MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the US B-52 bombers flying around Europe have been up to

Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on Oct. 10, 2019, for a bomber task force deployment.

The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to “conduct integration and interoperability training” with partners in the region and to “exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location” in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.


Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow — this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.

Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Bomber Task Force 20-1 was “part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,” a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.

The Barksdale B-52s’ deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

A B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana takes off from RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

US Air Force Senior Airman Sho Kashara, an Explosives Ordinance Disposal airmen from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, helps build inert BDU-50 bombs for practice use by B-52H Stratofortresses at RAF Fairford, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

US Air Force airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H for takeoff during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes,” Crowe added.

96th Bomb Squadron aircrew from to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn’t have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a “flying crew chief” to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron weapons system officers work in the lower deck of a 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in the Black Sea region in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Three B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in formation after completing missions over the Baltic Sea for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by SSgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO’s Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

French air force Dassault Rafales fly next to a US Air Force B-52H over France in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 25, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Two Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons engage in a planned intercept of a US Air Force B-52H over Poland during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

A US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, Oct. 28, 2019.

(Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense)

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana taxis toward the flight line at RAF Fairford in support of Global Thunder 20, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s next to a US Air Force B-52H in Norwegian airspace during training for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 30, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

A US Air Force B-52H and Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles conduct a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron pilot flies a US Air Force B-52H during training and integration with the Royal Norwegian air force in Norwegian airspace in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet’s home base.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

“The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence,” the spokeswoman said.

A US Air Force B-52H takes off from RAF Fairford to return to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

A US Air Force 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

BTF “rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.

“Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal,” said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out stunning photos of US Air Force bombers training with British fighters

On Aug. 29, 2019, two US Air Force B-2 stealth bombers trained with the Royal Air Force’s F-35B jets, the first time a B-2 has flown with non-US F-35 aircraft, according to The Aviationist.

The B-2s are part of a team of three Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri that have been deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The three B-2 Spirit bombers bring with them airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard. The Spirits used the call signs Death 11, Death 12, and Death 13 when they left Whiteman, The Drive reports.

During this deployment, two B-2s also made the aircraft’s first visit to Iceland.


B-2s are generally kept at specific bases, including Fairfoird and Whiteman, partly because only a few bases have the necessary capacity to protect the bomber’s radar-absorbing stealth covering. But the US military has increased its presence in Iceland as a deterrent to Russian aggression.

Read on to learn more about Aug. 29, 2019’s historic flight.

UK F-35 Lightning fighter jets conduct integration flying training with US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for the first time, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning jets trained with US Air Force B-2 stealth bombers for the first time on Aug. 29, 2019.

Source: UK Ministry of Defense

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

(UK Ministry of Defence)

The B-2s pictured are deployed at RAF Fairford near Gloucestershire, England.

Source: UK Ministry of Defense

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, flies along the English coast near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

“We’re delighted that the USAF and 501st Wing Bomber Task Force are here in the UK and that our F-35 Lightning pilots have the chance to fly alongside and train with the B-2 bomber crews,” Group Captain Richard Yates, chief of staff at the UK Air Battle Staff, said in a release. “This is the first time that any other country has done this.”

Source: UK Ministry of Defense

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

(Lockheed Martin)

“This flying integration builds on the work of Exercise Lightning Dawn in Cyprus and the visit of RAF F-35 Lightning to Italy in June, where in both cases it had the opportunity to prove itself among other NATO allies who also operate the aircraft,” Mark Lancaster, British armed forces minister, said.

Source: UK Ministry of Defense

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China sends ship to spy on war games

The Australian military is monitoring a Chinese surveillance vessel believed to have been sent to spy on the Talisman Saber war games being held along the coast of Queensland.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship is now sailing toward Australia, presumably to observe the joint military exercises involving American, Australian, and Japanese forces, Australia’s ABC News reported, revealing that up to 25,000 troops will be participating in the “high-end” warfighting exercises.

