As the U.S. continues to develop the B-21 Raider, a long-range, stealth strategic bomber, peers and rivals around the world are working to stay competitive. While Russia works on the PAK DA, Communist China is trying to counter the future backbone of the United States Air Force’s strategic bomber force with a design of their own.
This new bomber, which will likely be operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, is being called the H-20. Details remain sparse, but reports state that it will have a top speed of 600 miles per hour and a maximum range of 5,282 miles. Although we’re not certain about the ordnance it’ll carry, it’s likely that it’ll carry a variety of dumb bombs, smart bombs, and missiles, just like the B-2.
Currently, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force leans heavily on the H-6 Badger as the primary airframe in their strategic bomber force. This plane is a far cry from the original Soviet Tu-16 on which it’s based. The current version, according to MilitaryFactory.com, has a range of 3,728 miles and a top speed of 652 miles per hour. Unlike the up-and-coming H-20, the H-6 doesn’t have stealth technology, and while its range allows it to operate against naval units in the South China Sea, it doesn’t have the reach to hit American bases in Guam or Okinawa.
The Chinese Communists used the H-6 to send a message in December 2016, when one of these bombers flew along the so-called “nine-dash line,” which delineates Chinese claims in the South China Sea. About 180 of these bombers were built and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has roughly 120 H-6s in service, with another 30 in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force.
The H-20 is slated to enter service in 2025, coincidentally around the time that the B-21 Raider is set to deploy.
They are known as America’s first military stealth aircraft. Under cover of darkness, the Waco CG-4A combat glider carried U.S. troops and materiel into battle during World War II. William Horn and Leo Cordier, pilots who flew these unarmed and un-powered planes, landed behind enemy lines before the invasion troops arrived in Europe on D-Day. Their courageous stories are a little known chapter in the Allied march to victory during WWII.
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:
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flies alongside a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight to Estonia on April 25, 2017. The F-35s are participating in their first-ever flying training deployment to Europe.
Airmen conduct a high altitude, low opening jump from a MC-130J Commando II April 24, 2017, above Okinawa, Japan. Kadena Air Base land and water drop zones are suited for multi-pass jump operations which maximize proficiency and limited resources.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from A Company, 1/150th Assault Helicopter Battalion, flies over Belize City while transporting Soldiers and Marines on their way back from Dangriga, Belize, April 10, 2017. The 1/150th is providing lift support and medevac, if necessary, for Beyond the Horizon 2017, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, Army South-led exercise, designed to provide humanitarian and engineering services to communities in need, demonstrating U.S. support for Belize.
A Best Sapper competitor completes an Australian rappel, April 25, 2017, as part of the 2017 Best Sapper Competition being held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
HOMER, Alaska (April 29, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) prepares to moor in Homer, Alaska, for a scheduled port visit. Hopper is visiting Homer in conjunction with its participation in exercise Northern Edge 2017. The biennial training exercise conducted in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and includes participation from units assigned to Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and U.S. Army Pacific.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 30, 2017) Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 run tests on the the MQ-8B Firescout, an unmanned aerial vehicle, aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4).
Reconnaissance Marines prepare to conduct night time helo-casting training operations during the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 24, 2017. The purpose of the Reconnaissance Team Leader Course is to provide the students with the required knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties of a Reconnaissance Team Leader.
Marines with the Silent Drill Platoon perform during an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2017. Col. Tyler J. Zagurski, commanding officer of MBW, hosted the parade and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller was the guest of honor.
Crew members from Coast Guard Cutter Tarpon, an 87-foot Coast Patrol Boat homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida, offload 1,735 kilograms of cocaine, an estimated wholesale value of $56 million and transferred custody of eight suspected drug smugglers to partner federal agencies Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Florida. The contraband and suspected smugglers were interdicted during four separate cases supporting Operation Martillo, a joint interagency and multi-national collaborative effort among 14 Western Hemisphere and European nations to stop the flow of illicit cargo by Transnational Criminal Organizations.
A boat crew for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare gets underway between Cuba and Hispaniola during drug interdiction operations in April, 2017. The cutter Legare’s crew completed a 35-day tour of the strait between Cuba and Hispaniola, completing drug interdiction missions, building partnerships with local agencies and aiding local communities.
By 1943, the war in the Pacific burned in its full fury. On November 20th, the Allies launched the first amphibious assault against heavily defended beaches in US history. The 2nd division of the US Marine Corps, used amphibious tractors and assault boats to reach the beaches of the Tarawa atoll, an enemy stronghold protected by 5,000 hardened Imperial Japanese marines. Ed Moore and Tommy Reed were decorated veterans of the 2nd Marine Division during the island campaigns in the Pacific War.
The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.
There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.
This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.
State television CCTV showed armored vehicles moving on a desert track, groups of soldiers firing automatic weapons, and cannon pointing towards the horizon.
Dozens of soldiers have been deployed in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius “to reinforce their hardiness in combat and their mastery of military techniques,” the report said.
“This is the first time that officers and soldiers stationed in Djibouti have left their camp to conduct live-fire exercises,” Liang Yang, the base commander, told the broadcaster.
It was unclear when the drills took place. China opened its base in Djibouti in early August.
Personnel will mainly focus on supporting UN peacekeeping operations, evacuating Chinese nationals, and providing naval escorts, according to the Ministry of National Defense.
