SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog - We Are The Mighty
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SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
A Navy military working dog handler trains his partner. Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson


A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.

James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.

See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The Marines are looking for a few good Tigers

The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.


According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Northrop F-5E (Tail No. 11419). (U.S. Air Force photo)

One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.

So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.

SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-5S armed with AGM-65S Mavericks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano.  If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.

Intel

Hypersonic missile tech is the new nuclear ace in the hole

As we prepare to scale down our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Military is rapidly shifting its focus from regional kinetic engagements to theater-level strategic positioning. In many ways, this new posture will leave the military looking a lot like it did before the wars in the Middle East. In short, it means a renewed reliance on our Naval and Air Force deterrent technologies: think stealth bombers and nuclear submarines. 

The Navy and Air Force represent two parts of the United States’ nuclear defense triad. The Navy’s SSBN submarines silently swim the world’s oceans waiting for a first or second strike command. Likewise, Air Force bombers are positioned worldwide, ready to drop munitions on our enemies. But the backbone of the nuclear triad has always been our land-launched nuclear missiles. 

Now, new reports from the Pentagon and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) suggest that the standby strategy for nuclear deterrence is getting a technological facelift in the form of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC. 

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Raytheon-Northrop Grumman hypersonic missile concept. (Raytheon Photo.)

HAWC is essentially an inter-continental ballistic missile that can be launched from an aircraft. Traveling at hypersonic speeds, the HAWC would provide “longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems,” according to Andrew Knoedler, Program Manager of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. 

“Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance,” Knoedler added. 

To put that in perspective, consider that the top speed for your standard-issue Tomahawk cruise missile is about 550 miles per hour; this is slower than mach 1. The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept will travel at five times the speed of sound. It will be capable of hitting any target on the planet within one hour from launch.

DARPA and the U.S. Air Force have been working on HAWC for a while, and today the Pentagon announced that the program will be joining forces with its Australian counterpart Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment, or SCIFiRE. According to the press release, by joining the two programs, the Pentagon is hoping to “advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions.”

The latest concepts of the HAWC offer much more than simple warhead delivery. In fact, the newest system, nicknamed Mayhem, will be able to be launched from a much smaller aircraft — like a strike fighter jet — and will be able to be fitted with a series of different payloads. In addition to munitions, the Mayhem will be able to carry sensors, surveillance equipment, or communications devices. 

According to a September report from Defense News, both Lockheed Martin and Ratheon have completed prototypes; both prototypes are currently being tested. These flight tests will evaluate whether the weapons’ propulsion and thermal management systems will be able to withstand hypersonic cruise speeds, according to DARPA.

“These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work,” said Knoedler. 

“That gives us faith [that] the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces.”

This article was originally published on November 30, 2020.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China has a railgun, but it doesn’t seem useful in combat

China claims it’s winning the race to bring long-range superguns to its growing fleet, but experts say that even if these weapons work, they won’t make a difference in high-end conflict.

China announced it will “soon” be arming its warships with railguns, a technology which uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther than conventional guns and at seven or eight times the speed of sound. The US Navy has spent more than a decade pursuing this technology, but naval affairs experts contend that even the best railguns have huge problems that make them a poor substitute for existing capabilities.


“You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former US Navy officer, told Business Insider.

The Chinese navy made headlines when images of a Chinese ship equipped with a suspected railgun first surfaced in January 2018. Photos showed the vessel, initially nicknamed the “Yangtze River Monster,” docked on the Yangtze River at a shipyard in Wuhan. That same ship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — reappeared in late December 2018, having possibly set sail for sea trials.

“This is one of a number of interesting developments that indicates that the [People’s Liberation Army] is quite enthusiastic about emerging capabilities,” Elsa Kania, an expert on the Chinese armed forces at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider.

The Chinese PLA is actively looking at the military applications of cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. China actually launched the first quantum communication satellite, which is said to be unhackable. For the Chinese navy, this means research into electromagnetic railguns, among other capabilities.

