The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.
The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)
While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.
Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.
The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.
The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.
Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.
The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.
An aerobics instructor filming her exercise routine accidentally caught the beginning of a military coup in Myanmar earlier this week. The video shows a convoy of black military vehicles headed for the parliament complex in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s capital city, as she goes about her workout.
The footage shows fitness instructor Khing Hnin Wai working through an aerobic routine as more than a dozen blacked-out SUVs and armored vehicles approach a roadblock behind her. Those vehicles reportedly carried troops who went on to capture Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected State Counsellor of Myanmar, as well as other members of the nation’s elected government.
In an ironic twist, the music playing in the background of Khing’s video includes lyrics that translate to, “They are coming, one by one, to fight over the throne.”
Initially, many online assumed this video was a fake, since the framing of the dance and the convoy’s appearance behind Khing seems more like an SNL skit than the serious military coup that’s taking place. Khing has continued to post on social media about the video, and was contacted by The BBC in order to confirm the validity of her video.
“I wasn’t dancing to mock or ridicule any organization or to be silly. I was dancing for a fitness dance competition,” wrote Khing on her Facebook. “As it isn’t uncommon for Nay Pyi Taw to have an official convoy, I thought it was normal so I continued.”
What is happening in Myanmar?
The military of Myanmar has taken over the country and declared a year-long state of emergency following an election that saw Suu Kyi win in a landslide. The military is demanding a repeat of the election, citing unconfirmed reports of “widespread voter fraud.”
Suu Kyi first garnered international attention in the 1980s as she campaigned for her nation to restore democratic rule. After organizing protests and rallies that called for free democratic elections, she was captured and held in detention from 1989 until her release in 2010. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, which she accepted while serving a portion of her sentence under house arrest.
In 2015, Suu Kyi helped her National League for Democracy party secure victory in the nation’s first open elections in a quarter-century, propelling the former captive into the role of State Counsellor, a role similar to that of Prime Minister in other nations. Not all of Suu Kyi’s media exposure has been positive, however, as many cite Myanmar’s policy of treating the nation’s Rohingya minority group as illegal immigrants when criticizing Suu Kyi. Allegations of a military-led genocide of the Rohingya people forced Suu Kyi to answer for her nation’s actions at the International Court of Justice in 2019, though she denied any wrongdoing.
While there are no hard figures on how many Rohingya people have been killed, an estimated 700,000 have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since the military crackdown began in 2017.
Now, according to Myanmar’s military, control of the nation has been handed over to Min Aung Hlaing, who serves as the commander and chief for the nation’s forces. The European Union, UK, and United Nations have all already condemned the military takeover of Myanmar, and President Joe Biden has already threatened to restore previously ended sanctions on the nation.
Protests have reportedly erupted around the nation, with many citizens honking their car horns or taking to the street to bang on pots and pans to voice their displeasure with the military take-over.
“The curse of the coup is rooted in our country, and this is the reason why our country still remains poor. I feel sad and upset for our fellow citizens and for their future,” Suu Kyi told the press.
The unfolding situation in Yemen is a huge geopolitical challenge for the US. A number of US allies, including Saudi Arabia, are attacking a rebel movement trained and supplied by Iran.
At the same time, the US is desperate for a nuclear deal with Tehran, reportedly giving ground on Iran’s demand that it be able to operate advanced uranium centrifuges in a heavily fortified, bomb-proof nuclear facility carved into the inside of a mountain even after a deal is signed.
At the same moment the US is wiling to retreat on major nuclear demands in the hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran, the US’s own allies are launching a military coalition aimed at restraining Iranian power.
The US has been trying to triangulate, aiding Operation Decisive Storm with logistical and intelligence support while attempting to reassure Iranian negotiators, who are currently meeting with their US counterparts in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Yemen conflict presents an even more immediate problem for the US. As the Los Angeles Times reported on March 25th, Iran-allied Houthi rebels obtained US intelligence files left behind after raiding an air base in Sana, the capital.
The files were then passed on to Yemeni “officials” sympathetic to the Houthis, who are in turn suspected of relaying them to Tehran, according to the Times.
