The Navy's investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled - We Are The Mighty
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The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Iowa’s turret two on fire immediately following the explosion. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.

The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.

In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.

On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.

The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.” D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.

Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.

Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Moosally presenting Hartwig with a duty award during the summer of 1988. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.

Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.

Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”

Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”

Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”

Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!” Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”

At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.

The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.

When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.

Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns. Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.

Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowas crew.

During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”

The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.

At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.

On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Navy brass briefing press on the release of the first investigation. (Photo: DoD)

When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.

In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.

A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.

Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.

Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.

Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.

Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.

From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.

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New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

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Watch a US Air Force pilot pull mind-bending moves in the world’s most lethal combat plane

The F-22 Raptor combines extreme stealth with supermaneuverability, and the pilots of the US Air Force, through excellent training, make it the most lethal combat plane in the world.


Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

In the clip below, an F-22 performs several mind-bending moves in the air. More than once, the Raptor goes completely vertical, nose up to the sky, while draining off nearly all of its speed, and for a brief, shining moment, pauses at the crest of its ascent.

Then the pilot twists the F-22 into flips and rolls. At one point, the Raptor goes into a “falling leaf” maneuver, where it spins and drifts in a way that makes you almost forget that two massive jet engines power it. Seconds later, the engines roar back to life, and the plane is on its way again.

In a dogfight, figures like maximum speed don’t mean a whole lot. Sure, the F-22 can supercruise, but the ability to slow down and bear down on a target matters more in an air-to-air confrontation at close range.

In the clip below, see how a US Air Force pilot in an F-22 owns the sky with incredible maneuvers:

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

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


The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

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

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

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

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

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

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Photo courtesy Hector Salas

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China continues show of force ahead of summit with US

China carried out a naval training exercise in the Yellow Sea ahead of the first summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.


The training exercise involved the deployment of the Liaoning, China’s only known aircraft carrier, the Global Times reported April 5.

Quoting a Chinese navy announcement on Weibo, a Chinese social network, state news media said the Liaoning left its station in Qingdao on March 20 and conducted “annual naval drills” in the Yellow and Bohai Seas, off the coast of northeastern China.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea.

The Liaoning and its accompanying fleet had completed training exercises in the South China Sea in January, a move that prompted Taiwan to scramble military jets and a ship to monitor their movements.

China also deployed the Shenyang J-15, also known as the “Flying Shark,” a carrier-based fighter jet most likely based on the Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-33.

The Chinese navy carried out tasks including midair refueling, aerial combat, and target strikes during aircraft deployment.

A helicopter conducted night landing drills and search missions, according to the report.

Although the exercises took place in March, they are being made public the first week of April, a day ahead of the first summit between China and the United States.

The drills took place near North Korea, a possible sign Beijing is getting its navy ready for any potential instability on the peninsula, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

The deployment of the Liaoning to the area also coincides with the deployment of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the peninsula during joint training exercises.

The Chinese navy said the training was a regular occurrence and part of plans to connect the navy and the air force, and further advance “technical tactical and operational training.”

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Russia wants to develop search-and-rescue robots for the Arctic

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled


As Russia focuses on militarizing its Arctic region, the Kremlin is trying to develop military technology needed to operate in one of the world’s harshest environments. Russian military planners are now setting their sights on the development of Arctic rescue robots.

Admiral Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy, has called for the development and construction of “Arctic underwater search and rescue robots,” Newsweek reports citing Itar-Tass, a state-owned Russian media organization. The robots would be designed to withstand difficult Arctic conditions and cold temperatures.

“We have formulated our requirements and set the task for manufacturers to create both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles, which can be used to provide search and rescue support with proper effectiveness in the harsh conditions of the Arctic seas,” Chirkov said.

The robots would be kept aboard Russian icebreakers and other maritime vessels to assist in search-and-rescue missions. They would save human rescuers from having to operate in waters whose temperates average a chilly (and deadly) 28-29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chirkov’s urging for robot development coincides with Russia’s Arctic militarization push and the Kremlin’s efforts to develop autonomous robotic technology. In January, Russia premiered a prototype for a robotic biker, proof that Russia was interested in developing humanoid robots with possible military applications.

Russia’s new military doctrine designates the Arctic as one of three geopolitical areas that could serve as strategic beachheads. To achieve this goal, Moscow has increasingly deployed advanced weaponry along its northern coast, created a unified military command for the region, and planned a construction blitz through the region that would include a series of ports, airfields, and military bases.

Moscow has also announced that it plans on sending a drone fleet to the eastern reaches of the Arctic region.

Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.

Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.

More from Business Insider:

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

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This former SEAL Team 6 officer just called the VA chief a ‘fellow veteran’ — which he’s not

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke incorrectly identified Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as a “fellow veteran” in a photo Zinke tweeted from Air Force One.


Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, July 25 with President Donald Trump.

