Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas? - We Are The Mighty
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Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.


Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Air Force Airmen Erin O’Shea lays wreath on grave site at Arlington National Cemetary, Va., Dec. 15, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes)

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.

“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.

The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.

According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.

For more information on Wreaths Across America, to make a donation, or to get involved, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 4

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 74th Fighter Squadron taxis down the runway during Green Flag-West 17-03 Jan. 23, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 74th FS brought 12 A-10s to GFW in support of a joint, large-force, combat-readiness exercise for close air support integration training.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Two Air Force teams hand off their batons during the mile relay at the 27th annual Air Force Invitational at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan. 21, 2017. The Falcons fielded five teams, grabbing the top two positions, with the Colorado Buffs finishing in third place.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Air Force photo by Bill Evans

ARMY:

U.S. Army and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

173rd Airborne Brigade and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve, Jan. 26, 2017.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2017) Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd fleet.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship’s carrier strike group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Marines assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fire a M252A2 81mm mortar system at Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 13, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which provides all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force. 1/3 is currently participating as the ground combat element for this exercise.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Marines observe the abilities of military working dog teams during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2017. The Marines are dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Etheridge

A 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew from Station Sand Key, Florida, prepares to set a safety zone before the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew flies over the Gasparilla barge, Jose Gaspar, during the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

Articles

BRRRRRT: Congress wants the Air Force to keep the A-10 aircraft that troops totally love

After months of impassioned pleas from troops on the ground, hand-wringing from Air Force leadership, and a blur of questions from Congress about the Air Force’s plans for the future, lawmakers have decided enough is enough: the A-10 Thunderbolt II will stay in the USAF arsenal.


Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Smiles all around! (U.S. Air Force Photo)

On Monday, The House Armed Services Committee released its $612 billion Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision called “Prohibition on Availability of Funds for Retirement of A-10 Aircraft,” which obliges the Secretary of the Air Force to:

“commission an appropriate entity outside the Department of Defense to conduct an assessment of the required capabilities or mission platform to replace the A-10 aircraft.”

This means the Air Force’s can no longer ignore Congressional concerns about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and how it can fill the A-10’s close-air support (CAS) role. The provision in the new defense budget means the Air Force will have to actually hire an independent researcher from outside of DoD and acquire hard data on how to replace the A-10, instead of just asserting everything is fine and forcing Airmen to say nice things about the $1.5 trillion F-35.

In the meantime, the Air Force must maintain a mission-capable 171 A-10s and Congress provides $467 million for it in the 2016 bill.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Armored vehicle post-A-10 Close Air Support.

The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, went through the ten paragraphs of the Congressional directive in detail, where Congress list the ways the A-10 bests the F-35 (without mentioning the F-35), directing the Air Force to study and answer for things like the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units …  the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Not only does the provision make the Air Force answerable for attempting to shelve its only CAS solution, it also takes back a compromise between the service and Congress made last year, which allows the Air Force to mothball 36 A-10s and move their maintenance and funding to other areas.

The House of Representatives issued a fact sheet specifically slamming the Air Force for trying to kill the A-10 with an adequate replacement.

“Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided…” it reads. “The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement. Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet.”

While this sounds like good news for A-10 supporters, the fight isn’t over yet. According to DoD Buzz, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said he is recommending President Obama veto the bill, which is being voted on by the House on Thursday.

NOW: The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

OR: Here’s why the Warthog is the greatest close air support aircraft ever

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 reasons you should cast your vote for the MVC Choice Awards

For starters, think of this program in the same light as the People’s Choice Awards in the entertainment industry. While the Emmys and Academy Awards have their place, the People’s Choice Awards are specifically designed “For the People, By the People”. Similarly, the MVC Choice Awards receive no marketing firm input, no senior leadership influence, no media company buys, just the opinions of those we trust the most…our fellow service members, veterans, and military spouses. And since it’s all about the vote, here are some of the reasons you should take the time to do it!


1. It counts

There are so many awards you can spend time voting for in the military community that are eventually decided by a small group of panelists. Unfortunately, sometimes the popular vote isn’t all that popular, and sometimes the results aren’t even close to what the community thinks. With the MVC Choice Awards, the results are based 100% on the popular vote. No crazy formulas or algorithms, no panelists deciding what you should think is important. Just a vote based on real-life experiences from those of us who have actually lived them.

Bonus: Voting is only open to members of our community – service members, veterans, and military spouses.