“This is a disaster for US counterterrorism efforts across the Horn of Africa,” Robert Caruso, a former US Navy intelligence officer, explained to Business Insider by email. “While it would be irresponsible to say what may have been compromised, this is a nightmare for our military and especially our counterterrorism forces in the region.”
Basically, the Houthi advance through Yemen may have just delivered crucial information about US intelligence operations in the Middle East to a US-listed state sponsor of terrorism. And that may complicate the US’s efforts in both Switzerland and the Arabian Peninsula.
The US may want to reassure Iran that it is willing to spare it the embarrassment and potential strategic cost of an even greater escalation against the Houthis, like an Egyptian and Saudi ground invasion. US negotiators also may be hamstrung by the Iranian possession of fresh US intelligence.
“News reports that Iranian military advisers now have classified information about US military and intelligence operations is extremely disconcerting and could be used to harm Americans if the nuclear deal fails,” Caruso wrote. “I think we will find later on that Iran deliberately targeted the airbase and the US facilities there to gather and exploit intelligence that could be used as leverage or to target Americans later on.”
The problem of balancing the nuclear negotiations against other aspects of the US relationship with Iran unique to Yemen. The US has troops in Iraq fighting ISIS and providing air cover to Iranian-allied militant groups. Meanwhile Hezbollah, and Iranian proxy, has a presence on every continent and Iran has plotted against targets inside the US as recently as 2011, when an Iranian effort to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US at an upscale Washington, DC restaurant was uncovered.
The US and Iran are strategically intertwined in Iraq, while Iran has the capability and perhaps even the intention of seriously undermining US interests around the world. Tehran realizes that it has plenty of potential leverage over its US negotiating counterparts.
That might explain why Tehran has demanded so many concessions in the nuclear negotiations — and gotten them.
Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday between the USS John S. and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s hull.
The collision east of Singapore between the guided missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.
Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.
The had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said “significant damage” to the hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.
The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia’s coast but sailed on to Singapore’s naval base under its own power. Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the Singapore Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a large rupture in the side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) wide.
One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.
He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn’t say what happened. “I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.”
The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.
Several safety violations were recorded for the tanker at its last port inspection in July.
Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said three ships and five boats as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters.
There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.
The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.
The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.
The Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., replaced its website with a notice that says it is cooperating with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s investigation and with “other responding agencies.” It says “thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing U.S. Navy sailors.”
An official database for ports in Asia shows the Alnic was last inspected in the Chinese port of Dongying on July 29 and had one document deficiency, one fire safety deficiency and two safety of navigation problems.
The database doesn’t go into details and the problems were apparently not serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port authority.
U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concern for the crew.
Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. When reporters shouted questions to him about the , he responded, “That’s too bad.”
About two hours later, Trump tweeted that “thoughts and prayers” are with the sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.
The 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer is named after U.S. Sen. John father and grandfather, who were both U.S.admirals. It’s based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.
said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are “keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S in our prayers tonight — appreciate the work of search rescue crews.”
The Air Force is giving its historic B-52 bomber a massive weapons enhancement by engineering an upgrade to the aircraft’s internal weapons bay, which promises to substantially enhance its attack mission options.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing. This initiative not only increases the weapons delivery capacity for the bomber but also enables it to accommodate a wider swath of modern weapons.
IWBU uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, service officials said.
“The B-52 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade provides internal J-series (smart) weapons capability through modification of Common Strategic Rotary Launchers and upgrade of aircraft software,” Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.
The B-52 has previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU, the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting-edge, precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that the IWBU effort will bring a 66-percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52.
Service developers also explain that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The move is a key modernization step for the Air Force which, for many known reasons, no longer views the B-52 in its historic role as a “carpet bombing” aircraft. The demands and challenges of modern warfare, both counterinsurgency as well as the possible force of large-scale mechanized warfare, now require precision. This weapons upgrade will help expedite the integration of an even larger arsenal of precision-guided or (smart) weapons, as Grabowski explained.
While the B-52 can, of course, still blanket an area with bombs should it need to do so, more likely challenges in a modern threat environment would doubtless use long-range sensors, guided weapons, or even lasers to achieve both greater standoff and precision in possible engagements.