China says it has made major ‘breakthroughs’ with railguns

“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made … in multiple sectors,” China’s Global Times reported recently, citing state broadcaster CCTV. The notoriously nationalist tabloid proudly asserted that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”

China is expected to begin fielding warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles as early as 2025, CNBC reported in summer 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on China’s railgun development.

Chinese military experts expect the new Type 055 stealth destroyers to eventually be armed with electromagnetic railguns.

‘It’s not useful military technology’

While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic force to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at incredible speeds.

China is not the first country to take an interest in railgun technology. The US Navy took a serious look at the possibility of arming warships with the gun, which promised the ability to strike targets as far as 200 miles away with relatively inexpensive rounds traveling at hypersonic speeds.

During the development process, the US military discovered problems that make the gun more of a hassle than an asset.

“The engineering challenges that the US is seeing with railguns are fundamental to the technology,” Clark, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told BI. “Any railgun is going to have these problems.”

While still cheaper than a missile, the rounds are more expensive than previously expected, as they require more advanced guidance systems to ensure that a simple GPS jammer doesn’t render them inoperable.

The rounds are more powerful than standard 5″ gun projectiles, but still lack the destructive power of missiles, making them less effective in strike missions. Missiles are also able to can chase down targets.

Even if each railgun shot packs a punch, its limited rate of fire — maybe eight rounds per minute — means it has little use for air and missile defense against fast-moving targets.

Maintenance and electricity generation are also huge problems. The gun requires an enormous amount of power to fire and the shear force of firing hypervelocity projectiles tends to wear out the barrel quickly. The barrel would likely need to be replaced after every few dozen shots, a problem that likely limits the gun to one short battle.

“They’re not a good replacement for a missile,” Clark said. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”

“It’s not useful military technology,” he added.

Facing a handful of difficult-to-overcome challenges inextricably linked to railgun technology, the US Navy has slow-rolled its railgun development.

But, work continues.

High-Tech Railgun Promises New Military Advantage

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Railguns could be useful someday

The US Navy has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade researching railgun technology, and research continues despite development setbacks.

“They are thinking that down the road they will eventually get some technological breakthroughs that would enable it to be more militarily useful,” Clark explained. “That is why they are continuing to invest in it rather than dropping it entirely.”

During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Navy successfully test-fired hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers. The Army is looking at using the same high-speed rounds for its 155 mm howitzers.

So far, it appears the most beneficial thing to come out of US railgun research is the round.

For China, it’s a PR victory

China, which will likely encounter issues similar to those the US Navy has run into, is potentially continuing its railgun development for another purpose entirely.

“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Clark told BI. “It is always in the details that they sometimes fall a little bit short.”

“It’s a useful prestige thing for them, which is similar to other military systems they’ve fielded recently where it looks cool but it maybe isn’t all that militarily useful,” he further remarked, comparing China’s railgun pursuits to the J-20 stealth fighter, which lacks some of the features required to make it a true fifth-generation aircraft.

“The US has found that a working railgun, even if it met all the promise of a railgun system, is going to have very limited utility in strike or air defense,” Clark concluded, explaining that this technology is a tool which advances the narrative that China is a formidable force.

The Chinese military wants to demonstrate that it is on the forefront of next-level technology.

The Chinese military, like the US, may also derive new capabilities from its railgun research

One other program the Chinese are very interested in are building modern aircraft carriers. The Chinese navy has one carrier in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third mystery carrier in development.

While the first and second rely on ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, their is speculation that the third aircraft carrier could employ the much more effective electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system.

“The same program that’s working on railguns at the naval engineering university has also been involved in their development of electromagnetic catapult system for their next-generation aircraft carrier,” Kania told Business Insider.

