Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.


“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray

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Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?

Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.

Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?

Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?

One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.

A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?

Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.

Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.

Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.

Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?

Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.

So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.

We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)

Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?

Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.

I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.

Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?

Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.

Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?

Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority

You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.

For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?

Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?

Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The newest underwater drones can do what submarines can’t

The Marlin is an unmanned underwater vehicle that is currently used in a variety of applications, but primarily for searching for stuff.


You may be wondering – why would you use an unmanned vehicle underwater? After all, we’re paying through the nose for nuclear-powered attack submarines. Why can’t they do they job? It’s a very good question. One of the big reasons is that nuclear attack submarines are primarily designed to sink enemy ships and attack. This requires that they be built very differently.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The Marlin can be deployed from the surface or from underwater.

(Photo by Lockheed)

Unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs (also called drones) are very useful for looking for things on the ocean floor. First of all, you can send them into hostile territory or a dangerous area (like a minefield), and really you just have to worry about the accountants if the drone hits the mine. Second, they can spend a lot of time searching, because they don’t need to take breaks to feed themselves or sleep or other time-consuming human endeavors. Third, because they don’t have to haul around the stuff that humans need to survive and function, they can be a lot smaller.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The Marlin Mk 2 can operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet, and has a top speed of four knots.

(Photo by Lockheed)

According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, two versions of the Marlin are available or in the works. One, the Marlin Mk 2, is able to operate at depths of up to 1,000 feet and operate for up to 24 hours. It has a top speed of four knots. The Marlin Mk 3 is much larger, has a minimum endurance of 20 hours, a top speed of five knots, and can operate at depths of up to 4,000 feet. They can be deployed from a surface vessel or from underwater.

These days, when you are searching for something in the ocean, it can take a lot of time. And unlike the character from Finding Nemo, these Marlins won’t give you some snarky sass.

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 TACTICAL

One of these 3 combat vehicles might replace the Bradley

As the US Army pursues accelerated modernization to meet the potential future demands of high-intensity warfighting against top adversaries like Russia and China, the service is searching for a new next-generation combat vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle produced by BAE Systems.

The Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program is the second highest priority for the recently-established Army Futures Command. This brand new four-star command is dedicated to the research and development of future weapons systems for this new era of great power competition.

“The Russians and the Chinese have used the last 15 years to modernize their forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV cross-functional team, told reporters Oct. 9, 2018, “We need to do the same.”


Replacing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is the top priority for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program

The primary focus right now is replacing the Bradley with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), although the requirements are still in the works, with Army officials noting that “all options are on the table.” The Army’s NGCV cross-functional team is looking for something lethal, survivable, and most importantly upgradeable so that it can continue to meet the Army’s needs for year’s to come, NGCV team leaders explained Tuesday at the 2018 Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.

The Army appears to be pursuing a vehicle that can be reconfigured for different missions, has an outstanding power-to-weight ratio for intensity-based and technological upgrades and modifications, and can wage war in both urban and rural environments to provide a deterrent force in Europe and beyond.

The program is expected to issue an official request for proposals in 2018, and companies will have around six months to prepare their offers. The NGCV program expects to field its new OMFV in 2026. This Futures Command team is also looking at a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) option, Robotic Command Vehicle (RCV), and replacement for the M1 Abrams tank, but the expected delivery dates for these projects are farther out.

There are three full-scale OMFV concepts put foward by BAE Systems, Raytheon, and Rheinmetall, and General Dynamics on display at AUSA 2018, although there may be more potential designs later on when the official request for proposals is sent out. While the three concepts on the floor offer many similar features, each vehicle brings something unique to the table.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The CV90 Mark IV.

(BAE Systems)

Characterizing it as a conversation starter, BAE Systems is offering the latest version of its proven combat vehicle — the CV90 Mark IV

There are 15 variants of the Combat Vehicle (CV) 90 in service in seven nations, so BAE Systems is coming to the table with the latest iteration of a proven vehicle. “We’re pretty proud of this vehicle,” a spokesman for the company told Business Insider at AUSA. “We brought this as our best way to start a conversation with the Army and help the Army help us figure out what it is that soldiers need.”

The strengths of this vehicle, according to its makers, include its growth potential and the mission-specific modularity and flexibility.

“On the left and right sides of it are boxes, they look like they are bolted on, those are weapons station modules,” the spokesman explained, “On [the left] side, you have a Spike missile module connected to the vehicle, and on the right side, you have a 7.62 coaxial machine gun with 2,000 ready rounds in the box.”

