With tensions between Qatar and a Saudi-lead group of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) increasing over allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups, and a blockade being imposed, there is the question as to what would happen if this broke out into war.
Could Qatar hold on? Would Saudi Arabia have some new real estate?
Let’s start with a look at the Qatari military. The blockade is one likely flashpoint, and the balance of naval forces is decidedly not in Qatar’s favor. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Qatari navy consists of seven patrol combatants equipped with MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles. This force is outclassed by the Saudi navy, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, which combine for nine frigates, plus 10 corvettes and up to 30 guided-missile patrol combatants.
In essence, Qatar isn’t about to break this blockade any time soon. Any naval battle will be very short – and will end with the Qatari navy on the bottom. The only question will be how much of an honor guard they will take with them.
It’s important to note that eight of the Saudi-led coalition frigates are equipped with surface-to-air missiles, while the corvettes at least have point-defense systems like the Mk 15 Phalanx or launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.
So, what happens if the Saudi-lead coalition decides to roll into Qatar? Again, this will likely be a short fight. The Egyptian army and the combination of the Saudi army and Saudi National Guard would be operating under friendly skies very quickly.
According to FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2017, Qatar has a single squadron of 13 Mirage 2000-5 fighters (nine Mirage 2000-5EDA, four Mirage 2000-5DDAs) on hand. Yes, they ordered 72 F-15QA Eagles, 18 Rafale Cs and six Rafale Bs, but those haven’t been delivered.
As things stand right now, Bahrain’s air force of 17 F-16Cs and 8 F-5Es could arguably take the Qatari air force on their own. That doesn’t count what the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia could throw in.
Qatar does have Patriot and THAAD batteries. These systems make for a formidable air-defense system. That said, the sheer numbers of planes from the Saudi-lead coalition (“World Air Forces 2017” notes that Saudi Arabia has 48 Eurofighters, 129 F-15C/S/SA, and 81 Tornado IDS while the UAE has 55 F-16E, 23 F-16F, and 49 Mirage 2000-5 fighters on hand) would likely overwhelm those defenses.
The ground battle would also be short. The Qatari army performed well during the Battle of Khafji in Desert Storm. But with one tank battalion, four mechanized infantry battalions, and an anti-tank battalion (according to GlobalSecurity.org), they are badly outnumbered by the eight brigades (two armored, five mechanized infantry, and one airborne) assigned to the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudi Arabian National Guard brings 11 additional brigades.
Qatar has two trump cards to keep this crisis from going hot. One is the American presence at Al Udeid Air Base – in essence, the Saudi-lead coalition is not going to want to accidentally hit American personnel. The other is the fact that Turkey, under Recip Teyap Erdogan, is condemning the blockade, and Turkey has a formidable military of its own. But Turkey is a long way off, and may not be able to do much to stop a Saudi-lead invasion.
As in so many American conflicts, Coast Guard units and personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF, performed several missions; including escort duty, force protection, maritime interdiction operations or MIO, and aids-to-navigation, or ATON, work. From the very outset of Middle East operations, the Coast Guard’s training and experience in these and other maritime activities played a vital role in OIF.
Late in 2002, Coast Guard headquarters alerted various units in the service’s Pacific Area and Atlantic Area about possible deployment to the Middle East. From November 2002 through January 2003, these units began activation, training and planning activities for an expected deployment in early 2003. In January, Pacific Area’s first major units deployed to the Arabian Gulf, including the high-endurance cutter Boutwell and ocean-going buoy tender Walnut. Both of these vessels had to cross the Pacific and Indian oceans to arrive at the Arabian Gulf and begin operations. Their responsibilities would include MIO and Walnut, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, would lead potential oil spill containment operations.