“The Chinese military has often intended to explore advanced technologies, including those that the US has deemed less relevant operationally because there is enthusiasm about next-generation capabilities and it wants to understand the art of the possible,” she added.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USAF just deployed an electronic warfare aircraft to South Korea

The EC-130H Compass Call is a modified Hercules tasked with various types of signals surveillance, interdiction, and disruption. According to the U.S. Air Force official fact sheets, “the Compass Call system employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack (or EA) capabilities in support of U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, and special operations forces.”


The USAF EC-130H overall force is quite small, consisting of only 14 aircraft, based at Davis-Monthan AFB (DMAFB), in Tucson, Arizona and belonging to the 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) and its two squadrons: the 41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadrons (ECS). Also based at DMAFB and serving as the type training unit is the 42nd ECS that operates a lone TC-130H trainer along with some available EC-130Hs made available by the other front-line squadrons.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Andrew Park)

The role of the Compass Call is to disrupt the enemy’s ability to command and control their forces by finding, prioritizing and targeting the enemy communications. This means that the aircraft is able to detect the signals emitted by the enemy’s communication and control gear and jam them so that the communication is denied. The original mission of the EC-130H was SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses): the Compass Call were to jam the enemy’s IADS (Integrated Air Defense Systems) and to prevent interceptors from talking with the radar controllers on the ground (or aboard an Airborne Early Warning aircraft). Throughout the years, the role has evolved, making the aircraft a platform capable of targeting also the signals between UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and their control stations.

According to the official data:

The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft. The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict. COMPASS CALL’s adaptability is directly attributed to its spiral upgrade acquisition strategy guided by the Big Safari Program office and Air Force Material Command’s 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron based in Waco, Texas. Combined efforts between these agencies ensure the EC-130H can counter new, emergent communication technology.

 

The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology. It is highly reconfigurable and permits incorporation of clip-ins with less crew impact. It promotes enhanced crew proficiency, maintenance and sustainment with a common fleet configuration, new operator interface, increased reliability and better fault detection.

 

Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Clip-in capabilities are now integrated into the operating system and, utilizing automated resource management, are able to be employed seamlessly with legacy capabilities. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.

 

Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability.” A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capacity. Additionally, the system was re-designed to expand the “plug-and-play” quick reaction capability aspect, which has historically allowed the program to counter unique “one-off” high profile threats. Aircraft communication capabilities are improved with expansion of satellite communications connectivity compatible with emerging DoD architectures, increased multi-asset coordination nets and upgraded data-link terminals. Furthermore, modifications to the airframe in Baseline-2 provide improved aircraft performance and survivability.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Although it’s not clear whether this ability has already been translated into an operational capability, in 2015, a USAF EC-130H Compass Call aircraft has also been involved in demos where it attacked networks from the air: a kind of in-flight hacking capability that could be particularly useful to conduct cyberwarfare missions where the Electronic Attack aircraft injects malware by air-gapping closed networks.

With about one-third of the fleet operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (indeed, four EC-130Hs, teaming up with the RC-135 Rivet Joint and other EA assets, are operating over Iraq and Syria to deny the Islamic State the ability to communicate), the fact that a single EC-130H (73-1590 “Axis 43”) was recently deployed from Davis Monthan AFB to Osan Air Base, South Korea, where it arrived via Yokota, on Jan. 4, 2018, it’s pretty intriguing.

Also Read: This new special operations C-130 Hercules can do it all

Obviously, we can’t speculate about the reason behind the deployment of the Electronic Warfare with alleged Cyber-Attack capabilities (that could be particularly useful against certain threats these days….) aircraft south of the DMZ: however, the presence of such a specialized and somehow rare aircraft in the Korean peninsula, that joins several other intelligence gathering aircraft operating over South Korea amid raising tensions for quite some time, is at least worth of note.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story behind the Frecce Tricolori video that has become the symbol of Italy’s battle against coronavirus

The scene of the Italian Air Force display team performing their trademark final maneuver has gone viral, so much so President of the United States used it for a message of encouragement to Italy.


