After about ten to twelve years, it’s usually time for a military working dog (MWD) to retire.
Unlike us, they don’t get out and start celebrating life immediately. Hundreds of them are sent to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas every year. Before November 2000, most of the dogs were euthanized or just left in the battlefield troops just left (because despite the rank and funeral honors, they’re listed as equipment).
Thankfully, “Robby’s Law” opens up adoption to their former handlers, law enforcement, and civilian families.
When a dog is retired out, it is usually because of injury or sickness and the best person to care for the puppy is the handler. More than 90% of these good dogs get adopted by their handler. Makes sense — calling a military working dog your “battle buddy” seems less awkward when the context is with a Labrador Retriever.
Next on the order of precedent in MWD adoption is law enforcement. Their services would be invaluable within police forces because they are trained to do exactly when the police would need them to do. However, the dogs are contractually agreed to belong to the department. They are the only ones allowed to allow the dogs to perform patrol, security, or substance detection work and the DoD has strict restrictions otherwise.
Sadly, even the police force won’t take the rest of the military working dogs because of their age or injury. This is where civilians come in. Bare in mind, adoption isn’t a quick process and applicants are carefully screened. It may take about a year on the waiting list to get your first interview.
They are not some goofy pug you can just adopt and take home. These dogs have usually deployed and show the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. These dogs were trained to sniff out roadside bombs and to fight the Taliban and now have trouble socializing with other dogs and aren’t as playful as they were before.
The MWD selection process demands that the most energetic and playful puppies are needed for combat. After years of fighting, these old dogs show signs of nervous exhaustion and distress. If that pulls at your heart strings because it hits close to home, it is scientifically proven that dogs (including these MWDs) can aid and benefit those with Post Traumatic Stress.
If you don’t mind the wait, have an appropriate living space for a large dog, and are willing to aid these four legged veterans, there are organizations that can help. Save-A-Vet and Mission K9 Rescue are great places to start.
The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.
Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.
The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.
Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.
The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.
In 2008, former SEAL Salvatore DeFranco was busy ramping up for his second deployment to Iraq when an unexpected accident happened. Salvatore was in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident that left the SEAL with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in a coma, and with nearly half of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain.
Salvatore was in for a hard road ahead. He was sent home to Massachusetts to recover — and he has, but it took a while. He battled a number of issues daily in his recovery, which included depression. Salvatore had been seeing a mental health professional, but it was time to explore medication as an option in coping.
The doctor he went to see asked Salvatore two questions: Are you working out? Are you drinking coffee?
The answer to the first question was yes, but Salvatore’s answer to the second question was no. He had never been a coffee drinker. The doctor (which happened to be a former SEAL) stated that coffee was a natural anti-depressant and that it may help. After drinking coffee, things began to get better; he was happier and his energy came back. He started hanging out at cafes where the interaction with people was therapeutic and his passion for the coffee industry grew.
It’s not a stretch to say that coffee saved his life.
Battle Grounds Coffee is the product of this pain, hard work, and perseverance. Battle Grounds Coffee Company proudly roasts one of the finest coffee beans on earth. Alongside their popular house blends, they source a variety of seasonal single-origin coffees to provide their customers with a broad coffee experience. In addition to coffee, they serve breakfast sandwiches all day and a selection of salads and specialty sandwiches.
Salvatore and his wife Dana opened Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 and have never looked back. They opened it as a way to give back to their community. Dana comes from a military family; her father, uncle, and grandfather all served. Her grandfather believed in the business so much he provided the seed money to open the café. He was a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and was awarded the silver star, bronze star, and purple heart.
This family is no stranger to service for one’s country and community.
Community is the corner stone for Battle Grounds Coffee. They strive to be at the forefront of initiatives for the local and state veteran’s community. From helping homeless veterans stay warm in the cold weather to helping veterans get back to work. Salvatore and Dana are a family owned and run business and want to serve as a bridge between veterans and civilians.
“Battle Grounds serves as a place for people to discuss ideas, build relationships and create business. In our community, we are the tip of the spear,” stated Salvatore.