Port Security Unit 309’s port security boat underway.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Atlantic Area provided many units of its own, sending the high-endurance cutter Dallas to the Mediterranean to support and escort Military Sealift Command shipping and Coalition battle groups in that theater of operations. Atlantic Area sent four 110-foot patrol boats (WPBs) to Italy together with support personnel and termed their base of operations “Patrol Forces Mediterranean” or PATFORMED, and it sent four WPBs to the Arabian Gulf with a Bahrain-based command called “Patrol Forces Southwest Asia,” PATFORSWA.
The service also activated Port Security Units and law enforcement boarding teams, LEDETs, which had proven successful in the Gulf War in 1990. Atlantic Area sent PSU 309 from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Italy to support PATFORMED while Pacific Area sent PSU 311 from San Pedro, California, and PSU 313 from Tacoma, Washington, to Kuwait to protect the Kuwait Naval Base and the commercial port of Shuaiba, respectively. LEDET personnel initially served aboard the WPBs and then switched to Navy patrol craft to perform MIO operations.
Coast Guard Cutter Adak, a 110-foot patrol boat, interdicts a local dhow in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
At 8 p.m. on March 19, Coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When hostilities commenced, all Coast Guard units were manned and ready. On March 20, personnel from PSU 311 and PSU 313 helped secure Iraq’s offshore oil terminals thereby preventing environmental damage and ensuring the flow of oil for a post-war Iraqi government. On March 21, littoral combat operations began and the WPB Adak served picket duty farther north than any other Coalition unit along the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Adak captured the first Iraqi maritime prisoners of the war whose patrol boat had been destroyed upstream by an AC-130 gunship. On that same day, Adak participated in the capture of two Iraqi tugs and a mine-laying barge that had been modified to plant its deadly cargo in the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf.
Once initial naval operations ceased, Coast Guard units began securing port facilities and waterways for the shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq. On March 24, PSU 311 personnel deployed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and, four days later, the WPB Wrangell led the first humanitarian aid shipment to that port facility. In addition to their primary mission of boarding vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf, Coast Guard LEDETs secured the Iraqi shoreline from caches of weapons and munitions. Buoy tender Walnut, whose original mission included environmental protection from sabotaged oil facilities, surveyed and completely restored aids to navigation for the shipping lane leading to Iraq’s ports.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, made the ultimate sacrifice during a boarding operation as member of a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
On May 1, President George Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. However, in less than a year the Coast Guard suffered its first and only death associated with OIF. On April 24, 2004, terrorists navigated three small vessels armed with explosives toward Iraq’s oil terminals. During this attack, the Navy patrol craft Firebolt intercepted one of the watercraft and members of LEDET 403 and Navy crew members proceeded toward the vessel in a rigid-hull inflatable boat or RHIB. Terrorists aboard the small vessel detonated its explosive cargo as the RHIB approached, overturning the boat and killing LEDET member Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy crew members. Serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Bruckenthal had already received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
In OIF, the Coast Guard demonstrated the importance of a naval force experienced in shallow-water operations, MIO, port security and ATON work. The PSUs performed their port security duties efficiently in spite of their units being divided between three separate port facilities and two oil terminals. The WPBs operated for countless hours without maintenance in waters too shallow for Navy assets and served as the Coalition fleet’s workhorses in boarding, escort and force protection duties. The personnel of PATFORMED and PSU 309 demonstrated that Coast Guard units could serve in areas, such as the Mediterranean, lacking any form of Coast Guard infrastructure. PATFORSWA performed its mission effectively even though it was the first support detachment established by the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Walnut never had to employ its oil spill capability, but proved indispensable for MIO operations and ATON work on the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Cutters Dallas and Boutwell provided much-needed logistical support, force protection and MIO operations. OIF was just one of the many combat operations fought by the Coast Guard since 1790 and its heroes are among the many members of the long blue line.
With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain conducted the first spacewalk in this series on March 22, 2019. Hague and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch now are preparing to conduct the second spacewalk Friday, March 29, 2019, during which they will continue work started on the first spacewalk to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays.
Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, 2019, Koch will wear it.
