By the power of the Constitution, American presidents are the ultimate link between the people and the military. As commanders-in-chief, presidents are responsible for committing the nation to war — a very tall order.
Here are 4 presidents that navigated the vagaries of public sentiment better than most:
1. Polk told Americans that Mexico “shed American blood on American soil!”
President James K. Polk was an expansionist and wanted land from Mexico so that the U.S. would stretch from sea to shining sea. There is a dispute among historians on whether Polk wanted a war or was just willing to accept one, but he sent 4,000 troops under general and future president Zachary Taylor to a portion of land claimed by both Texas and Mexico.
Ten months later on May 8, 1846, Mexican troops attacked what they perceived to be American troops on Mexican land.
Polk acted quickly when he got word of the fighting. On May 11 he asked Congress for a declaration of war with the cry that Mexico had “shed American blood on American soil!” While a very few anti-expansionist Whigs – including then-Senator Abraham Lincoln – protested the fact that it was technically not “American soil,” the rest of the Whigs and the majority of Congress voted for war.
2. Lincoln rode on the coattails of his generals
President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most popular and well-respected leaders in American history, was not always popular in his time. Indeed, during the road to the 1864 election with the war going badly. Even Lincoln expected a crushing defeat in his re-election bid. When the Democrats nominated Gen. George B. McClellan on a platform of peace with the breakaway Confederacy, all seemed lost.
But Lincoln had pushed hard for aggressive generals during the war, and two of them saved him in the final months before the election. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had been handpicked by Lincoln for the top job, and Grant’s favored subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, delivered Atlanta to the president on Sep. 3, 1864.
The victory in Atlanta was soon followed by Grant’s wins in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. With the war suddenly going well, Lincoln was able to rally the North to keep going and win the war.
3. Wilson leaked the “Zimmerman Telegram” to the press
President Woodrow Wilson was notoriously reluctant to join World War I despite Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare which killed hundreds of Americans and sank prized ships. One of the tipping points for Wilson was when Britain revealed the “Zimmerman Telegram” to him.
The Zimmerman Telegram was a secret proposal from Germany to Mexico. Germany promised Mexico Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico if Mexico entered World War I as a German ally against the U.S. Wilson authorized the Navy to begin arming civilian vessels and leaked the telegram to the public. Once the American public was in a fury, he went to Congress and asked for a declaration of war.
4. Roosevelt hid his disability, befriended journalists, and held fireside chats
When he wasn’t glad-handing journalists, he spoke directly to the American public over the radio during his iconic “Fireside Chats” that actually started in the early days of his presidency when the U.S. was more worried about the Great Depression than the wars in Europe and Asia.
When one considers those pioneers whose command of air power strategy led to an independent U.S. Air Force after WWII, General Carl A. Spaatz is usually among those names. Spaatz would come to command the overall Army Air Forces in Europe, design the strategy for bringing down Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and cripple Nazi war production. Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander remarked Spaatz (along with Omar Bradley) was one of two men who contributed most to the victory in Europe.
So when it comes to how he views the people who serve in the military, you might be apt to consider his advice.
After V-E Day, Spaatz held a victory party at a chateau near Paris. The guest list included a who’s who of who would come to found the modern Air Force such as Hoyt Vandenberg and James Doolittle. It also included one Major: triple ace Robin Olds (pre-mustache). Spaatz was a friend of the Olds family, and he invited Robin to his party after he learned Maj. Olds would stay in the Army after the war.
Olds recounted the advice he received from Spaatz in his memoirs, Fighter Pilot, more than sixty years later:
” … In the military, they mostly divide themselves into four major categories. There are the ‘Me-Firsters,’ the ‘Me-Tooers,’ the ‘Deadwood,’ and the ‘Dedicated.’ You are among the minority, the Dedicated. Stick with them, search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company. You won’t be popular with a lot of your bosses who act dedicated but really aren’t and that can make life difficult at times. Beware of the Deadwood. Most of them mean well and, in their own way, try hard, are loyal, and are even useful. But too often they’ll botch things up and get you and your outfit in trouble.”