Country, Community, Coffee.
Side note: The doctor that suggested the coffee as a solution was a sleep specialist.
Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and US Army Infantryman. Bennett is the Co-Founder of Battle Sight Technologies, Cigars Sea Stories and 5Paragraph and is the Managing Editor of Change Your POV Podcast Network. Also, as a Certified Peer Support Specialist Bennett has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aid them in adding value to their communities.
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.
Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.
First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.
And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.
Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.
During a March 10 speaking engagement at a conference in Washington, D.C., for instance, Milley chastised a bureaucratic acquisition system for making it overly complicated to field equipment in a timely manner, citing the service’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, effort as a prime example.
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold-War era, M9 9mm pistol.
Milley criticized the program’s 356-page requirement document and lengthy testing phase slated to cost $17 million for technology that has existed for years.
“The testing itself is two years long on known technology,” Milley told law makers at a March 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We are not talking about nuclear subs or going to the moon here. We are talking about a pistol.”
But behind the scenes, Milley has moved beyond criticism and taken steps to select a new sidearm for soldiers, including exploring the possibility of bypassing the MHS effort altogether.
Milley recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. The striker-fired, 9mm pistol features a four- inch barrel and has a standard capacity of 15 rounds, although 17-round magazines are available. The polymer frame features an accessory rail for mounting lights.
New Glock 19s retail for $500-$600 each. USASOC is currently paying a base price of about $320 for each Glock 19, the source said.
With that price, the Army would pay about $91.8 million if the service were to buy 287,000 pistols, the quantity requirement outlined in the MHS effort.
Currently, the MHS program is projected to cost about $350 million, Army officials maintain.
But choosing the Glock 19 would abandon one of the major goals of the MHS effort — to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Most special operations forces, however, use 9mm pistols and a new Defense Department policy that authorizes “special purpose ammunition” now allows the military to use expanding or hollow-point bullets, experts maintain.
Military.com contacted Milley’s office and USASOC for comment but neither office responded by deadline.
Milley has also asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to grant authority to the service chiefs to approve the acquisition of equipment that does not require new technology or research and development, the source said.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that you don’t have the authority to pick a pistol for the Army,” Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from Georgia, told Milley during last week’s House Armed Service Committee hearing. All of the service chiefs were present.
“I would bet that the four of you in uniform could probably in 10 minutes come up with an agreement on what that platform should be,” he said. “I would think that with a quick click or two on an iPad that you could figure out what the retail price of the pistol was, what a decent price for that pistol was and what we should be paying for that pistol if we were buying it in the quantities that we were buying it in.”
The congressman added, “I want you to know that I do believe that you should have that authority.”
Milley told lawmakers that the “secretary of the Army and I do have the authority to pick the weapon, but that’s at the end of the day; the problem is getting to the end of the day.”
Scott agreed with Milley that the current acquisition system needs simplifying.
“I can’t help but wonder that if it’s this bad with a pistol, what about optics, what about rifles; all of the things we are buying? How much bureaucracy is in there? What we could remove that would allow you to equip your men and women better, faster and with less money?” he said.
Scott encouraged Milley, and the other service chiefs, to come up with “specific language you would like to see in the National Defense Authorization Act that would help you cut through that red tape.”
With at least five littoral combat ships needing time in the repair yard after engineering problems, and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) suffering her own power plant problems, the Navy took another hit when USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) ended up on the binnacle list as well.
According to a report by USNI News, the 16,000-ton destroyer suffered a seawater leak in an auxiliary system for one of the ship’s propeller shafts. The destroyer is currently undergoing repairs at Norfolk Navy Yard. The repairs are expected to take up to two weeks.
The Zumwalt has had other issues – the new integrated power system caused extensive delay – and was cut from a planned purchase of 32 destroyers to three. Each ship in the class is armed with two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, the largest guns to see Navy service since the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships. The vessels also carry 30-millimeter Mk 46 Bushmaster II chain guns, and twenty four-cell Mk 57 vertical launch systems. They have a top speed of over 30 knots.