McClain now is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk – the third in this series – on Monday, April 8, 2019, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Assignments for this spacewalk will be finalized following completion of the second spacewalk.
Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.
Experts will discuss the work to be performed on the April 8, 2019 spacewalk during a news conference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Media wishing to attend the briefing in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2019. Media interested in participating by phone must contact the newsroom by 1:45 p.m. April 2, 2019.
Participants in the briefing will be:
Kenny Todd, International Space Station manager for Operations and Integration
Rick Henfling, spacewalk flight director
John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer
McClain and Saint-Jacques will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone, during their April 8, 2019 spacewalk. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.
Live coverage of both spacewalks will begin at 6:30 a.m., and each is expected to last about 6.5 hours. The March 29, 2019 spacewalk is scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m., while the April 8, 2019 spacewalk is set to start at 8:05 a.m.
These will be the 215th and 216th spacewalks in the history of International Space Station assembly and maintenance. During the first spacewalk of the series, on March 22, 2019, McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk. Koch will become the 14th on March 29, 2019.
A military space plane spread its wings and a rocket stretched its legs during SpaceX’s Sept. 7 launch of a classified mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket rumbled from historic pad 39A at 10 a.m., as weather cooperated a day before Brevard County planned mandatory barrier island evacuations ahead of Hurricane Irma’s projected arrival.
On top of the rocket was the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, an unmanned mini-shuttle resembling one of NASA’s retired orbiters, but about a quarter the size at 29 feet long and windowless. The program was riding for the first time on a SpaceX rocket, after four turns on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V.
To preserve the mission’s secrecy, SpaceX cut off its broadcast a few minutes into the flight, after nine Merlin main engines cut off and the first-stage booster fell away.
About two hours later, Gen. John Raymond, the head of Air Force Space Command, confirmed on Twitter that the launch was a success.
Boeing, which built and operates two reusable X-37B orbiters housed in former shuttle hangars at KSC, did the same.
After separating, the roughly 16-story Falcon booster pirouetted in space and flew back toward a pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The rocket stage touched down on four landing legs, announcing its return with sonic booms that reported across the region.
As the wars have raged on, America’s interest in Tier One special operators like Delta Force and SEAL Team Six has increased. Delta Force has managed to stay largely in the shadows in spite of this, keeping their missions and accomplishments relatively secret. They hunted Osama bin Laden, were part of the capture of Saddam Hussein, and have operated in dozens of countries around the world, but little is known about the outfit.
But there is a body of work out there about Delta Force. Here are four books by former operatives that give a glimpse behind the curtain:
1. “Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special Operations Unit”
Col. Charlie A. Beckwith was the creator of Delta Force. He fought from 1962 to 1977 to get the unit after serving as an exchange officer with the British SAS. He was finally given permission to found the unit and describes the process in “Delta Force.” He also goes into detail of the rigorous training and selection process that continues today. Beckwith led the unit through the failed Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.
2. “Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit”
Written by a founding member of Delta Force, “Inside Delta Force” takes a reader through the training and earliest missions of the elite unit. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Haney describes his personal experiences in Beirut, the Sudan, and Honduras.
3. “Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man”
“Kill Bin Laden” looks at the earliest attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden immediately after the September 11 attacks. The book shows the inner workings of Delta Force on the ground conducting operations. The operators work with local forces to hunt through the Tora Bora mountains and are able to listen in on bin Laden’s communications before ultimately losing him.
4. “The Mission, the Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander”
Pete Blaber, a former Delta Force commander, takes readers through his own physical and mental training as he joined Delta Force before discussing his missions in Columbia, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
“The Mission, the Men, and Me” has a few distinguishing characteristics. First, this book discusses more operations in the Post-9/11 world than any other on this list. Also, Blaber distills the lessons he learned in Delta Force and helps readers apply them to their lives in modern America.
The US has deported a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who had been living in the US for almost 70 years.