2. Community chosen nominees

Military life is complicated at times, but the MVC Choice Awards aren’t. You’re 100% in control. After you are verified to vote, you can nominate any company or organization of your choice. Just add a few pieces of information about the organization and we’ll verify and do the rest. After that you’re all set, and others can go and vote for the businesses and organizations you’ve nominated!

Bonus: All verified voters can nominate as many organizations as they want.

3. Verified voters

We take these awards seriously, because we know how much an award can impact an organization and how it can sway your thoughts and actions. We understand that by naming an award winner, more people will look to them for support and expect quality service. That’s why we verify who is voting, and why, you can’t vote for the same organization more than once in a given year. No one will be able to vote for themselves every day throughout the open period. As a verified voter, you help encourage businesses and organizations to support our community and also say thanks to those that have been doing just that.

Bonus: Our hosting partner, GovX, is handling the verification process.

​Not quite convinced yet? Here are 3 more bonus reasons to vote.

  1. The three nominees with the highest ratings in each category, will be invited to attend the MVC Choice Awards Banquet at the Washington D.C. Hilton on 10 September 2019 during the Military Influencer Conference (Hosting Partner), with the top organization for each category being announced on stage.
  2. The top three from each award category will also be recognized online when the official winner list is published by Task Purpose (Awards Hosting Partner).
  3. Data collected through votes in the “PCS Relocations” category will be made available on-demand, year-round, through PCSgrades for anybody researching their next PCS or relocation.

Help us recognize those who support our community and get ready to cast your vote!

This article originally appeared on PCSgrades. Follow @PCSgrades on Twitter.

Articles

History’s shortest war took place in Africa and lasted only 45 minutes

In 1896, the British-supported Sultan of Zanzibar suddenly died, poisoned by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash, who immediately assumed power. Unfortunately for the new Sultan, the British Empire preferred a different Sultan. This disagreement would lead to a war that took less time to prosecute than the one against Saddam Hussein.


Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
With considerably fewer casualties.

In the late 19th century the “Scramble for Africa” was in full swing. European nations were invading, colonizing, and dividing up Africa. Most of the continent would be consumed by resource-hungry imperialist powers. By the end of 1914 and the beginning of the First World War, only Liberia and Ethiopia were left as independent states.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
The one time you would never want to be Belgian.

So it was a big deal when the new Zanzibari Sultan was deemed unacceptable to the British, who preferred an Omani, Hamoud bin Mohammed. Since Barghash still had to get the permission of the British Consul in Zanzibar before he could ascend the throne (a condition of a peace treaty signed ten years prior; no one negotiates a treaty like the British Empire), the British demanded he leave the palace and drop his claim to the throne. Instead, Barghash barricaded himself inside.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Ugh, Zanzibar. Who would want that godawful place?

When the ultimatum ran out, the Royal Navy began to bombard the palace with high explosive shells. There were skirmishes in the harbor and the approaches to the palace, and as the Zansibari flag was shot off its pole in front of the palace, the deposed Sultan fled.

The attackers installed Mohammed as sultan, effectively ending Zanzibar’s independence. Five hundred Zanzibaris were either killed or wounded with one British sailor injured. The entire incident took 45 minutes, the shortest war in history.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
The damage from the Anglo-Zanzibari War

Barghash sought refuge in the German Embassy. He later fled to German East Africa (now Tanzania) before being captured by the British during the East Africa campaign of World War I. They exiled him to St. Helena and the Seychelles.

Articles

Gear porn: This suppressor is not for the faint of heart

Liberty Suppressors has released a new silencer for those of you who want to go large and do it quietly. And when we say large, we mean it.


Introducing the Goliath for .458 SOCOM.

The Goliath was probably named for the big-assed Philistine from Gath, though it could be someone’s nickname from chubbybunnie.com. Rated for supersonic ammunition, it’s intended to suppress the noise you make when you’d normally be going loud with the modern descendent of the old Trapdoor Springfield bullet.

It’s 10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, and built with a titanium core and tube. It dresses out at just 20 ounces.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
The Liberty Cans multi-cal family. (Photo: Liberty Cans)

Liberty says the Goliath meters at a “…mere 132.2 [decibels] (including First Round Pop) providing an average sound reduction of over 21 [decibels].” We haven’t tested it ourselves — at least not yet — but since we’re fans of the .458 round and shooting suppressed, we reckon it’s worth a further look.