The three vessels being built with cutting-edge technology will cost a total of $22 billion, including $9.6 billion for RD. Each of the three hulls, therefore, is bearing $3.2 billion in RD costs. Had the original 32 ships been procured, the per-ship RD burden would have been only $300 million per ship.
The cut in program size nearly led to the entire cancellation of the program under Nunn-McCurdy, which requires that the Department of Defense notify Congress if unit cost exceeds estimates by 15 percent. When the unit cost exceeds estimates by 25 percent, Nunn-McCurdy requires that the program is to be terminated unless DOD can certify that certain conditions have been met.
In a release about the incident, the Navy noted, “Repairs like these are not unusual in first-of-class ships during underway periods following construction.”
The sacrifices that the men and women of the armed forces make for the sake of national defense are unique and great. To support these brave men and women, companies develop cutting-edge technologies in order to facilitate the success of the no-fail mission that service members undertake. Many of these companies continue to support veterans after they leave active service by employing them and supporting continued service in the Reserves and National Guard. Victory Capital Management has recognized these companies with the launch of two ETFs.
Victory Capital is a diversified global asset firm with $131.1 billion in assets under management as of October 31, 2020. They entered the ETF business in 2015. Since then, the firm has grown its VictoryShares platform to 23 ETFs.
Earlier this month, Victory Capital launched the VictoryShares Top Veteran Employers ETF (VTRN). VTRN seeks to provide investment results that track the performance of the Veterans Select Index which is designed to capture the performance of publicly traded companies that have high rates of employing veterans and members of the Reserves and National Guard. Additionally, Victory Capital is allocating a portion of the fees from VTRN to its financial readiness initiative in support of the military community. “We are committed to addressing the unique financial goals of the military community,” said Mannik Dhillon, CFA, CAIA, President, VictoryShares and Solutions.
Simultaneously, Victory Capital also launched the VictoryShares Protect America ETF (SHLD) which tracks an index that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify companies that contribute greatly to national defense. Many of these companies have defense contracts with DoD, DHS, and NASA. Companies can also be included for their contribution to the advancements of the aerospace and defense industries. SHLD aims to provide investment results that track the performance of the Nasdaq Yewno Aerospace & Defense Index.
To celebrate the launch of these two ETFs and Veterans Day, Victory Capital virtually rang the Nasdaq closing bell on November 11, 2020. “We wish our Veterans and service members a happy Veterans Day,” Dhillon said. “Thank you for your service.”
Before deploying to a developing country, service members go through a variety of medical screenings and receive vaccinations to prepare their bodies for the microorganisms they’ll come in contact with while overseas. After we arrive at our destinations, it’s necessary to keep ourselves as clean as possible to prevent getting sick and developing skin infections.
Some troops have to rough it, rinsing off using bottles of water, showering under bladder systems, or wiping themselves down with baby wipes to keep clean. Others are lucky enough to have showers setup near their berthing areas.
At first glance, cleaning our ourselves with a handful of baby wipes might sound pretty bad compared to using community showers — but you might prefer those wipes after reading this.
Senior Airman Dustyn White collects a water sample at the Lima Gate entry point at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The water entering the base is tested for pH, chlorine, and fecal coliform.
(Photo by Master Sgt. David Miller)
Questioning the water source
The bacteria on our bodies like to grow and get smelly, making frequent showers an essential. However, the quality of that shower is dependent on the type of soap you use and the cleanliness of the water with which you rinse.
If there are showers set up in your FOB, be sure to look into how often the water is tested. Someone should be checking pH, chlorine, and fecal matter levels.
The baby-wipe option might actually be a healthier choice.
Always wear your shower shoes.
I’m standing in a puddle of… what?
Military showers are known for being use at high frequencies by service members who use the facility in a timely manner. As with any community-shower setup, not all the water goes down the drain immediately, and puddles being to build up.
As the next person in line, it’s pretty gross to have to step into a pool of murky, leftover water. You should be wearing shower shoes, but even then, puddles could’ve risen higher than your protective soles — and it might not be just water you’re dipping your toes in.