Jakiw Palij, who worked as a guard at a labor camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II, was seen exiting a plane in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Aug. 21, 2018. He was then transferred to a stretcher and taken across the city in an ambulance.
The New York Times reported in 2003 that he had had two strokes and was in frail health.
He was deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement early Aug. 21, 2018, the White House said in a press release. He had been living on welfare in Queens, New York, until his deportation, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.
Palij was born in a part of Poland that is now part of Ukraine. He trained at the Nazi SS training camp in Trawniki, in German-occupied Poland, in 1943 and served as an armed guard at Trawniki labor camp, the White House said.
Jakiw Palij, at his home in Queens.
The camp is the site of one of the largest massacres of the Holocaust. SS and police officers shot at least 6,000 Jewish inmates at the camp and a nearby subcamp in a single day, on Nov. 3, 1943, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Palij immigrated to the US in 1949 as a 26-year-old war refugee and was granted US citizenship in 1959. He lied about his Nazi service during his immigration and naturalization process, saying instead that he spent World War II working in a farm and in a factory, the White House said.
In 2003, a federal judge revoked Palij’s US citizenship for lying in his immigration process. A US judge ordered for his deportation in 2004, but it was implemented in August 2018.
Palij told The New York Times in 2003 that he was “never a collaborator,” claiming instead that his role was to guard bridges and rivers. He also said he joined the Nazis only to save his family.
”They came and took me when I was 18,” he said. “We knew they would kill me and my family if I refused. I did it to save their lives, and I never even wore a Nazi uniform. They made us wear gray guards’ uniforms and had us guarding bridges and rivers.”
But Eli Rosenbaum, the director of a special investigation unit for the Justice Department, said at the time that Palij was “very loyal and very capable and served until April 1945, the last weeks of the war, while other soldiers were deserting right and left.”
Palij also said in 2003: “Let them come and get me. I’m not running. What will they do? Shoot me? Put me in the electric chair? Where are they going to deport me to? What country is going to take an 80-year-old man in poor health?”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Aug. 21, 2018: “The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human-rights abuses.”
Palij’s case will now be part of an investigation at a Nazi crimes investigation unit in Ludwigsburg, Germany, Bild reported.
Legendary U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis once said, “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Service members who have deployed during today’s complex conflicts likely have a special appreciation for Mattis’ assertion that the mind matters most.
In an era where the military is heavily involved in both combat operations and nation-building, troops are often expected to simultaneously sustain focus, make nuanced, split-second decisions about the use of force, and reach back into their memories to draw on their training during high-stress situations.
These efforts require a high frontal cortex functional capacity. The frontal cortex helps us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper level cognition (focus). These brain functions comprise our working memory capacity, and interestingly, we can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.
Unfortunately, although the military emphasizes the importance of physical training and does a wonderful job creating developmental stress opportunities, it doesn’t do a great job training service members to rest, or do the restorative practices needed to maximize the mind’s growth opportunities.
Restorative practices move our bodies to a rested state between action and sleep. These practices matter because they increase our physical and mental performance, which are important both in and out of the military. The same things that make you a better warrior can also make you a better parent, partner, employee, and friend.
Why does mental fitness training matter?
For active duty servicemembers and veterans alike, mental fitness training should include stressors alongside very intentional mental recovery time. When both are combined, physical and mental performance increase, clarity of thought improves, and you’re able to slow your reaction times in the right contexts.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for the military to provide this training – you can train yourself.
But before we get to the training part, let’s take a quick look at what happens in your body during and after you encounter stressors.
Think about the last time you experienced stress. Maybe it was being stuck behind a slow driver in traffic or gearing up for a mandatory run with a wicked hangover. Maybe it was being in a firefight or being lost somewhere. Here’s a snapshot of what happens in your body in those scenarios: Your brain is operating in an active state, indicated by what researchers call Beta waves. This is a high-functioning mental space. As the stress is registered by your brain, a chain reaction fires. Your body releases cortisol (a stress hormone), adrenaline, and a host of other chemicals to help you cope. It also releases a hormone called DHEA into your bloodstream.