“We’re tracking it,” Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, Chief of Defense Joint Operations, explained July 6, 2019. “We don’t know yet what its destination is, but we’re assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland, and we’ll take appropriate measures in regards to that.” He did not elaborate on the response.


He did, however, acknowledge that the Chinese ship is in international waters, where it has the right to sail and, if it so desires, conduct surveillance operations.

Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence ship.

(Australian Defence)

“All nations have the right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct military surveillance operations in international waters outside a state’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea,” Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the US and Australia — along with most other nations — accept this principle and grant it to China, Beijing does not extend this right to other nations in the South China Sea, where it routinely chases away foreign vessels.”

China has long objected to “close-in surveillance” by the US Navy near its shores, despite the People’s Liberation Army Navy routinely doing the same.

Chinese AGI vessels have, in recent years, been making frequent appearances at the joint military exercises in the Pacific. The Australian Defence Department told reporters that it is “aware that there will likely be interest from other countries in exercise Talisman Saber.”

One of China’s AGI vessels was spotted lurking off the Australian coast 2017 during the last iteration of the Talisman Saber exercises.

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Sterett fires its MK 45 5-inch gun during a naval surface fire support exercise as part of Talisman Saber 17.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Byron C. Linder)

The Chinese navy was disinvited from participating in 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to the militarization of the South China Sea by Chinese forces. Nonetheless, China sent one of its spy ships to monitor the exercises from off the coast of Hawaii.

“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News at the time.

By allowing the Chinese military to engage in these types of surveillance activities, the US and its allies are hopeful that China will eventually offer the reciprocity it has thus far been unwilling to grant, Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, argued.

“For international rules to function they must be reciprocated,” Townshend told news.com.au.

Australian military officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told local broadcaster ABC News that they suspected that a new aspect of Japan’s participation in this year’s Talisman Saber drills has piqued China’s interests.

“This year’s Talisman Saber involves the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was created last year primarily as a response option for potential Chinese incursion in the Senkaku Islands,” one official told reporters, adding, “Their capability and interoperability with Australia and the United States will be of interest to Beijing.”

The Australian Defence Department said the Chinese ship will be “taken into account during the planning and conduct of exercises.”

China has not yet commented on the matter.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US F-35 fighter jets are all still ‘below service expectations’

Even though the F-35 program is making strides, each of the Joint Strike Fighter variants is still coming up short on combat readiness goals, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

Based on collected data for fiscal 2019, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants all remain “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, Robert Behler, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, said Nov. 13, 2019.

“Operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations,” he said before the House Subcommittee on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces. “In particular, no F-35 variant meets the specified reliability or maintainability metrics.”


One reason for falling short of the 65% availability rate goal is that “the aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” Behler added.

Lawmakers requested that Behler; Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office; and Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management for the Government Accountability Office testify on sustainment, supply and production challenges affecting the program.

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Results improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 but were still below the benchmark, and well below the 80% mission-capable rate goal set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in 2018.

Mattis ordered the services to raise mission-capable rates for four key tactical aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35. The objective was to achieve an 80% or higher mission-capable rate for each fleet by the end of fiscal 2019.

Units that deployed for overseas missions had better luck, Behler said.

“Individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” he said in his prepared testimony.

Fick backed up that claim. For example, he said, the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to the Middle East as part of the F-35A’s first rotation to the region. As a unit, the mission-capable rate for the jet fighters increased from 72% in April to 92% by the time they returned last month, he said.

Later in the hearing, Fick mentioned that a substantial contributor to the degraded mission capability rate — the ability to perform a core mission function — is a deteriorated stealth coating on F-35 canopies.

In July 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers the F-35 would fall short of the 80% mission-capable rate target over parts supply shortages to fix the crumbling coating that allows the plane to evade radar.

“[Canopy] supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper said in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Nov. 13, 2019’s hearing comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office report that once again urges the Defense Department to outline new policies to deal with the F-35’s challenges.

