The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment - We Are The Mighty
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The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Since relocating from Yuma, Arizona, to Iwakuni, Japan, in January, the Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters has been hard at work ironing out the basics of operations in the Pacific, from streamlining supply chains to practicing “hot reloads” and rapid ground refueling from a KC-130.


In fall 2017, the unit — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 — will deploy aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

And the squadron is well aware that a sea deployment in the tense Pacific could well entail responding to a regional crisis or a combat contingency, Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer, told Military.com in an interview this month.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
DOD Photo by Levingston M Lewis

“When I was a young guy in [AV-8B] Harrier land in 2003, several MEUs … were in a normal deployment and something happened, and they ended up in a bigger picture,” Rusnok said, referring to MEU-based combat units dispatched to Iraq to assist with ground operations during the invasion. “That’s something that could really happen. Given the small numbers of F-35s that are out there, I think [combatant commanders] are going to look at that and say, ‘I’ve got six airplanes out on the MEU. I could do something with them.’ ”

VFMA-121 has hit milestones not just for the Marine Corps, but for the entire Defense Department since late 2012, when it became the first squadron to activate with the 5th-generation fighter.

The unit’s reception in the Iwakuni community has been warm, Rusnok said. Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda attended the March change-of-command ceremony for the unit, and an aviation day at the air station drew a crowd of 210,000, with locals surrounding a displayed F-35B “six or seven deep,” he said.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo by USMC

While the squadron has not begun shipboard training, set to happen later this summer, it’s already preparing for the upcoming MEU deployment in practical ways, standing up and proving out logistics capabilities and supply chains for the F-35 in the Pacific.

Working Out Supply Chains

Rusnok noted that, in the space of months, the Joint Strike Fighter program went from being based almost solely in the continental United States to having aircraft in Israel, Italy, and Japan, among other locations.

“That’s such an incredibly complicated, such an exponential growth in geography that it’s almost hard to fathom, if you rewind back several years, to see we’re this far along,” he said. “What we’ve done, I think, at Iwakuni is to break down some of these barriers and find out how that airplane is supportable in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The squadron has worked with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office and aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to find faster ways to ship gear and replacement parts, and to send broken parts back to the United States to repair. With a global supply chain and a relatively small number of active aircraft, sometimes a plane in need of a part at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona must get it shipped from Iwakuni, and vice versa.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
DOD Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Necoechea

“Iwakuni is distinctly different from CONUS-based units, not only because of the tyranny of distance in the Pacific region, but we also have a wide variety of places we could potentially go,” Rusnok said. “Expeditionary maintenance logistics are incredibly important to what we do.”

Fighting Skills

The squadron got to hone its fighting skills earlier this month at Northern Edge, a 12-day training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The exercise included the Air Force’s 5th-generation F-22 Raptor, as well as numerous fourth-generation fighters, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

In the exercise, the largest VFMA-121 has participated in since moving forward to Iwakuni, the F-35s were able to drill on joint operations in the Western Pacific, focusing on aerial interdiction, strike warfare, air-to-air, and offensive counter-air missions.

Rusnok said the F-35’s kill ratio from the exercise was not immediately available, though one of the missions he flew racked up eight kills and zero losses, he said, a fairly indicative statistic.

But he doesn’t particularly like to talk about those stats.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
DOD Photo by Ryan Kierkegaard

“Everyone likes to focus on that air-to-air piece. It robs that statistic out of a bigger scenario,” he said. “You never hear about the surface-to-air kills we got, the enemy systems degraded. There’s a bigger picture.”

The exercise, Rusnok said, also tested the F-35’s ability to create a “God’s-eye view” of the battlespace, with its ability to network and transmit information. Northern Edge showed, he said, that the capability remained strong, even in a dense radio frequency environment that hindered transmissions.

“Where other air systems have problems, we’re able to cut through that so easily,” he said. “Our ability to resist that kind of attack on the electromagnetic spectrum is huge.”