DHEA’s entire role is to help your brain grow from the stressor you just survived. The hormone increases synaptic firing and neural connectivity (you’ll think faster) and increases working memory capacity (emotional regulation and focus). DHEA is what makes stressful experiences worth your time, but there’s a catch: although the hormone is released when your body or brain are stressed, it only does its work during recovery time – when your body and brain consciously downshift.
One of the best, validated ways to move your brain to this state is through mindfulness-based stress reduction, or – as it is more commonly known – meditation.
Meditation takes your brain from Beta state (alert, on guard) to Theta space (at rest, but aware). When you sleep, your brain produces Delta waves (deep, dreamless sleep).
Mediation is one of the fastest ways to give your mind and body the space they need to turn stress into strength. Even if you only dedicate 15 minutes each day to it, you’re likely to see dramatic changes in your ability to focus and regulate emotions within a week or two of practice.
Every hurdle you jump over and every stress or trigger you encounter becomes more useful if you carve out recovery time. Meditation is performance enhancement – it trains us for mental fitness.
How can I train myself?
You don’t have to run to an island somewhere to start experiencing more calm – it’s something you can easily make part of your day.
Learn mindfulness meditation (takes about 10 minutes). It’s simple to teach, simple to learn, but not simple to practice – it may take some getting used to. I like iRest.us (it’s been validated specifically in military community). It’s simple and a great place to start.
Ritualize your practice by making mindfulness a regular part of your day. Prioritize this opportunity for growth.
Track your progress. How did you mentally feel week 1? Week 2? Write down wins so you can remember them. A great journal might work for you.
Continue your practice daily.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
President Barack Obama announced that 250 more special forces troops would be sent to Syria to bolster U.S. efforts in the fight against ISIS. Their specific mission is not clear, but in neighboring Iraq, ground forces have provided fire support to Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul and have acted as advisors to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has conducted raids against ISIS in Syria, killing or capturing leaders of the terror group. In recent days, U.S. special operators were captured on video by France’s media outlet France24, as U.S. troops directed A-10 Thunderbolt strikes in support of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting to take the village of Shadadi from ISIS.
Shadadi is a border town that once served as the crossing point for ISIS fighter heading into neighboring Iraq. It was captured recently by Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces. The recapture took less than a week.
The video keep the men’s identities secret, but shows the gear used against ISIS in the battle for the town. The small group of operators are seen carrying Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle, an M-32 semiautomatic grenade launcher, and equipment that allows for them to call in airstrikes, acording to Twitter’s Abraxas Spa, who describes their feed as an “all-source analyst.”
One operator is using the Mk. 4 scope on a tripod while another is marking objects with the LA-16 laser marker. The LA-16 will guide bombs to targets on the ground using the handheld laser.
The operators are also using a ROVER, Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, which allows for troops on the ground to see a video feed of what aircraft overhead see. The Tactical ROVER-p can provide real-time imagery to a tablet.
An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.
This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).
Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.
So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.
This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.
The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.
The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.
The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.
This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.
This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.
Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.
“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.
“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”
In early 1942, the British had a severe fighter problem. The German Focke-Wulf 190 had been cutting up Royal Air Force planes for nearly a year, and when the new A-3 model took to the skies, it dominated.
So the British began looking at some crazy plans to steal one for study.
The British relied heavily on the Spitfire, a capable design, and the Typhoon, which was visually similar to the 190 but was still outclassed. Neither of the fighters could hold up in aerial combat against the new German plane.
After the British fighters engaged in heavy combat with a German formation, the Bf-109 and pilot would join the German forces headed home. He would land at a Fw-190 base and request a new plane so he could rejoin the fight. Since no Bf-109s would be available, he would accept an Fw-190 and then fly it low and fast back to England.