“Watch out for the Me-Tooers. These guys will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They borrow thoughts and ideas from others and present them to you as though they were their own. They are the opportunists who look for every avenue to advance themselves without sticking their own necks out. They ride someone’s coattails and try to make themselves indispensable to the boss. Believe me, they are not to be trusted. You don’t want yes-men around you, but you can’t always avoid them.”
Spaatz went on to warn: “The worst and most dangerous are the Me-Firsters. Most of them are intelligent and totally ruthless. They use the service for their own gain and will not hesitate to stick a knife in your back at the slightest indication you might stand in their way. They seem arrogant, but don’t be fooled. They are really completely lacking in true self-confidence.”
Team Rubicon launched what they call “Operation Nirman,” in mid-March 2016. The mission is to rebuild a school and restore services in areas of Central Nepal damaged by last year’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Team Rubicon members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany deployed to assist with Nirman. They will also receive help from the Prince of Wales.
Prince Harry is in the country on an official tour to see the many initiatives supporting the people of Nepal in the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction. After his official tour ends, the prince, himself an Afghan War veteran, will remain in Nepal with Team Rubicon on their relief efforts.
The 31-year-old royal is known for his dedication to veterans from all countries and his support for tackling the challenges they face. He runs the Endeavor Fund with his brother, Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine. Endeavor Fund is a UK-based nonprofit to help service members overcome these challenges while “keeping Armed Forces issues in the public consciousness.”
Prince Harry will be embedded with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in a remote village to help with the reconstruction of the new school. The team will trek into the mountains of Central Nepal with all the necessary equipment to assist the local community in repairing and rebuilding their school.
Since the earthquake struck, students have been taking their classes in makeshift classrooms made of poles, tarps, and tin sheets. These temporary facilities will provide little defense against the difficult weather conditions in the rainy season to come.
“The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave,” Prince Harry said. “The team I’m joining will be working with the community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do my small bit to help.”
Team Rubicon UK was formed in response to the Nepal earthquake. General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander in Chief of the UK Land Forces and now Chairman of Team Rubicon UK, called for veterans in the United Kingdom to volunteer their time and skills in the immediate aftermath. A team quickly joined their Team Rubicon USA counterparts to provide medical aid, search and rescue support, and translation assistance in several remote regions of Nepal.
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok. (Team Rubicon photo)
By the end of the 2015, Team Rubicon UK responded to calls for help after floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire, as well as undertaking rebuilding projects in Nepal and the Philippines.
Roughly 2,700,000 men and women served in the Vietnam War. The war lasted from 1965 to 1975 and killed roughly 58,000 American troops. Among those were 1,000 were from Louisiana. It’s been almost 50 years since the Vietnam War ended. Many Louisiana Veterans are still around to tell their stories. And like all veteran stories, some of them are far from the norm.
Not all Vietnam War memories are sad
Like many who served in Vietnam, William Dimattia was also drafted. He served as a surgeon for the US Army Medical Corps in 1967. His service mainly consisted of providing medical care to his assigned Special Forces as well as the nearby Vietnam hospital outside of Saigon. Dimattia was the only physician there. While he took care of American troops, most of his patients were Vietnamese people who lived in the area. He actually has some happy memories from his time in Vietnam, as he repaired a lot of cleft lips for Vietnamese children. He said it turned their frowns into smiles.
No progress without a machete
Just like the doc, Vincent Alexander was drafted. His role in Vietnam was as a Combat Infantry Soldier. As you might expect, he said the only goal was to find and kill the enemy. So he and his team walked single file through the thick, swampy jungle. Their only way forward was with a machete. Once, they accidentally found themselves on a Viet Cong Base Camp while already deep into the jungle. Only 12 survived of the 28 after the Viet Cong fired on them. Alexander said he saw people get killed daily. The threat of being killed himself was always on his mind.