Testing Maintenance Software

The squadron also brought with it a deployable version of its Autonomic Logistics Information System, a software designed to revolutionize F-35 maintenance that has been hampered by production and upgrade delays. A 2016 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether ALIS was truly able to deploy in practice, citing a lack of redundancy in the system.

“Every time we deploy this airplane, we make a decision whether to deploy ALIS or leave it home,” Rusnok said.

In this case, he said, the squadron worked with the Air Force to make necessary modifications to host the ALIS deployable operating unit, hardware that travels with the squadron when connectivity is an issue. Overall, Rusnok said, the system worked well during the exercise, and preparing to use it offered insights on its future use.

“Let’s say we’re going to an Air Force base in Country X — we know those facilities are now compatible with ALIS,” he said. “Maybe we can take advantage of this and put it in our playbook as something we can do, optimize to really cut down on that logistics footprint.”

Now back in Japan, the squadron has already begun early preparations for its upcoming deployment, conducting rapid ground refueling tests using the KC-130 Hercules and practicing “hot reloads” in which the aircraft receives new ordnance while the pilot remains in the cockpit.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
KC-130 Hercules. DOD Photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward.

The unit’s pre-deployment preparations will likely provide insights for units that come after. The next F-35B deployment, aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex, will come months after VFMA-121 deploys to the Pacific and is expected to take the Corps’ second F-35 squadron, VFMA-211, to the Middle East.

“Come the fall, we’re going to have all the pieces in place so we can effectively deploy the squadron,” Rusnok said.

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5 times criminals changed the course of wars

Crime doesn’t pay… except when it helps decide the course of a war. Here are five cases of criminals joining the war effort:


1. The Jewish Mafia opened the New York docks to the Navy so Nazis there could be caught

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The Normandie lies in the New York harbor after a suspect fire damaged her. Photo: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

During World War II, Nazi U-Boats were a major threat on the East Coast and the Navy suspected Nazi saboteurs and sympathizers to be behind a few incidents such as the sinking of the cruise ship Normandie.

Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky wanted to help European Jews, and that meant helping the Navy. He got them past longshoremen blockades at the docks, had his men violently break up gatherings of Nazi sympathizers, and even helped capture a group of Nazi saboteurs who holed up in a New York hotel.

2. The mobster “Lucky Luciano” aided Operation Husky from a cell in New York.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Troops and equipment come ashore on the first day of the invasion of Sicily. Photo: Royal Navy C. H. Parnall

Lansky wasn’t the only mobster to help the Navy. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano was in prison but volunteered to jump into Europe to rally friends and associates in Sicily and Italy to help the Allies invasion of the “soft underbelly of Europe.”

The Navy turned him down for frontline duty, but did allow him to contact his associates in the area. They responded with photos, maps, and other reconnaissance, aiding the risky Operation Husky.

RELATED: This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

3. A single vigilante in the Civil War crippled Union shipping on the Tennessee River.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Jack Hinson. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Jack Hinson was a dutiful informant for both sides during the American Civil War, but he spent most of his time trying to stay out of the whole thing and just run his farm. But then the Union executed and beheaded two of his sons on suspicion of Confederate activity.

Hinson went nuts. He had a custom sniper rifle made and began straight murdering any and every Union soldier he could get a shot off at, starting with the lieutenant and sergeant who led the execution of his sons.

4. D-Day was made possible by boats popularized by smugglers.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

Andrew J. Higgins was a successful businessman who began building boats for trappers and lumbermen in Louisiana operating in the bayou. There is speculation that he may have ran booze himself, which may or may not have been true, but his boat business was definitely fueled by bootleggers.

That ended up being good for the Marine Corps and Army, because that booming boat business provided the armored boats that landed troops across the Pacific and on the Normandy beaches.

5. A Pirate queen won a war against the Chinese, British and Portuguese navies.

鄭一嫂-Ching-Shih-Pirate-queen Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the early 1800s Ching Shih was a Chinese prostitute that a pirate lord was in love with. He married her and the two grew his fleet from 200 to 600 ships before he died in a storm. Shih then built an entire pirate nation with a code of laws and a fleet of 1,800 ships. The Chinese emperor raised a force to bring her down, but that failed and so he asked for help from the British and Portuguese.