Also, given that the size and “not-so-stealthy” configuration of the B-52, it is primarily intended to operate in areas where the US Air Force already has air supremacy. Longer range, more precise Russian-built air defenses would also be expected to pose a significant threat to even high-altitude bombing missions.
Given the fast pace of advances in command and control technology, manned-unmanned teaming, and artificial intelligence, it is entirely feasible that manned bombers, such as the B-52, will soon be able to control nearby drones from the air. (A former Air Force Chief Scientist discussed this at great length in previous interviews with Warrior Maven.)
The first increment of IWBU integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios, and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons, and technologies, Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of multiple interviews with program managers in recent years
Anyone who’s ever served in uniform has probably heard someone say the immortal line: “I would have joined the military, but…”
Lots of civilians make a trip to the recruiter with an eye toward military service, full of patriotic zeal and martial courage. But many pull out at the last minute and give their friends and family some song and dance about why they couldn’t commit.
No matter what excuse they give you for not signing on the dotted line, here are six real reasons recruiters tell us people decide not to join.
6. They’re physically disqualified
A recruit who wants to join but is physically disqualified is disappointing for both the recruit and the recruiter. Applicants can be physically disqualified because of asthma, bad eyesight, scoliosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other causes. Sometimes people disqualify themselves with tattoos, ear gauges or other kinds of body art.
5. Friends and family talk them out of it
Some occupations in the military are the most dangerous jobs in the world, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily lead to death. The type of job and location of a recruit’s duty station will determine the risk that military personnel encounter. Approximately 80 percent of career fields in the military are non-combat related.
Still, some potential recruits are convinced their service will kill them.
4. They don’t want to leave a significant other
Being in a relationship while going through the process of enlisting is challenging. Getting married or having a child as a single parent may affect the process of enlistment and eligibility to serve. Some refuse to leave their partner behind and instead give up on a potential military career for love.
3. They enlist and sign a contract but don’t get their dream job
Open positions are based on the needs and manning of the particular service. In the Navy, (my expertise) most jobs do not have to be permanent. Changing jobs can be easy if there’s a new job open and you can meet the qualifications. The Army has a program where a service member can re-enlist and change his MOS. But for some people, not having the ideal job is non-negotiable, so they never enlist.
2. The recruiting experience went south
Recruiters have a duty and job to fill the needs of the military, but they are also responsible for building a connection with applicants. The relationship between a recruiter and a candidate is often seen as a reflection of what the service will be like, but that shouldn’t not be the only thing to consider. Still, a negative recruiting experience can discourage people from joining.
1. Some people just back out
The service is not for everyone and though the idea of joining seems attractive because of the honor, the uniform and the respect — it is a sacrifice. Some people may at some point feel they can make it but don’t. After weighing the pros and cons, people just change their mind.
Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base [in Morocco], marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.
More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.
The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.
Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots
African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.
Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier.
Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores.
In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco.
Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.
“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.
‘A Golden Opportunity’
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.
Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.
The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate, and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.
Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.
Some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and all their gear and supplies have descended on Norway, where they’re taking part in Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.
Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen are jetting around Norway and through the air over the Baltic and Norwegian seas during the exercise, which NATO says is purely to practice defending an alliance member from attack.
Also present at the exercise is one of the mainstays of US Army aviation: The CH-47 Chinook helicopter, which has ferried troops and supplies to and from battlefields since the Vietnam War.
Below, you can see what one Chinook pilot says are the most rewarding — and most demanding — parts of the job.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean P. Casey)
A US Army Reserve Chinook crew assist with preparations for Hurricane Florence at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2018.
(US Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez)
Kapaldo conducts maintenance on a Chinook at Rena Leir Airfield, Norway, Oct. 26, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
(US Army photo)
A South Carolina Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift cargo helicopter supports the South Carolina Forestry Commission to contain a remote fire near the top of Pinnacle Mountain in Pickens County, South Carolina, Nov. 17, 2016.
(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)
British and US soldiers are transported to a training mission in a US Army 12th Combat Aviation Brigade Chinook helicopter near Rena, Norway on Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael O’Brien)
US soldiers conduct aft wheel pinnacle landing training in a CH-47F helicopter, June 28, 2016.
