These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
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These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea


The ruling by a tribunal in The Hague against China’s claims in the South China Sea has brought what has to be the world’s hottest maritime flashpoint to the headlines. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and the Republic of China all have claims of one sort or another.

Japan and South Korea both have huge stakes in the South China Sea. Japan has its own territorial dispute with the PRC (over the Senkaku Islands), while South Korea shares a peninsula with North Korea, a nation that is not exactly the most… rational actor on the world stage, and which counts the PRC as one of its friends, insofar as it is possible for Kim Jong-Un to have friends. In addition, the South China Sea is the body of water that oil tankers have to pass through in order to deliver their cargo to those countries. Japan, as students of history will remember, has been very sensitive to a threat to its access to oil imports.

 

To say that the tribunal’s ruling earlier this week was unfavorable to the PRC is an understatement. The 501-page ruling in favor of the Philippines not only declared the PRC’s “nine-dash line” invalid, but it also condemned the construction of the artificial island on Mischief Reef, and the PRC’s interference with Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal.

That said, the tribunal has no means to enforce the ruling, one that the PRC has rejected out of hand. The recent commissioning of the Yinchuan, the latest Lyuang III-class destroyer, means that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has 18 modern destroyers (four Luyang III, six Luyang II, two Luyang I, two Luzhou class, and four Sovremennyy-class – with eight Lyuang III and at least one new Type 55 class destroyer under construction). With the exception of the Republic of China, none of the other countries with claims in the South China Sea have destroyers, and Taiwan only has four Kidd-class destroyers. The PLAN and People’s Liberation Army Air Force also have substantial air assets in the region, including H-6 bombers, J-11, J-15, J-10, Su-30MKK, J-16, and JH-7 fighters.

While the Philippines have won their case, it now remains a very open question as to whether or not that win will matter. The PRC is considering establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone, which allows them to impose conditions on aircraft. Furthermore, it can back up those requirements by launching fighters to intercept. A U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft had a close call this past May with a J-11 – hearkening back to when a J-8 “Finback” collided with another EP-3E fifteen years earlier, and in 2014, a P-8 Poseidon saw a J-11 come within 20 feet.

More ominously, hours before the ruling, a Vietnamese fishing boat was sunk, and the PRC obstructed rescue efforts for several hours. A similar incident could well be the spark that touches off a massive air and naval free-for-all in the South China Sea.

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43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.

 


The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.

Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away.  It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.

“I just feel it was very educational,” Hankins told the Daily Press,. “To destroy that stuff didn’t look right to me.”

The heads and necks cracked as cranes moved them onto trucks. Other damages occurred as well, including a large, eerie hole in the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head.

 

Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.

Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.

“I think I can build something the kids and the area can benefit from,” he told the Daily Press.

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This is how special operators ’embrace the suck’

For most people, joining the special operations community is just a dream — a fantasy born of countless hours playing video games and watching cool-guy action movies.


To a much smaller group, though, joining the military’s most elite is not boyhood fantasy — it is destiny. It is for those few that this article posted. And since we are not simply dreamers, I thought I’d begin with a sobering question: What makes you think that you will succeed while so many others fail?

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Be in great physical shape, callous your body and train your mind to not dwell on the pain that’s in store. (US military photo)

Really, think about it for a moment before you simply answer with “because I will never quit.” I’ve heard this same line parroted by some of the most impressive physical studs, to only see them one-by-one drop out. What makes you any different?

It all comes down to mindset.

Sure, be in incredible shape. Yes, be highly competent and motivated. But what it all boils down to — what proves to be the great separator of men — is what is between your ears.

If you are truly committed to joining special operations then you need to understand that preparing your mind for what is coming is even more important than preparing your body. When the pain starts and your body begins to fail you (no matter how fit you are you will reach this point many times over), your dedication, character, work ethic, and toughness will be put to the ultimate test.