“DoD’s costs to purchase the F-35 are expected to exceed 6 billion, and the department expects to spend more than id=”listicle-2641354570″ trillion to sustain its F-35 fleet,” the Nov. 13, 2019 report states. “Thus, DoD must continue to grapple with affordability as it takes actions to increase the readiness of the F-35 fleet and improve its sustainment efforts to deliver an aircraft that the military services and partner nations can successfully operate and maintain over the long term within their budgetary realities.”

The 22-page report largely reiterated what the GAO found in April 2019: that a lapse in supply chain management is one reason the F-35 stealth jet fleet, operated across three services, is falling short of its performance and operational requirements.

It’s something the Pentagon and manufacturer Lockheed Martin need to work through as they gear up for another large endeavor. The DoD last month finalized a billion agreement with the company for the next three batches of Joint Strike Fighters, firming up its largest stealth fighter jet deal to date.

The agreement includes 291 fifth-generation fighters for the US, 127 for international partners in the program, and 60 for foreign military sale customers.

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

Read more:

MIGHTY HISTORY

This historic film shows the Lone Survivor raid of World War II

If you’ve read the book Lone Survivor, written by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, or seen the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name, then you’re very familiar with the incredible tale of survival and valor. But prior to Luttrell’s involvement to that 2005 operation, there was another well-known “love survivor” raid.

The tale of Torpedo Squadron Eight at the Battle of Midway has since become legend. All 15 of the squadron’s Douglas TBD Devastators that were sent out that day were shot down. Of the 30 crew aboard those planes, the only survivor was Ensign George Gay. The others were all killed in action.


Some people believe that this squadron’s sacrifice is what pulled down the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros that were providing combat air patrol for the Japanese carrier force, known as Kido Butai, thus opening the way for Douglass SBD Dauntless dive-bombers to deliver the bombs that left three Japanese carriers fatally damaged in the span of five minutes. This is, however, an over-simplified view.

Ensign George Gay (right) with a gunner from Torpedo Squadron Eight.

(US Navy )

It should be clear, though, that Torpedo Eight’s attack was the first in a chain of events that culminating in a Japanese loss so devastating the force could never recover. According to the book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, written by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan B. Parshall, the attack by Torpedo Squadron Eight came in almost an hour before the dive-bombers arrived — around 9:18 AM. Their attack took no more than 17 minutes. Gay was perhaps the only pilot to get close enough to drop a torpedo against a Japanese carrier before he ditched his plane. He attempted to rescue his gunner, Robert K. Huntington, but was unsuccessful.

The reason Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked alone was because Hornet’s air group commander, Stanhope Ring, made an incorrect guess. Waldron, commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, and Ring had often disagreed on where the Japanese carriers might have gone. This time, Ring ended up missing the Japanese carriers — flying too far to the north. Waldron was dead on target, though.

World War II’s answer to Michael Murphy is Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, who received a posthumous Navy Cross for Torpedo Eight’s attack.

(US Navy)

At 9:38am, Torpedo Squadron Six began their attack, launched from the USS Enterprise. This lasted until about 10:00. Torpedo Squadron Six’s attack came from a different angle than Torpedo Eight’s — four of that squadron’s planes returned to the Enterprise.

It was during Torpedo Six’s attack that Wade McCluskey, leading the Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, would sight a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up with the rest of Kido Butai after trying to chase off the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168). As McCluskey’s Dauntlesses arrived over Kido Butai, so did the Yorktown’s strike of 12 Devastators and 17 Dauntlesses, escorted by six F4F Wildcats.

Of the fifteen pilots in this photo, only one lived.

(US Navy)

The Devastators of Torpedo Three would be savaged by the Zeros, but the Dauntless dive-bombers would turn the tide of war in five minutes, largely because the torpedo squadrons had not only drawn fighters down, but their attacks forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver in ways that precluded the launching of their own planes.