Open bay showers
The open bay shower has been around for decades and will be around for many more. This setup is ideal for rinsing off large crowds who need to freshen up. Unfortunately, getting sprinkled with water that’s splashing off of someone else’s dirty body can make you feel even nastier than before.
Cleanliness of the highly-used, private shower stalls
On deployment, the vast majority of the military community wakes up, shaves, and then takes a quick shower. Showering off in a private stall may feel a little closer to home, but it also might be a curse in disguise.
When you’ve been forward deployed for months, you’ve probably found yourself in some fairly filthy places. Once you return to the FOB, a hot shower sounds like a good idea before settling down. However, the private stalls are pretty small — there’s not much moving around in there. Be careful as you touch the walls and knots — they might not be sanitized as often as you’d hope.
The young women of North Korea’s “pleasure squad” are employees of the state whose work involves — a’hem — “entertainment” services.
In 2010, Mi Hyang, a member Kim Jung Il’s pleasure squad defected to South Korea after her family was accused of treason. She served in the squad for two years before crossing the border and spilling the beans of the group’s activities to the well-known South Korean blog “Nambuk Story.”
“They made a detailed record of my family history and school record, “Mi Hyang said, describing how she was recruited from school when she was 15 by officers in their forties. “I was also asked whether I ever slept with a boy. I felt so ashamed to hear such a question.”
Although rumors suggested that the pleasure squad had disbanded with the death of Kim Jong-Il, it was reinstated under Kim Jong-Un, according to the Independent.
Plenty of people collect World War II memorabilia and small trinkets, but a 78-year-old man in Germany was found with something much bigger: A 44-ton tank.
Acting on a tip, police in northern Germany raided the man’s house on Thursday and found a treasure trove of Nazi military gear inside the man’s cellar, including a Panther tank, a torpedo, and an anti-aircraft gun. How he got it down into his cellar was not clear, but it took 20 soldiers nearly nine hours to haul everything out, according to the BBC.
In the nearby city of Kiel, prosecutors were still trying to figure out whether the weapons violate the country’s War Weapons Control Act, which requires military weaponry to be licensed.
Interestingly enough, a guy having a tank as a personal vehicle was somewhat of an open secret in the town.
“He was chugging around in that thing during the snow catastrophe in 1978,” Heikendorf Mayor Alexander Orth told local media. “Some people like steam trains, others like tanks.”
There aren’t many ranks throughout the U.S. Armed Forces that have a lateral promotion between two separate ranks at the same pay grade. The difference between Master Sergeants and First Sergeants is nearly the same as Sergeants Major and Command Sergeants Major. One is a command position and the other enjoys their life isn’t.
And then there is the anomaly that only exists within the Army’s E-4 pay grade system: having both a non-commissioned officer rank, Corporal, and the senior lower enlisted rank, Specialist.
Originally, the U.S. Army rank went from Private First Class directly into the leadership position of a Corporal — similar to the way it works in the Marine Corps. They would take their first steps into the wider world of leadership. In the past (and still to this day), they serve more as assistant leaders to their Sergeant, generally as an assistant squad leader or fire-team leader.
Today, Corporals are often rare in the U.S. Army outside of combat arms units. While a Corporal is by all definitions an NCO, they aren’t often privy to the niceties of Sergeants and above. It’s very common to hear phrases like: “We need all E-4’s and below for this duty” — that includes the Corporal. The other side of the coin is when an ass chewing comes down on the NCOs of a unit: “We need all NCOs in the training room, now” — that, too, includes the Corporal.
A specialist exists as a mid-century relic where a separate rank system was established to differentiate someone who was a “Specialist” in their MOS but not necessarily an NCO. This would mostly apply to, for example, a member of the Army band member outside of D.C or West Point. From 1959 to 1968, this went up from E-4 (Spec/4) to E-9 (Spec/9) but it slowly tapered off until 1985 when it became just an E-4 rank.
