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.
When actor Kyle Schmid landed a role playing one of America’s most elite commandos in the new HISTORY drama “SIX,” he knew critics would be looking for every flaw in his portrayal — no matter how small.
Seriously? It was the elite operators from SEAL Team 6 that executed the daring raid that killed terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. And a Canadian-born actor who’d never played a role like this was supposed to pull off a convincing performance of one of the world’s best warriors?
It was a daunting task, but one Schmid took very seriously.
“The entire reason we did this show, and why we all wanted to do it so badly, is we wanted to do something that had integrity at the end of the day,” Schmid said in an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty. “It’s incredibly important to get all those little things right.”
“We’ll be under the microscope of anyone that’s been in the military who served and is going to pick out the little things that we do wrong — that’s just going to happen,” he added. “But we tried our damnedest to do everything right as we possibly could; we spent a lot of time and energy doing that.”
“SIX” is a new drama series produced by the HISTORY cable channel that takes a deep look into what it’s like to be a member of one of the world’s most elite military units. The show goes well beyond a shoot-em-up (though there’s plenty of door kicking and explosive entries to satisfy any action junky) and explores the toll the high OPTEMPO job of a DevGru operator takes on personal relationships.
What’s more, “SIX” tackles some of the ethical issues these commandos face on each and every mission, and explores how the elite team members deal with lapses of judgement and tactics among themselves.
Schmid plays SEAL Team 6 operator Alex Caulder, a seemingly free-spirit sailor who’d rather be chasing skirts and riding tubes than jumping out of airplanes and shooting bad guys. But under the hedonistic exterior, the unit’s “point man” is warrior philosopher, acting as his team’s conscience when ops go bad.
“I’ve always been a morally driven and ethical person as a human being,” Schmid said, adding he used the help of military consultants and his own personality to “get in Caulder’s head.”
“It’s all about the choices you make in your life and whether you’re able to stand behind them with the integrity that you want to,” Schmid said.
“There’s a joke the guys were saying on set: ‘You’re too Caulder for Caulder,’ ” Schmid added.
Schmid rocks the MP7 like he was born with one in his hand. (Photo courtesy HISTORY)
But Caulder is more than a thinker — he’s one of the SEAL team’s best assaulters, flowing through rooms and popping up on tangos like he was born to it. And it’s no accident that the action looks so good on the screen.
Working with tactical trainer and former SEAL Mitch Hall of Trident Focus, the actors on “SIX” spent two weeks learning how to shoot and move like real-world operators.
Schmid recalled that in one of the fight scenes in the first episode, “as point man, I’m pieing these corners and I’ve got my feet wrong and I’m still trying to gauge the depth with my MP7 around the corner so I’m not sticking my head out and getting it blown off and I asked Mitch, ‘let’s do it again to get it right.’ ”
It was an intensive course that Schmid took seriously, even taking days off to work at the range and practice his tactics. And when the filming was done for HISTORY’s “SIX,” the actor emerged a changed man.
“This [role] really allowed me to look at life from a different perspective. I learned to turn down my dial — to realize what was important and what was worth worrying about,” Schmid says. “On the other side … I’m much more aware of my surroundings, constantly living in the ‘yellow’ — and I gotta tell you, it’s a pretty good way to be living.”
HISTORY’s “SIX” runs for eight episodes and airs on Thursdays at 10pm Eastern.
But escaping from inside the camp’s barbed wire was something altogether more difficult.
The countryside around Auschwitz was fervently pro-Polish and anti-Nazi. The local population was willing to do whatever it took to aid an escapee.
So the underground partisan movement in the local area and the camp resistance formed a partnership to help people escape.
Auschwitz was part of a series of labor and extermination camps created by the Nazis in occupied Poland. Its first prisoners arrived in May 1940. In June, a Polish boy scout named Kazimierz Piechowski would be imprisoned in Auschwitz I.
In a 2011 interview with The Guardian’s Homa Khaleeli, Piechowski talked about his duties moving the corpses of executed prisoners. He got the work detail because he learned German as a boy scout.
“The death wall was between blocks 10 and 11. They would line prisoners up and shoot them in the back of the head,” he told Khaleeli. “Sometimes it was 20 a day, sometimes it was 100, sometimes it was more. Men, women and children.”
Only 19 when the Nazis occupied his hometown, Piechowski saw his young friends rounded up by German soldiers because of their scouting background. During a run for the Hungarian border he was captured and sent to Auschwitz.
The concentration camp was so new, Piechowski was among those who helped build it.
When Piechowski saw his friend’s name on the death list, he joined the resistance movement in the camp and hatched a plan to get his friend out before he could be executed.
To escape from Auschwitz, the inmates had to cross electric fences with barbed wire, covered by guards with machine guns. They then had to get out of the outer perimeter and make it to a nearby Polish town.
By the time he started planning his escape, Piechowski had access to the German’s military uniforms and ammunition. His doomed friend was a mechanic in the camp motor pool and had access to the camp Commandant’s car.
