A Saber family will be heading to the “Lone Star State” to watch Super Bowl LI live on Feb. 5, after winning the Air Force Clubs’ Football Frenzy contest grand prize package.
Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, and his wife, Stephanie, participated in the annual Football Frenzy promotion at their local club, and was randomly selected by the Air Force Clubs’ grand prize winner during the final drawing of the 2016 Football Frenzy season.
“It feels amazing, almost surreal like a dream,” said Stephanie Crites. “I’ve told my husband for so many years that one day I would get him to the Super Bowl, so here we go!”
Col. Joe Mcfall, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, along with 52nd FW leadership and Jarrod Garceau, 52nd Force Support Squadron Club Eifel programmer, presented the prize to Stephanie and her husband Jan. 10, at Club Eifel.
The package includes free airfare, rental car, and hotel accommodations to attend the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas.
During Football Frenzy season, club members have the opportunity to win weekly prizes such as a $100 gift card or National Football League game tickets.
Spangdahlem also had two additional winners of the $100 gift card during the Football Frenzy season going on from Sept. 2016 to Jan. 2017.
“Club Eifel does about 300 programs a year,” said Garceau. ‘We gave back over $200,000 in free stuff last year to club members, and this is one of those things that proves that club membership has its benefits.”
No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.
That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.
“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.
The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”
While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?
Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.
The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.
This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).
And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.
According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.
Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.
Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”
While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.
Sure, most people end up in one nice, consolidated grave. But these five generals were not “most people”:
1. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s skeleton and flesh were buried 400 miles apart.
When Isaac Wayne arrived at the Army blockhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, he expected to exhume his father’s bones and take them the 400 miles back to his hometown of Radnor, Pennsylvania for re-burial. His father was Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War and Northwest Indian War hero.
When the remains were exhumed, the body was found to be in good condition despite 12 years having passed since Gen. Wayne’s death in 1796. Isaac’s cart was too small to move a complete body though, and so Isaac had the body dismembered and the flesh boiled off of it. Then, he took the bones the 400 miles back to Radnor. The boiled flesh and the tools used in the “operation” were reburied in Erie.
2. Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was buried 640 miles from his leg.
A Confederate leader in the Civil War, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was seriously injured at the Second Battle of Manassas. His leg was amputated and buried in a local garden. Ewell returned to combat after a one-year convalescence and was taken prisoner near the end of the war.
3. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ leg is in the Smithsonian.
Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles led his men to their doom at the Battle of Gettysburg when he ignored his orders and marched forward of his designated positions. Exposed, he and his men were brutally attacked and Sickles himself was wounded by a cannonball to the leg.
After his amputation, he decided against having his leg buried and instead sent it to the Army Medical Museum where Sickles visited it every year. It now resides at the Smithsonian Museum while Sickles rests in Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s leg was buried somewhere by an army private.
Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood lost his right leg after it was struck by a Minie ball during the Battle of Chickamagua in Georgia. His condition after the surgery was so bad that his physician, assuming he would die, ordered Pvt. Arthur H. Collier to take the leg to a nearby town where the general was being treated.
5. Stonewall Jackson’s left arm has a famous grave.
The grave of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s left arm is well known. Jackson was returning from a reconnaissance of Union positions in 1863 when his own soldiers mistook him for the enemy. Pickets fired on him and injured his left arm which was later amputated.
Stonewall’s chaplain buried the arm near Chancellorsville while Jackson was taken to Fairfield Plantation, Virginia. Jackson was expected to make a recovery, but he died of pneumonia eight days after his injury. He is buried in Lexington, Virginia, 44 miles from his arm.
The World War One Centennial Commission was created in January 2013 and is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs to commemorate the centennial of World War I, including a national memorial to the soldiers who fought the war.
Unfortunately, none of the veterans of the Great War are alive today to see their honor, but despite bad weather, the Centennial Commission will formally announce the winning design team for the national World War I Memorial design competition on January 26, 2016.
Below are the five finalists for the memorial competition. Just click on the photo to get a closer look of the full-size proposal. The designs are open to public comment. Contact the World War I Centennial Commission here.