Torpedo Eight’s attack, the first in this deadly series, had set the entire sequence in motion — a sequence that would forever cripple the Japanese Navy, leading to victory for the Allies at Midway.

Learn more about Torpedo Eight in the film below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyrawK_MUF8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

Ben Affleck will bring WW2 ‘Ghost Army’ to the big screen

Ben Affleck will direct and star in “Ghost Army,” a movie about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops who tricked the Nazis in the weeks leading up to D-Day in 1944.

The film features a screenplay by “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto, and it’s based on “The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery,”the outstanding 2015 book by Rick Beyer & Elizabeth Sayles. The script is also based on the PBS documentary “The Ghost Army.”


The “Ghost Army” used military “special effects” to mislead Germany into deploying its troops in the wrong locations to fight non-existent armies. The unit included future fashion designer Bill Blass, fine art painter Ellsworth Kelly, wildlife artist Arthur Singer, photographer Art Kane and designer Jack Masey. It’s a fascinating group of soldiers who went on to become some of the most influential artists and designers of the 20th century.

Remembering The Ghost Army that Saved US Lives in WW II

www.youtube.com

The unit is credited with saving thousands of lives during the war, and their story seems tailor-made for the kind of free-wheeling, all-star, upbeat WWII movie that we haven’t seen much lately.

Affleck’s most recent movie is Netflix’s special ops heist thriller “Triple Frontier.” He won an Oscar for producing the 2012 CIA Iran hostage thriller “Argo” (which he also directed and starred in) and another for writing the 1997 drama “Good Will Hunting.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force finally has plans to test a laser weapon on its AC-130J gunship

For the last five years, Air Force Special Operations Command has been working toward incorporating a high-energy laser weapon on its newest AC-130J gunship. It now plans to test-fire a 60-kilowatt laser in 2022, according to a program officer affiliated with the program.

“If it is successful — and we are planning for success — then it will feed into our new requirements and potentially a new program down the road,” said Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer for fixed-wing programs at Special Operations Command. She spoke during last week’s Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.


“If this goes forward past the demo … we’ll have an additional [research, development, test and evaluation] program going forward,” Johnson said, as reported by NDIA‘s National Defense Magazine.

Johnson explained that previous tests have largely been ground-based and done in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. The next, scheduled for fiscal 2022, will be onboard the AC-130 aircraft, she said.

The J-model aircraft achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.

The fourth-generation AC-130 is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-variant sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, received its first J-model with the Block 30 software upgrade in March 2019.

Along with the 105mm cannon sported by its cousin, the AC-130U model, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise; it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st SOW, told Military.com during a trip to Hurlburt in 2018.

Palenske said that a laser would be the ultimate ace in the hole, making disabling other weapons systems easier.

“If you’re flying along and your mission is to disable an airplane or a car, like when we took down Noriega back in the day, now, as opposed to sending a Navy SEAL team to go disable [aircraft] on the ground, you make a pass over that thing with an airborne laser and burn a hole through its engine,” he said.

Palenske was referring to 1989’s Operation Nifty Package mission to capture and remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power, during which a SEAL team “disable[d] his aircraft so he couldn’t escape.”

With a laser, “it’s just like that. And you just keep going on, and there’s no noise, no fuss, nobody knows it happened. They don’t know the thing’s broken until they go and try to fire it up,” he said at the time.

AFSOC had hoped to incorporate the laser onto the aircraft this year. Johnson said gaps in funding, not technological maturity, were behind the delay.

“After several years of seeking stable funding, we are there,” she said.

Then-AFSOC commander Gen. Brad Webb made a similar remark in 2018.

“The challenge on having the laser is funding,” Webb said during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium that year. “And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions: ‘Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?’

“We can hypothesize about that all we want. My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it. Let’s say we can — or we can’t,” Webb said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey sticks with plans to get Russian missiles, kill Kurds

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey may buy U.S. Patriot missile systems if conditions are right, but insists such a deal would be impossible if Washington forces Ankara to cancel its agreement to purchase S-400 antiaircraft missiles from Russia.