The plan glossed over a lot of potential problems. If the pilot screwed up any of his German or the base had a Bf-109 or it refused to let an emotional pilot take off in one of their cutting-edge machines, the pilot would’ve been stuck at a German base with a ticking clock counting until he was caught.
In the late February operation, a British radar tech went with a group of commandos to a coastal radar station. As the commandos protected him, he grabbed the parts they wanted and then the group exfiltrated.
Airthief would work the same way but with a pilot instead of the radar tech.
Luckily for the British, the operation became unnecessary the same day it was supposed to be submitted for approval.
An aerial battle between Spitfires and Fw-190s ended with little damage to either side on June 23, but the Germans wanted another crack at the Brits before heading for home. The Fw-190 wing stalked the Spitfires back to Britain and then ambushed them from the clouds.
One of the pilots, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, downed a Spitfire but became disoriented while maneuvering against him. As soon as he killed his enemy, he turned to follow what he thought was the English Channel south to France, but he was actually following the Bristol Channel north.
The destruction testing told the British the best vectors to attack the planes from and the flight testing told them where the Fw-190s’ weaknesses were. They found that the Fw-190’s performance suffered greatly at altitude, and so increased their operational heights to give some advantage back to the Spitfires.
They also incorporated elements of the Fw-190 design into future British planes, allowing later Spitfires and other planes to gain a quality edge.
President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.
Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.
But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.
Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.
Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”
Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.
So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?
“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.
“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.
The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:
Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.
Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:
An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.
Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.
So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.
Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.
Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?
“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.
Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.
The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.
But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — The day to honor civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, and promote service through volunteerism was on Jan. 20. White Sands Missile Range observed the holiday at an event on Jan. 16.
At the event, Nicholas P. Charles, who has been working at WSMR for four years and served 20 years in the Army, spoke to attendees about King’s life and shared his personal experiences.
Charles remembers the events surrounding the assassination of King on April 4, 1968. He was a young child living in Washington, D.C., and did not recognize the impact this event would have on his life. But it was immediate and close to home, as he recalled his two older brothers returned home that night, “I remember these two coming out of the chaos that night, smelling of smoke, with anger and full of hate.”
The day after King’s assassination, amidst the disarray, it created a “mental memory in my mind that influenced me as an Army officer and now as an Army civilian,” said Charles.
He saw D.C. National Guardsmen, amongst others in uniform, maintaining and restoring peace in his neighborhood.
For him, the memories reinforce “the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.”
Charles went on to recognize King’s predecessors in the civil rights movement, such as Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. He also acknowledged a significant era in history that affected King’s activism; this was the 1902’s Harlem Renaissance. A moment in time that took place in New York and put a spotlight on the struggles of African Americans through intellectual, artistic and social movements.
“I’ll add that, with respect to timing, it was after World War II, and those Soldiers returned to a racist country after fighting fascism and imperialism,” said Charles. “This stoked the flames of equality and enabled Dr. King to move forward with the civil rights struggle.”
At the time, kids grew up witnessing the discrimination that their parents faced, and as education became more attainable for African Americans, attempts at breaking the cycle of oppression and inequality became more widespread.
“The strength of the civil rights movement was made up of people from the greatest generation and the youth of that time, tired of the oppression and unethical treatment of fellow American citizens,” said Charles. “The media showed a different picture and exposed the blatant racism occurring in this great nation, which really showed the actions taking place in Montgomery, Ala., with protests and how they were treating African Americans.”
While media exposed the treatment of African Americans to the world, it also perpetuated stereotypes. Throughout history, people of color have been depicted as subhuman in the entertainment industry and through various types of propaganda, said Charles.
“Sadly, the current politics, the antics of a few in Charlottesville, the shooting in El Paso, and other acts of violence around the country show that the United States continues to suffer issues with race,” said Charles. “The actions, behavior and attitudes seen on social media and validated in Virginia remind us that racism is alive and well in 2020, a sad reality.”