Concept 1: Plaza to the Forgotten War
Situated on a seam between the National Mall and the dense urbanity of downtown DC, the Plaza to the Forgotten War commemorates the service of World War I American Forces by creating a place that devotedly holds onto the memory of the tragic losses endured by the United States. The concept is simple, elegant and open with a strong and integrated form and meaning that reveals itself in layers. The memorial message is clear and there is great potential for the creation of an outstanding park. The field of lights presents a technological challenge that will need to be resolved and the Pershing Statue and walls will need to be integrated into the evolving design.
Concept 2: Grotto of Remembrance
The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War. It is neoclassical in form and concept, the space and elements combine to create a narrative about the current condition and the historic precedent of monuments. The plan develops a strong park concept and includes a number of elements that add interest and focus. The challenge in evolving the design will be creating a sense of openness balanced against the enclosure of the central space, a continued evaluation of the scale of the elements, and relationships of non-traditional elements (like the grotto) with memorable historic forms.
Concept 3: The Weight of Sacrifice
A simple intervention of a platform into the existing landscape of Pershing Park provides a quietly elegant place within the park. Relocation of the walls and statue of the Pershing complex give new meaning to the individual elements. The result is an integral expression of park and memorial. The subtleness and art of the sculpted relief walls will enhance the narrative of the place—utilizing art as architecture. To execute a memorial and park that maintains the inherent elegance of the concept, a strong collaboration between designer and artist will be the key.
Concept 4: An American Family Portrait
The design concept is founded on paying tribute to the American men and women who participated in World War I through a memorial collage of photographs integrated into the park design. By seamlessly blending framed memories into the landscape, it provides an experience that is both park and memorial, open and inviting exploration. The park is organized by a northwest-southeast axis visually connecting it to the Capitol. While this concept has the potential of a truly unique park, the thematic, technical, and curatorial issues of the story boxes will require resolution. The statuary design, scale, and execution will need to be an integral part of the interpretive and memorial experience.
Concept 5: Heroes’ Green
The concept seamlessly blends memorial, park and garden into a new type of public space. There is a strong sense of movement through the space, balancing park-like qualities with memorial episodes and providing opportunities for integration of art as an integral part of the memorial experience. The sculptural landscape in itself is symbolic and will provide a welcome respite to the visitor. The inherent potential of “inventing” a new typology of civic space that works well as a memorial is the challenge.
Danielle Green learned how to be tough while growing up on the mean streets of Chicago. That outlook served her well during her intercollegiate basketball career at Notre Dame in the late ’90s where she fought to win and racked up enough points to become the Fighting Irish’s sixteenth leading scorer of all time.
But it wasn’t until Green enlisted in the Army that she was made to discover just how tough she really is. She deployed to Iraq in January of 2004 with the 571st Military Police Company. Shortly into that tour she was hit by shrapnel from an RPG that exploded next to her while she was pulling sentry duty on a rooftop in Baghdad.
“That pain was like nothing else,” Green said. “It was so painful I wanted to die.”
Green lost her left arm halfway between the wrist and elbow. After extensive surgeries and rehab, she had to face the reality that her military career was over. “I gave all I could give,” she said. “I realized I wanted to serve in a different way.”
She attended graduate school and studied to be a school counselor, and at some point between getting her degree and her job search a friend suggested she focus on helping service members with the issues that surround the move back to civilian life. “That’s my purpose,” she said. “That’s my mission.”
Green now works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a readjustment therapist at the Veterans Center in South Bend, Indiana. “It’s how I can continue serving my fellow veterans,” she said.
Last week Green was honored with the 2015 Pat Tillman Award for Service at ESPN’s Espy Awards held in Los Angeles.
Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation and Pat Tillman’s widow, said Green was selected for the award because of her resilience and personal efforts that have made her “a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”
“Not all of us are Pat Tillman,” Green said during her acceptance remarks in front of a packed house of sports greats and celebrities broadcast to a national TV audience. “But we can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this earth larger than ourselves.”
Napoleon Bonaparte was well-known as one of the foremost military minds of his age, but there was one group he couldn’t outsmart: rabbits! One epic conflict pitted the emperor against the lusty lagomorphs, and to the Corsican-born ruler’s great surprise, the bunnies came out on top.