I cannot prepare you for this, but what I can do is pull back the veil to give you some practical advice and mental “cheats” to master your pain and misery. Practice the following tips and store them away for the gut-checks that await you.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Imagine your girlfriend hiding her shame at your failure, then keep going. (US military photo)

Good luck to you. Train Hard. Train smart.

Tip #1: Keep your mind busy and distracted so it cannot dwell on the pain.

To focus on the pain is to certainly amplify it. Force yourself to think about something else. Think about fun memories, old flames, funny movies, future planning, pray, sing songs in your head – do anything except be alone with the pain.

Tip #2: Focus on your goal and draw strength from your commitment.

Remember that quitting is not an option. See yourself succeeding through the temporary anguish and draw strength from those that fall beside you.

If this doesn’t work, flip it and imagine your dream slipping away. Ponder the cost of failure. Imagine failing your friends and family who have bragged about you. Imagine having to explain for the rest of your life how you just couldn’t hang on a little longer.

Imagine your girlfriend hiding her shame at your failure.

Tip #3: Revel in the pain.

Convince yourself that the pain feels good or that the whole thing is just a hilarious game. Get furious at the pain if you like. Rebuke your body for being weak and your mind for trying to buckle for something so small as shaky arms from doing pushups. Also, if you can laugh at your misery, it is a great sign that you may survive it (just don’t let the instructors see you laugh or they will take it as a personal challenge to dole out more misery).

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The Nazis nearly completed a super-cannon capable of hitting London and France

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea


WW2 saw the nations of the world investing massive amounts of manpower and money into the development of better ways to extinguish life in hopes of turning the tide of the war in their respective favors, sometimes including coming up with outlandish contraptions like (surprisingly effective) bat bombs and pigeon guided missiles, anti-tank dogs,flying jeeps and tanks, suicide torpedoes,super ships made of ice, and even balloon bombs randomly sent out with the hope they might land somewhere thousands of miles away on enemy soil. Today we’ll be looking at another notable WWII weapon, the V-3 cannon- a piece of artillery capable of hitting a target more than 100 miles (165 km) away, shooting its projectiles at around 3,400 mph (5500 km/h)!

Technically defined as a “supergun”, a term given to guns of such comically large size they need to be categorised separately, the V-3 was 430 feet long (131 metres). This massive size meant that the gun had to be built already aiming at its target and could only reliably hit a target the size of a city, a fairly minor trade-off considering the weapon’s nigh-unparalleled range for a non-rocket based weapon.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
The V-3 was able to achieve the incredible projectile range due to a rather unique firing mechanism that utilized multiple smaller explosions, rather than one big one, along the length of its barrel set to go off just as the projectile passed these side chambers. This allowed the supergun to fire its payload at extreme distances without damaging the barrel, which had proved to be a problem for other, similarly massive guns.

Notable here, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, is the so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz (quite literally, Emperor Wilhelm Gun). This was a 200 ton, 111 foot long gun used by the German’s to shell Paris during WW1. It could only fire around 60 rounds before its entire barrel needed to be replaced due to damage from the explosions used to launch its 106 kilo or 236 pound shells.  The projectiles also had to be numbered and fired in a specific order, with each one slightly bigger than the previous one to account for the increasing diameter of the barrel as the massive cannon was fired each time.

The Emperor gun was so powerful, it was noted for being the first man-made invention to launch an object into the stratosphere, with the shells it launched peaking at an altitude of around 40 kilometres during flight. The range of the gun was so unthinkably extreme for such a weapon that the 80 man team in charge of firing it had to aim a little under a kilometre “to the left” of the target to account for the Coriolis effect. The French military genuinely suspected for a time that these projectiles were being launched from super-high Zeppelins hiding behind clouds because the idea of them being fired from a gun up to 75 miles  (120 km) away was deemed to be too absurd.

Virtually all records of this gun’s existence and how it was constructed were destroyed towards the close of WW1. Nonetheless, it was known to the French and in response they drafted plans for an even bigger gun that utilised multiple explosions to launch projectiles a similar distance.