Those modular systems are all on attachment points, meaning that they could be swapped out for other modules, such as a Mark 19 grenade launcher, to suit the mission at hand. “It gives the Army, the unit commander, and the vehicle commander the maximum flexibility they need based on the mission,” he said, calling it “sexy.”

In addition to this flexibility, there is also growth potential in the vehicle weight. The vehicle has a maximum weight of 40 tons. The floor model weighed around 30 tons, allowing for the addition of extra armor and weapons systems should the intended mission require these modifications.

The CV90 Mark IV comes with a number of other potentially desirable features and capabilities as well

The vehicle’s 35 mm cannon can be easily modified should the Army show an interest in a 50 mm main gun, something Col. Jim Schirmer, the project lead for the NGVC, told reporters on Oct. 9, 2018, that the Army is seriously considering.

The BAE Systems vehicle also features a drive-by-wire system for manned and unmanned missions, advanced data transfer capabilities, enhanced survivability as it sits low to the ground (hard to see, hard to hit), advanced 360 surveillance, smart targeting systems, airburst munitions for counter-drone warfare, and active protection systems that can be modified as the Army presents a clearer picture of what it expects.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Raytheon and Rheinmetall joined forces to create the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, presenting it at AUSA 2018 as a ready-right-now OMFV option.

Described as a “not business as usual” project, the Lynx KF 41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is the byproduct of a partnership between Rheinmetall, which has an extensive knowledge of vehicles, and Raytheon, a company that excels at integrated electronic systems.

The Raytheon team emphasized modularity for mission-specific modifications in a brief discussion with BI on the floor at AUSA 2018. “The whole thing is very innovative. You can take this configuration, remove the top, make it into another configuration, and you can do that overnight,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Land Warfare Systems at Raytheon, explained.

“With a 10-ton crane, you can lift the roof plate and the turret off the base chassis, and you can re-roll the vehicle,” Philip Tomio, the vice president of strategy and marketing for the Vehicle Systems Division at Rheinmetall, said. “You can turn it into a command post, an ambulance, a repair and recovery vehicle, a joint fires reconnaissance variant. You have a number of options.”

She revealed to BI that during recent trials, crews were able to change the configuration in roughly three hours.

Raytheon and Rheinmetall are promising a “modern fighting vehicle that will keep US soldiers far ahead of battlefield threats for decades to come.”

The survivability of the vehicle can be changed in accordance with the demands of the fighting environment. With roughly 20 tons of configurable payload, the chassis can support additions up to 55 tons for high-intensity combat against an adversary like the Russians. And the main gun can be modified from a 35 mm cannon to a 50 mm gun as needed.

The Lynx IFV supports up to nine dismounts with a three-man crew, as well as as next-generation thermal sights, Coyote unmanned aircraft, active protection systems to counter a variety of asymmetric threats, a fully-integrated situational awareness sensor suite, and an extended-range TOW missile system, among other features.

The spokespeople for this OMFV project repeatedly stressed that the Lynx would be manufactured in the US, supporting the US industrial base and creating jobs. But perhaps more importantly, the vehicle is a finished product, not a concept, that could be ready to go on a moment’s notice.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

General Dynamics Griffin armored fighting vehicle.

General Dynamics brought its Griffin III demonstrator, a combat system featuring elements of the Ajax armored vehicle used in the UK

Produced by the company the makes the M1 Abrams tank, also slated for replacement, General Dynamics’ Griffin III features lethality, modularity, and growth options, among other capabilities.

In terms of lethality, the modular turret features a 50 mm main gun with the option to modify the weapon to a 30 mm cannon if necessary and the ability to fire at an 85 degree angle, a capability requested by the Army for urban combat. The 50 mm gun is significantly more powerful than the Bradley’s current 25 mm cannon.

Supporting a squad with five to eight people and a two-to-three-man crew, the newest evolution of the Griffin I and II is, according to General Dynamics, focused on “adaptability” through the company’s emphasis on a modifiable, open architecture. At the same time, the vehicle features a wide variety of integrated systems with a common operating system, specifically active protection systems, laser warning systems, 360-degree surround view, and a deepstrike package, Mike Peck, the director of enterprise business development at General Dynamics told BI at AUSA 2018.

“All of that is integrated in there. You don’t have to keep adding boxes to the vehicle,” he explained.

The Griffin is said to have a lot of “unique” features designed to trigger additional conversations with the Army going forward.


The Griffin III is meant to satisfy the Army’s vague requirements for the OMFV as they are right now, but it could be changed.

“We wanted to show them what they asked for and then ask, ‘Do you like it, or would you change something?'” Peck explained to BI. “If so, the next iteration — Griffin IV — will have those modifications on it.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Every step of this story is true.