During his down time, Napoleon, like many wealthy men of the time, enjoyed hunting; in particular, he liked tracking down rabbits. The animals being hunted weren’t as fond of the humans’ pastime, however. According to the memoirs of a Napoleonic general, Paul Thiébault, a courtier named Alexandre Berthier devised such an amusement for his master in July 1807. “He had the idea of giving the Emperor some rabbit-shooting in a park which he possessed just outside of Paris, and had the joy of having his offer accepted,” Thiébault wrote.
But the not-so-bright Berthier had one problem: his property had no rabbits on it! So Berthier ordered one thousand rabbits “to be turned down in the park on the morning of the day” of the hunt. On the very day, Napoleon arrived to a lovely picnic and everything was going smoothly, but the bunnies had another idea. Instead of scattering across the park and making themselves targets for eager shooters, the rabbits “suddenly collected first in knots, then a body.” Then the buns “all faced about, and in an instant the whole phalanx flung itself upon Napoleon.”
Berthier was humiliated and furious, so he turned his coachmen on the rabbit army. But although their whips initially dissuaded the hippity-hoppers, the critters soon wheeled about as a group and “turned the Emperor’s flank” and “attacked him frantically in the rear, refused to quit their hold, piled themselves up between his legs till they made him stagger, and forced the conqueror of conquerors, fairly exhausted, to retreat and leave them in possession of the field…” It was lucky for Napoleon,Thiébault quipped, that the bunnies left Napoleon intact and didn’t themselves proceed in triumph to Paris!
How did one thousand rabbits wind up defeating Napoleon? According to Thiébault, Brethier, ignorant of the differences between domestic and wild rabbits, bought the wrong kind of bunny: he purchased one thousand hutch-raised hoppers, rather than the wild buns that were afraid of humans. As a result, the rabbits “had taken the sportsmen, including the Emperor, as purveyors of their daily cabbage,” and since the bunnies hadn’t yet been fed, eagerly sprang on the humans in the hopes of food.
As funny as this incident was, Napoleon was not amused. Apparently, the upstart emperor didn’t have the greatest sense of humor. But everyone else had a pretty good laugh at his expense.
From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.
While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.
But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.
Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.
“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.
We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un decided August 15 not to fire ballistic missiles at Guam, reserving the right to change his mind if “the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions,” according to North Korean state media.
Kim appears to be attempting to de-escalate tensions to prevent conflict between the US and North Korea. After the UN Security Council approved tougher sanctions against North Korea for its intercontinental ballistic missile tests, the North warned Aug. 9 that it was considering launching a salvo of ballistic missiles into waters around Guam in a show of force demonstrating an ability to surround the island with “enveloping fire.”
That same day, President Donald Trump stressed that North Korean threats will be met with “fire and fury like nothing the world has ever seen.” For a week, the two sides hurled threats and warnings at each other repeatedly, leading some observers to conclude that the two sides were close to nuclear war.
But, Kim blinked.
Kim, according to North Korean state media, told the North Korean strategic rocket force that he “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” giving the US time to reassess the situation. “He said that he wants to advise the US to take into full account gains and losses with clear head whether the prevailing situation is more unfavorable for any party.”
“In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the US to make a proper option first and show it through action,” North Korean state media explained August 15. “The US should stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer,” it added. North Korea often presents the cessation of hostilities against it as the terms for de-escalation.
While lowering his sword, the young North Korean dictator stressed that he may still carry out his plan if the US does not change its approach to his country.
Kim stated “that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared, warning the US that it should think reasonably and judge properly not to suffer shame that it is hit by the DPRK.”
Amid the bluster and threats, a norm for North Korea, it is quite clear Pyongyang is taking a step back from its initial warnings while maintaining the right to change course and follow through on the original plan if deemed necessary.
Kim, having reviewed the plans and decided against immediate action, may be signaling that he is open to a diplomatic resolution, which the Trump administration has been adamantly pursuing in hopes of avoiding a very costly military alternative.
Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.
“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.
“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”
After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.
“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”
She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.
Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.
“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”
Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.
The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.
“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”
Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.
“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”
Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.
“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”
Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?
“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”
Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.
“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”
Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.
His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.
The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.
Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.
Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.
The P-51 may have been the plane that won the skies over Europe, and the Me-262 and Gloster Meteor may have been the first operational jet fighters on the sides of the Axis and Allies.
But those planes weren’t the fastest. That honor goes to the Me 163 “Komet.”