 

Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.

Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.

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What is Career Incentive Pay and why do you need it?

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) departs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for sea trials following a maintenance availability.


Career Incentive Pay is another part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the Services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that otherwise pay them significantly more in the civilian sector.

Each career incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.

Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1 outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a, 301c, 304, 305a and 320 address incentive pays that are career specific.

Section 301a

1. Aviation Career Incentive

Who: Military pilots

How much: $125 to $840 per month, dependent on number of years serving as an aviator. This lasts the duration of the pilot’s aviation career.

Section 301c

2. Submarine Duty Incentive (SUBPAY)

Who: Navy personnel aboard submarines.

How much: The Secretary of the Navy has the ability to set SUBPAY up to $1,000 per month, but it is currently between $75 and $835 per month.

Section 304

3. Diving Duty

Who: Service member divers.

How much: $340 for enlisted personnel and $240 for officers per month.

Section 305a

4. Career Sea

Who: Naval officers who’ve been assigned duties above and beyond what might be typical for an officer in the same rank and which are critical to operations.

How much: $50 – $150 per month, dependent on rank. There is a limit on payments made to O-3s to O-6s, and only a certain percentage of personnel in each rank can qualify for the pay.

Section 320

5. Career Enlisted Flyer

Who: Enlisted personnel on flight crews for the Air Force and Navy.

How much: $150 – $400 depending on years in the aviation field.

For more information on hazardous duty incentive pay and other S&I pays, check out Military Compensation.

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Russia Wants Everyone To Think It’s Building This Absurd, Massive Superplane

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot/vimeo.com


Russia’s proposed new military transport will be a behemoth of an aircraft — assuming such a plane can even fly and Russia is even vaguely serious about actually building it.

According to the Kremlin propaganda outfit RT, citing design specifications from Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, the new PAK TA transport will have the improbable ability to achieve supersonic flight while carrying massive payloads. The Kremlin plans to acquire 80 PAK TAs by 2024.

The introduction of the PAK TA is in keeping with Moscow’s stated goals of modernizing its air fleet within the next decade. Russia has dedicated $130 billion through 2020 for the modernization of its aging air force, which is largely made up of Soviet-era aircraft.

But until prototypes of the plane are built and begin flying, there is no telling how well the plane will actually perform or if it is even practical. Russia’s fifth-generation fighter, the T-50, has run into design problems. According to the Indian Air Force, the joint Indian-Russian variant of the T-50 still has numerous stealth and engine problems even at a late stage in its development.

And the PAK TA presents an even greater challenge. A supersonic plane of its size and cargo capacity — an anticipated 200 tons — could land only on a very long, reinforced runway that may need to be designed specifically for the plane. It would necessitate an astonishingly large fuel load, which would further limit the number of airports from which the aircraft could take off and land. It would also have an enormous wingspan that would make the plane an easy target for enemy forces.

On a more basic level, who would entrust 200 tons of cargo aboard such an outlandish, experimental aircraft?

It would be an astonishing accomplishment if a prototype ever takes the skies — never mind 80 finished planes.

For now, the aircraft is at most an aspiration for Russia. It may also just be a propaganda ploy meant to highlight the Kremlin’s modernization drive and create the impression that Russia’s military-industrial complex possesses technological capabilities beyond its actual capacity.

Even if the PAK TA may be crude Kremlin psy-ops, the concept art for the new aircraft is still pretty spectacular. Here’s what Moscow is claiming about its fanciful superplane of the distant and probably nonexistent future.

The PAK TA is being developed by the Russian aviation company Ilyushin.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot/vimeo.com

The next-generation carrier is touted as being able to travel at supersonic speeds, carry up to 200 tons of cargo, and have a range of 4,350 miles.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot/vimeo.com

The PAK TA’s payload capacity is envisioned as being 80 tons more than that of the US’ largest cargo plane, the C-5 Galaxy.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot/vimeo.com

RT estimates that a fleet of PAK TA’s could carry 400 T-14 Armata heavy tanks. Left unaddressed is why anyone would risk loading 400 tanks into a fleet this ridiculous.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

The plane is thought to feature an upper gas turbine as well as twin electrically powered fans. The back of the plane’s wings will generate vectored thrust — assuming a single one is ever built.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Screenshot/vimeo.com

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This is why a South American country still uses WWII-era tanks

Not every country in the world can afford to buy and operate the latest and greatest armored war machines available on defense markets today, like the M1A2 Abrams or the Leopard 2 main battle tanks.


Some countries opt to refrain from maintaining a fleet of tanks at all, and others, like Paraguay, choose to use refurbished armored steeds from conflicts long past.

As crazy as it may sound, the backbone of the Paraguayan military’s sole armored squadron consists of a humble handful of M4 Sherman medium tanks and M3 Stuart light tanks. Both of these vehicles were last fully relevant when Allied forces marched across Europe on their path to victory against the Axis scourge.