Sound familiar? These plans were ultimately archived by the French after WW1 and were found by German soldiers in 1940 who then passed them onto August Cönders, the guy who designed the V-3 cannon… In other words, the only reason the V-3 cannon was even invented is because the Germans found plans at the start of WW2 explicitly drafted to counter another giant gun they’d used during WW1.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Mini Replica of the V-3

In any event, beyond its massive range, a battery of V-3 cannons could fire close to 300 shells an hour, or roughly one shell every 12 seconds. This is a fact that piqued the interest of Hitler himself, who enthusiastically granted the project near unlimited support when existence of a prototype was brought to his attention in 1943 by his advisor, Albert Speer, even though said prototype had yet to fire a single shell.

With Hitler throwing everything the German military had at its disposal behind the project in mid-1943, the V-3 cannon, dubbed the “Hochdruckpumpe” or “High-Pressure Pump” during construction to hide its purpose from spies, went from the idea phase to construction almost immediately.  Since Hitler wanted to use the gun to shell London, and the gun had to be built aiming at its target, the location had to be somewhere in Northern France. The gun also needed to be built within close proximity to a railway (due to the size of its ammunition which could only be transported effectively via rail).

Luckily for the Nazis, an ideal location was found in the form of limestone hill located in the French hamlet of Mimoyecques in Landrethun-le-Nord. The location was deemed ideal as the chalk that made up most of the hill would be easy to excavate but was ultimately strong enough to tunnel through to create the underground infrastructure needed for the weapon.

Construction of 50, V-3 guns began in earnest in September of 1943 utilising a combination of drafted German engineers and Soviet POWs. The initial plan was for two separate facilities to be constructed roughly 1000 metres apart, each housing 25 V-3 cannons built into drifts dug into the hillside. They also planned to build tunnels connecting each facility that would be used for storing the shells, which in turn would be transported to the guns via an underground railway.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Amazingly, construction of most of the underground tunnels was completed. However, construction of the guns themselves was severely hampered when the allies learned of a German plan to attack London using an unknown superweapon in the latter stages of 1943. Knowing that the German’s were planning something at Mimoyecques, and putting two and two together, the RAF doggedly attacked it throughout the last few months of 1943 and the first half of 1944. This led to the proposed number of V-3 cannons dropping from 50 to 25 when the RAF destroyed the Western-most site. This was further reduced to 5 following a bombing run utilising “tallboy” bombs specifically designed to destroy fortified bunkers on July 6, 1944. Plans were dropped altogether in on July 30th that same year due to the advance of allied ground troops.

The allies wouldn’t actually learn about the existence of the V-3 cannons until after the war, at which point then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reported as saying that the site could have been responsible for the “most devastating attack of all on London”.

Although the Nazis never got a full-size V-3 cannon working during WW2, they did manage to construct two much smaller versions of the weapon with which they shelled the recently liberated Luxembourg from a somewhat less impressive distance of 43 kilometres (26 miles) away in late 1944. Smaller, but still impressively powered, these mini V-3’s were capable of shooting off their deadly projectiles at speeds of over 2,000 mph or 3300 km/h.

Despite the impressive specs, and with the guns firing hundreds of rounds (142 of which hit Luxembourg), only 10 people were killed and 35 wounded as a result. While the Nazis tried desperately to use the gun again, even deploying one during their last major offensive of WW2, Operation Nordwind, they never actually successfully fired another version of the V-3 again during the entire war, giving these guns a laughably low kill rate given the resources put into them.

Today the failed location of the French battery has been converted to a museum containing what remains of the guns.

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These are the 7 finest pieces of flair on US military uniforms

In the 1999 film Office Space, one of the most quotable scenes is when Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), is confronted by her boss Stan, portrayed by the film’s writer/director Mike Judge, about her lack of “flair” on her work uniform.


Pieces of flair are quirky buttons and other accessories with funny, light-hearted phrases or pictures on the uniforms of characters working in a fictional TGI Friday’s rip-off.