Piechowski and two fellow prisoners formed a fake working party to remove trash. They walked out of the main camp, dressed in stolen German officers’ uniforms and hopped in the Commandant’s car — with Piechowski dressed as an SS officer.
As they drove to the main gate, the car received salutes from all the Nazi guards on duty. At the main gate, however, the gate arm remained down. The escapees feared the entire plan was up in smoke.
That’s when Piechowski started shouting.
“Wake up, you buggers!” Piechowski screamed in German. “Open up or I’ll open you up!”
The guard did.
The men drove to the town of Wadowice. All went their separate ways. Piechowski joined the nationalist partisan resistance movement and spent the rest of the war fighting Nazis.
In all, 196 prisoners made an escape from Auschwitz, out of 928 attempts. An estimated 1.1 million Jews, homosexuals, Slavs, Gypsies, and Polish political prisoners were killed in the Auschwitz camp complex.
Kazimierz Piechowski survived the war, spent seven years in a Soviet gulag for joining the Polish Home Army, and is now 97 years old.
He still tours to recount stories of his time in a Nazi death camp.
“I am a scout, so I have to do my duty – and be cheerful and merry. And I will be a scout to the end of my life,” he told The Guardian.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.
An Iraqi air force pilot from the 3rd Squadron fires of some flares from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above the Aziziyah test fire range in Iraq on Nov. 8. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Bolick)
The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.
The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.
While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.
The first Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was founded in the areas of Fontana and San Bernardino, California in 1948. From there, the club grew exponentially, becoming one of the largest in the world. The club has since earned a reputation in media and popular culture, thanks to a number of high-profile raids and wars on its various national charters, and in no small part to Gimme Shelter, a 1970 documentary about a riot during a Rolling Stones concert. The Stones’ management allegedly paid the Hell’s Angels to provide security at the concert and paid them in beer, which was a terrible idea. As a banner once read on the club’s website, “when we do right, no one remembers; when we do wrong, no one forgets.”
What the motorcycle club never forgets is its own heritage. While mainstream media gave the club a creation myth involving drunken, misfit airmen who flew bomber missions in World War II and struggled to adapt to life after the war, the real story is much simpler.
The fake story starts with a WWII Army Air Forces unit in Europe during WWII, the 303rd Bombardment Group. The 303rd was not a misfit group, as popular lore has implied, but rather one of the highest performers in the entire air war. In its official history, the motorcycle club tells the story of the B-17 the 303rd named “Hell’s Angels,” and its commander, the capable (and not drunken) Capt. Irl E. Baldwin. Why? To make sure the world knows this aircrew wasn’t a band of drunken misfits, but instead were heroes of the war in Europe. The aircrew has nothing to do with the motorcycle club. The Angels just care that the memory of the crew isn’t dragged through the mud. (They care too much, right? That’s always been a fault of the Hell’s Angels.)
This B-17F, tail number 41-24577, was named Hell’s Angels after the Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots. The bomber would fly with several commanders and numerous crewmen over 15 months and was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in Eighth Air Force.
The 303rd’s story starts with naming their B-17 “Hell’s Angels” after the 1930 movie by famed aviator Howard Hughes. The plane was the first 8th Air Force B-17 to complete 25 combat sorties in the European Theater. It even participated in one of the first strikes on Berlin 1944. Two of the plane’s crewmen would earn the Medal of Honor. Another four would ear the Distinguished Service Cross. Fifty years later, the entire 303rd would vote to change its name to the Hell’s Angels, with “Might in Flight” as its motto. That name is the only common thread between the bikers and the airmen of the 303rd.
So where did the name Hell’s Angels really come from? The motorcycle club’s official history says it comes from a World War II veteran from the All-Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as “the Flying Tigers.” This Flying Tiger, named Arvid Olson, was a close friend of the founders of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club after the war, but never even tried to become a member.
The Flying Tigers were an all-volunteer group of airmen and maintainers in service to the Chinese Air Force who fought the Japanese Imperial Air Forces in China, preparing for combat even before the U.S. entered World War II. The unit’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron, comprised entirely of Marine Corps aviators, called themselves the Hell’s Angels. They first saw combat against Japan days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the life of the unit, the Flying Tigers would down almost 300 Japanese aircraft in combat between December 20, 1941 and July 4, 1942.
The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club’s copyrighted “Death’s Head” logo (below, left) can even be traced back to two U.S. Army Air Corps patches, from the 85th Fighter Squadron (center) and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron (right).
You don’t really know your buddies until you deploy together. At that point you get to see a side of them that their families and closest loved ones have never seen — a side effect of spending every hour with them for months on end in a foreign land where all you have is each other.
You get to know the good, the bad, and the weird. Here’s what you can expect:
1. You’ll learn that insults are endearing.
2. . . . as is antagonizing each other.
Generation Kill, HBO
3. You’ll learn exactly how to take the edge off when you go too far . . .
“I was just pulling your chain. Here, take a chill smoke.”
4. . . . because you’ve shared nearly every single thought that you’ve had over the last few months.
5. You’ll learn to think of buds as family.
6. You’ll learn to communicate with each other just by grunting.
7. (Aviators learn hand signals.)
8. Your comfort levels will approach new highs (and lows).
9. And you’ll learn to be totally fine with complete silence.
10. And you’ll learn to be brutally honest with each other.
11. You’ll learn who will be the first to put on his or her “deployment goggles.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off on the first day of Red Flag 16-2 Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis AFB, Nev.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 2, 2016. During the high-altitude, low-opening airdrop, Jonas jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and parachuted to the base.
Tech. Sgt. Allan Habel, a tactical aircraft maintainer, performs preflight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a practice demonstration Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, returns fire with an M240L machine gun during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
Paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Spanish army soldier from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), work together to secure the perimeter of a building complex during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2016) President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. during a ceremony Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the White House. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a hostage rescue operation in December 2012.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 29, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199). Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Four EA-6B Prowlers belonging to each Prowler squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point conducted a “Final Four” division flight aboard the air station March 1, 2016. The “Final Four” flight is the last time the Prowler squadrons will be flying together before the official retirement of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 at the end of Fiscal Year 16 and the eventual transition to “MAGTF EW”. MAGTF EW is a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes to the EW mission, enabling relevant tactical information to move throughout the electromagnetic spectrum and across the battlefield faster than ever before.
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa fly enroute from Pozo La Higueara drop zone to La Felipe drop zone after insertion of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers during exercise Sky Soldier, Spain, Feb. 27, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-AF participated in exercise Sky Soldier which promotes interoperability between Marine Corps Aviation assets and American and Spanish Airborne and Air Mobile forces.
Pfc. Bradley Brandes, a mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an 81mm mortar system during the supporting arms coordination exercise (SACCEX) portion of Exercise Iron Fist 2016 on San Clemente Island, Feb. 21, 2016.
Members of Station Burlington, Vermont’s ice rescue team adjust straps on their rescue board during training in Burlington Bay, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The ice rescue board uses a system of pulleys to make it easier for rescuers to pull a survivor out of the freezing water. Another method for getting a survivor out of the water is the self-help technique. This technique involves a team member walking the survivors through how to get themselves out of the water. The team member instructs the survivor to kick their legs until they are parallel with the ice ledge and use their arms to crawl forward.
Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City train together, ensuring they’re “Always Ready” when someone needs them.
The White House announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today — a surprise to many who’d come to respect the Vietnam-era veteran as a man of the troops. Whatever the politics, Hagel has always conducted himself with the sort of dignity that’s evident in his official message to the military that was just released through DoD channels. Here it is:
To the men and women of the Department of Defense:
I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that this morning, President Obama accepted my letter of resignation. I have agreed to continue to serve as Secretary of Defense until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.
You should know I did not make this decision lightly. But after much discussion, the President and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon.
I want you to know that I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together. We have prepared ourselves, our Allies and the Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan. We have taken the fight to ISIL and, with our Iraqi and coalition partners, have blunted the momentum of this barbaric enemy. We have come to the aid of millions of people around the world who have suffered the ravages of natural disaster and of disease. We have worked tirelessly to sustain our all-volunteer force that has given so much during 13 years of war. And we have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, all the while setting in motion important reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in the decades to come.
Most importantly, we have helped keep this country and our fellow citizens safe. We have sustained the blessings of liberty our ancestors secured and upheld the oath we took.
That work will continue. It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the President my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.
There will be time later to say farewell. For now, please know how much I respect and admire your service and that of your families. As I gather with my own family this Thanksgiving holiday — a luxury I realize not all of you will enjoy — it will be the privilege of having worked with you these last two years for which I will be most grateful.
Thank you for all you do for this country. God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”
“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.
The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”
The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling
The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”
“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.
The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.
But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.
Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.
This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.
This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.
During the Cold War, the American nuclear deterrent strategy required coming up with ways to guarantee the survival of nuclear weapons if the Soviets managed a surprise first strike. The surviving devices would then be used to destroy Soviet civilization.
Keeping U.S. nukes out of Soviet crosshairs required a lot of imagination. The Americans had to keep the nukes deeply buried or constantly on the move. Then they had to make sure the surviving devices could be used effectively.
One such scheme was outfitting a full-size Minuteman III Inter-continental Ballistic Missile to fit in the back of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, dumping the nuke out the back and triggering the ICBM’s full ignition sequence.
Minuteman III ICBMs carry multiple warheads bound for separate targets. This makes the Minuteman III the ideal missile for the mobile nuclear weapon strategy. At 60 feet long and 78,000 pounds, the missile is easily carried by the gargantuan aircraft.
The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum payload is an amazing 285,000 pounds and the aircraft itself is just under 248 feet long. With an operational range of 5,250 nautical miles, the C-5 can fly from Dover Air Force Base to the Middle East without having to refuel.
Launching a fully functional ICBM out the back of an aircraft inflight might sound crazy, but the Air Force first tested this concept successfully in 1974.