Liberty sez, and we quote,  “The Goliath is not for the faint of heart! Created for the mighty 458 SOCOM, this silencer not only stands up to the size of its name, but also the size of it’s caliber. But don’t think this giant is a clumsy oaf. With an end cap and core made of Grade 5 titanium and a tube made from Grade 9 titanium, the Goliath is a heavyweight hitter in a featherweight class.”

This weight savings really comes in to play when perched on the end of a hog hunter’s rifle of choice. Taming both the noise as well as the recoil of the 458 cartridge, the Goliath keeps you after game all night, instead of home early with tired shoulders and ears. When it comes to 458 SOCOM, it pays to have a giant on your side.”

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
All hail Goliath. (Liberty Cans)

MSRP on the Goliath (the silencer, not anybody on Chubby Bunnie) is $999.

Liberty Suppressors is a family owned business based in the Peach State, last of the original Thirteen Colonies. They’re known for their work with monolithic core silencers, offering cans from calibers from .22LR to .300 Ultra Mag.

You can find ’em online at libertycans.net, should you be so inclined.

You can watch a great Liberty Cans gear porn flick here.

Here are the specs (you’re welcome):

Goliath .458 SOCOM: 450gr Sub-Sonic in an 11 in. AR-15, Baseline unsuppressed 163.1dB. Suppressed shot 1, 137.3 db. Shot 2, 130.5 dB; Shot 3 131.5 dB, Shot 4 130.6 dB, and Shot 5 is 130.9dB.

Caliber: 458 SOCOM

Length: 10″

Diameter: 2″

Material: Titanium tube, core, and rear cap / Stainless Steel Thread Inserts

Weight: 20 OZ.

Approx. DB Overall: 132.2 dB (including First Round Pop)

Approx. DB Reduction: 31 – 33 dB

Finish: C-Series Cerakote

Mounting Type: Direct Thread, 5/8-24 and 5/8-32 Inserts Included

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year’s Navy fleet week New York has a theme

This year, just like every year, America’s port cities will receive a series of special guests, American sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. But instead of just flooding the city streets with 2,600 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen complete with dress blues and white cracker jacks, this year’s Fleet Week in New York is bringing a theme: “Remembering World War I.”


Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

U.S. troops from New York State march down the streets of New York City.

The official centennial of the Armistice that ended the Great War may have come and gone, but the pageantry and tradition that surrounds the 100-year anniversary celebration of the end of World War I lives on. The U.S. Navy is partnering with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, in a number of activities to tell the story of the 4 million American men and women who wore the uniform a century ago.

For the Navy’s annual visit to New York City, the story will also include the City’s role in the War to End All Wars. Notable events include

  • The horrible Black Tom explosion which damaged the Statue of Liberty.
  • The Ill-fated Lusitania’s departure for her last voyage from Pier 54 on Manhattan’s West Side.
  • The local men and women who fought the war, including the Harlem Hell Fighters and the Rainbow Division

Read: This is why you can’t climb the arm of the Statue of Liberty anymore

But the history of New York in the Great War is more than just a series of milestones. New York City is also an important place in U.S. Navy history, especially as it pertains to World War I. Half of the U.S. Navy’s World War I ships were built in Brooklyn. Half of all U.S. troops departed from and returned to the piers of Hoboken. The biggest Victory Parade of the war took place down 5th Avenue.

To help tell these incredible stories, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is offering subject matter experts, who can help local audiences understand this rich local history, and to possibly connect with their own World War I veteran family members. Five U.S. Navy ships, three U.S. Coast Guard cutters, four U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol boats, one Military Sealift Command ship, and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels will participate during 2019 Fleet Week New York, May 22-28.

Articles

WATM is looking for veterans who’ve made their homes epic

We Are The Mighty is looking for veterans from across the country who have gone above and beyond to make their homes epic and unique places to share with their family and community. These can be home additions, renovations, new constructions, or anything else as long as they are home areas designed to bring people together.


Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Tree houses, bunkers, outdoor areas, and other spaces are also great.

We’d love to hear your stories about construction, community, and the military experience.

If you or someone you know has a home they’d like to highlight, please collect the following and email it to nicholas.gibeault@wearethemighty.com.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Photo of the house or area

Selected homes will be featured in a WATM series that will feature homes and communities that meet at them.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Photo courtesy Hector Salas

Articles

SOCOM plans roll out ‘Iron Man’ suit prototypes by 2018

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

Also read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver showcases an early TALOS prototype at the Chicago Auto Show. | US Army photo

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
A TALOS prototype moves through a building. | YouTube

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

Articles

5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

Articles

All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.