In 2017, Charlottesville, Va., was the site of a white nationalist rally which became deadly, killing one woman and leaving dozens injured. While in 2019, a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left 22 dead and 24 wounded. Authorities said the shooter targeted people of Mexican descent.
“Now, more than ever, service to our nation and communities is paramount,” said Charles. “Therefore, us coming together despite political affiliation to denounce injustice, immoral and illegal behavior is what is needed to mend the tears we currently have in our moral fragment as a nation.”
For over 70 years, the Department of Defense has been racially integrated, and continues to be at the forefront of these efforts. Charles shared that raising kids in the military, amongst diverse cultures, allowed them to grow up without seeing color.
“The military remains the bedrock of social equality,” said Charles. “I believe that Dr. King would be proud of the military achievements in respect to race relations. But we are a microcosm in society, and sadly some of these attitudes still find its way into our ranks.”
Charles shared a famous quote by King, ‘everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame – but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.’
In 1994, Congress designated the Martin King Luther Jr. holiday as a day of service. While the main objective is for people to go out and serve their communities, people are also encouraged to serve together and connect, despite the color of their skin, gender, age, or background.
Before the advent of maneuver warfare, nations defended their territory with massive fortifications. This was particularly true of coasts and harbors, especially if a nation owned the finest harbor in the Orient. This was the case for the American port at Manila Bay.
After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.
While other islands were fortified by more conventional means, the plans for El Fraile were much more extensive. Construction began in 1909 and completed by 1916. What was originally a rocky outcropping of an island was excavated down to the waterline. From there, the concrete battleship began to take shape.
The new structure was 350 feet long and 144 feet at the widest point. The exterior walls of the fortification were constructed of reinforced concrete 25 to 36 feet thick and rising 40 feet above the water. The top deck of the structure was reinforced concrete 20 feet thick that mounted two turrets containing twin fourteen inch guns and a 60 foot fire control tower to complete the battleship look.
The fort’s armament was rounded out by dual six-inch guns in armored casemates on each side as well as three-inch anti-aircraft guns mounted on the top deck. The fort’s 240 officers and enlisted lived deep inside the impregnable walls of the concrete ship along with all the stores they would need to hold out against a siege.
That siege came after the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. In January 1942, the Japanese began to target Fort Drum and the rest of the harbor defenses from the air and by February the concrete battleship was in range of Japanese artillery on shore. The fort endured bombing and shelling, destroying the anti-aircraft batteries, temporarily disabling a six-inch gun, damaging its casemate and searchlight, chipping away large chunks of concrete.
The whole time Fort Drum was under attack, it returned fire against the Japanese. The fort’s resistance continued even after the fall of Bataan on April 10, 1942 left Fort Drum and the other islands of the harbor defense as the last American forces in the Philippines. The guns of the concrete battleship dealt serious blows to Japanese forces assaulting the island of Corregidor, inflicting heavy casualties.
Unfortunately for the men of E battery, 59th Coastal Artillery, their efforts were not enough to halt the Japanese onslaught as General Wainwright made the decision to surrender the remaining U.S. forces in the Philippines. However, the fort was never taken and its main guns were still firing five minutes before the surrender was announced.
After capturing the Philippines, the Japanese manned all former American positions, including the concrete battleship. Eventually, American forces recaptured Manila and a daring assault by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment U.S. forces recaptured Corregidor as well. That left Fort Drum once again as the last bastion of resistance. However, unlike the Americans some three years earlier, the Japanese had no intention of surrendering. This combined with the fact that the Americans had designed the fort to resist all manner of bombings and gunfire meant they would have to find another way to remove the defenders.
Unfortunately for the Japanese manning the concrete battleship, the idea the Americans came up with was rather grisly. The troops poured a mixture of two parts diesel oil and one part gasoline into the fort, lit it, and burned the defenders alive. The fire burned for several days afterwards but all the defenses of the harbor had been cleared of Japanese. The fort has never been reoccupied and still stands like a ghost ship in Manila Bay to this day.