The Chinese navy has since 2008 had a presence off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden as part of international efforts to combat piracy.
“This modest live-fire drill was apparently conducted on a designated firing range in Djibouti, and involved a small-scale force, perhaps just a single platoon or maybe a few platoons,” said James Char, a specialist in the Chinese army at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
It did not mean Chinese forces could be expected to carry out “counter-terrorism or constabulary operations in the manner of the US military anytime soon”.
Djibouti is strategically located on the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, controlling access to the Red Sea.
Forward Air Controllers or FACs choreographed this skies over the battlefield in Vietnam. They courageously flew low, slow and unarmed over enemy territory in small, propeller driven aircraft like the Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog and 0-2 Skymaster. The FACs were experts at spotting an evasive, well camouflaged enemy and they often braved a battery of enemy ground fire to target the opposing force. In this episode, Forward Air Controllers William Platt and Bill Townsley tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
Charles L. Phillips was a 26-year-old Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, piloting B-29 bombers in the Pacific theater during the final years of WWII. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroics during the strategic bombing campaign over Japan. One of Phillip’s last missions was on August 6, 1945, the same day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. During the air battle he was forced to ditch his B-29 into the sea. We interviewed Charles Phillips in 1991 and he told us remarkable stories, from his early training in Texas to the firebombing of Tokyo.
This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.
Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict. All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.
Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:
The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.
Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.
Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.
The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.
At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.
Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.
Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.
Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.
For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.
Instead of a reindeer-powered sleigh, Santa delivers Christmas from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam to more than 20,000 Pacific islanders by C-130 Hercules drops from the air.
For the first time in the 63-year history of Operation Christmas Drop, the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has two partners in support personnel from Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force in delivering donated goods to more than 56 of the Pacific’s most remote and populated islands. Each nation provided one C-130 for the trilateral operation.
Not only is Operation Christmas Drop the Defense Department’s longest running humanitarian airlift mission, but it also gives the 374th AW an opportunity to practice humanitarian aid and disaster relief. C-130 aircrews deliver almost 40,000 pounds of supplies by executing more than 20 low-cost, low-altitude airdrop training missions to islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. The airdrop missions allow aircrews to practice essential combat skills and demonstrate commitment throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region while helping the U.S. strengthen cooperation with two allies.
“Members of our community consider all Micronesians brothers and sisters, and we are happy to share this unique tradition in bridging the distance,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, the 36th Wing commander. “That’s the beauty of this operation – its impact goes beyond the coastline of Guam.”
The exact origin of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t known, but according to 36th Wing history, the first supplies were dropped during Christmas in 1952. An aircrew, assigned to the 54th Weather Squadron at Andersen AFB, flew a WB-29 Superfortress over Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia, south of Guam, and saw villagers waving at them from the ground. The crew packed items on the plane in a box and dropped it on a parachute used for weather buoys. The drops continued each year until the name Operation Christmas Drop was officially named six years later.
The 2015 Operation Christmas Drop officially kicked off Dec. 8 at Andersen AFB, with a celebratory “push ceremony.” Military members from the 374th AW, 36th Wing, 734th Air Mobility Squadron, 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing, all from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and international partners from Australia and Japan gathered for the opening ceremony celebrating the first ever trilateral execution of Operation Christmas Drop.
Addressing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, Col. Douglas C. DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander, said, “Your participation in the coming days highlights our dedication and commitment to modernizing our alliances, reinforcing our shared values, and deepening our partnerships across the region.
“Operation Christmas Drop is a prime example of the depth airpower brings to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “In addition to delivering critical supplies to those in need, Operation Christmas Drop provides specific training to U.S. and allied aircrews, enabling theater-wide airpower.”
Throughout the week after the ceremony, the joint teams trained together on low-cost, low-altitude airdrop tactics and procedures. The crews will drop more than 100 bundles filled with humanitarian aid donations and critical supplies, such as books, canned goods, construction materials, clothing, coolers, fishing nets, powdered milk, shoes, school supplies, and toys.
“This coalition training results in a more robust force that is better enabled to execute rapid (humanitarian aid and disaster response) and resupply missions at a moment’s notice throughout the region and around the world,” DeLaMater said.
During almost seven months of planning, service members at Andersen raised money and solicited donations for the critical supplies, educational materials and toys that are delivered during Operation Christmas Drop. Andersen AFB collected, sorted and prepared the donations for the joint bundle build with U.S. Air Force, RAAF and JASDF combat mobility flight riggers.
“An event of this magnitude could not have been sustained for 64 years without the dedication and support from a variety of agencies across the board,” Toth said. “While the training missions are conducted by the Air Force, it is important to understand that this amazing joint endeavor has donations that come from a strong community right here on the island of Guam.”
From military personnel to local community members, there was island-wide participation in the preparation for the big event. Donation boxes were left at both military installations and Government of Guam facilities for people to make contributions in support of Operation Christmas Drop.
“We had members of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and local community help out to make this year’s Operation Christmas Drop possible,” said Master Sgt. Martinez-Andino, the 734th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent and Operation Christmas Drop organization president. “We began this process for the event in March, and we have come a long way, we’re all excited to see the outcome.”
Last year, the Pacific Air Forces delivered 50,000 pounds of supplies to 56 Micronesian Islands.