Italy is, after China, world’s most affected country by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures tell of about 2,500 tested positive to Covid-19 and more than 1,800 people deaths. For about a week now, the whole country is on lockdown to slow down the new infections and death toll and the Italians have relied on emotional flashmobs and social media initiatives to break monotony and lift spirits.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Among all the things that have been used to boost morale in this tough period, one has really emerged as a symbol of unity: the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force display team. A clip showing the Frecce’s ten MB.339A/PAN aircraft performing their final maneuver went viral quickly reaching well beyond the (virtual) borders of the Italian social media channels.

As aviation enthusiasts (especially those who attend airshows) know, the Frecce Tricolori display is constituted by an uninterrupted sequence of some thirty figures, the performance of which requires on average some 25 minutes. Following the performance of the first part of the programme with all ten aircraft, the solo display pilot detaches, alternating his own manoeuvres with the ones flown by the remaining nine aircraft. The display, which has a more or less fixed structure, but can occasionally be modified, always concludes with the Alona (Big Wing), the long curved flypast with a tricolour smoke trail by nine aircraft with undercarriage down, performed in harmony with the broadcasting of the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma”, the famous aria from the opera “Tourandot”.

The first time the team broadcasted the “Nessun Dorma” performed by Luciano Pavorotti during their final maneuver was in 1992 during the Frecce Tricolori’s second North American tour for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Boosted by the experience accrued during their preceding overseas transfer, the Frecce Tricolori achieved a remarkable success with the public, flying, between Jun. 11 and Jul. 31, 1992, 14 displays and flybys in the USA and Canada. It was at that point, during “Columbus 92”, that the practice of broadcasting the famous aria became the norm: the “Nessun Dorma” was preferred to other musical pieces test-broadcasted during the displays carried out during the North American tour.

As an Italian who has watched the Frecce Tricolori perform their display hundreds times, that final maneuver that draws in the sky the longest Italian flag, always gives me shivers.

As said, the clip posted these days (that, based on the setting, was probably filmed at Jesolo, on the Adriatic coast near Venice, during one of the airshows held there in the last years), has gone viral. Some users on social media said the scene symbolized the end of the Coronavirus: the larger formation trailing a tricolor smoke encompasses the smoke trail of the soloist “virus plane”, turning it invisible. Whatever the meaning you give it, it’s the moving end of the Frecce’s display.

Even President Trump used the clip for a tweet of encouragement to Italy.

For those who don’t know them, the Italian Frecce Tricolori are one of the world’s most famous display teams. They also hold several records.

First of all the team’s size: the Italians are the only ones to fly with 10 aircraft.

Another peculiary which makes the Frecce (also known as PAN – Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale – Italian for National Aerobatic Team) unique is the fact that the whole display is executed in sight of the public. Separations, transformations and rejoins are always performed in front of the spectators, a circumstance which requires absolute preciseness in all phases of the display.

By the way: another record accomplished by the Frecce Tricolori is the fact that they separate into two formations (one flight of 5 and another of 4 aircraft) which then fly an opposition pass and subsequently rejoin in less than two minutes. Rejoin time is a factor that can influence deeply a flying display.

One more peculiarity of the PAN is the Downward Bomb Burst, a maneuver which has been part of the Pattuglia’s tradition since its creation, having been part of the Italian Air Force heritage for 90 years now. It is a maneuver in which the aircraft, starting from a high altitude and in formation, dive towards the ground and then separate into 9 individual elements which depart in different directions, finally returning for an opposition pass, at three different levels, over the same point. This is a very spectacular and complex manoeuvre, which no one else is capable of reproducing, especially due to the difficulty in opposition passing and rejoining in the very short time frames required for a display.

The other record of the Frecce Tricolori is tied to the Solo’s Lomçovak. This is a display which is typically executed by propeller aircraft, and foresees a “standing roll” followed by a vertical spin, reverse and subsequent aircraft pitch down. Such a manoeuvre is usually “outside the flight envelope” for most jet aircraft, but the PAN’s Solo pilot can execute it in complete safety, thanks to the outstanding handling capabilities of the MB.339.