(US Army photo by Luis Viegas)
Hovering with only the rear wheels touching the edge of a cliff, US Army pilots perform a maneuver called a pinnacle in a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during a training flight, Aug. 26, 2010.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)
(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez, CJTF-101 Public Affairs)
Soldiers prepare attach a sling load to a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter at Forward Operating Base Altimur in Logar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2009.
(US Army photo)
Engineers connect a bridging section to a CH-47 Chinook as they move their mulitrole bridging company from a secure airfield to a water obstacle in northern Michigan, Oct. 13, 2018.
(Michigan National Guard photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
US soldiers sling load a Humvee to a Chinook at McGregor Range, New Mexico, Sept. 11, 2018.
(Fort Bliss Public Affairs photo)
(Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman)
A US Army Reserve CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew member scans the Registan Desert in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
(US Army photo)
“It’s just a great feeling at the end of the day, knowing that I get to shape the battlefield from a Chinook.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.
Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.
And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.
“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”
Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.
Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.
The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.
“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”
Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.
Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”
John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.
Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.
She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”
She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.
In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.
Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.
“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”
Move to Missouri
John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.
“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”
He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.
Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?” The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.
John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.
“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”
Whiteman Air Force Base
Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”
Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.
Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.
Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.
So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.
“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”
After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.
By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.
Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.
For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”
For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”
It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”
The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.
Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.
There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.
From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.
“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.
The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.
The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.
“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.
At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”
Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.
“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”
“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”
Fortunately for the United States, the impact of World War II was almost solely felt through rationing and news from abroad and rarely were American civilians affected firsthand. As a result, the American home front became a strong source of resources and morale for the soldiers overseas – something that most countries involved in the war didn’t have. Realizing this, the Japanese looked for a relatively cheap and safe way to disrupt the American home front.
In 1944, the Japanese decided to tap into a jet stream that they had discovered a few years earlier, one that traveled from Asia to North America at about 30,000 feet. Their plan was to attach bombs to giant balloons and release them into the jet stream, where they’d be carried silently and dispersed across the US at random. Overall, the plan wasn’t to kill Americans, but rather to start forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and also instill panic in the population and, in turn, diminish morale on the home front.
The balloons were around 30 feet in diameter and from the top of the balloon to the payload underneath measured around 70 feet. Each balloon bomb consisted of sandbags for ballast that would be released as the balloon descended, allowing it to drop some weight, gain a little altitude, and carry on a bit further. Once the sandbags had all been dropped, four incendiary bombs would be released one at a time until none were left, then a single anti-personnel bomb would fall and the balloon would ignite itself and be destroyed.
Launched in groups, the balloons were at the mercy of the jet stream and typically took a few days to cross the Pacific. Since they were unguided, the balloons had a wide distribution and have been discovered from Alaska to Mexico and from Hawaii to Michigan.
The bombs started arriving in Western US in late 1944 and at first no one really knew what they were. However, geologists sampled the sand and determined that it had come from a small section of beach east of Tokyo. Until the end of the war, the US Government asked media outlets not to report on the bombs in order to prevent the Japanese from tracking whether they were successful. This apparently worked because the Japanese pulled the funding for the bombs after only a few months of launches, assuming that the balloons weren’t hitting their targets.
Overall, the bombs were not successful; less than 300 out of an estimated 9,000 have ever been found – around 3%. However, one bomb detonated in rural Oregon in spring 1945 and killed a pregnant woman and five children, making them the only American civilians killed in the US as a result of enemy action.
After the war, talk of the bombs began to spread and it was found that seven landed in Nebraska including one in Omaha, one landed ten miles from Detroit and another landed near Grand Rapids. Balloon bombs, while largely unsuccessful, continued to be discovered throughout the US and Canada following the war and one was even discovered in British Columbia in October 2014.
The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.
US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.
The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.
High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.
“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.
Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.
With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.
“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.
The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.
While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.
Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.
Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.
Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.
NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.
Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.
The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.
Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.
NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.
Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.
Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.
(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)
25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)
Power Index rating: 1.0885
Total population: 11,491,346
Total military personnel: 38,800
Total aircraft strength: 164
Fighter aircraft: 45
Combat tanks: 0
Total naval assets: 17
Defense budget: .085 billion
A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)
24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)
Power Index rating: 1.0035
Total population: 10,839,514
Total military personnel: 268,500
Total aircraft strength: 93
Fighter aircraft: 24
Combat tanks: 133
Total naval assets: 41
Defense budget: .8 billion
Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.
Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)
Power Index rating: 0.9953
Total population: 8,754,413
Total military personnel: 170,000
Total aircraft strength: 124
Fighter aircraft: 15
Combat tanks: 56
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .22 billion
A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.
(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)
21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)
Power Index rating: 0.9839
Total population: 7,101,510
Total military personnel: 52,650
Total aircraft strength: 73
Fighter aircraft: 20
Combat tanks: 531
Total naval assets: 29
Defense budget: 0 million
Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.
(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)
20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)
Power Index rating: 0.9687
Total population: 5,518,371
Total military personnel: 262,050
Total aircraft strength: 153
Fighter aircraft: 55
Combat tanks: 160
Total naval assets: 270
Defense budget: .66 billion
Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.
A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.
14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)
Power Index rating: 0.6784
Total population: 5,320,045
Total military personnel: 72,500
Total aircraft strength: 128
Fighter aircraft: 49
Combat tanks: 52
Total naval assets: 62
Defense budget: billion
13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)
Power Index rating: 0.6634
Total population: 8,236,303
Total military personnel: 171,000
Total aircraft strength: 167
Fighter aircraft: 54
Combat tanks: 134
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .83 billion
Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)
Power Index rating: 0.6071
Total population: 9,960,487
Total military personnel: 43,875
Total aircraft strength: 206
Fighter aircraft: 72
Combat tanks: 120
Total naval assets: 63
Defense budget: .2 billion
erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.
(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)
Power Index rating: 0.5969
Total population: 10,674,723
Total military personnel: 29,050
Total aircraft strength: 103
Fighter aircraft: 12
Combat tanks: 123
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .6 billion
10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)
Power Index rating: 0.5383
Total population: 44,033,874
Total military personnel: 1,182,000
Total aircraft strength: 240
Fighter aircraft: 39
Combat tanks: 2,214
Total naval assets: 25
Defense budget: .88 billion
9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)
Power Index rating: 0.5255
Total population: 10,768,477
Total military personnel: 413,750
Total aircraft strength: 567
Fighter aircraft: 189
Combat tanks: 1,345
Total naval assets: 115
Defense budget: .54 billion
8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)
Power Index rating: 0.4276
Total population: 38,476,269
Total military personnel: 184,650
Total aircraft strength: 466
Fighter aircraft: 99
Combat tanks: 1,065
Total naval assets: 83
Defense budget: .36 billion
A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.
(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)
7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)
Power Index rating: 0.4079
Total population: 48,958,159
Total military personnel: 174,700
Total aircraft strength: 524
Fighter aircraft: 122
Combat tanks: 327
Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: .6 billion
An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.
(Italian Air Force photo)
6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)
Power Index rating: 0.2565
Total population: 62,137,802
Total military personnel: 267,500
Total aircraft strength: 828
Fighter aircraft: 90
Combat tanks: 200
Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: .7 billion
5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)
Power Index rating: 0.2461
Total population: 80,594,017
Total military personnel: 208,641
Total aircraft strength: 714
Fighter aircraft: 94
Combat tanks: 432
Total naval assets: 81
Defense budget: .2 billion
4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)
Power Index rating: 0.2216
Total population: 80,845,215
Total military personnel: 710,565
Total aircraft strength: 1,056
Fighter aircraft: 207
Combat tanks: 2,446
Total naval assets: 194
Defense budget: .2 billion
3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)
Power Index rating: 0.1917
Total population: 64,769,452
Total military personnel: 279,230
Total aircraft strength: 832
Fighter aircraft: 103
Combat tanks: 227
Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
2. France (Overall ranking: 5)
Power Index rating: 0.1869
Total population: 67,106,161
Total military personnel: 388,635
Total aircraft strength: 1,262
Fighter aircraft: 299
Combat tanks: 406
Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)
Power Index rating: 0.0841
Total population: 142,257,519
Total military personnel: 3,586,128
Total aircraft strength: 3,914
Fighter aircraft: 818
Combat tanks: 20,300
Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: billion
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