The Me 163 was short (about 19.5 feet long), with a wingspan of about 30 feet and looks like a miniature version of the B-2 Spirit. It was armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannon intended to rip apart Allied planes and it had a top speed of almost 600 miles per hour.
So, why isn’t it more well-known? Well, for starters, the way the plane got its speed — by using a rocket engine — tended to burn up a lot of fuel. That gave it a little over seven minutes of powered flight. The short flight time meant the Me 163 really didn’t have much range — about 25 miles.
After the fuel ran out, the Me 163 was an armed, fast glider. When it landed, it had to be towed. That meant it was a sitting duck until help arrived, and Allied pilots would just wait for the plane to start gliding down before putting a burst into it.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, despite operating for about 10 months, the Me 163 just didn’t get a lot of kills – anywhere from nine to 16, depending on the estimate. That’s less than one pera month. Furthermore, only one fighter group ever operated the plane, which was also hobbled by a shortage of rocket fuel.
AcePilots.com notes that the Me 163 was also dangerous to fly. The rocket fuel ingredients were very nasty – and when they leaked through the suit, it did bad things to the pilot. It wasn’t unheard of for Me 163s to just explode on landing as residual amounts of fuel would mix.
For all intents and purposes, the Me 163 was a manned, reusable surface-to-air missile that could make two attacks. Eventually, the Nazis decided to just use an expendable rocket instead of a manned plane for these types of missions.
On paper, the J-20 represents a “big leap forward in terms of the capabilities of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have on scene,” Bronk said.
Compared with the US’s fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35, the J-20 has “longer range, more internal fuel capacity, and larger internal weapons capability,” Bronk said.
This combination of factors presents a real risk to US forces in the Pacific. Long-range, capable strike fighters like the J-20 put the US AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, as well as “refueling tankers, and forward bases at risk much more than current types if flying in relatively large numbers” should any kind of kinetic conflict flare up in the Pacific, Bronk said.
David Goldfein, the chief of staff for the US Air Force, told Breaking Defense he was not overly troubled by the new Chinese jet.
“When I hear about F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein said in August.
Indeed, nothing indicates that the Chinese have built in the type of hyper connectivity and sensor fusions that make the US’s fifth-generation fighters so groundbreaking. Of the F-35 in particular, Bronk said: “Pilots are not spending a huge amount of time managing inputs — the machine does it for him. It produces one unified picture, which he can then interrogate as required.”
“We don’t know how much F-35 technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk said, adding that while it was “impossible to say for sure” what the J-20 is capable of, common sense dictates that the “the sensor fusion and network integration is significantly behind what the US has managed with the F-35 and F-22.
“This is purely based on the fact that sensor fusion has taken the most effort, time, and money,” he continued.
But one-on-one combat scenarios or feature-for-feature comparisons don’t capture the real threat of the J-20.
Long-range stealth fighters, if fielded in large numbers along with older Chinese aircraft, surface-to-air missile batteries, radar outposts, missiles, and electronic-warfare units, present another wrinkle in an already complicated and fraught operating envelope for US and allied forces in the Pacific.
But is it real?
Whether the Chinese will actually be able to field this plane by 2018, as Beijing has projected, remains the real question.
Bronk pointed out that it took a decade between US developers building a flying model of the F-22 and getting real, capable F-22s in the air. Even if the Chinese have accelerated the process through espionage, Bronk says, “We know how much money and time it takes to make a lethal and effective fighter like the F-22,” and it’s “very unlikely that China is that far along.”
Additionally, the J-20s in Zhuhai flew for only about one minute. They didn’t do low passes. They didn’t open up the weapons bay. They didn’t do much except fly around a single time.
“We learned very little,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of FlightGlobal, told Reuters. “We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility.”
Bronk speculates that the models on display at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.
Bronk points out that the aircraft most likely flew with underpowered engines and not the engines that would fly on the final version. “Engine performance is a key function of any aircraft,” he said, adding, “China and Russia continue to lag behind because of the really top-end manufacturing processes you need” to create and tune high-quality aircraft engines.
So while China’s new “impressive low-observable heavy strike” fighters could change the balance of power in the Pacific, whether they can field the planes in significantly large numbers at any time in the near future remains an open question.