In an interview with Turkey’s NTV on Jan. 10, 2019, Cavusoglu said his NATO-member state will not accept the United States imposing conditions in regard to its deal to buy the Russian-made surface-to-air defense systems.

Meanwhile, in another sign of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said a military operation Turkey was planning against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria did not depend on a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.


Cavusoglu told NTV it was not realistic to expect the United States to collect all of the weapons it had supplied to Syrian Kurdish fighters who are viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in late December 2018 that he planned to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria stunned U.S. allies and led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told Turkish officials in Ankara on Jan. 8, 2019, that Turkey’s assurance it won’t attack the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters was a “condition” for the withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bolton of making “a very serious mistake” with the demand.

“We cannot make any concessions in this regard,” said Erdogan, who vowed that “those involved in a terror corridor” in Syria “will receive the necessary punishment.”

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and have been fighting alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State militants in northeastern Turkey.

But Ankara insists those Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group that is banned in Turkey and has been considered a terrorist group by the United States since 1997.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How this flashlight became the most enduring piece of military tech

New gear designs come and go. One troop’s packing list will look drastically different from the next generation’s. Rucksacks have gone through major overhauls since their inception and it feels like uniforms change faster than you can blink. But one piece of military gear has remained virtually unchanged since WWII: the anglehead flashlight.


Torch, Moonbeam, L-Bend, this f*cking, pain-in-the-ass light; troops have many names for it. (Photo by Sgt. Ferdinand Thomas)

Early flashlights were either huge and bulky or dim and short-lived — both were very impractical for troops fighting in combat. And then the TL-122 was first created.

The design was simple. It gave the flashlight a clip and an ergonomic bend so that it could be attached to a soldier’s body, leaving their hands free for fighting. The easily-interchangeable batteries and bulbs made it that much more desirable.

The design of the TL-122 was available to multiple manufacturers and used by many different countries. Only slight variations were made before the Vietnam War, including the TL-122 D, which gave it a new compartment to affix various filters. The red filter is one of the most useful because red light doesn’t hinder the eyes’ natural night vision and is far less conspicuous to enemies.

The red filters forced mapmakers to change the way they printed the maps, making them easier to read under red light. (Photo by Spc. Jeffery Harris)

Later, a third option was added to the simple always-on/always-off switch: signal mode. Now, troops who set their flashlight to “signal mode” could push the button to turn it on and off. This feature re-sparked troops’ interest in learning Morse code, since you could now tap out a message and send it across the light using the tiny, little button. The TL-122 would later be rebranded as the MX991 by Fulton Industries and would be used by troops, law enforcement, and civilians.

Today, the flashlight hasn’t changed much. There have been changes in materials used to create the frame and the original bulb was replaced with a longer-lasting LED. Any modern-day soldier could pick up their grandfather’s anglehead flashlight from WWII and it’ll be practically the same thing they use today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jimmy Carter offered to meet Kim Jong Un in North Korea for negotiations

Former President Jimmy Carter has offered to travel to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un in a bid to break the diplomatic stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization of the rogue state.

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told Politico that the former president had expressed his willingness to travel to North Korea in a conversation on March 7, 2019.

“I think President Carter can help (President Trump) for the sake of the country,” Khanna later told CNN.


Carter was the first US president to travel to North Korea, visiting the country in 1994 to meet Kim’s grandfather, former leader Kim Il Sung. Carter’s visit helped to defuse the first North Korean nuclear crisis, paving the way for the Agreed Framework, in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid.

Jimmy Carter meets Kim Il-Sung (1994)

www.youtube.com

He returned to the country in 2010, where he helped secure the release of American captive Aijalon Gomes.

In the interview with CNN, Khanna said that Carter’s experience negotiating with Kim’s grandfather would be an asset for the Trump administration, following the collapse of negotiations between Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“I think it would be so profound because he could talk to Kim Jong Un about his grandfather and the framework he established,” Khanna said.

