama’s Middle East policy

The Middle East is teetering on the edge of full-blown intra-Arab war, ISIS still controls a Belgium-sized slice of the region’s heart, chlorine barrel bombs are still falling over Syria, and the US is threatening to “evaluate” one of its firmest and oldest Middle Eastern alliances.


It’s a flummoxing state of play for any US administration to face, especially one that’s invested so much effort in reorienting US policy in the region.

And no amount of brilliant policymaking can stave off disaster: the US is a superpower, but it isn’t all-powerful, and no modern president has managed to get the region completely right.

But a quote from an Obama administration official in a March 27 New York Times article about the region’s turmoil seems to sum up the US’s frustration in the region — as well as demonstrate how the Middle East seems to be drifting beyond any meaningful US influence.

“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”

This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.

The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.

Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.

Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.

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

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America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.


According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
A Navy F-4 Phantom drops bombs over Vietnam. Hernandez flew 147 missions in the Vietnam War, and was shot down twice. (US Navy photo)

Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.

His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.

During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

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USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), one of the commands Vice Adm. Hernandez held during his 36-year military career. (US Navy photo)

“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.

After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.

“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Adm. Hernandez was deputy commander of NORAD, which included the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

After his retirement, he served with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Minority Veterans as a member of the Advisory Committee. He also helped plan for the future transportation needs of Miami-Dade County, highlighted by the opening of the Port Miami Tunnel in 2014.

Admiral Hernandez’s funeral will be held Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.

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This why a soldier’s chow came in a can back in the day

C-rations, c-rats, Charlie-rations: Call them what you will, there isn’t a soldier from the Korean War- or Vietnam War-era who doesn’t remember the military’s answer to balanced nutrition.


Relished and reviled, C-rations fed millions of troops in the field. The iconic green cans were far from home cooking – but they did sustain a fighting man when he was far from home, or at least the mess hall, until 1981 when they were replaced by the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat).

“If you were in the field, hungry and you could heat them up, they were great – slightly better than shoe leather,” said Dick Thompson, vice-president of the Vietnam War Foundation Museum in Ruckersville, Va., and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.  “If you were in garrison where you had a choice, forget about it!”

Napoleon once said an army marches on its stomach. In other words, poorly fed troops fight poorly – food is a force multiplier.

The U.S. military is no different. From the Revolutionary War to the U.S. Civil War, military rations could be summed up by mentioning the Three Bs: Bread, Beans, and Beef. (However, salt pork made frequent appearances as a meat item as well.)

The items fit the dietary habits of the times, cooked up with relative ease under field conditions and (usually) satisfied the troops. But as time passed spoilage increased – some Civil War hardtack had more weevils than wheat flour in them when soldiers got their rations.

Canned foods improved the situation. They were heavy, but canned food stayed edible and palatable for long periods of time and in a pinch they could be consumed cold right out of the can.

During the 1930s, the U.S. War Department did its best to develop several kinds of compact, long-lasting rations that could feed men in combat.

One was the C-ration, first issued in 1939. It was three cans of different meat and vegetables (field manuals of the time described the contents as having “the taste and appearance of a hearty stew”) and three cans containing crackers, instant coffee, and sugar.

It wasn’t Mother’s home cooking, but it was filling. Each complete C-ration contained about 2,900 calories and sufficient vitamins to keep the troops healthy.

C-rations were just one of the letter-coded rations issued during World War II. Most soldiers and Marines from that time remember – and detest – the K-rations of the era, which had three separate meal units for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When it comes to palatability, C-rations won hands down. But that didn’t keep more than one soldier from cracking wise about the canned rations.

The F-35 may finally be getting its act together
Dig in, Devil Dogs! Yum-meee . . .

A story goes that a World War II GI attended a USO show where one of the acts was a man who consumed unusual items. As the audience watched, the entertainer chewed glass, gobbled nails and even swallowed swords.

Unimpressed by the spectacle, the soldier turned to a friend sitting next him and asked, “But can he digest C-rations?”

C-rations remained the choice of soldiers in the field. By the Korean War, the Defense Department phased out K-rations and began work on updating the C-ration menu.

In 1958, the Defense Department created 12 different menus. Each menu contained one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or dessert item; one “B unit” that contained items such as crackers and chocolate; an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, creamer, sugar, and salt; and a spoon.

Although the meat item could be eaten cold, even the military admitted the updated ration was tastier when heated.

The Pentagon designated the new rations “Meal, Combat, Individual.” Whatever – soldiers in the field still called them C-rations.

Troops considered some of the items downright toothsome. Canned fruit, canned fruit cocktail, canned baked goods like pound cake and cinnamon nut roll, and canned meat items like ham slices and turkey loaf were G.I. favorites.

But one menu item was universally loathed by soldiers: Ham and Lima Beans. It was considered so disgusting that it acquired an obscene nickname – “Ham and MoFo’s” is a polite rendering of its nom de guerre.

“It was an unnatural mix of ingredients,” said Vincent E. Falter, who enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private during the Korean War and retired as a major general after 35 years of service. “Why not red beans? Navy beans? Any beans other than Lima beans?”

Efforts to improve the taste included troops adding heavy doses of Tabasco sauce or serving the ration scalding hot. It didn’t work – most soldiers from the C-ration era declare Ham and Lima Beans the most detestable military ration ever created.

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Soldier chows down during the Vietnam War. (Photo:atroop412cav.com)

Other C-ration menu items earned equally colorful names. G.I.s called Beans with Frankfurter Chunks in Tomato Sauce “beans and baby dicks.”  In addition, Chopped Ham and Eggs earned the nickname “H.E.s” (high explosives) because of the bloating and gas they caused.

Heating your food always was a challenge. Some literally fastened cans of rations to the engine block of vehicles in an effort to warm the ration – just remember to puncture the can for steam vents so it won’t explode.

If you didn’t have an engine manifold handy, there were “heat tabs” made of a solid-fuel called Trioxin to warm food.

If troops ran out of heat tabs, there was always C-4 – as in C-4, the explosive. When ignited, a small chunk of it burned like Sterno with a steady, hot flame sufficient to heat food and beverages.

Some soldiers will do anything for a hot meal.

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How the military uses video games to get better at killing

Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.


Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.

The system doesn’t use wires or tethers to power the suits or transmit data, so participants can move like they would in the real world.

Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.

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The Dismounted Solder Training System allows soldiers to train as a squad. Photo: US Army Maj. Penny Zamora

Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.

One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.

The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.

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Soldiers train in the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 April 6, 2015 in before heading to live-fire training at Saber Junction 15. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau

The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.

While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.

And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.

Until then, there’s always video games.

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