The invisible enemy
Sgt. Charles Stroud was Combat Infantry. He said the “good thing” about fighting in the jungle was that the enemy couldn’t see them. The Viet Cong would start firing when they heard their footsteps, but without aim. Of course, the same was true on the reverse end. Each side was shooting based on noises, but they couldn’t see. Stroud said they rarely actually caught a glimpse of the enemy. Eventually, he got hit by a booby trap and a fellow Soldier saved him. After the hospital fixed him up, Stroud was sent home grateful to have his life.
Working out of an air-conditioned hut
Captain Paul Marks, Jr served in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Court in 1970. His arrival in Vietnam was different than you’d expect. He filled out what was called a Dream Sheet, selecting the ideal work he would be doing as his service. Since he was a lawyer who had passed the bar, he ended up doing legal work. The courtroom was an air-conditioned hut. Most of his work was prosecuting money laundering drug cases and black marketeering, including some Officers.
The moral of the story here is clear: You never know what a Vietnam Veteran’s story is until you ask.
Australia will resume air combat missions against Islamic State targets in Syria after the Australian Defense Force lifted a temporary suspension initially sparked by Russian threats to shoot down coalition planes.
The Australian Defense Force is fighting IS in both Syria and Iraq under the name ‘Operation OKRA.’ Australian Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin said on June 21st the operations were halted while the Australians examined what was happening in what he had described as a “complex piece of airspace” over Syria.
“Australian force protection is uppermost in our minds” in deciding when to resume missions over Syria. The fighter jets had been occupied recently supporting Iraqi security forces in retaking the city of Mosul, so the suspension had little effect on their operations, The Guardian quoted defense minister Marise Payne, as saying.
Australia had suspended air strikes over Syria ‘as a precautionary measure’ after Russia threatened that it would consider any plane from the US led coalition flying west of Euphrates as potential targets.
The threat was seen as retaliation for the US downing of a Syrian air force jet, as tensions in the region rose.
The Australian Defense Force, which includes about 780 personnel, including 300 service members working in its air group, has announced it would resume airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.
Australia has six fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates that strike targets in Syria and Iraq. Australia said its sorties in Iraq would continue as part of the coalition.
Australian defense force personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” Guardian quoted the spokesman for the Department of Defense .
The tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated after United States Navy F-18 attacked Syrian Su-22 government warplane on June 18th, which was carrying out operations against the Syrian Democratic Forces positions south of Tabqah.
Consequently, the Russian military halted cooperation with its US counterparts in the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.
The US military failed to use the communication line with Russia concerning this attack, despite the fact that Russian warplanes were also on a mission in Syrian airspace at the time, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Russia’s defense ministry said the US had given it no warning, following which Moscow was also suspending coordination over “de-confliction zones” that were created to prevent incidents involving US and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria, reports the Guardian.
However, the Pentagon states that the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to extract Raqqa from Islamic State control.
U.S. Army Private first class Hansen Kirkpatrick was killed during an indirect fire attack in Helmand province, Afghanistan July 3, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
The Pentagon announcement was devoid of details on the circumstances of the 19-year-old’s death, and the incident remains under investigation. Two other U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded in the attack but their wounds are not considered life threatening.
Helmand province is an active site of U.S. operations supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban. The Taliban has turned the province into the frontline of its campaign against the U.S. and Afghan government, controlling vast swaths of its territory.
Kirkpatrick’s death comes amid serious discussions by U.S. officials to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump granted Secretary of Defense James Mattis authority to set Afghan troop levels in mid June.
Mattis recently secured NATO backing to increase the number of overall troops in Afghanistan by at least a few thousand, in a recent visit to Europe.
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Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.
Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.
In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”
The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.
“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.
In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.
The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”
Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.
In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.
The Air Force and the Navy have their own little rivalry going.
Granted, United States Navy pilots are pretty good in many respects, and so are the planes, but the Air Force claims they’ve got air superiority. So when they need to buy a plane from the Navy, it’s… awkward — especially when it involves bombers, something that should be the purview of the Air Force.
Here are six of the most…notable acquisitions the Air Force ended up making from the Navy.
1. Douglas A-24 Banshee
While better known as the SBD Dauntless, the Army Air Force bought a number of these planes. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that some were intended to help defend the Philippines, but the outbreak of World War II saw them diverted to New Guinea. Others saw action in the Aleutians and Gilbert Islands.
