Well, the Red Flag exercise slated for August 15-26, Red Flag 16-4, is going to be very… well, take your pick. Interesting in that a number of foreign air forces are going to be at Nellis Air Force Base to participate. But it could also be awkward given some of those air forces who are among the visitors.
First, a quick rundown on what Red Flag is. During the Vietnam War, the Air Force had learned that most of the losses had been pilots who were in their first ten missions. After ten missions, a pilot’s chance of survival increased. Held at Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, the purpose of Red Flag is very simple: To provide Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, and allied pilots an experience as close to combat as possible – without using live ordnance.
Of particular interest is that Israel is taking part in this upcoming Red Flag. To say that Israel and Islamic-majority countries are not friendly in general is pretty much an understatement. Israel has fought major wars against Arab nations that were Islamic in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006. Pakistan has not been Arab, but the country has been known to house a number of Islamic extremists. The United Arab Emirates is relatively moderate when compared to other Arab countries, but the Arab-Israeli issues are still present. There may be awkward moments at the O-Club and the debriefs.
However, it may also be interesting to see those three countries at the upcoming Red Flag. All three use the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter – but their Falcons are very different. In fact, this Red Flag provides a rough guide to the evolution of the F-16.
Pakistan’s F-16s mostly come in the F-16A variety. The F-16A/Bs were the first versions to really see service. The original design for the F-16 was to be a low-cost lightweight fighter for daytime operations. It was exactly that at first. The plane, though, has now become a deadly all-weather fighter, starting with the F-16A/B Air Defense Fighter. Mid-Life Upgrades and Operational Capability Upgrades have made these early Falcons capable all-weather fighters. Some of the earliest F-16A/B models are now becoming target drones.
Israel’s F-16s are mostly the F-16C/D versions. These were designed from the outset to be all-weather fighters capable of using missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM in beyond-visual-range engagements. The F-16C/Ds are arguably the backbone of the United States Air Force’s inventory of combat aircraft – and the latest versions include the capability to fire the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). These planes have served in a number of other air forces, too. Israel also has an enhanced F-16 known as the F-16I, which is a custom version that operates with a two-man crew.
The United Arab Emirates has the only F-16Es in existence. Perhaps the ultimate F-16 in service today, the F-16Es add conformal fuel tanks for longer range, and it also comes with more modern electronics, including an active electronically scanned array radar. These birds probably give the F-16I a close run for their money.
Japan will be missing this Red Flag – meaning its version of the F-16, the Mitsubishi F-2, will not be present. The F-2 can best be described as an F-16 that went to BALCO or Biogenesis and received steroids or Viper Growth Hormone. It has top of the line electronics and can carry a larger bomb load than most F-16s.
In short, Red Flag 16-4 will be very interesting. Not only for the many countries there but also to see how the F-16 has evolved since it entered service in 1978.
Since World War II, the US has dominated the skies in any region in which it wishes to project power — but recent competition from countries like Russia and China threaten to erode that edge, and only a small group of elite pilots maintain the US’s edge in air superiority.
Russia has deployed powerful missile-defense batteries to Syria and its European enclave of Kaliningrad. The US Air Force can’t operate in those domains without severe risk. US President Barack Obama himself has acknowledged that these missile deployments greatly complicate and limit the US’s options to project power in Syria.
China has undertaken the breathtaking feat of building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, outfitting them with runways and radar sites that could allow Beijing to establish an air defense and identification zone, the likes of which the US would struggle to pierce.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, speaking during the State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, said of the Air Force’s dwindling dominance: “I believe it’s a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
The US has the world’s largest Air Force, but it’s important to remember that it’s a force stretched thin across the entire globe. In the Pacific or the Baltics, smaller, more concentrated powers have reached parity or near parity with the US’s gigantic fleet.
Only one US airframe remains head-and-shoulders above any and all competition — the F-22 Raptor.
The coming F-35 Lightning II, a stealthy technological marvel in its own right, has an impressive radar cross section approximately the size of a basketball. The F-22 however, blows it out of the water with a cross section about the size of a marble.
“Typically, we’ll train against the biggest and baddest threats because we want to train against the newest threat on the block,” one F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
“We’re fighting against the most advanced operational threats we can,” said another.