According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
An M55 rocket being disassembled at Umatilla Chemical Depot. This was one delivery system for VX, a very deadly nerve agent. (US Army photo)

VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.

A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
DOD graphic showing the effects of various chemical agents, including VX. (DOD graphic)

The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
(YouTube screen grab from John Mason)

The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.

Articles

How will the US Air Force replace the iconic UH-1 Huey helicopter?

It may be tough for civilians to feel the same nostalgia a veteran might feel to see the venerable UH-1 Huey helicopter go.


That is until they find out it’s been the helicopter on screens small and large for the better part of a century.

Non-vets watched the workhorse Huey pick up the dead and dying in news broadcasts and on the silver screen, dropping men and material into Vietnam (among other places).

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?

Retiring the UH-1 Huey

If you haven’t heard, the U.S. military is set to retire the iconic UH-1 Huey Helicopter in 2017.

The aircraft was first developed in 1956 and was the first helicopter powered by a jet engine. Its distinctive chomping sound is caused by its powerful rotor blades approaching the speed of sound. It’s been used for search and rescue, rearmament, overwatch for moving nuclear missiles and more.

You name it. The Huey probably supported it. They didn’t name it “Utility Helicopter” for nothing.

But it has been in service since the 1970s and times have changed, but the U.S. military still needs its all-purpose workhorse to replace the UH-1 Huey’s multifaceted role.

Filling the gap

Early in 2016, lawmakers wanted to replace the Hueys with UH-60M Black Hawks — especially those congressional leaders representing states that house intercontinental ballistic missile systems, like Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and retired Navy SEAL.

“If there are helicopters that are readily available and will save the taxpayer money, we need to get them in the field now,” Zinke said in a statement. “I know the Black Hawk well from my time in the SEALs. It is fully capable and stands ready to fill the need before us. This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
A 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey prepares for flight at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 23, 2016. The 459th AS recently improved their search and rescue capabilities by outfitting two UH-1N Hueys with new rescue hoists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Delano Scott)

Designing a UH-1 Huey replacement

In May 2016, the Air Force announced an open competition to replace the aging airframe. The budget for the 2017 fiscal year includes a request for $32.4 million to produce a Huey replacement and $25 million to manage the aging Huey fleet until a replacement can enter service.

The Marine Corps retired its UH-1N fleet in 2014. Initially, they intended to simply upgrade the fleet of UH-1N to UH-1Y. Instead, they opted to produce UH-1Ys as a whole new helicopter. The Marines have no plans to replace it.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
A UH-1Y Huey with Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39 conducts close-air support during an MAGTF Integration Exercise in El Centro, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alissa P. Schuning)

The Army replaced its Huey fleet with the UH-72A Lakota. The Lakota is quieter, smaller and more maneuverable than the Huey, and costs roughly $4.5 million. The Army currently has 200 of the European-made, U.S.-assembled Lakotas worldwide.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
A UH-72 Lakota Helicopter of the National Training Center’s Aviation Company provides air superiority cover for the opposition forces engaged with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division’s ground forces during an encounter in the Siberian Flats at the National Training Center, June 15, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski)

The Air Force is the only branch whose quest to replace the UH-1 Huey started a fight. The service originally planned to replace it with the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform, but that was axed in 2013 due to budget caps.

Next, the Air Force tried to give Sikorsky, the company that makes UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, a sole-source contract to produce a replacement. That idea was met with criticism because the Black Hawk is bigger and costs more. The National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste sent letters to the House and Senate Armed Services committees in opposition to the sole-source move. That’s when the HASC set aside the funds for a replacement.

“This is an urgent need,” HASC Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry told the Washington Post. “These helicopters are around 40 years old, and I’m not very pleased it has [been] allowed to get to this situation.”

Articles

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
The USS Freedom, one of the littoral combat ships set to be equipped with over-the-horizon missiles. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans


The Navy is building and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a series of next-generation technologies — including an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was recently deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
Guided-missile destroyer USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) test fires its five-inch gun on the bow of the ship during training. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

Could a wreath shortage leave Arlington Cemetery graves bare this Christmas?
USS Jason Dunham DDG 109 | US Navy photo

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

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