The U.S. has conducted more than 4,700 air strikes against ISIS militants since Aug. 2014, and the American pilots carrying out those attacks often have awesome — and sometimes hilarious — callsigns.
In an interesting article for The New York Times, journalist Helene Cooper profiles some of the pilots flying from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who go by names like “Yip Yip,” “Pope,” and “Pizza.” The pilots talk about some of their missions to strike inside Iraq and Syria and the camaraderie among their squadron.
“Quite honestly, the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines own the skies,” Maj. Anthony Bourke, a former Air Force fighter pilot, told The Times. “So even though pilots dream of dogfights, the biggest risk now is small-arms fire, and if you stay above 10,000 feet, you’re not going to be hit.”
Though the Times article does not explain how they got their new names, it’s well known in the fighter pilot community that callsigns are usually earned during a “naming ceremony,” where fellow pilots bestow a newbie with something of a play on their name, or a name that evokes a past screw-up (cool names like “Iceman” or “Maverick” are usually out of the question).
So who are the mystery men flying in on F/A-18s to strike terrorist infrastructure? According to the photo spread accompanying the article, they are:
“Yard Sale” — Navy fighter pilot
“Chaz” — Navy fighter pilot
“Xerxes” — Navy weapons officer
“Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
“Yip Yip” — Navy fighter pilot
“Pickle” — Navy fighter pilot
“Skull” — Marine fighter pilot
“Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
“Betty” — Marine fighter pilot (and yes, he’s a guy)
“Sweet P” — Navy weapons officer
“Smoat” — Navy fighter pilot
“Bones” — Navy weapons officer
“Pizza” — the commander of the Roosevelt’s air wing
Now after an ISIS truck gets blown to bits, we know it may have all been the work of a guy named Yard Sale.
Sometimes a military jet providing the overhead “sound of freedom” brings with it a very strong gust of wind.
A video posted to YouTube recently shows the Navy Blue Angels practicing near a Pensacola, Florida beach, with Angel no. 5 getting so close to the shore that tents, toys, and umbrellas go flying in the air with it. No one was hurt at the time, which was on July 11, according to Fox News.
Most of the beachgoers laugh and cheer after the stunt.
Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.
Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.
So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?
1. Getting the nuclear house in order
Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.
Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.
Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.
There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.
3. Acquisition Reform
It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.
By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.
4. Cyber warfare
With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.
And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?
5. Old Equipment
Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.
The military command responsible for defending the the US and Canada from attack responded to more Russian military flights near Alaska last year than any year since the end of the Cold War, the four-star general leading the command said Tuesday.
US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written testimony that “Russia continues to conduct frequent military operations in the approaches to North America.”
“Last year,” the general told lawmakers Tuesday, “NORAD responded to more Russian military flights off the coast of Alaska than we’ve seen in any year since the end of the Cold War.” These flights involved heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence assets.
VanHerck said that the Russian military flights near Alaska “show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland.”
The Russian military aircraft, which include Tu-160 and Tu-95 long-range bombers, Tu-142 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, and A-50 early warning and control planes that are regularly accompanied by Su-35 fighters, are typically intercepted by US Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to NORAD whenever they fly into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.
No Russian military aircraft has at any point breached US or Canadian airspace, which extends out to 12 nautical miles from the US coastline.
Russian long-range air patrols were fairly common during the Cold War but became less frequent in the aftermath. In recent years, these flights have again become frequent occurrences.
The US military also conducts bomber flights near Russia, which have prompted the Russian military to scramble interceptor aircraft in response.
In addition to frequent military flights near Alaska, the Russian Navy also conducted exercises focused on maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific. The drills also involved anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches in the US exclusive economic zone, an area that extends out 200 miles from a country’s coastline.
In his written testimony, VanHerck asserted that “Russia presents a persistent, proximate threat to the United States and Canada and remains the most acute challenge to our homeland defense mission.”
VanHerck argued that Russian leaders “seek to erode our influence, assert their regional dominance, and reclaim their status as a global power through a whole-of-government strategy that includes information operations, deception, economic coercion, and the threat of military force.”
The general said that should the US wind up in conflict with Russia, “we should expect Russia to employ its broad range of advanced capabilities—nonkinetic, conventional, and nuclear—to threaten our critical infrastructure in an attempt to limit our ability to project forces and to attempt to compel de-escalation.”
He also called attention to Russian newer offensive capabilities such as advanced cyber and counterspace weapons, as well as hypersonic weapons.
VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee in the coming years, “Russia hopes to field a series of even more advanced weapons intended to ensure its ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States,” pointing to the Poseidon torpedo, one of several “doomsday” weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin touted a few years ago.
The general’s comments come as the US military focuses intently on China, which Department of Defense leadership has called “the pacing challenge” for the US. The Biden administration has repeatedly made a point of identifying China as the priority challenge.
In a story that should have most certainly been Duffel Blog but is actually real-life, a Russian weather forecaster proclaimed the skies over Syria were perfect “flying weather” for Russian jets bombing rebel positions, The Guardian reported.
“Experts say the timing for [the airstrikes] was chosen very well in terms of weather,” Ekaterina Grigorova said in her report for Rossiya 24 on Sunday, according to The Washington Post.
The Russian military has carried out more than 100 sorties in Syria since its aerial campaign began last week. Moscow has claimed it has been bombing militants affiliated with ISIS, but so far strikes have overwhelmingly targeted anti-Assad and Kurdish forces instead.
“In these meteorological conditions, planes can dive below the clouds and conduct effective strikes on ground targets, and only climb higher if there’s active anti-aircraft fire,” Grigorova said in front of a graphic depicting a Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft dropping bombs on an enemy tank from the “optimal height for targeting and bombing” of three to five kilometers off the ground, according to the translation from The Guardian.