When it comes to “flair,” the U.S. military has some cool looking badges. Unlike the cheesy buttons from the movie, military badges are earned through intense training and personal dedication.

While we acknowledge tabs such as Special Forces and Ranger (among others) awards are pretty awesome, the focus of this list is with pin-on badges that aren’t only difficult to earn but require a certain level of expertise.

They are also aesthetically pleasing from all branches of the Armed Forces – that is to say, they just look cool.

7. Space Operations Badge

This badge looks straight out of the Star Trek movies with its slick and futuristic design. It’s certainly a badge that will make you look twice when you see military personnel wearing it.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army who complete specialized training and performed space and missile operations over a period of time are eligible to wear it.

6. Military Freefall Parachutist Badge

First awarded in 1994, service members must complete a four-week freefall course in order to earn the coveted badge — commonly known as HALO Wings (High-Altitude Low-Opening).

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

The badge design features a dagger, arched tab, parachute, and wings. The knife represents infiltration techniques, and the parachute is a seven-celled MT1-X, which is the first parachute adopted for military freefall operations. Members of the Army and Air Force are qualified for the badge.

5. Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns Identification Badge

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

One of the highest honors in the U.S. military is to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The badge features a wreath representing mourning and three figures representing Peace, Valor, and Victory on the east face of the Tomb.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
(U.S. Army photo)

In order to be selected as a Tomb Guard and wear this badge, U.S. Army Soldiers must volunteer and be accepted into training. The position is so hihgly regarded that less than 700 badges have been awarded since it was established in 1958.

4. Master Diver insignia (U.S. Maritime Services)

The Master diver badge is a shared by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. A master diver is an individual who typically has the most experience in all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

The unique feature of this badge are the seahorses. The symbolism of the seashores goes back to the Greek god Poseidon who used them to pull his chariot. The double tridents represent the diver’s ability to master the ocean.

3. Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

A big perk of getting a high score during the Marine Corps Weapons Qualification test is that you get to wear the Expert Rifle Marksmanship badge. Having this “flair” on your uniform just makes the Marine dress blue uniform that much better.

2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is a universal badge awarded across all five branches of the U.S. military. Like many badges, there are three levels: Basic, Senior, and Master.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

The meaning of the badge is also very descriptive. The wreath represents the achievements of EOD personnel. It also serves as a symbol to those EOD members who gave their lives while conducting EOD duties. The unexploded bomb serves as the main weapon of an EOD attack. The lightning bolts signify the power of a bomb and the bravery of EOD personnel. Lastly, the shield embodies the EOD mission: to prevent detonation and protect personnel and property.

1. SEAL Trident

The U.S. Navy SEAL Trident is probably one of the most recognized badges in the U.S. military, worn by the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. When you see this piece of flair, it deserves the ultimate respect.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea

What piece of flair did you earn that lets you “express yourself” or represents your military service?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

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Two Air Force pilots eject in U-2 crash on West Coast

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo


Two U.S. Air Force pilots have ejected after a U-2 spy plane crashed around noon local time during a training mission on the West Coast, a service spokesman said.

Lt. Col. Michael Meridith, a spokesman for the Air Force, confirmed the incident on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside Washington, D.C., but he didn’t know the whereabouts or the condition of the service members. “It did crash,” he said when asked if the plane went down. “Two pilots ejected.”

Meridith said a search and rescue operation for the crew was under way.

The U.S. Air Force press desk later tweeted, “We can confirm a U-2 from @9thRW Beale AFB has gone down in Sutter County, CAA; 2 pilots have ejected; details to follow when available,” referring to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

But officials walked back their initial statements on the pilots’ condition as the day went on.

“We have no official confirmation on the pilots’ condition,” Beale Air Force Base tweeted later in the day. “We will provide updates when more information is available.”

Air Combat Command around the same time issued a similar statement to correct a previous one that wrongly stated the pilots had “safely” ejected and were “awaiting recovery with aircraft in isolated area.”