It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.

The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.


Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)

The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.

A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.

The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.

Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.

After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.

It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.

Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.

That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.

He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.

This was the home that American flag had been brought into.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.

Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.

He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.

He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.

He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.

The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.

The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.

Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.

Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.

With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.

The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.

An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.

A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.

The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.

Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.

That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 photos of Russia’s best attack helicopters

America has one dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache. But our rivals in Russia have a much more diverse set of offerings with Hinds, Alligators, Black Sharks, and more all flying in concert with one another. Here are eight photos of them from some recent events in Russia:


Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter sports a 30mm cannon in the nose and four hardpoints for carrying a mix of gun pods, rockets, anti-armor, and anti-air missiles. The pilot sits in a back seat while the weapons officer sits in the front, similar to the pilot and gunner in the American-made AH-64 Apache.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The pilots sit in an armored cockpit and, at first, could only fight during the day due to sensor limitations. Those limitations were fixed with the Mi-28N, allowing these bad boys to tackle Russia’s enemies in low light and night conditions thanks to a radome installed above the rotor.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Interestingly, the Mi-28 was pitted against the Ka-50 in trials, and the Mil-28 lost. But it performed well enough to keep flying anyway and eventually entered the main arsenal. Then, defense priority changes led to the Mi-28 becoming a rival to the Ka-50. Now, the Mi-28 regularly flies alongside the Ka-50s and Ka-52s in combat and training.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Ka-52 Alligator is a successor to, and two-seater version of, the Ka-50 Black Shark. The attack helicopter has six weapons hardpoints that can carry everything from anti-tank missiles to rockets to a massive anti-ship missile capable of taking down tanker ships.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Alligator uses a coaxial rotor where the two sets of blades spin in opposite directions, making it more stable than traditional helicopters and eliminating the need for an anti-torque tail rotor.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Mi-35 Hinds are a very special kind of beast. They’re often classified as an attack helicopter, but the alternate description is “heavy assault gunship,” which might be a better description. The Hind can not only tear apart enemy troops on the ground, it can also drop off an infantry squad to take control of the ground after.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Mi-35s have an ungainly look on the ground but are vicious in the air, sort of like a fat duck on PCP.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When they fly in large formations, they can drop entire infantry platoons or companies into the fight and provide close combat attack support to keep those infantrymen alive and lethal. They’re expensive and ungainly, but there’s a lot of value in its capability.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How VR has helped prosecute a Nazi guard

There’s a common refrain in Germany, “This is the last Nazi trial.” The country keeps striving to hold Nazis from World War II, especially those who worked in concentration camps, accountable for their crimes against the world and against those Europeans that the Third Reich deemed undesirable. But as many camps were dismantled after the war and survivors of the camps are dying of old age, it’s hard to collect evidence against individuals for crimes perpetrated in the 1930s and 40s.


But now, forensic virtual reality is helping jury members and judges see exactly what crime scenes, including concentration camps, looked like, and that’s helping German prosecutors go after former concentration camp guards and staff. This could allow Germany to assign culpability to perpetrators of the Holocaust until the last accomplice has died.

How Virtual Reality Helps Catch Nazis

youtu.be

Take the case of Reinhold Hanning. He was, undeniably, a guard at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During Hanning’s time at the camp, 170,000 people were killed, most of them Jewish, most of them in gas chambers. As an SS sergeant, Hanning would likely have been involved in the “selection” process, where some prisoners were sent to the chambers and some to hard labor.

But prosecutors had to prove that Hanning was involved in that process or that he knew the process resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. It wasn’t enough to prove that he was at the camp. It wasn’t enough to prove that he worked there. They had to prove that he knew his actions contributed to murder.

If that was proven, he could be convicted as an accomplice to 170,000 murders. But, how do you prove that he must have known about the gas chambers and that he must have known what the results of their use were? After all, he claimed that he had never seen a prisoner gassed and that he didn’t know people were being killed.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Prisoners in advanced state of starvation in a concentration camp liberated by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Sergeant Lucien Lapierre of the New Brunswick North Shore Regiment.

(Donald I. Grant, Library and Archives Canada)

And, nearly all the records from the time have been lost or destroyed. And most of the camp was either torn down or has fallen apart in the years since World War II. While some concentration camps survive today, that is because they’ve been maintained as museums and memorials to the atrocities. The camps were not designed or constructed to last 100 years.