The aircraft the team flies is the PAN variant of the single engine tandem seat training and tactical support aircraft. Apart from the livery, it differs from the standard model serving with the Aeronautica Militare’s 61° Stormo (Wing) at Galatina (Lecce) airbase by the presence onboard of the coloured smokes generation system; this device is controlled by two buttons: one on the stick, for white smoke, and one on the throttle for coloured smoke. The system is fed from an under wing fuel tank filled with a colouring agent which is discharged through nozzles placed in the jet exhaust. The agent, vaporised in the jet exhaust, produces a coloured trail. Another PAN aircraft peculiarity is that in order to enhance manoeuvrability along the aircraft longitudinal (roll) axis, and to reduce wing loading, it flies with no tip tanks. These are cylindrical 510 litre tanks which are only mounted on the aircraft for long-range ferry flights. They are replaced by an ad hoc wingtip fairing which covers the wingtip tank attachment points. Since 2002, the PAN also received Mid Life Updated MB.339s. This MLU programme has integrated the previous series models with updated structural features and avionics, such as GPS, formation flying position lights, a new V/UHF radio equipped with a new tail antenna, in addition to reinforced nose and tail. The MB.339 has equipped the PAN since 1982, when it replaced the FIAT G.91, a light fighter bomber aircraft which entered service with the Frecce Tricolori in 1963. The MB.339A/PAN will be replaced by the M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer).

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

Pentagon concerned that Arab allies have shifted focus away from ISIS threat

When the coalition of Western and Arab allies banded together to fight ISIS, the idea of fighting the good fight was met with a lot of zeal. When Jordanian fighter pilot First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured and burned alive by the terror organization, Jordan’s King Abdullah vowed “punishment and revenge” and led to the Jordanian King, an accomplished fighter pilot himself, releasing a photo of himself in his flight suit, geared for battle.


SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

The Western world was wowed once more when a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, led that country’s air war against Daesh. Many in the West aren’t familiar with the customs of each individual Arab country, especially when it comes to their views on the rights of women.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.

“We are in a hot area so that we have to prepare every citizen,” Al Mansouri said. “Of course, everybody is responsible of defending their country — male or female. When the time will come, everybody will jump in.”

The allies still allow U.S. planes to use their bases, but now the Gulf states who spearheaded the effort against ISIS are focused elsewhere. Emirati forces joined Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan also joined in the effort in Yemen. Qatar limited its sorties to reconnaissance missions.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
The before and after of an American F-22 air strike on a target in Syria.

Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, the UAE in March, Jordan in August, and Saudi Arabia in September.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized local allies efforts, saying the Gulf states, known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet. If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground.”

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
(DoD Photo)

“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS],” Carter continued, “is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces.”

According to the Atlantic, the Obama Administration consistently complains about local allies, notably Turkey and the Gulf, expecting the U.S. to fight their regional enemies more than U.S. national security.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Volunteers at the Vietnam Memorial read every name on ‘The Wall’

From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.


A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.

Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Thousands volunteer to read all 58,318 names at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.

The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.

Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a helicopter snatch soldiers out of water in awesome 360 video

A 360-degree video from the US Army shows how the military rapidly inserts and extracts soldiers in areas where a helicopter can’t safely land, and it’s insanely cool.

The video, taken by members of the Army’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, shows a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 2nd Batallion, 25th Aviation Regiment snatching a team of soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division out of the water during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) training.



wet-SPIE extraction training (360 video)

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(Click and drag your pointer across the screen to rotate the video and get the full 360-degree experience)

A variation of the Vietnam War-era troop transfer approach known as the Stabilized Body (STABO) method, SPIE can be carried out on land and in the water, The War Zone, which first took note of the Army’s new video, reported Nov. 18, 2018.