After the trilateral alliance failed to defeat her in over two years of war, she offered the Chinese government to disband her fleet if her leaders were offered positions in the Chinese navy, she was given a royal position, and the Chinese paid for the pirates to transition to a life on land. The government agreed and the war ended.

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The infamous hacker who exposed Clinton’s email server is going to prison for 4 years

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NBC News screenshot


The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” has been sentenced to 52 months in prison for a string of high-profile hacks he carried out against people including former Secretary of State Colin Powell to family and friends of former President George W. Bush.

He also exposed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after he gained access to the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidant.

The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, gained unauthorized access to personal email and social media accounts of roughly 100 Americans over a two-year period, according to the Department of Justice.

Many of those hacks led to the release of financial information, embarrassing correspondence, or personal photographs. For example, an email break-in of a Bush family member led to the release of artwork created by the president, and leaked emails between Secretary of State Colin Powell and a European Parliament member led Powell to deny an affair.

Lazar was extradited from Romania after being arrested in January 2014. He pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization and aggravated identity theft.

As The New York Times has noted, Lazar was not a computer expert. He operated on a cheap laptop and a cellphone, and used tools readily available on the web. Many of his “hacks” were the result of social engineering skill and months of guessing security questions until he got in.

“He was not really a hacker but just a smart guy who was very patient and persistent,” Viorel Badea, the Romanian prosecutor who directed the case against him, told The Times.

He claimed in May that he accessed Clinton’s private email server twice — a charge the Clinton campaign has denied and that has not been verified by the FBI, which investigated the use of the server — but found the contents “not interesting” at the time.

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How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

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Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

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This is why there’s no Field Marshal rank in the US military

During the second world war, the size of the U.S. military swelled significantly and became far larger than even during World War I.


With technology advancing so significantly in the interwar years and the military growing more diverse, the need arose for a rank higher than four-star general. The U.S. needed an equivalent to the British and Russian Field Marshal.

But they declined. Instead, the five-star “General of the Army” and “Fleet Admiral” for the Navy were created by act of Congress.

The reason was ultimately that the name of U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall would have sounded ridiculous with this new rank. Still, the Americans were now the senior partner in the alliance against the Axis and its commanders were technically outranked by British Field Marshals.

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General of the Army George C. Marshall.

Admiral Ernest King was a well-known stickler for things like uniform wear (he even introduced a new Navy uniform during the war), awarding fewer medals so that they meant something when awarded, and – especially – for rank. The longtime officer hated the idea of using British terms like “Admiral of the Fleet.” He suggested other terms, like “Arch Admiral” and “Arch General.” His suggestions were so odd, his contemporaries thought he was joking.

President Franklin Roosevelt thought “Chief General” and “Chief Admiral” would be good names for the new positions. The debate ended when Congress revived the five-star ranks with their new names in 1944.

Only one American officer ever held the title of “Field Marshal.” Douglas MacArthur was appointed as Field Marshal of the Army of the Philippines in 1936 when the island nation achieved a semi-independent status. MacArthur was tasked to create an operational army for the fledgling country and wore a special uniform, complete with a Field Marshal’s baton.

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Left to Right – Vice-President Sergio Osmena, Paul V. McNutt, U.S. High Commissioner, President Manuel Quezon, Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur, General Paulino Santos, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.

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This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

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6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used

Military budgets can contain some surprising items. These six pieces of gear probably raised some eyebrows when they were purchased.


1. Skateboards

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Vallee

Skateboards were tested during Urban Warrior ’99 for potential use in detecting booby traps and avoiding sniper fire. Documents from the exercise don’t discuss how the “urban combat skateboard” was to be employed, but the boards never made it to full fielding.

2. Go-karts

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

The ultra-lightweight combat vehicle is currently in testing with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, but earlier versions have already seen combat with special operations troops in Afghanistan. The vehicles are easily delivered by air and can be used by paratroopers to quickly move around a drop zone, allowing them to mass forces for an assault, quickly move crew-served weapons around the battlefield, and evacuate wounded troops to a casualty collection point.