Even though the stealthy F-22s hold an overwhelming advantage at long range, because they can target enemies long before those enemies can see them, the Raptor pilots train for up-close-and-personal conflicts as well. While close range confrontations hugely disadvantage the F-22 pilots, they continue to train uphill and achieve impressive results.
As the most capable plane in the world, the F-22 pilots exist as a kind of “insurance policy” against the most advanced threats in the world, according to Majumdar.
“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats—advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400—it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,'” an F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
The Navy is seeking longer-range precision weapons for its deck-mounted “5-inch” guns to better destroy enemy targets, defend maritime forces on the move in combat and support amphibious operations.
Every Navy Cruiser and Destroyer is armed with “5-inch” guns to attack land and sea targets from the deck of a ship. In existence since the 70s, the weapon can be used to attack enemy targets or lay down suppressive fire so that maritime forces can better maneuver or reposition while in battle.
However, the 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of only about eight or nine miles, and the current rounds lack precision so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed.
A new Raytheon-developed GPS-guided Excalibur N5 round, however, can pinpoint target out to about 26 nautical miles, Paul Daniels, Raytheon business development, Excalibur, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“We’re more than tripling the max effective range of the Mk 45 five inch guns and providing Excalibur precision with less than 2-meters miss distances at all ranges,” he said. “Think of the area that you can cover as a commander of a ship — that is about 8 nautical miles, 200 squared nautical miles around your ship to more than 2,000 square miles,” Daniels said.
The new round, which recently destroyed a target in a test at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., is being offered in response to a 2014 Navy Request for Information to industry for precision-guided technology for the services’ 5-inch guns.
The initiative to develop longer range precision weapons is entirely consistent with the Navy’s often discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. The idea is to not only better arm the fleet with more lethal and effective offensive and defensive weapons but also enable the fleet to better “distribute” its forces across wider swaths of geography, Navy leaders explain.
Longer range weapons could increase the distances at which Navy forces could operate, be less at risk of enemy fire, and still hold an enemy at risk with precision-guidance technology.
The prospect of dispersing and aggregating forces will allow the fleet to better confuse potential adversaries and make it more difficult for enemy precision weaponry to pinpoint and attack U.S. Navy ships, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Director of Surface Warfare, said Jan. 12 at the Navy Surface Warfare Association National Symposium, Arlington Va.
“When we talk about distributed lethality, we are not backing away in any sense from the requirement to ensure the continued defense of our aircraft carriers, ensure the continued defense of our amphibious ready groups, ensure the continued defense of our logistics train,” Rowden said at the symposium.
The extended range of the Excalibur N5, Daniels explained, could prove valuable for amphibious Marine Corps forces in need of fire support while approaching shore.
“It is also a critical capability to support Marines ashore which is naval surface fire support. This is a longstanding capability gap the Marines have had. They want extended range and they want precision to support amphibious operations. Now they can use Excalibur to support their operations ashore,” Daniels explained.
The new Excalibur N5 emerged as a result of making several modifications to an Army 155mm precision-guided artillery round called Excalibur 1B; this weapon, in service now for many years, has been used more than 800 times in combat and successfully helped commanders complete attack missions during the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The round has been particularly effective against terrorist and insurgent targets, including force positions, IED-making facilities and enemy bunkers. Precision is of particular relevance in a counterinsurgency type of combat environment and battles against forces such as the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. In these types of scenarios, targets often quickly move, shift in close-in urban settings and at times deliberately blend in with civilian populations.
“We are leveraging all the technology and investment that has been developed by the Army and brining that to this Navy Mk45 five-inch gun. We are re-using 100-percent of the guidance and navigation unit from the Army projectile, 70-percent of all parts and 99-percent of the software,” Daniels said.
In order to produce the Excalibur N5 round, Raytheon engineers simple take the front end of the round off the production line of the existing Excalibur 1B round and re-use the technology for the new munition.
“It has all the electronics that make the projectile work. It is engineered so that the electronics can survive the extreme forces of gunfire. We are talking about upwards of 15,000 Gs. The Army has spent a lot of time and money developing a consistent weapon,” Daniels said.