Khanna said that he and Carter had on March 7, 2019, been discussing plans to revive the denuclearization plans the former president brokered with Kim Il Sung, to develop a new joint framework for peace.

The Carter Centre and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carter seems to hold no great respect for Trump, and in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show in March 2018 agreed when the host said Trump’s election showed Americans were willing to elect a “jerk” as president. Trump meanwhile has derided Carter’s leadership and “everyman” image while in the White House.

President Jimmy Carter Is Still Praying For Donald Trump

www.youtube.com

However, Carter has previously made efforts to broker a relationship with the administration, and was critical of hostile press coverage of Trump in October 2017, when he first offered to help Trump negotiate with Kim.

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about,” Carter told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

“I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Then remarks were welcomed by Trump, who tweeted: “Just read the nice remarks by President Jimmy Carter about me and how badly I am treated by the press (Fake News).”

“Thank you Mr. President!”

The nuclear summit between Trump and Kim came unstuck when Kim demanded an end to US sanctions.

Analysts earlier in the week said that satellite imagery showed North Korea had started rebuilding a long-range missile launch site in the wake of the collapse of the negotiations.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Place, The Legend, The Man: Honoring an incredible Marine

ARLINGTON, Va. —

The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.

Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.


“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.

Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.

“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”

When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.

The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.

Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”

Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.

The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taiwan is ready to push back against China’s aggression

Tensions between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan have recently flared up as China held the largest show of naval force in its history in April 2018, and made new threats directed towards Taipei.

“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokeswoman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said.


The Chinese also flew bombers around Taiwan in a show of force as well, and though tensions decreased a bit when promised live-fire drills were scaled back, the events are a reminder to analysts and policymakers that one of the worlds oldest Cold War-era conflicts remains unsolved, and could escalate to war.

A war of nerves

Much of that has to do with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who has taken a much more aggressive stance on Taiwan than his immediate predecessors.

“Xi Jinping has essentially linked rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation to the retaking of Taiwan,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“We were in a period of relative quiet with the Taiwan issue, and now it’s in a more primary place on the agenda as far as Beijing is concerned,” Glaser said.

At the core of the issue is that the Peoples Republic of China wants Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, to return to the fold to create one country that is unified under the rule of the Communist Party of China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Photo by Michel Temer)

But Taiwan, with the help of the US, has so far managed to resist the PRC’s attempts to isolate it politically and economically, and has even shown signs of moving further away from the PRC and towards official independence — a move that would almost certainly provoke an armed response from the mainland.

“The current situation in the Taiwan [Strait] is a war of nerves,” Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and the author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Taiwan is winning. They have not compromised under pressure, but tensions are running high and are likely to get much worse.”

Taiwan’s military has advantages — and problems

Taiwan’s military has a few advantages if it comes to war. First and foremost, Taiwan has been training to defend the island for decades.

For a country of only 23 million people, its military is quite capable. It has an active force of around 180,000 troops, with 1.5 million reservists — putting its size on par with the militaries of Germany and Japan, despite having a much smaller population.

Some of its equipment is relatively high-end. Its air force operates around 100 US-made F-16s, and 100 indigenously made F-CK-1A/Cs. Its Army maintains a number of AH-64 Apache gunships, and AH-1W SuperCobras.

An F-16 fighter jet

Taiwan’s navy has roughly eight destroyers and 20 frigates in service, mostly former Oliver Hazard Perry-class and Knox-class ships. But they also have six French-built La Fayette-class frigates. The navy also sails a large number of fast missile boats, and two modified Zwaardvis-class attack submarines.

On top of that, Taiwan has a lot of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, and hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike mainland China.

Taiwan’s geography also provides another advantage. Crossing the Taiwan Strait would take up to 7-8 hours by sea, and during that time Taiwan could prepare for an invasion, and use its navy and air force to attack incoming Chinese ships, and set up anti-ship mines along the Strait.