3. Video game controllers

Since more than half of adults play video games and the average gamer plays 6.3 hours per week, it’s no surprise that many service members are handy with video game controllers. The military is capitalizing on that by using video game controllers to replace unintuitive controls for certain weapons systems and drones.

4. Radioactive identification markers

Small, radioactive markers were worn by some World War II squad leaders so their troops could follow them easily at night. The “luminous discs” were painted with radium. After being exposed to light for a short period, they’d emit a glow for hours. Experiments with the technology dated back to 1912 when the Army was testing them for cavalry units.

5. Skis

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage

Quite a few modern militaries use ski troops, including three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The training and equipment allows the service members to move quickly in winter, mountain, and arctic environments.

6. Children’s toys

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gloumouth1

When Allied paratroopers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, they needed a way to identify each other in the dark behind German lines. Military planners came up with brass versions of a common children’s toy, the cricket noise maker. Troops would click the noisemaker while near an unknown person in the dark. If the other person responded with a click or code word, the soldiers knew each other as friendly.

NOW: 8 genius military uses for civilian products

OR: DARPA’s new android app can call in air strikes

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World War III nearly started when the Soviet premier was banned from Disneyland

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited America in Sep. 1959, the trip was meticulously planned. One day of the trip was devoted Hollywood and filled with visits to movie studios, a lunch with Hollywood icons, and a tour to Disneyland.


Walt Disney was going to show Khrushchev around the park himself. He even planned to show off his navy for the Soviet premier.

Unfortunately, the Disneyland visit was canceled due to security concerns among city leaders and State Department planners. The Americans seemed to hope that tours of 20th Century Fox Studios and a lunch event filled with movie stars would keep the premier from complaining about Disneyland.

But the 20th Century Fox President Spyros P. Skouras put the Soviet leader in a bad mood. Skouras made jokes about an old quote of Khrushchev’s that said that communism would bury capitalism.

Khrushchev was enraged by the Fox president’s comments and said, “If you want to go on with the arms race, very well. We accept that challenge. As for the output of rockets –well, they are on the assembly line. This is a most serious question. It is one of life or death, ladies and gentlemen. One of war and peace.”

And then the enraged Khrushchev was told he wouldn’t be able to visit the happiest place on earth. Instead of enjoying his time with Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, he gave an angry speech asking why he couldn’t go to Disneyland.

“What is it?” Khrushchev asked. “Do you have rocket launching pads there? I don’t know. What is it? Is there an epidemic of Cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ For me, such a situation is inconceivable.”

Despite the rocky events in Los Angeles, Khrushchev’s visit was a success. By the end of the trip, Americans’ perception of the leader had improved and journalists were reporting positively on his interactions with U.S. citizens.

Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower had a summit at Camp David where they agreed on the need for peace and planned for Eisenhower to tour the Soviet Union.

This goodwill between the leaders was reversed in May 1960 after an U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War dragged on for decades.

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How that Iranian missile strike into Syria turned out to be a massive failure

Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.


Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.

The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.

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The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.

Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.

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This is why North Korea’s nuclear missile program isn’t as crazy as it seems

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, may preside over the most propaganda-inundated, oppressed, and ruthless country on earth, but he’s not crazy.


In fact, under the Kim dynasty, North Korea has time and time again shown strategic thinking and cunning, essentially staying one step ahead of international efforts to curb the regime’s power.

North Korea has, for decades, gotten its way without a major military campaign, and without a single attack on Americans on US soil. North Korea will continue to get what it wants in a broad sense, though sanctions and isolation will slow it down.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Image from Wikimedia Commons

And North Korea will continue to get what it wants, enjoying a growing economy, powerful nationalism, and ever-improving nuclear and missile capabilities.

But if North Korea ever, ever fires one of those missiles in anger, the US will return fire in devastating fashion before you can say, “Juche.”

“Their primary concern is regime survival,” a senior US defense official working in nuclear deterrence told Business Insider.