But prosecutors had a modern tool in their arsenal for prosecuting murderers and other criminals in the modern day: forensic virtual reality. Experts went to crime scenes and imaged the site with lasers, digitally recreating the area in 3D down to the blood splatters on the walls. Prosecutors asked the experts if they could recreate a concentration camp, instead.

Engineers turned to maps of the camp and compared those to measurements taken over four days at what remains of Auschwitz. Then members of the jury and the court were given VR headsets and a tour of the camp, complete with the views from the areas where Hanning lived and worked.

If Hanning could see how the selection process sent people to the gas chambers to die, then the jury could convict. And when the jury saw Hanning’s views from the tower, it became clear that he must have known that the camp was used to kill people, that his actions contributed to that, and that his actions allowed it to continue.

Hanning was found guilty, thanks to a digital recreation of a long-lost site. It should be noted, though, that he appealed this decision and that he died while his case was on appeal. In the German system, that means his case ended on appeal; it did not end with a standing conviction.

But VR could help prosecutors make other convictions in the coming years for the atrocities of World War II, so the last Nazi prosecution might not come until the last Nazi accomplice has died.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Nonprofit to collect Valentines for veterans and forward deployed

Soldier’s Angels, a national non-profit organization, is continuing its annual tradition of collecting Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans in VA hospitals and to those who are forward deployed. But this year they are asking volunteers to include a financial donation of $1 to their cards.

Each year, Soldier’s Angels collects thousands of Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans around the country as well as to service members who are deployed overseas. However, this year, with the increase in the cost of shipping, the non-profit cannot afford to send the boxes of cards.

“This year the organization is asking for those who send Valentine’s cards to include $1 per card. The money received will help to offset the cost of shipping boxes of cards overseas or shipping to representatives for distribution at VA Hospitals,” a press release statement said. 

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Soldier’s Angels is a non-profit organization that provides aid, comfort, and resources to active military, veterans, and their families. It was founded in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers and it currently has thousands of volunteers that assist veterans, deployed service members, and their families. Solider’s Angels volunteer network is mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but they continue to provide support in the form of care packages, hand-crafted items, and cards and letters.

Although the act of sending a simple card is small, the leaders at Soldier’s Angels note that it can mean a great deal to veterans and those who are deployed.

“Many deployed service members do not receive any mail from home,” said Amy Palmer, Soldiers’ Angels CEO, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran in a press release. 

“Receiving a card from someone they may not know, but who supports them nonetheless, is a fantastic way to boost the morale of our service members.” 

In addition to those who are deployed, veterans in VA hospitals are experiencing even less interaction from family due to COVID-19 precautions.

Many are staying in a hospital that may be many miles or several states away from their nearest family members,” Palmer said. 

“And, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these patients may not have any visitors so receiving a card or other support helps to keep them going.”

If you would like to send a Valentine’s Day card, along with a $1 donation per card, to Soldier’s Angels, you can send it to the address below:

Soldiers’ Angels
2700 NE Loop 410, Suite 310
San Antonio, Texas 78217

If you would like more information about their Valentine’s Day project, you can visit their website here.

If you would like to volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, visit their website here.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This famous midshipman was the inspiration for the ‘Hail Mary’ pass

It’s probably the most exciting moment of any football game — and it doesn’t matter if the game is on a Friday, Saturday, or a Sunday. One team is down six or seven points and they’re making the drive across the field in the fourth quarter with just seconds left on the clock. Stopped just short of a first down or goal, the quarterback drops back and chucks the ball as fast and far as he can, along with a prayer for a receiver — any receiver — to catch the ball in the endzone.


Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Sometimes, they get a little help from less divine sources.

(National Football League)

Sure, it’s a supreme letdown when the pass fails, but when it succeeds, the crowds go wild. It’s the “Hail Mary” Pass, and it was made famous by that name with a little help from the Naval Academy’s famous alumnus and Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach.

The desperation pass existed well back into the 1930s. Football is a very old sport and desperation in football dates back to the beginning of the game itself. Referring to a pass as a “Hail Mary,” however, was generally restricted to desperate plays made by Catholic schools, like Notre Dame — until 1975, that is.

A 1975 divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Roger Staubach-led Dallas Cowboys saw the Cowboys down 14-10, 85 yards from the endzone, on 4th down and 16 with just 24 seconds left in the game. There was no other call Staubach, the former Naval Academy cadet, could make in that situation. The ball snapped, Staubach dropped back and threw the ball as far as he could.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

The original “Hail Mary.”

(National Football League)

The ball found its way into the arms of wide receiver Drew Pearson, who ran it in for a last-second touchdown. The Cowboys won the game 17-14. Staubach would lead the Cowboys all the way to Super Bowl X, where they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17. The pass earned its name when an elated Staubach talked the press after the game his victory over the Vikings.