2. Curtiss A-25 Shrike/Helldiver
The Army Air Force got the SB2C — the notorious “Son of a [Bleep] Second Class” — during World War II. Joe Baugher noted that the Army Air Force never even bothered using them in combat, either exporting them to the Royal Australian Air Force or handing them over to the Marine Corps for use from land bases.
3. Douglas B-66 Destroyer
When the Air Force was looking for a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader as a tactical bomber, they settled on a version of the Navy’s A3D Skywarrior. However, the Air Force planned to use it very differently, and so a lot of changes were made, according to Joe Baugher.
The B-66 turned out to be an ideal electronic-warfare platform. One was famous under the call-sign “Bat 21,” leading to one of the most famous — and costly — search and rescue efforts in history.
4. Lockheed RB-69A Neptune
The Air Force was looking for some planes for electronic intelligence missions around the Soviet Union and China when they settled on taking seven P-2 Neptune maritime patrol planes from the Navy, and designating them as RB-69As.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher reveals that the exact origin and ultimate fate of these planes is a mystery, probably intentionally so, given the top-secret nature of intelligence-gathering flights over China and Russia.
5. Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Joe Baugher reported that the Air Force found this classic warbird to be so suitable for the counter-insurgency mission in 1962, they took 150 A-1Es from Navy surplus. The planes were modified for dual controls.
In fact, the Air Force wanted the plane as early as 1949, but harsh inter-service rivalry (including controversy stemming from the “Revolt of the Admirals”) meant the Air Force had to wait to get this plane. It was a fixture on search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War.
6. Vought A-7 Corsair
This is probably one of the most successful purchases of a Navy bomber by the Air Force. As was the case with the Air Force basing the B-66 off the A3D, they made changes to the A-7.
Most notable was giving it the M61 Vulcan and a thousand rounds of ammo. Yes, the Air Force gave the A-7 the means to give bad guys the BRRRRRT! The A-7s saw action over Panama in 1989, and were even used to train F-117 pilots. The A-7D was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.
Not all war movies are created equal. While box office returns don’t necessarily mean the movie was good or bad (for example, Iron Man 3 is the 10th highest grossing movie ever), they are an indication of what does or doesn’t pique people’s interest – although you might personally find a correlation between the two in this list.
Here are 13 military movies Hollywood probably wishes it could take back in order of the least to the worst offenders. (Loss estimates include marketing costs and adjustments for inflation.)
How could Director Peter Berg have known casting Rihanna was not the best idea? When the audience and critics think the movie is “not fun,” “crushingly stupid,” and would prefer to spend the time actually playing the game instead. And word of mouth didn’t save it at the box office.
Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that his 2013 film “Lone Survivor” would allow him to “buy back his reputation.”
Roger Ebert called “Gods and Generals” a film “Trent Lott would enjoy,” referring to the Senator’s praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Noted author Jeff Shaara, whose Civil War-based books are highly praised and widely read, said the movie is nothing like his book and he has no idea how he could “let them butcher the book like that.” (But that didn’t keep him from holding onto the money he was paid for the film rights to the book).
Air Force movies don’t do well at the box office. No one has expressed a desire to see an Air Force movie since Gene Hackman and Danny Glover in “BAT*21,” and that was 1988. Someone should have told Cameron Crowe to make this movie about Marines … and not to cast Emma Stone as an Asian woman.
This might be the exception on this list. “K-19” was actually well-received, even by Russian submariners who were part of K-19’s crew. The only thing the Russian Navy veterans didn’t like was being portrayed as a bunch of drunken, incompetent Russian stereotypes.
Like the great general himself, “Alexander” enraged people from Greece all the way to India. Historians and critics both agree that this movie is both way too long and needs more fighting — unless those critics and moviegoers are American, in which case, the biggest concern seems to be that Alexander the Great might have been gay.
This is the story of the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII. General Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought.”
Of course, Ebert was never a general, he’s just referring to the realistic depiction of combat in the film. He also said, “it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost.”