The U-2 Dragon Lady is a Cold War-era surveillance plane based at Beale Air Force Base in California. Trainer models of the aircraft hold two crew members.

This story has been updated.

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Why a zombie apocalypse will never happen on America’s watch

Let’s face it. The world likes — and America loves — zombie movies.


The idea of having to fight across the countryside and through clustered cities, cutting down hordes of the undead with a shotgun is enticing.

That’s why zombie movies and video games do so well. The “Resident Evil” franchise released its sixth film 20 years after its first video game hit the market. That’s a two-decade run for, “Zombies, but like, monsters, too.”

But, sorry, Milla Jovovich fans. There is no way that a zombie outbreak is taking over the U.S. or any allied country while the American military is around. Here’s how the U.S. would respond to a zombie outbreak, shutting it down quickly.

First, let’s assume that an entire country was ravaged before America geared up, just for funsies. (But, really, military human intelligence collectors and signal intelligence should have given us the heads up before a single town was wiped out). And let’s assume it’s a country that emphatically said the U.S. military wasn’t welcome, and that’s why the outbreak went on as long as it did.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Seriously, we’re always looking for somewhere cool to send these. We’d be happy to come hang out. (Photo: U.S. Army)

So, Russia is gone. (It’s the country that hates the U.S. the most, according to this recently Googled list). While the rest of the world is sad that they’ll never again see such awesome paratrooper music videos as Russia makes, it’s time for someone to put a stop to the epidemic.

Enter the U.S. military. If the Russian military managed to wipe out only 10 percent of their zombie population while trying to contain the outbreaks — a pretty low estimate for any modern military facing off against shambling, diseased civilians — that would leave approximately 130 million zombies for the U.S. to kill before they can cross any of the 12,421 miles of border.

In other words, varsity numbers.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Troops would probably pay for the chance to mow down zombies, even if it had to be done in the snow. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

But America has a varsity military. On active duty, the U.S. has over 450,000 soldiers; 182,000 Marines; 323,000 sailors who man and support 274 battle force ships; and 325,000 airmen supporting and flying 5,032 aircraft.

And, Russia has good topography for containing zombies. Because of the mountain ranges (in black, below) and the Arctic Circle (in red), there are only a few places where zombies could conceivably break out of Russia to threaten the rest of the world in large numbers.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
Zombies can only get out of Russia through some limited breakout zones, and that one to the east is pretty useless because it runs straight into the Sea of Okhotsk. (Map: Public domain. Graphics: crudely drawn by Logan Nye)

So, small contingents of the Navy can patrol the Arctic and a few dozen companies of POGs can guard the mountain ranges, picking off the few zombies lucky enough to make it through the mountain passes.

But the western and southern breakout zones could be huge problems for American allies and the world as a whole.

The southern breakout zones would give the zombies access to Kazahkstan and maybe Mongolia. The western gives a large front that hits Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. It also hits Belarus, but they hate America nearly as much as Russia does, so screw ’em.

And Russia’s population is centered near that breakout zone, meaning that most zombies will be in good shape when they try to pour into NATO.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
There’s nothing in so good a shape that it can resist an Apache, though. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

So what could 632,000 ground combatants supported by the largest navy and the most advanced air force in the world possibly do against 130 million zombies?

Lol. They would kill an average of 205.7 zombies each, and it would be awesome.

The Navy would park multiple carriers in the Baltics and Barents seas. From there, they could fly strike aircraft and sensor platforms to find and target large clusters of zombies.

The Air Force would bring its own strike and ground attack planes as far east in Europe as they could hold the line. From there, A-10s and AC-130s would rain hot lead in support of ground pounders while B and F-series planes blanket the countryside with bombs.

Finally. Guilt-free carpet bombing is back.

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We’re going to need more zombies. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

And sure, none of these are the headshots needed to permanently put down a zombie. But a few hundred pounds of explosives will mess up a zombie’s legs pretty badly, as will 30 mike-mike through the chest. Pretty sure that will make the infantry and other ground maneuver forces’ jobs a little easier.