“I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” said Staubach. “I couldn’t see whether or not Drew had caught it. I didn’t know we had the touchdown until I saw the official raise his arms.”

Staubach was a devout Catholic all his life, from his early days in Cincinnati through his Midshipman years at Annapolis. It just so happened that a Hail Mary is the prayer that went through his mind. The play could just as easily be known as the “Our Father” Pass.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Or if you’re a Mormon, “Bless that we will travel home in safety” Pass

(NCAA)

“I could have said the ‘Our Father’ or ‘The Glory Be.’ It could be the ‘Glory Be Pass,'” Staubach later said.

So how rare is a successful Hail Mary Pass? One statistician broke down the likelihood of a successful pass on the last play of a game, more than 30 yards from the goal, with the offense tied or down by 8 or fewer points to ensure the team on offense either wins or forces an overtime.

Only 5.5 percent of games since 2005 have a play that fits these criteria. Of the games that do fit, most of the passes thrown were too far away from the goal line, out of range of the quarterback. Of the remaining, eligible passes, only 2.5 percent resulted in a touchdown. The stats also show that the further away the quarterback is from the goal line, the more likely the ball is to be intercepted — and the ball is eight times more likely to be intercepted than to score a touchdown.

Truly blessed are thou among passes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The gun that makes the Warthog’s BRRRRRT is also on ships

The A-10 Thunderbolt is arguably the best close-air support plane in history thanks, primarily, to its GAU-8 cannon. The seven-barreled, 30mm Gatling gun holds 1,129 rounds and can chew up a modern tank. Despite its massive success in the air, the GAU-8 has proven to be far more versatile. Believe it or not, the GAU-8 is also at the heart of a last-ditch, anti-missile system used by a number of navies. That system is called the Goalkeeper.


The Goalkeeper uses a combination of sophisticated radars to detect incoming threats, typically missiles, and fires rounds from its cannon to obliterate the target before it can harm the ship. In function, this defense system is very similar to the U.S.’s Phalanx — the albino-R2D2 looking thing found on virtually every American ship built since the 1980s. The Phalanx, by comparison, uses the M61, a 20mm Gatling gun. It’s been upgraded over the years and has an effective range of roughly one mile.

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive
A Goalkeeper CIWS. This uses the GAU-8, normally found on the A-10, to achieve twice the range of the Phalanx. (US Navy photo)

The Phalanx, however, cannot completely prevent a ship from taking damage — the system’s range is too short to guarantee full diffusion. That being said, the damage a ship endures after an incoming projectile is struck by the gun is from fragments rather than a direct hit. The ship may spend a lot of time replacing radars and fixing other gear, but it beats being sunk. The Goalkeeper, on the other hand, intends to reduce the risk of even that damage

According to NavWeaps.com, the Goalkeeper has almost twice the effective range of the Phalanx. The longer range and more powerful rounds mean that when an enemy missile is hit, not as many fragments hit the ship — and those that do will do so with much less energy. This reduces the damage done to the ship and can even make the difference between keeping a ship in the fight and going back to port for lengthy repairs.

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Goalkeeper close-in weapon system onboard HMS Illustrious. (Royal Navy photo)

The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy initially used the system. South Korea later acquired a number of the systems for their surface combatants and the system now serves with the Peruvian, Belgian, Qatari, Chilean, and Portuguese navies.

See the Goalkeeper bring BRRRRRT to a ship in the video below!

Articles

Watch one of the baddest A-10 pilots ever land after being hit by a missile

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.


Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.

The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.

This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7JM82fa5ZY
 

Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.

Lists

The 12 most essential Civil War books

The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.

Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.


1. Dee Brown on the Civil War

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Open Road Media

By Dee Brown

This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, a former music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.

The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.

2. Battle Cry of Freedom

By James. M. McPherson

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.

3. The Civil War: A Narrative

By Shelby Foote

In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.

4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary

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Penguin Classics

By Mary Chesnut

A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.

5. For Cause and Comrades

By James M. McPherson

After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.

McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.

6. The Black Flower

By Howard Bahr

As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.

The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.

In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.

7. The North and South Trilogy

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Open Road Media

By John Jakes

In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.

8. Murder at Manassas

By Michael Kilian

With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.

9. Cold Mountain

By Charles Frazier

Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?

Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.

10. The Killer Angels

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Ballantine Books

By Michael Shaara

Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.

Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.

11. Cain at Gettysburg

By Ralph Peters

Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.

12. Gone with the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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