The PRC also does not currently have the capability to transport the required number of troops (once estimated to be as high as 400,000) needed to take the island.

Furthermore, Taiwan is very mountainous, and does not offer a lot of landing zones where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could establish solid beachheads. Roughly only 10% of its shoreline is suitable for the large-scale amphibious landing that the PLA would have to make.

All of this means an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC would be extremely costly. “China has no obvious starting move that guarantees that they don’t absorb a lot of risk from this,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But Taiwan’s military has two large problems — a lack of advanced equipment, and problems with its transition from compulsory service to a fully volunteer force.

The ROC Army’s CM-11 Tank at the Hukou Army Base.

Much of the military equipment needs to be modernized, especially its tanks and ships, and this can’t be done for diplomatic reasons. Only around 20 nations officially recognize Taiwan, and the PRC puts a lot of pressure on other countries to not do business with the island, especially in terms of defense.

The only nation that is willing to sell Taiwan complete weapon systems is the US, but they have “been slow to provide the weapons that Taiwan has been requesting, especially over the past 10 years,” according to Easton.

The military is also having difficulty making hiring quotas, which is affecting overall capability and performance because they are trying to replace its largely conscript service with professional soldiers.

“China has a massive military, so Taiwan must maintain its advantage in quality,” Easton said.

An uncertain future

A war between the PRC and Taiwan would also risk involving the US, which, while not under legal obligation, has opposed to any use of force against Taiwan in the past.

It deployed carrier battle groups to the Strait in 1995 to prevent war from breaking out, and relations between the two countries remain strong. One analyst Business Insider spoke to calculated that US submarines could sink 40% of a PLA invasion force.

War between the two Chinas, then, would be catastrophic. “In short, it would be extremely complex and fraught with risk for both China and Taiwan,” Easton said, adding that “both sides would stand to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, and the U.S. would almost certainly join the fight on Taiwan’s side.”

Such a quagmire could turn into a war of attrition, and if it were it to result in failure for the PLA, it would be devastating to the Chinese Communist Party.


“It is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of the Communist Party,” Glaser said. “I think that that is the belief in the leadership — that they can never be seen as soft on Taiwan. They cannot compromise.”

She pointed to Xi’s comments at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017; “We will resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never tolerate a repeat of the historical tragedy of a divided country,” he stated to wild applause.

“We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines receive Purple Hearts for actions in Syria

Three U.S. Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during fighting in Syria in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, during ceremonies in Twentynine Palms, California, on October 22, 2018, and in an undisclosed location in U.S. Central Command on November 7, 2018.


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, receives the Purple Heart, October 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

The awardees were Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; and Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

All three Marines have fully recovered from their injuries, according to a press release from the Marine Corps. U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria since at least 2015, but the exact details of the deployments have often been kept quiet due to security concerns and the tense political situation as Russian, Iranian, U.S., and other forces operate so close to one another.

So, it’s not much of a surprise that the Marine Corps hasn’t offered details of the incident that resulted in the Purple Hearts being awarded to the Marines.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, stands by during a Purple Heart ceremony, October 22, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

But while the U.S. has taken relatively few losses despite having an estimated 2,000 troops deployed to Syria, that largely speaks to the professionalism of the troops and leaders deployed there as warfighters have found themselves in sticky situations repeatedly.

Five service members have been killed fighting there. And dozens of special operators were forced to kill approximately 100 Russian mercenaries attacking them en masse in a February, 2018, attack.

Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is awarded the Purple Heart Medal by Lt. Col. Steven M. Ford, commanding officer, 3/7 at Victory Field aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)

The U.S. deployment was originally focused on wrenching as much territory as possible back from the Islamic State, the terror organization that swept Iraq and Syria and made inroads in nearby countries, and has stuck around to help eradicate remnants of the group.

The U.S. deployments to Syria are typically of special operations units like the Army Rangers and Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs, but conventional Marines have also been part of the mix, especially infantrymen who employ mortars or missiles and artillerymen.