Speaking of which, the Marine Corps and Army are going to love the most entertaining range they’ve ever held. Think about it. What sucks most about range days? First, being put on target detail. And, second, having to shut down the range every time a turtle wanders by.

Guess what? No one is going to order a range halt because of a turtle when a bio menace is marching towards Paris. And there’s no need for a target detail when the targets can be lured with the sound of gunfire.

So, the Marines and soldiers basically get to call shots to each other as they gun down crippled zombies over a couple of thousand miles of the Russian border. If the engineers can wait to shoot zombies long enough to dig a couple of trenches and raise concertina obstacles, it’ll delay the already wounded zombies even further.

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The best is going to be when people start stealing AAVs, tanks, and Strykers and driving them over zombies. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Xzavior T. McNeal)

And don’t think the artillery and mortarmen are going to let a chance to practice against undead targets pass them by.

The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that all those cavalry, infantry, etc. have enough ammo. But remember, American logistics troops train to maintain operations in a contested environment. This time, they would have completely safe roads, railways, and rivers to use without fear of significant enemy resistance.

Hell, the operation could probably be catered.

So soldiers and Marines could simply mow down the oncoming hordes, talking the machine guns and interchanging barrels to prevent a meltdown. No Milla Jovovich needed (though she would probably be welcome on a USO tour or something).

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Yeah. Probably welcome. (Photo: YouTube/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Of course, the Navy SEALs can be used to clean out river deltas where zombies were washed downstream attempting a crossing, and the Green Berets can jump into zombie-held territory to try and train up survivors for resistance operations if they like.

But zombie operations are basically just the world’s easiest siege. None of the enemies can tunnel, or use weapons, or conduct coordinated military operations. Easy, peasy.

Articles

This is the Glock the Army rejected for its new combat handgun

Glock, Inc. has decided to release photos of the pistols it entered in the US Army’s Modular Handgun System competition.


The Smyrna, Georgia-based company submitted versions of its 9mm Glock 19 and .40 caliber Glock 23 pistols in the Army’s effort to replace its M9 9mm pistol. The release of the photos comes three weeks after the Government Accountability Office denied Glock’s protest against the US Army’s decision to select Sig Sauer, Inc., to make the service’s new Modular Handgun System.

“GLOCK, Inc. met or exceeded all of the mandated threshold requirements set forth in the RFP by the Army,” Josh Dorsey, vice president of Glock said in a statement.

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Photo from Glock, Inc.

Military.com has requested an interview with Glock to give the company the opportunity to explain why it protested the Army’s decision.

Glock’s MHS pistols feature a frame-mounted thumb safety and a lanyard ring next to the magazine well.

Glock filed the protest with the GAO on Feb. 24, challenging the Army’s interpretation of the solicitation regarding the minimum number of contract awards required by the Request for Proposal, according to a statement by Ralph O. White, managing associate general counsel for Procurement Law at GAO. Glock also alleged that the Army improperly evaluated its proposal.

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Photo from Glock, Inc.

“GAO denied the challenge to the interpretation of the solicitation, finding that the RFP allowed the Army to make only one award, although up to three awards were permitted by the RFP’s terms, White wrote. “GAO also denied the challenge to the Army’s evaluation of Glock’s proposal on the basis that any errors did not prejudice Glock in the competition.”

The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 Modular Handgun System competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.

The Army awarded Newington, New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer the MHS contract Jan. 19, selecting a version of its P320 to replace the Beretta M9 service pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

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Clint Eastwood once helped fund a Vietnam POW rescue mission

If thousands of U.S. servicemen went missing in action over 10 years of combat, it would surely be the biggest political issue of our day.


And it was after the end of the Vietnam War.

Well into the 1980s, it was a sore point for politicians and others from all walks of life. A few enterprising Americans took matters into their own hands – once even funded by Dirty Harry himself.