Standard SPIE ropes run from 120 to 150 feet in length and can be used to carry anywhere from one to ten people at a time. For insertion, the SPIE system is considered impractical compared to fast rope rappelling, but this method has its advantages for “wet” extractions.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)

The way it works is relatively simple. Troops hook their harnesses to a rope attached to a helicopter, which lifts them up to a safe height (above any potentially dangerous obstacles) and then flies away with them dangling below.

At the landing zone, the troops are lowered down one at a time to unhook and clear the way for the next person.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Marines hang from a UH-1Y helicopter during special patrol insertion and extraction training at Stone Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis)

This somewhat unusual insertion/extraction approach, initially developed for jungle warfare, gives the military more options in contested areas, rough terrain, and on water. The new SPIE video from the Army was filmed off the coast of Hawaii.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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SOCOM wants drugs to turn its K9s into super dogs

Officials in charge of equipping America’s top commando units are looking for some high-tech drugs to help boost the performance if their 150 “multi-purpose canines.”


According to news reports, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to find pharmaceutical products or nutritional supplements that will enhance canine hearing, eyesight and other senses.

Think of it as a “Q” for America’s four-legged special operators.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Military Working Dog Toby, 23d Security Forces Squadron, prepares for an MWD demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

According to an official solicitation for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, SOCOM is looking for a product or combination of products that will do the following:

  • Increase endurance
  • Improve a dog’s ability to regulate body temperature
  • Improve hydration
  • Improve acclimatization to acute extremes in temperature, altitude, and/or time zone changes
  • Increase the speed of recovery from strenuous work
  • Improve hearing
  • Improve vision
  • Improve scent
  • Decrease adverse effects due to blood loss.

SOCOM’s military working dogs have been front and center on several top commando raids — with the most famous being Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who joined SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

SOCOM, though, is also looking to neutralize enemy K9s through what another solicitation calls “canine response inhibitors.”

Now, during the Vietnam War, the preferred “canine response inhibitor” was known as the “Hush Puppy.” But these days SOCOM is looking for some less permanent methods, including:

  • Inhibit barking, howling, and whining
  • Inhibit hearing
  • Inhibit vision
  • Inhibit scent
  • Induce unconsciousness
  • Induce movement away from the area where the effects are deployed

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper

Like the performance enhancers, the “canine response inhibitors” could also be used outside the military.

So, the company or companies that win the hearts and minds of SOCOM’s puppies could catch a huge break.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just ordered more Massive Ordnance Penetrators

The Air Force has given Boeing a $20.9 million contract to procure the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator — a bomb designed to destroy hardened underground targets like those found in North Korea or Iran.


The announcement does not disclose how many bombs were ordered, but it did say the work is expected to be done by July 31, 2020. Boeing is to get the total amount of the contract at the time of award.

The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is the US’s largest nonnuclear bomb. A GPS-guided bunker-buster, it is “designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” the Air Force fact sheet for the weapon states.

Also read: This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

That includes fortified positions and underground targets, like bunkers or tunnels. It is designed for operational use by the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can carry two at a time, but hasn’t been used in combat, and its deployments, if any, are not known.

‘Hard and deeply buried targets’

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency Massive Ordnance Penetrator conventional bomb being off-loaded at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, March 2007. (Image from Defense Threat Reduction Agency)

Under a 2011 contract cited by The Drive, the Air Force paid Boeing $28 million for eight of the bombs, as well as for additional parts and for a redesign of the B-2’s bomb bay. But the latest order comes after the Pentagon successfully tested and deployed an upgraded version, the GBU-57D/B, which may have a different unit cost than previous models.

The latest upgrade, the fourth for the bomb, “improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Bloomberg in January 2018. The spokeswoman said the upgrade had been completed and the current inventory was being retrofitted.

Related: How the B-2’s stealth technology beats ground radar

Few details about the upgrade have been released, but, according to The Drive, it likely includes a modified fuse, which is responsible for detonating the weapon. The fuse is a complicated component that needs to function with precision after a fall from high altitude and the shock of burrowing through earth or other barriers.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal year 2017 report, that the GBU-57 had successfully completed several tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico over the past year, dropped from B-2s on “representative targets” that “demonstrated effectiveness of the Enhanced Threat Response (ETR)-IV weapon modifications.”