Paraguay received its small complement of Shermans in 1980 from Argentina, while the Stuarts were donated by the Brazilian government in the 1970s. By the time the small South American nation received these second-hand vehicles, however, they were already obsolete and outclassed, unable to stand up to anti-tank weaponry or even other armored vehicles anymore.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
A British Army M3 light tank operating in North Africa during WWII (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

But in recent years, the Paraguayan army has decided to reactivate its fleet of Shermans and Stuarts, “modernizing” them by installing new engines and replacing the M4’s small battery of .30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns with .50 caliber M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ heavy machine guns.

The Sherman was born of a need for a medium-sized tank that was easy to mass produce and deploy overseas in large numbers, swarming larger and more heavily-armored German tanks during WWII. Cheap to produce, and pretty reliable if treated well, the Sherman was a fairly potent killing machine in the hands of tank commanders who knew what they were doing.

The Argentinian military received 450 Shermans from Belgium in the 1940s, putting them through a series of upgrades over the next 30 years that would see these old tanks get larger guns and new diesel engines. A small selection of these Shermans were passed on to Paraguay, though it’s unclear whether or not the examples donated were modernized or left in their original configurations.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Argentinian M4 Shermans with modified turrets. Similar tanks were shipped to Paraguay in 1980 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

According to Ian Hogg in his book, “Tank Killing,” the Stuart, wasn’t exactly very effective at all in engaging German armor. Though it was one of the few light tanks capable of firing high-explosive shells, it was better utilized as a high speed reconnaissance vehicle by British forces throughout the African theater during WWII, with its turret removed to cut down on weight.

Brazil picked up its Stuarts from the United States in WWII, actually shipping them overseas for combat in Italy as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Upon the end of the war, these tanks were returned to South America by ship and were upgraded in the 1970s. During that decade, Brazil donated 15 Stuarts to Paraguay.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
An M4 of the Royal Marines in Normandy after D-Day, 1944 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Paraguay can afford to use these older machines in place of newer heavy tanks mostly because the country hasn’t seen much war over the past 40-odd years. Currently, the military claims these modernized Shermans and Stuarts will only be used for training purposes, though the endgame of the training is highly suspect, considering that the vehicles in question aren’t fit for combat against a decently-armed enemy.

It is possible, however, that these old fighting machines could be eventually used in the long-standing counterinsurgency effort Paraguay has been embroiled in against guerrillas since 2005. Though their hulls would likely be easily destroyed by small anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, the armor would still be able to stand up to small arms like pistols and rifles.

Even if Paraguay never uses its tanks in combat, its geriatric fleet will still work in a pinch should the need arise — at least against unarmored and under-gunned enemies.

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How the US military went from the Willy to the JLTV

Over the past few decades, the character of military conflict has changed substantially as “front lines” and “rear areas” have blurred into a single, full-spectrum operational environment. That increasing complexity is reflected in the tactical vehicles that commanders need to address that spectrum of operations. When the Army looked to replace the venerable Jeep, the July-August 1981 issue of RDA magazine, Army ALT’s predecessor, described the new vehicle it sought to acquire, the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, this way:


“The HMMWV will be diesel powered and have an automatic transmission. It will carry a 2,500-pound payload, have a cruising range of 300 miles, accelerate from 0 to 30 MPH within 6 to 8 seconds and achieve a maximum speed to 60 MPH. Since the HMMWV will be operated in forward areas, it will feature run-flat tires and ballistic protection up to 16-grain fragments traveling at 425 meters per second, as well as explosion-proof fuel tanks for some models. The vehicle will use off-the-shelf civilian hardware and military standard parts wherever possible.”

It was, essentially, a better Jeep. There was nothing in that description about blast resistance or networking. It would have been hard to imagine a tactical network such as today’s in 1981. Nor was any consideration given to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Contrast that with the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is currently in low-rate initial production.

JLTV is an Army-led, joint-service program designed to replace a portion of each service’s light tactical wheeled vehicle fleets while closing a mobility and protection gap. The intent is to provide protected, sustained, networked mobility for warfighters and payloads across the full range of military operations.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Willys-Overland was awarded the contract for the 1940 Willys Quad Original Pilot, the Jeep’s precursor, which began production in 1941. The vehicle underwent countless modifications and upgrades, and remained in service for the next 44 years.

 

During World War II, the Jeep was considered the workhorse for logistical and support tasks. The early vehicles were used for laying cable and hauling logs, and as firefighting pumpers, field ambulances and tractors. However, the vehicle didn’t include armoring, a radio, seatbelts—or even doors. After the war, the Jeep went through many modifications and upgrades and remained in service for the next 44 years.