North Korean statements traffics heavily in propaganda, but all sides seem to sincerely believe the Kim regime cares deeply about its preservation, and has built the weapons for defensive purposes.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing and we don’t want it. But if we lose that one, we survive it,” said the official.

This statement from a currently-serving US official knowledgeable with nuclear deterrence is a rare admission that North Korea gaining a nuclear ICBM capability isn’t the end of the world.

It’s time to stop thinking of Kim as some dumb and “crazy fat kid” as Republican Sen. John McCain recently put it.

Kim’s thinking seems cold-blooded and ruthless to the US, but he’s not crazy, and he’d have to be to attack the world’s most powerful country.

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This is what the Army wants in a new, more powerful combat rifle

US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.


“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

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The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. (U.S. Army photo from Todd Mozes)

The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

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A soldier spotting a target, EBR in foreground. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.

The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.

Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.

In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.

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M16 assault rifles. (DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.

The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:

  • Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
  • Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
  • Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
  • Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
  • Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
  • Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
  • 20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
  • Folding sights

“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Strong

“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Just 13 military memes to get you from the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” premiere to Christmas:


1. Why move it in the up position?

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Seriously, that’s a tank recovery vehicle. It could’ve torn down the whole sky.

2. If he were a real chief, that mug would have his rank insignia (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Do you think the water is cold? I hope the water is cold.

SEE ALSO: Here’s what it would be like if Gunny Hartman ran Santa’s Workshop

3. The stormtroopers have it rough (via OutOfRegs and Terminal Lance).

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
They’re the villains of the movie, but they’re just trying to earn some college money and get work experience.

4. The dude has piloted fighters and A-10s, pretty sure he can handle a “fitty.”

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

5. Jesus just knows this guy needs situational awareness more than he needs comforting.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Squad Leader #1!

6. But—, But—, God loves the infantry!!

(via Military Nations)

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

7. Absolute ninja …

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
… absoute as-holes.

8. “Did your recruiter lie to you?”

(via Team Non-Rec)

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
“Then here are some disch— Just kidding, get back in the d-mn storm.”

9. When your chief thinks of the Hindenburg as newfangled:

(via Air Force Nation)

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Don’t let him see an F-35. The shock alone might kill him.

10. We’ve all been there (via Team Non-Rec).

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Don’t worry, the company will send a replacement within 12 hours, unless it’s the weekend.

11. Can we get a little muzzle awareness, Doc?

(via Afghanistan Combat Footage – Funker530)

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Notice how the captain isn’t surprised? This LT has done this before.

12. With a little salt, bread can be anything (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Let it sit long enough, and it becomes a flotation device.

13. Sergeant Major of the Rings (via Team Non-Rec).

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Luckily, Mordor has no grass.

Articles

WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)

*This story was updated on 1/29 to reflect input from the Department of the Army*


Early in the world wars, many American women found roles open to them. While they were usually kept far from the direct combat (nurses excluded), the positions they filled were usually designed to “free a man to fight.” Female units formed throughout the U.S. military, though not without debate or criticism. Many of these were based on similar British organizations for women. After visiting Americans observed these female units in action, they brought the good ideas home.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Nancy E. Batson, WAFS pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Women’s Flying Training Detachment was one such unit. Created by Legendary Air Force (then-Army Air Corps) General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, these women pilots were hired to fill jobs flying aircraft stateside from base to base. They received hundreds of flying hours in training, but were not considered a real part of the Army and thus could not received veteran status. The WFTD and the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce Ferrying Squadron (WAAFS) were both formed separately in 1942.  The WAAFS would take fighters, bombers, and transports from the factories to stateside bases.  Both the WAAFS and WFTD would later be merged with the now-famous Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
WASPs uniforms on display in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first director of the WASPs was Jacqueline Cochran, a contemporary of famed pilot Amelia Earhart.  She was only woman to win the Bendix Transcontinental Aeronautical Race and also a five-time Harmon Trophy winner, which was awarded to the world’s foremost leading aviator. Cochran would also become the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean, the first woman to break the sound barrier, and many more female firsts. She also currently holds more distance and speed records than any pilot of any gender, living or dead. If that wasn’t enough of a pedigree, Nancy H. Love, commander of the WAFS, was the Executive Officer for the new unit. Love was also an accomplished pilot by any metric. She was certified in 19 military aircraft and was the first woman to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress. After the creation of the independent Air Force, Cochran and Love would both joint the U.S. Air Force Reserve and rise to the ranks of lieutenant colonel.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Nancy Love and Betty Gillies (U.S. Air Force photo)