The Army and Marine Corps 155mm artillery shell is configured to fire from a 6-inch barrel, whereas the Navy’s ship-based guns are 5-inch guns. As a result, the body of the Excalibur N5 round has been slightly tweaked in order to accommodate the Navy guns.
For instance, the “canards” or fins at the front end of the round that help guide and correct the weapon’s flight path, called “control actuation systems,” have been slightly modified for the new round, Daniels explained.
The Excalibur N5 could be operational within several years. The explosive in the weapon can detonate using three different methods; point detonate allows the weapon to explode upon impact, delayed detonate gives the weapon an ability to break through up to four inches of concrete before detonating – and “height of burst” detonate mode allows the weapon to use a sensor to determine it is near the desired target and explode in the air, Daniels said.
The weapon often lands on a steep vertical trajectory, allowing the kinetic energy of impact on a target to break the round through up to 4-inches of concrete before exploding, he added.
As part of its development of both variants of the Excalibur weapon, Raytheon has engineered the weapon with a dual-mode seeker which can alternate between GPS and laser guidance technology.
During a recent weapons test, the Excalibur round was launched with GPS guidance and then, at a given point in its trajectory, it used its laser-guidance seeker technology to find a different target location while in flight.
“It handed off from GPS guidance to the laser guidance and destroyed the target at the very first test,” Daniels added. “This is important in a land attack circumstances because may there is an urban environment.”
Laser guidance technology could be particularly relevant in a fast-moving urban combat circumstance wherein targets might quickly move – and the utmost precision is called for.
When it comes to maritime targets, however, the Navy might be interested in what is called “millimeter wave” seeker technology, Daniels said. This guidance technology is able to help the weapon guide its way to a target in bad weather or conditions where a target could be obscured such as rough seas.
“The Navy would like to be able to fire in a maritime environment against things like fast-moving boats in bad weather in rough seas. They would potentially rather not have a laser designator but might prefer a fire and forget, millimeter wave approach. You can hand off from GPS guidance to a millimeter wave seeker,” Daniels explained.
The Excalibur round is also capable of functioning in a GPS jamming environment, although details about how this works are not publically available.
Leveraging Army technology is also a way to minimize costs in a budget constrained environment, Daniels said.
Costs of the round can vary depending upon the quantity purchased, however previous Excalibur rounds have sold for about $ 68,000 per round, sources indicated.
Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.
Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.
Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.
Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.
One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.
The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.
The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.
While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.
And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.
Various media websites are reporting that two individuals (one Polish and one German) may have found a ‘long forgotten’ German train from World War II that was filled with gold, gems, and guns. Rumors go the train is 150 m (495 ft.) long and may contain up to 300 tons of gold. It’s said its located in a tunnel under the mountains, that collapsed.
The train is believed to have gone missing in 1945, trying to hide the treasure from the advancing Soviet Red Army is what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw (Breslau).
A law firm in southwest Poland says it has been contacted by two men who have discovered the armoured train. They are demanding a 10% ‘finders fee’ of the value of the train’s contents.
“Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this,” Marika Tokarska, an official at the Walbrzych district council. “The area has never been excavated before and we don’t know what we might find.”
“In the region we actually two gold train stories,” Joanna Lamparska, a local historian, told Radio Wroclaw. “One is supposed to be under a mountain and the other somewhere around Walbrzych. But no one has ever seen documentary evidence confirming the existence of such trains.”
On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.
The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.
Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”
Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) departs San Francisco. | US Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Pete Lee
Aircraft carriers are the cornerstone of America’s naval capabilities. They’re able to project air power anywhere in the world without having to depend on local bases.
And they are truly massive.
Spanning 1,092 feet long — three times the length of a football field — Nimitz-class warships like the USS George H.W. Bush are the largest aircraft carriers. See below for a selection of pictures showing how massive America’s aircraft carriers are:
The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration.
The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration. The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aiyana S. Paschal/ Released
An aircraft director guides an F/A-18C Hornet onto a catapult aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
US Navy photo
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Strait of Hormuz.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin
Sailors scrub down the flight deck of the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
Sailors man the rails of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) while departing Naval Base Coronado.