A weapon that ‘boggles the mind’

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
(Image from Boeing)

The GBU-57 is 20.5 feet long, 31.5 inches in diameter, and carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. Much of the remaining weight is a high-performance steel casing that, along with its narrow diameter, is meant to help the weapon burrow into the ground. Some estimate it could penetrate up to 200 feet of earth before detonating.

“What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” B-2 pilot Lt. Col. Justin “Vapor” Grieve told The Kansas City Star. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”

A former Pentagon official who saw footage of GBU-57 tests during 2014 and 2015 told Politico in 2015 that the weapon “boggles the mind.”

Those tests came amid a period of heightened tension with Iran, which developed an extensive underground network of labs and other facilities involved in nuclear-weapons development.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
A US B-52 bomber dropping the GBU-57 during a test. (Photo from DoD)

More recently, US tensions with North Korea — which has an extensive network of underground tunnels, command-and-control bunkers, and missile and nuclear facilities — have again raised the possibility the GBU-57 could used over a battlefield.

In fall 2017, B-2 bombers and other aircraft were heard during an exercise over Missouri that appeared to simulate airstrikes on airports in the state, according to a recording obtained by The Aviationist.

More: The Air Force wants to fly the B-2 Bomber into the 2050s

During one night of the exercises, an aircraft involved radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site,” whose coordinates pointed to a Jefferson City airport hanger. It’s not clear whether the use of unsecured radio channels was a mistake or done on purpose.

Three B-2 bombers arrived in Guam in January 2018 in what the Air Force called a planned deployment.

Iran and North Korea are not the only countries that have developed extensive underground infrastructure. China’s strategic missile forces have a 3,100-mile network of tunnels under mountains in the northern part of the country. According to a 2009 Jamestown Foundation report, Chinese state media refer to the complex as an “underground Great Wall.”

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This is the Marine who will now lead the US Navy

Seven months after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he has installed a new civilian leader for the Navy and Marine Corps.


Banker and Marine veteran Richard V. Spencer was sworn in as the 76th secretary of the Navy August 3 in a quiet, early-morning ceremony at the Pentagon, officials said, less than 48 hours after he was confirmed by the Senate in a late-night session August 1.

Spencer most recently served for a decade as the managing director of Fall Creek Management, a management consulting company in Wilson, Wyoming. Prior to that, according to a biography provided by officials, he worked on Wall Street for 16 years in roles centered on investment banking.

He has held numerous board of directors posts at private organizations, including the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, where he serves as vice chairman. He has also served the Pentagon as a member of the Defense Business Board and as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel.

After graduating from Rollins College in 1976 with an economics degree, Spencer spent five years in the Marine Corps, working as a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
CH-46 Sea Knight. (Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Yesenia Rosas)

According to service records obtained by Military.com, he was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Ana, California. While his awards include a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one star, his records are incomplete and do not indicate where he deployed.

Spencer left the Marines in 1981 to work on Wall Street, but remained in the Reserves, where he was eventually promoted to captain.

He received few challenges at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, where he was introduced and warmly endorsed by former Navy secretary and US senator John Warner.

He indicated a desire to apply his business knowledge to help manage growing personnel costs that continue to challenge the Pentagon.

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog
Richard V. Spencer is sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy by William O’Donnell, Department of the Navy administrative assistant. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan B. Trejo)

Spencer was the second nominee for the post put forward by the Trump administration. The first choice, financier and Army veteran Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration early this year, citing difficulties divesting his financial interests in order to take the position.

After previous Navy secretary Ray Mabus left the position in January when Trump took office, Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, had served in the role.

A spokesman for the office, Capt. Pat McNally, said Stackley resumed his previous title after Spencer was sworn in but has not announced any future plans.

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