The military is like an organized play. Everyone who assumes a position is supposed to follow the script to their role. However, some take it too far and continue even after the play has ended. These folks are always in character and they expect the same out of everyone around them.
In the field it’s understandable but if one of these “motards” pulls rank on you during liberty, you may be inclined to react the same way this Marine does.
By 2030, the United States Marine Corps might look a little different from the Marine Corps of today. According to a 180-page document released by Breaking Defense, there’s an aggressive strategy in place to redesign the sea service in less than 10 years.
Called the “Tentative Manual For Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations,” the Corps is going to be overhauled to focus on the challenges posed by an emerging China and a newly-aggressive Russia.
The Marine Corps newest iteration, according to the unreleased manual, is going to create small units to focus on individual small unit capabilities, specifically air defense, anti-ship warfare, fighting for control of small, temporary bases all in an “island-hopping” campaign in the Pacific.
If that sounds familiar, that was the strategy used by the United States Marine Corps and Navy during World War II in the Pacific, meant to check the expansion of Imperial Japan. That plan was itself based on Operational Plan 712: Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia, one of the Marine Corps’ foundational doctrines.
Instead of massive invasions like the ones seen on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, however, the Marines will be called in to capture or construct small bases to launch missiles or use as resupply stations as Marines and Naval forces operate throughout the Pacific Theater.
“The scale of the problem today cannot be met by merely refining current methods and capabilities,” the manual reads.
The Marine Corps also isn’t limited to the technology of days past, either. The Corps will use precision-guided missiles, unmanned aerial and seaborne vehicles, and any other innovations that would make movement between islands and contesting islands more practical and decisive.
One of the first signs of developing this newly-oriented, more agile Marine Corps will come in the 2022 defense budget requests from the Marine Corps. The document predicts the Corps will want a hundred Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessels available for use, along with Light Amphibious Warships in Littoral Maneuver Squadrons.
It will also list Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) batteries, hundreds of anti-ship Naval Strike Missiles with a 115-mile range built on the chassis of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
This document is said to outline Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s very fast timeline to reconstruct the Marine Corps and its combat roles. Combat teams will be roughly battalion-sized, according to Breaking Defense, and will see at least three Marine Littoral Regiments stood up in the Pacific within the coming years. Each will be responsible for multiple versions of these small bases.
The bases will be “conducting sustained operations to enable fleet operations via sea denial” and be a supply and refueling point for units “conducting major combat operations,” the article says.
Marines operating at these “ad hoc” bases will be protected from advanced aircraft and advanced ballistic weapons by Marine air wings, communications, and ground-based air defenses.
One of the reasons the “Tentative Manual For Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations” is being taken so seriously is that unlike many other so-called “concept papers” from military branch leaders, this document is painstakingly detailed over 200 pages, covering everything from joint force interoperability to command and control oversight, as well as the size and roles of individual Marine Corps units.
Read more about the newer, smaller, and more agile Marine Corps from the original at Breaking Defense.
Lockheed Martin’s JASSM air-to-ground missile is dubbed the “terrorist killer” for its bunker-blasting capability.
The missile is designed to go after high-value, well-defended targets from long range, keeping aircrews well out of danger from enemy air defense systems. The 2,000-pound weapon combines a penetrator/blast fragment warhead with a state-of-the-art anti-jamming precision guidance system wrapped in a stealthy airframe with wings.
Extended distance standoff range
Simple mission planning
Adverse weather operable
GPS/Inertial Measurement Unit inertial guidance
Fully compatible with B-1B aircraft
GPS jam resistant
The JASSM can be launched from the B-1, B-2, B-52, F-16, F-15E, F/A-18, F-35, and other aircrafts.
The JASSM can penetrate bunkers and caves before setting off its blast.
Here it is doing what it’s designed to do: penetrate and explode.
You can run, but you can’t hide, terrorists. It’s devastatingly accurate.
If you need to cross a danger area, why run when you can just skate?
That seemed to be the reasoning shown in this video, which purportedly shows a Libyan rebel wearing roller blades in the middle of a firefight. The fighter points his AK and fires off a few rounds as he crosses the street, which the opposing side can probably claim as a drive-by shooting.
The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s military nutrition division is asking volunteers to take part in a six-week study during which they’ll spend 21 days eating only MREs.
They say the goal is to learn what happens to the human gut on an all MRE diet, even though the veteran and active duty communities have already voiced their opinion through hilarious memes.
They even predicted what would happen on an MRE diet:
But the Army’s study is actually serious business. The engine of the human digestive process is large colonies of bacteria in the gut, and these bacteria populations are affected by what people eat.
Army scientists want to learn how to game that system, crafting new MRE items that will make soldiers more healthy and resilient in the field. An area of particular interest is how to help the naturally occurring bacteria fight off food poisoning.
“We think we can manipulate the bacteria in a way that helps the bacteria fight foreign pathogens — things that could cause food-borne illness, for example,” the head of the study, Dr. J. Philip Karl, told Army Times. “Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause [gastrointestinal] distress. Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that.”
Volunteers will have their gut bacteria populations measured on a regular basis as they proceed through the study, allowing researchers to see how the bacteria is affected. Hopefully, the researchers can then tweak the recipes and menus to make them better for troops.
As some vets still idolize the MRE lifestyle, the Army will likely have plenty of volunteers:
But they only want 60 volunteers and only ones who can travel to their facility in Natick, Massachusetts.
To learn more about the study and see how to sign up, see the original Army Times article.