The USS George H.W. Bush is underway.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian Stephens/Released
PCU Gerald R. Ford is floated for the first time.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl/Released
Blue Angels fly over the USS George H.W. Bush in the Atlantic Ocean.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terrence Siren/Released
The USS John C. Stennis conducts flight operations.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Martino/Released
Sailors man the rails as the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) enters Pearl Harbor.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee/Released
The USS Carl Vinson is underway in the Persian Gulf.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/Released
Sailors observe as the USS John C. Stennis sails alongside the USS Ronald Reagan.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) leads the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman/Released
The USS Ronald Reagan transports sailors’ vehicles.
US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Shawn J. Stewart/RELEASED
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) departs San Francisco.
US Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Pete Lee/Released
The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) performs a full-power run-and-rudder swing check during sea trials.
USS Harry S. Truman performs swing checks.
F/A-18 Hornets demonstrate air power over the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez/Released
The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transiting the Strait of Hormuz.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin/Released
The USS Enterprise is underway with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon/Released
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released
The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis join for a turnover of responsibility in the Arabian Sea.
US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric S. Powell/Released
There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)
Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.
Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)
“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.
What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.
ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.
“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.
According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.
This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)
Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.
The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.
According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”
The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”
“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.
Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.
“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”
Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.
The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.
Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”
The Department of Defense has approved the Navy’s request for an extension to hardship duty pay for deployed sailors. Though the Navy requested the extra money for two years, the current funding expires in September, 2017, and does not include new money for Marines.
According to the Navy, an “extended deployment” consists of 221 consecutive days in an “operational environment” (aka: deployment), and the sailor assigned to those areas will earn $16.50 per day, “not to exceed $495 per month.” That amount is not dependent on rank or time in service. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
“The Navy is in high demand and is present where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo is designed to compensate sailors for the important roles they continue to play in keeping our nation safe during extended deployments around the globe.”
A Marine Corps financial office source said the reason the authorization was only approved for a year has more to do with politics than logistics.
During an election year, it is difficult to get additional funding for programs, he said.
“There are going to be budget cuts across the whole of the federal government in order for any progress on the national debt to be made,” the Marine financial office source said. “The next administration’s defense and fiscal policies will ultimately determine the fate of [Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo].”
A Navy spokesman said the service has paid out nearly $16 million over two years to about 24,000 sailors from 1,129 commands or units.
“This is something that the Navy wants for our sailors as we believe it positively affects sailors’ morale,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. “It’s one small way to help them during long and difficult deployments away from home.”
(Photo from U.S. Navy)
The Marine officer, however, was hopeful that “since it was reauthorized after its first go or ‘trial run,’ I think we can conclude that it was determined to be a success by our legislators in Congress and by the Department of the Navy’s upper echelon decision makers. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will continue in the future.”
Right now the reauthorization only applies to the Navy and does not include the Marine Corps. The same financial officer noted that though the extension of Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo does not apply to Leathernecks, he is hopeful that the Corps will issue its own extension.
The Marine finance officer didn’t believe that the lack of guidance for Hardship Duty Pay for the Corps would be a morale hit.
“If it turns out that Marines are not given HDP-T, I’m sure there will be a small level of frustration at first,” he said. “But Marines have always and will continue to put the needs of their country first, and are honored to do so. I have no doubt that what little frustration does occur will dissipate quickly.”
Retired Marine Gen. and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis was recently asked what kept him up at night and he responded, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,” because Mattis is a stone-cold killer. And he’s right.
Here is how four enemies of America try, and fail, to get sleep:
1. Supreme Man-Child Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un ends every night surrounded by the young women of his personal harem, but even that isn’t enough to distract him from his one true fear, Jim Mattis. When Mattis ruled only the Marine Corps, the dreams were frightening enough. Marines assaulted North Korea’s miles of exposed coastline while Harriers roared over Pyongyang.
But now, Mattis has a hold of the entire military, and the sick dictator tosses and turns in his bed with the images of stealth-enhanced Blackhawks swooping over his palace and depositing the elite operators of SEAL Team 6. Their attack dogs tear out the throats of his most loyal bodyguards as the SEALs sweep, slightly crouched and sighting down the barrel for new threats, through polished hallways.
In Kim’s mind, the SEALs stealthily stack on his bedroom. He looks across the massive bed at the slight gap beneath the door and searches for any change in the light, any flicker that may indicate that Mattis’s mad dogs are here at last.