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Eastwood would have gone too but he had an itchy trigger finger. (Warner Bros.)

American troops these days might have a hard time imagining 2,494 missing U.S. troops. But for Vietnam-era veterans, the idea is all too real. Years after the war ended and Saigon fell to the Communists, the American public was still divided over the thought – and what to do about it.

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There were a LOT of movies about this.

As of 1983, the Pentagon was still telling reporters at the Boston Globe that it couldn’t rule out the possibility of Vietnam War POWs left behind in Southeast Asia. After a reported 480 firsthand sightings of POWs after the fall of Saigon in 1975, many POW families and members of the veteran community were convinced the American government was just “sweeping it under the rug.”

That’s when an ex-Green Beret named Bo Gritz gained fame. Gritz is said to have made multiple incursions into Laos to find the alleged missing and prisoners. Gritz was also convinced there were American prisoners in Southeast Asia. If there were, he was determined to take the issue out of the political area and turn Indochina into a new battlefield if necessary – anything to get those troops back home.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
There were SO MANY movies about this.

According to the Boston Globe, the 44-year-old veteran soldier interviewed ex-POWs who were repatriated at the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He was even given access to American intelligence reports on the issue. His conclusion was to form a team of ex-Green Berets to go to Laos and find these men.

Gritz’ plan was to link up with Laotian anti-Communist resistance fighters under the command of a Laotian general who sided with the Americans during the Vietnam War. He also commanded 40,000 troops as part of a secret CIA Army in Laos. According to the CIA, the effort was funded primarily through actor-director Clint Eastwood, who even informed President Reagan of Gritz’ plan (though the White House disputed the Reagan conversation).

The February 1983 rescue effort failed to return with any firsthand or photographic evidence of POWs or movement of POWs in Laos. By this time the hunt for POWs became a “growth industry” in Thailand. Nothing was found of the 568 missing troops thought to be in Laos. Even worse, Gritz’ other missions became a publicity stunt.

In November 1982, Gritz led four ex-Green Berets and a number of Lao insurgents into Laos from Thailand, in what some described as a guerrilla invasion.

“It’s a good day to die,” the retiree said, according to the LA Times, as he started off across the Mekong River.

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Eventually these movies didn’t even have to be realistic.

What was supposed to be a two-week incursion was halted after 72 hours when the group was ambushed by guerrillas from another faction. They retreated back into Thailand where they were arrested for possessing advanced radio equipment. Two Lao soldiers were killed and one American was captured.

The end result was one more American captured in Indochina and the movie “Uncommon Valor,” starring Gene Hackman. The film was based on notes taken by Gritz during his “rescue mission” to Laos.

It was probably embellished a little.
Articles

8 times when the movie ‘Three Kings’ nailed what it’s like to be a soldier

You wouldn’t think a heist movie set during the Iraq War would provide a particularly accurate look at military life. But while the 1999 movie “Three Kings” has a lot of problems, it gets a surprising number of Army-life details right.


Here are seven times the filmmakers nailed it:

1. Troops waste key resources by having a water bottle fight in the middle of the desert:

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Ask your First Sergeant if it’s a good idea to waste life-giving water in the middle of a desert.

Yes, the ceasefire ending the war had just been announced, but this is still bad resource management.

2. An American officer communicates with Iraqis by speaking at the exact same time as his interpreter:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

We’re sure the Iraqi soldiers who can understand English are glad that you’re yelling it over the guy speaking Arabic. And your troops are probably enjoying the two loud audio streams washing over them all day.

3. A group of soldiers finds a secret document in a guy’s butt and it immediately falls to the junior soldier to pull it out:

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That glove is about to see some stuff.

This is literally the only time that it makes sense for a specialist to pull rank.

4. A Special Forces major is trying to get the story of what happened with the secret butt map and everyone on the base tells him a different rumor:

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
The map may have been in a guy’s butt, his penis, or possibly stitched to the back of his head. (GIF: GIPHY)

Seriously, when did you ever get the truth on your first try from a base rumor mill?