The WASP program would train over a thousand pilots as light training instructors, glider tow pilots, towing targets for air-to-air and anti-aircraft gunnery practice, engineering test flying, ferrying aircraft, and other duties. They were considered civil services employees, never being accepted into the Army Air Forces despite their proven ability.  WASPs were capable of flying any aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, including the P-51 Mustang and B-29 Superfortress,, often remarked by men as being difficult to fly. In fact, the first person to fly an Army Air Forces jet was WASP Ann Baumgartner.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
A WAFS pilot flying a B-17 (U.S. Air Force photo)

WASPs were required to complete the same training as male Army Air Corps pilots, save for combat flying, such as gunnery and acrobatics. WASPs did their training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas and were stationed at 120 air bases across the U.S. They would deliver more than 12,000 aircraft of 78 different types.

Thirty-eight WASPs died during the program’s run. The accident rate was similar to that of males doing the same work. Hap Arnold himself would address the last class of WASPs to graduate from training.

“You … have shown that you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. If ever there was doubt in anyone’s mind that women could become skilled pilots,” Arnold said. “The WASPs dispelled that doubt. I want to stress how valuable the whole WASP program has been for the country.”

The WASP program was classified and sealed until 1977, when a false press release from the Department of the Air Force announced that the first women would be trained to fly military aircraft. Then-Colonel Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold, lobbied Congress for full recognition of the WASPs as veterans. President Carter ordered their recognition as veterans in 1977 and in 1984, they received their World War II Victory Medal. In 2009, the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, with 300 surviving members on hand to receive them.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The family of WASP Elaine Danforth Harmon started a petition to get WASPs their recognition as veterans eligible for inurnment at Arlington. According to the Department of the Army, WASPs have never been eligible either for inurnment or burial at Arlington.

“The service of Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II is highly commendable and, while certainly worthy of recognition, it does not, in itself, reach the level of Active Duty service required for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery,” Lt. Col. Patrick Seiber of the Army’s Media Relations Division clarified.

“The confusion is caused, in part, by Public Law 95-202 Section 401,” Seiber continued. “Which authorized the Secretary of Defense to declare that certain groups be considered active duty for the purpose of allowing certain Veterans Affairs benefits, which include burial and inurnment at national cemeteries maintained by VA.”

“Arlington is not administered by the VA, and its eligibility criteria are far more stringent, due to space limitations. Burial space at Arlington National Cemetery is ultimately finite. Based upon current demand and capacity, Arlington will exhaust interment and inurnment space for any Active Duty service member or veteran in the next 20 years, by the mid 2030’s.”

Harmon was too young to volunteer for the war effort, but she got her parents’ permission to join. Her 40 hours of flight time earned her a training spot in Sweetwater, Texas, and then later a spot for more training at Nellis, in Nevada. It was a rare opportunity, only one woman was accepted for every ten males. Even then, they were treated like the backwater of the flying corps. WASPs did not even have uniforms until about seven months before they were deactivated. They wore coveralls when they flew and had to wash them in the showers.

The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment
Elaine Harmon, one of just over 1000 women who served as WASPs, or Women Airforce Service Pilots.

“My grandmother was just a generally very adventurous person. When she saw an advertisement for a program to learn how to fly, she said ‘Oh that sounds like something I’d be interested in doing,'” Harmon’s granddaughter Erin Miller told PRI. “My grandmother and the women she served with, the other WASPs, were just really excited to be able to serve their country, like they would gladly have gone overseas if they had been allowed to — they had no hesitation about that. They were just very glad to serve their country.”

You can sign the WASPs petition here.