Nothing. No shadows, no lights, and no quiet boot falls interrupt the night. But Kim knows he will go without sleep once again.
And Kim isn’t the only enemy of America who is more afraid of the dark than ever before. Here are three others who share in his terror-ridden insomnia:
2. ISIS’s top dude Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi holds his final meeting each nightfall for as long as possible, offering pine nuts and Chai to his few remaining aides and field commanders until they beg for sleep. He reluctantly agrees, allowing them to file out of his chambers. But the moment the door closes on them, he can feel the dread closing around him.
He forces himself not to look over his shoulder as he has so many times before, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts. The wall suddenly explodes inward as charges create three openings for Delta Force to pour through. Their suppressed weapons chuckle in the dust clouds from the explosions. Amid the cracks of the rifles and guns, another sound is audible. It’s Jim Mattis, and he’s laughing in full kit.
Al-Baghdadi feels the first round pierce his lung as the second rips through his shoulder. He imagines himself slumped over, coughing, as the lights go out. He finally looks over his shoulder and prays the wall, and his crumbling “caliphate,” survives for just one more night.
3. Taliban’s current leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada
A former Taliban judge and professor, Hibatullah Akhundzada is a true believer of his perverse version of Islam. But he also believes in patterns, and his predecessor was killed in a drone strike just like many of his peers. He has to force his anxiety down every time he gets into a car or walks outside for too long. But by nightfall, he doesn’t have the energy to keep the phantoms at bay.
He can hear the soft buzz of the drone’s engines as it circles him in the sky. He knows the thermal sensors can see which room he’s in as even his breath is enough to heat the small room he hides in. He wonders what kind of weapon it will fire when it comes for him.
The Hellfire would approach with a roar as its engine propelled it through the night, but the Paveway would fall with a slight whistle.
He knows it’s wrong, but every time he thinks of the drone that will finally end the nightmare, he imagines it has a full cockpit with Mattis, grinning, at the controls. Mattis flips up his visor, takes a long pull from a beer bottle, and toasts the bomb as it lands.
4. Leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri has watched al-Qaeda go from the most infamous terror organization on Earth to a group of zealots barely visible in the shadow of ISIS. But he knows that some of his enemies will never forget which organization attacked on 9/11. Leaders like Mattis aren’t distracted black flags.
He knows it’s Mattis who will keep the analysts working daily to find him, to track his patterns. Is tonight the night? The night that Mattis passes hand signals down the line as the Osprey approaches the compound and transitions from forward to vertical flight.
The rotor wash beats against al-Zawahiri’s building as Mattis and the Marine Raiders fast rope onto the roof. The al-Qaeda fighters rush to their assigned defense posts, prepared to make the Marines bleed for every room. But Mattis expected this. A young Marine detonates a charge on the roof directly over al-Zawahiri.
When it explodes, the blast wave disorients everyone in the room with al-Zawahiri, and Mattis descends through the hole headfirst with an M27 in his hands. The 5.56mm rounds rip through the bodyguards and then al-Zawahiri himself.
Al-Zawahiri shakes himself and turns on his TV to spend another night watching the videos Osama Bin Laden sent him before his death.
With a distinguished history dating back to the end of American Civil War, the men and women of the elite Secret Service take on one of the world’s toughest tasks — protecting the U.S. president and other government officials from assassination attempts.
Originally designated to control the issue of combating US currency counterfeiting, it wasn’t until after the assassination of former President William McKinley when the Service Secret was assigned to protect the POTUS in 1901.
The Secret Service’s mission is to prevent life-threatening incidents well before they occur. They scope out meeting locations days before their clients show up and map out vantage points and escape routes if the situation goes pear shaped.
In the sniper world, the mission is the same. Highly-trained sharpshooters are always on the alert, completely focused and ready to strike at all times.
Working in teams of two, you can usually spot them posted on the White House’s rooftop examining your every move.
Usually armed with high-powered rifles, each team is equipped with a shooter and a spotter. These snipers go through intense training learning how to react to any situation that they may face.
Remarkably, no sniper team has ever had to fire a shot since the unit was formed in 1971.