There’s no movie magic like a Korean War epic funded by a cult. The film’s star told the world he did it for the money, the actress portraying the love interest decided to quit being a movie star after shooting wrapped, and the movie’s Washington, D.C. premiere was picketed by anti-cult activists.
Called one of the most inaccurate war movies ever made, “Windtalkers” also tries to tell the story of WWII Navajo code talkers through the eyes of a white guy. (Come to think of it, it’s actually surprising that here’s only one Nicolas Cage movie on this list).
A robot plane (stop laughing) is based in downtown Rangoon (which hasn’t been called that since 1989). After it’s hit by lighting, it becomes more alive (stop laughing, this is serious) and one of the pilots trying to stop it gets shot down over North Korea. Some more stuff happens, and then they discover the plane has feelings.
The marketing for this movie used the line “you will never forget.” And you won’t. You’ll remember how great this movie could have been if every character had been played by Billy Bob Thornton. “The Alamo” is number 2 on this list, but number 1 in terms of epic disappointment.
Colin Farrell strikes again. Even Bruce Willis couldn’t create any interest in this WWII movie. Basically, a captured American officer is punished in the POW camp by having to bunk with the enlisted. The prisoners use a trial to distract the guards from a coming attack on an ammo factory.
Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.
The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.
However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.
Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.
Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.
The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.
Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.
“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.
Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.
The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.
Israel received three F-35s from the US on Tuesday, bringing its total inventory of the revolutionary fighter up to five, but according to a French journalist citing French intelligence reports, Israeli F-35s have already carried out combat missions in Syria.
In the Air Forces Monthly,Thomas Newdick summarized a report from Georges Malbrunot at France’s Le Figaro newspaper saying Israel took its F-35s out on a combat mission just one month after receiving them from the US.
Malbrunot reported that on January 12 Israeli F-35s took out a Russian-made S-300 air defense system around Syrian President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus and another Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile system set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel has repeatedly and firmly asserted its goal to make sure weapons cannot reach Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to seek the destruction of Israel.
In March, Israel admitted to an airstrike in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “when we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” according to Russian state-run media.
However, the other details of the story seem unlikely. The only known S-300 system in Syria is operated by the Russians near their naval base, so hitting that would mean killing Russian servicemen, which has not been reported at all.
Also, as Tyler Rogoway of The Drive points out, the Pantsir-S1 air defenses would certainly bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Israel wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to destroy this system. Their jets have advanced air defense suppression and electronic warfare capabilities that limit the threat posed by the Pantsir-S1, and make it unlikely that they would risk F-35s to attack them.
Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People, a book that looks at the military ties between Israel and the US, told Al Jazeera that Israeli pilots may be the first to see combat action in the F-35.
“Israel serves as the test-bed for the development of these kinds of new weapons,” said Halper. “The F-35 will be tested in the field, in real time by Israel. The likelihood is that the first time the plane is used in combat will be with Israeli pilots flying it.”
While the details remain sketchy and wholly unverifiable, Halper’s “test-bed” assertion has certainly been true of US-Israeli defense projects, like missile defenses, in the past. Rogoway also noted Israel’s history of rushing new platforms to the front lines as possible supporting evidence.
Short of taking responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials said it was a strike on Hezbollah targets, which they support.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this,” according to the BBC.
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
If you’ve ever served in the Army, you know chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Commander, and the success of the mission is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
If you’ve ever worked in a gourmet kitchen, you know that chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Chef, and the success of the meal service is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
Cute, right? Yeah, it’s true though. The parallels between a deployed military force and a busy professional kitchen are abundant and revealing. Discipline, hierarchy, preparation, trust in team — it’s all there. And no one gets this more clearly than Army veteran Will Marquardt, who now serves as Chef de Cuisine (second in command) to celeb Chef Ludo Lefebvre in his five-star Hollywood hole-in-the-wall, Petit Trois.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl took the 405 to the 10 to drop in on Petit Trois, where he found a young lieutenant at the top of his game, executing dish after perfect dish with precision, exemplary leadership, and an added dash of creativity.