The HMMWV was fielded in 1985, a couple of years later than anticipated back in 1981, and they have been used since as troop carriers, command vehicles, ambulances, for psychological operations and as weapon platforms. In the early 2000s, HMMWVs faced an entirely new threat in the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—the IED—and they proved vulnerable. DOD responded with up-armoring and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was designed specifically to resist and deflect IED explosions.

JLTV gives the current warfighter significantly more protection against multiple threats while increasing mobility, payload and firepower, something that Soldiers and Marines from past conflicts could only envision in their wildest dreams.

“The JLTV has been designed to keep pace with the fast-changing nature of today’s battlefield,” said Dave Diersen, vice president and general manager of Joint Programs at Oshkosh Defense, which won the JLTV contract. Diersen added that JLTV offers “a leap forward in performance and capability that can only come from a vehicle that is purpose-built for a spectrum of light vehicle missions.”

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland

BIGGER, STRONGER, SAFER

Army leaders from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command tested a production model of the JLTV, right, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on May 2. The JLTV bridges the capability gaps in protection, performance and payload of the HMMWV on the left.

The JLTV has two variants, to cover the requirements of both the Army and Marine Corps, and can be transported by a range of lift assets including rotary-wing aircraft. It can traverse rugged and dangerous terrain including urban areas, while providing built-in and supplemental armor against direct fire and IED threats. The JLTV features advanced networking, by being wired for current and future command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

JLTV was purposely built for the Army’s tactical network and designed to have MRAP-like protection, but also to improve fuel efficiency, increase payload and provide greater maintainability, reliability and performance—and the potential for continuous improvement to meet future mission requirements.

 The first production vehicles are intended to serve as the first assets for JLTV’s performance and operational testing programs. Roughly 40 vehicles have been delivered to test sites thus far, and will undergo complete reliability, transportability, survivability, network and other testing to verify the production vehicles’ ability to satisfy the program’s requirements. The most important outcome of this testing is to ensure that Soldiers can effectively interact with the JLTV and all of its integrated equipment.

As the Jeep and HMMWV did on past battlefields, JLTV will no doubt face challenges of 21st century military operations that the Army and DOD can scarcely imagine today, as well as provide a much-needed tactical vehicle capability for the Army and Marine Corps that doesn’t compromise among payload, mobility, performance or protection.

 

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This female vet tells the story of amazing women in Ranger training

Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.


The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.

“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”

After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.

“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”

She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.

“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”

Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.

“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”

Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.

“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.

“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”

Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?

“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, right, pins the Ranger tab on his wife, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster, after she became the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School, Oct. 16, 2015, in Fort Benning, Ga. She joins just two other women, Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, in gaining a coveted Ranger tab. (U.S. Army Reserve)

Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.

“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”

 

Watch Earning the Tab Part I and Part II at We Are The Mighty.

 

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These are the best pictures from the military this week

Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found.


AIR FORCE:

An F-22 Raptor, from the 43rd Fighter Squadron, takes off in Savannah, Ga., during Sentry Savannah 16-3, Aug. 2, 2016. The F-22 is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Solomon Cook

A B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit sit beside one another on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug.10, 2016. The occasion marked the first time in history that all three of Air Force Global Strike Command’s strategic bombers were positioned to simultaneously conduct operations in the U.S. Pacific Command region.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper drags his parachute toward a target during Leapfest 2016 in West Kingston, R.I., Aug. 4, 2016. Leapfest is an International parachute training event and competition hosted by the 56th Troop Command, Rhode Island Army National Guard to promote high level technical training and esprit de corps within the International Airborne community.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brady Pritchett

U.S. Army Spc. Mariah Ridge, a military working dog handler assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Joint Security Forces, laughs at her military working dog, Jaska, during K9 hoist evacuation training at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 15, 2016. Although the MWDs and their handlers were training in 90 degree, 100 percent humidity weather, they managed to stay in good spirits.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

NAVY:

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Aug. 18, 2016) Deck Department Sailors haul in mooring lines during a sea-and-anchor evolution aboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), after returning from Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) testing at sea. The lines are used to secure the ship to the pier. Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force, which protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell

EDITERRANEAN SEA (Aug. 11, 2016) A Sailor signals an AV-8B Harrier pilot assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) to stop aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Aug. 11, 2016. The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard Wasp, is conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces against Daesh targets in Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Wilkes

MARINE CORPS:

Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye Martinez

Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors. BLT 3/6 is a part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi

COAST GUARD:

July 13, 2013 — U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Brendon Ballard, left, checks the dive rig of Petty Officer 2nd Class Dylan Baker prior to entering a diver decontamination station pier side at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during Rim of the Pacific 2016.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Thomas McKenzie

Sunset review is a graduation tradition at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The incoming second class lower the national ensign in honor of the first classes graduation and promotion from cadet to Ensign in the U.S.C.G.

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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