5. A junior enlisted soldier is given the chance to ask questions about an upcoming, risky mission and he wastes it:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Yeah, the Special Forces selections process is the most important thing to learn about before you conduct a four-man raid against an Iraqi bunker filled with gold.

6. A guy clearing his first bunker tries some stupid stuff that he saw in a movie and immediately regrets it:

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You shot a deadbolt. The deadbolt is still in the door. Your shoulder is not as strong as the iron holding that door in place. Moron.

7. When the group’s escape is ruined because the junior guy can’t find his gas mask that is supposed to be strapped to his leg.

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Notice that while he doesn’t have his mask — which is essential to surviving the gas weapons that have already been used in this war — strapped to his person, but his survival knife is easily accessible. Because he’ll definitely need that knife.

8. A blue falcon immediately dimes out the group to the senior brass, even though no one has asked him a question:

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(Screenshot: Three Kings)

Seriously, Private Falcon, no one asked you. Just stand there quietly.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 4

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 74th Fighter Squadron taxis down the runway during Green Flag-West 17-03 Jan. 23, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 74th FS brought 12 A-10s to GFW in support of a joint, large-force, combat-readiness exercise for close air support integration training.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Two Air Force teams hand off their batons during the mile relay at the 27th annual Air Force Invitational at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan. 21, 2017. The Falcons fielded five teams, grabbing the top two positions, with the Colorado Buffs finishing in third place.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Bill Evans

ARMY:

U.S. Army and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

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Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

173rd Airborne Brigade and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve, Jan. 26, 2017.

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Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2017) Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd fleet.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship’s carrier strike group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Marines assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fire a M252A2 81mm mortar system at Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 13, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which provides all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force. 1/3 is currently participating as the ground combat element for this exercise.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Marines observe the abilities of military working dog teams during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2017. The Marines are dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Etheridge

A 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew from Station Sand Key, Florida, prepares to set a safety zone before the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew flies over the Gasparilla barge, Jose Gaspar, during the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

These are the elements of a military free-for-all in the South China Sea
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

Articles

Pictures reveal possible new Chinese IFV

China may be working on a new infantry fighting vehicle – less than a decade after introducing its latest vehicle, the ZBD-04.


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A ew Chinese infantry fighting vehicle (right) is seen in this photo circulating around discussion forums. (Photo from CJDBY via Janes.com)

Janes.com reports that a photo possibly showing the new Chinese IFV next to a ZBD-04 emerged on discussion forms in early February. The vehicle’s major upgrade appears to be the addition of an unmanned turret. ArmyRecognition.com notes that the ZBD-04 made its debut in 2009. This video shows the ZBD-04 taking part in a parade.

The ZBD-04 has a very similar armament suite to Russia’s BMP-3. It has a 100mm main gun, a 30mm coaxial gun, and three 7.62mm machine guns. The 100mm gun is capable of firing the AT-10 “Stabber,” a laser-guided missile. The vehicle can carry up to seven soldiers, and has a crew of three. The vehicle is also capable of some amphibious operations as well.

Russian experience with the BMP-3 has shown some problems with the basic design. The vehicle is relatively lightly protected. This means it can ford a river, but if it gets hit, the crew and infantry squad inside are very likely to go out with a bang. ArmyRecognition.com reported that Russian BMP-3s have reportedly been blown apart at the welds when the onboard munitions go up.

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A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. A new IFV in development is replaces the combined 100mm gun and 30mm cannon turret with an unmanned turret with a 40mm gun. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

The new Chinese IFV may be dispensing with the 100mm/30mm combo in favor of a new 40mm gun.

Jane’s reports that the new gun could be chambered for cased telescoped ammunition. According to ThinkDefence.co.uk, such a system packs the payload inside the propellant, allowing more rounds to fit in a given volume.

China displayed a 40mm cannon that could fire cased telescoped ammunition in November, 2016. The United Kingdom is considering the use of a similar cannon in the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle and the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle.