The men were assigned to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, but were afforded none of the privileges other soldiers had and even lacked access to facilities that enemy POWs were allowed to use.
The men were assigned to cleaning the course after the white paratroopers finished training, and Morris simply had his men run it before they began cleaning. One day they were spotted making their way through the course by a passing general. The general ordered Morris to report to his office the next day. The general had received orders to start a black airborne test platoon that would soon become a black company and then airborne battalion. For his leadership of the service company, Morris was asked to become the unit first sergeant.
Morris and his men were officially re-assigned to the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, the Triple Nickles, in the final days of 1943. On Feb. 8, 1944, Morris and 16 others graduated Airborne School and became the first black paratroopers.
The 555th quickly grew over the next year and Morris was sent to officer candidate school to become an officer so he could take another leadership role in what was now the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.
Unfortunately for the paratroopers of the unit, lingering racism kept them from the combat deployment to Europe that they were seeking.
They were instead loaned out to the U.S. Forest Service to defend the forests of the western states from Japanese incendiary bombs. The Japanese were floating thousands of balloons, each with four incendiary devices, across the Pacific to start wildfires in North America.
The Forest Service had decided to fight the tactic with “smokejumpers,” a new type of forest firefighter who jumped into the woods near the massive blazes and then created firebreaks to starve the flames of fuel.
Smokejumpers carried special “letdown” ropes to climb down from trees in case they were hung up on the high branches, and the men of 555th crafted special face protection by wrapping chicken wire around football helmets.
The war and the Army smokejumper mission ended in 1945, and the Triple Nickle was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the famed 82nd Airborne Division was headquartered. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin, “The Jumping General” who commanded the unit, was impressed by the black paratroopers and an early advocate of integration.
The unit trained and existed within the 82nd Airborne Division until Gavin ordered the men to an 82nd function in Dec. 1947. When the 555th commander presented his battalion to Gavin, the general ordered the unit fully integrated it into the 82nd as the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Brigade.
While the men regretted the loss of the Triple Nickles, they celebrated being integrated into a storied unit.
“Everybody was crying,” former 555th paratrooper Charles Stevens told the Fort Jackson Leader. “I think we were crying for two different reasons. We were glad that segregation was leaving the Army and we were sad we were losing our Triple Nickle colors.”
Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.
The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.
1. The Numidians (light cavalry)
The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.
The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?
The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.
What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.
And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.
2. The Scythians (light cavalry)
The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.
The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,
The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.
When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.
It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.
The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.
In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.
3. The Parthians (light cavalry)
The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.
The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.
The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.
In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.
Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.
4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)
When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.
Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”
The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.
At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”
This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.
5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)
It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.
among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made
The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:
Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.
The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.
So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.
However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.
The U.S. Navy owns the oceans, ensuring freedom of navigation for allies and fighting fiercely when called upon.
But the Navy has a softer side too, filled with humanitarian relief and medical missions.The crown jewels of this effort are the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort — hospital ships with a thousand beds each.
1. The USNS Mercy and her sister ship were converted from massive supertankers. Each is 70,000 metric tons.
2. The Mercy is a mobile hospital, complete with 12 operating rooms as well as pediatric, trauma, and orthopedic areas.
3. While the Navy maintains hospital ships to provide mobile care to soldiers and Marines fighting ashore, the USNS Mercy has been primarily deployed on humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
4. Mercy is often deployed to Pacific areas where clinics, like the one below, provide basic care. Doctors can refer the patients to the USNS Mercy, which will then provide hospital-level services.
5. Patients are transported to the ship by helicopter or by “band-aid” boats.
6. When patients arrive, they are sent to the receiving area. Their medical needs will be diagnosed and they are then sent elsewhere on the ship for care.
7. When doctors need a better look at an injury, the use the onboard CT scanner.
8. For patients that require surgery, the 12 operating bays provide a modern, sterile environment for procedures.
9. Here, a doctor puts the final sutures in a patient after removing a six pound tumor from her.
10. The ship regularly trains for mass casualty events. This helps them support military operations where a lot of troops may be wounded and respond to humanitarian crises.
11. Children are welcome on the ship where onboard pediatricians treat them.
12. A pre-dental society sophomore student from the University of California-San Diego plays with a Timorese child during Pacific Partnership 2008.
13. A hospital corpsman gives a surgical screening to a child onboard the USNS Mercy in 2010.
14. Humans aren’t the only patients for the USNS Mercy. The ship deploys with U.S. Army veterinarians and veterinary assistants for treating livestock and pets as well.
15. Pets and nearby wildlife can be a vector for disease, so the services of the veterinary staff help protect the human population.
16. The Mercy maintains its own combat search and rescue helicopter and crew.
17. Sailors launch and recover the birds from the upper deck of the ship.
18. Even foreign military doctors help out aboard the USNS Mercy. In this photo, an Australian Navy dentist treats patients onboard.
19. A dentist with the South Korean Navy treats a patient onboard the Mercy.
20. The USNS Mercy crew also goes ashore to help partner nations. Here, an environmental health officer tests a water well that was just dug by Navy Seabees.
21. The Mercy has its own firefighters who ensure the safety of the other sailors and patients on the ship.
22. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the ship and its mission in the Pacific Partnership.
The threat of the Zika virus has prompted many to suspend trips to hot zones like South America and the Caribbean because of fears of the mosquito-born pathogen.
But U.S. servicemembers don’t have that luxury, posted to bases and stations — and on exercises — in Zika-heavy regions where their orders force them to deal with the risk.
While the number of cases worldwide is less than 200,000 — with the vast majority in Brazil — of the roughly 7,000 cases reported in the U.S. and its territories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 are from U.S. servicemembers.
“We take any ailment that may impact the health and wellbeing of our military men and women or their families very seriously,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Cabiness told WATM. “The DoD is proactive in protecting DoD military and civilian personnel and their dependents, especially pregnant women, from the threats of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”
While not deadly alone, the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects in newborn children of infected mothers. The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, but there have been cases where the virus was passed through sexual contact as well.
The Pentagon is taking special precautions to keep its troops and dependents safe, including eradicating mosquitos in high-risk areas, prepping medical facilities with Zika testing equipment and educating its troops on risk factors, prevention, and symptoms.
“Currently, testing of any individual is contingent on meeting the clinical symptomology and epidemiological criteria for exposure as outlined in the CDC guidance,” Cabiness said. “The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread.”
Bottom line, if you’re in an area that’s a Zika hot zone, you’re pretty much stuck there unless your commander says it’s too risky for you to stay. Pregnant servicemembers are probably the most at risk, and unit leaders are taking special precautions to keep them virus free.
“OSD Health Affairs has distributed Zika Guidance to DoD Medical Personnel, as well as reporting guidance on the disease, emphasizing the need to for pregnant individuals living in or planning to travel to the affected area to confer with their health professional on the potential risks associated with Zika,” Cabiness said.
More than prevention, however, the Pentagon is playing a key role in developing a Zika vaccine, teaming with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and private research institutions to find a cure.
“The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread,” Cabiness said. “Our scientists are supporting a whole-of-government effort, led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.”
“DoD is actively involved with other federal and private partners in the development of a candidate Zika vaccine,” he added.
Most people know the basic history of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who had briefly defected to the Soviet Union, fired the shots that killed the 35th president using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that had been purchased from a mail-order catalog.
But could there be more to the story behind one of the most dramatic events of the 20th Century? With the declassification of over 2 million documents, now the assassin’s activities can be traced in weeks, months, and years before Oswald fired the shots that altered the course of history.
A former CIA agent and a former LAPD detective are now looking into these documents – carrying out an independent investigation spanning the entire world in order to answer the many questions about the assassination of President Kennedy that have divided America for decades: Did Oswald act alone, or did he have help? If so, who helped him, and why?
The upcoming HISTORY series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” premieres April 25, 2017, and features a bombshell – a document showing that Oswald had met with Soviet officials in Mexico City six weeks before he assassinated John F. Kennedy.
The series features a host of interviews and new revelations, including insight from experts and former special operations soldiers like WATM friend Marty Skovlund. Check out the short trailer from HISTORY below.
Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.
According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.
A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.
The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.
Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.
An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.
Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.
“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.
A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.
The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.
Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.
“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.
Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.
It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.
Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.
So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.
Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:
1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington
Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.
2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II
Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.
Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.
3. World War I began because of bad driving directions
Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.
Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.
Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.
4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor
Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.
Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.
Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.
5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion
On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.
6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target
There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.
On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.
7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate
Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.
Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.
The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.
The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.
“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.
The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.
The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.
“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.
Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.
“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.
In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.
Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.
As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.
Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.
“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.
On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.
“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.
If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq
Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets 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,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
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.
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,” Broadwell explained.
F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”
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.
“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.
For example, 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.
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 SAP 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.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.
“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.
Last month’s failed coup in Turkey has sparked substantial unrest, a crackdown on opposition to the Erdogan regime, and a downward spiral in relations with the United States. With the refusal (to date) of the United States to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen and interference with operations at Incirlik Air Base (including a halt in air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), concern centered around an estimated 50 B61 “special stores.” (Official United States policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on an installation.)
Now, according to reports from Euractiv.com, those bombs have been evacuated from Incirlik and are now in Romania, where components of an American missile defense system for NATO is being deployed. As might be imagined, it isn’t easy to move up to fifty special stores. It’s also understandable that the security is a big deal – some variants of the B61 have yields of 340 kilotons – over 20 times the power of the device used on Hiroshima 71 years ago.
The Euractiv.com report came two days after Ibrahim Karagul, the editor of Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper, said that Turkey should seize the nuclear weapons at Incirlik if the United States refused to hand them over in a post on the microblogging site Twitter. Karagul also claimed that the United States was an “internal threat” to Turkey. The tweets came the day after a study by the Stimson Center claimed that the nukes at Incirlik were at risk in the wake of the failed coup.
“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” Laicie Heeley of the Stimson Center told Agence France Presse‘s Thomas Watkins. The Stimson Center’s study recommended the removal of all United States tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The [Department of Defense] has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” a DoD statement in response to the study said.
A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.
Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.
“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.
In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.
To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.
But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.
He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”
The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.
Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.
“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”
The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.
Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.
“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.
Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.
“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.
The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.
Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.
The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.
“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”
Christmas away from home is tough, and it doesn’t get any easier with more deployments under your belt. But getting a good card from a loved one or dear friend can help brighten the mood. Here are nine of the best:
Merry Christmas to all of our deployed forces from the entire team at We Are The Mighty.