This is more or less the concept of the modern Specialist. The idea is that a Specialist would focus on their MOS instead of leading troops. In practice, a specialist is given the responsibilities of being a buffer zone between Privates and Sergeants. In execution, they often shrug off physical duties to the lower ranks and any leadership duties to the higher ranks. This is called the “sham shield of the E-4 Mafia.”
A Specialist is definitely the easier rank. Think of a big fish in a little pond versus the little fish in the big pond. The Privates are required to show respect to their senior ranks, so they treat both the Specialist and the Corporal as a higher-up. But often times the Senior Enlisted ignore Specialists but toss things like paperwork onto the Corporal. Sergeants tend to treat Specialists with more leniency. If they mess up something small, it’s fine. If a Corporal messes up at all, they get an ass chewing like the big kids.
But there is a positive note for the Corporal that comes with having more responsibility. While it isn’t necessary for a Specialist to become a Corporal to move on to Sergeant, a Corporal rank shows that the soldier is ready for more responsibility and will show that the soldier is far more responsible when it comes to picking positive things like when a slot for an awesome school opens up.
The Corporal will more than likely get in before the Specialist.
This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.
The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”
The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard
Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.
Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.
They are at attention.
While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.
When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.
Why to actually hate the Coast Guard
You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.
Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.
There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.
We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.
Why you should love the Coast Guard
While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.
After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.
Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”
One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.
There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.
Secrecy and classification parameters of Air Forces’ new “in-early-development” next-generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be analyzed by the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate just how many details, strategies, and technological advances related to the emerging platform should be highly classified.
While Air Force developers say the long-range bomber is being engineered to have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed. Very little about the bomber has been released by the Air Force or discussed in the open public. Perhaps that is the most intelligent and “threat-conscious” approach, some claim. Nonetheless, Congress directed the Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into this issue, asking if there is sufficient transparency and communication about the new weapon.
Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told reporters May 15 that the service hopes to “balance program classification with the transparency we are shooting for to make sure we are not releasing too much or hindering too much information flow. They are analyzing what should be released.”
The Air Force of course wants to maintain the openness needed to allow for Congressional oversight while ensuring potential adversaries do not learn information about advances in stealth technology and next-generation methods of eluding advanced air defenses. Such is often a challenging, yet necessary balance. Pentagon developers have often said there can be a fine line between there being value in releasing some information because it can function as a deterrent against potential adversaries who might not wish to confront advanced US military technologies in war. At the same time, US commanders and Pentagon leaders, of course, seek to maintain the requisite measure of surprise in war, meaning it is also of great value for the US military to possess technological advantages not known by an enemy.
Furthermore, funding, technology development, and procurement questions related to the new bomber are also subject to extensive Congressional review; the question is whether this should be limited to only certain select “cleared” committees – or be open to a wider audience.
While the Air Force has revealed its first sketch or artist rendering of what the B-21 might look like, there has been little to no public discussion about what some of its new technologies may include. Analysts, observers and many military experts have been left only to speculate about potential advances in stealth technology.
Bunch did, however, in a prior interview with Scout Warrior, clearly state that the new bomber will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Bunch, and former Air Force Secretary Deborah James, have at times made reference, in merely a general way, to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image last year.
However, while Air Force developers say the emerging B-21 will introduce new stealth technologies better suited to elude cutting-edge air defenses, Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.
Nevertheless, James and other service developers have added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
Although official details about the B-21 are, quite naturally, not available – some observers have pointed out that the early graphic rendering of the plane does not show exhaust pipes at all; this could mean that the Air Force has found advanced “IR suppressors” or new methods or releasing fumes or reducing the heat signature of the new stealth plane.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer its new bomber. The next-generation stealth aircraft is intended to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber. Beyond these kinds of general points, however, much like the Air Force, Northrop developers have said virtually nothing about the new platforms development.
“With LRS-B (B-21), I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate, and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges. These frequencies include UHF, VHF and X-band, among others.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges, noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons, or other easily detectable aircraft features, radar “pings” have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object. However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existence or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft.
At the same time, advances in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particularly in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors, and maneuverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of the B-21 does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
The B-21 will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained. If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will like have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO – Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, although one does not want to speculate often, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.