There's no business like the arms business — here's how defense giants are doing - We Are The Mighty
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There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing

Nobody spends money on arms like the US of A.


Starting with a base of $534 billion in discretionary funding, coupled with another $51 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding (aka the “war budget”), the Pentagon’s spending power comes to a grand total of $585 billion.

Defense industry giants, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon posted second-quarter earnings on Wednesday (Lockheed Martin earnings released last week).

Here’s a look at how they did…

Boeing

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Boeing KC-46 Tanker program first test aircraft (EMD1) flies with an aerial refueling boom installed on its fifth flight. | Boeing

Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, reported a smaller-than-expected second Q2 loss on Wednesday. The company’s first quarterly net loss in nearly seven years amounted to $234 million.

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program for the US Air Force is delayed from August 2017 until January 2018 due to test flight problems. Modifications to the aircraft are expected to cost Boeing an additional $393 million (after taxes).

What’s more, Boeing could end production of its most iconic aircraft.

“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” Boeing said in its filing on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Boeing won a US Air Force contract worth $25.8 million to start work on the next fleet of Air Force One aircraft.

The aging Air Force One and it’s twin decoy will be replaced with two Boeing  747-8 and are expected to be operational in 2020.

Up to Wednesday’s close of $135.96, the company’s shares had fallen about 6% since the start of the year.

Highlights from Boeing’s quarterly earnings report:

•Operating cash flow of $1.2 billion (with 28.6 million shares repurchased for $3.5 billion)

•Cash flow of $3.2 billion, (down 2% from 2015)

•Core earnings per share loss of $0.44

•Revenue rose 1% to $24.8 billion (from earlier estimate of $24.5 billion)

• Demand still high with more than 5,700 commercial plane orders still in the works

Reuters contributed to this report.

General Dynamics

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
The littoral combat ship USS Independence operates off the Hawaiian Islands during exercise RIMPAC 2014. | General Dynamics

General Dynamics began their earnings conference call on Wednesday highlighting their “very good second quarter.”

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company announced $7.6 billion in Q2 revenue and achieved $758 million in net earnings.

General Dynamics recognized their aerospace unit (with a revenue of $2.13 billion) and maritime division.

At the end of June 2016, the defense giants’ National Steel and Shipbuilding division won a $640 million Pentagon contract to construct a T-AO 205 Class Fleet Replenishment Oiler. The contract could be worth up to $3.16 billion if the Pentagon decides to buy an additional five ships.

In March, the US Navy announced that General Dynamics will be the prime contractor for development of 12 new submarines.

Shares rose less than 1% to $145.09 in the afternoon and since the beginning of this year, the company’s stock has climbed 5.2%.

Highlights from General Dynamics’ quarterly earnings report:

•Revenue fell to $7.67 billion (down by $217 million from the Q2 2015)

•Raised 2016’s full-year earnings forecast to $9.70 per share (from $9.20, analysts’ expect $9.52)

•Profit margins could be as high as 13.8% (up from January 2016 estimate of 13.3%)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Lockheed Martin

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Behold, the F-35. | Lockheed Martin

While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings last week.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.

Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted  a record high of $261.37 in early trading on July 19. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.

“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.

The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.

Read more about the F-35 »

According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.

The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.

Highlights from Lockheed Martin’s quarterly earnings report:

• Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)

•Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015

•Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations

•Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)

•Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Northrop Grumman

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Northrop Grumman/EADS Euro Hawk rollout on October 8, 2009 at Palmdale, CA, USA. | Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman’s earnings report showed sales reaching $6 billion with the company’s aerospace unit seeing a 4% increase in sales due to higher demand for drones and manned aircraft.

“Autonomous Systems sales rose due to higher volume on the Global Hawk and Triton programs, partially offset by lower volume due to the ramp down on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program,” the company said in a statement.

“Manned Aircraft sales rose due to higher restricted volume and higher F-35 deliveries, partially offset by fewer F/A-18 deliveries and lower volume on the B-2 program.”

It should be noted that Lockheed Martin, is the prime contractor for the F-35 Lightning II, however, Northrop Grumman develops the fifth-generation fighter jets’ center fuselage, radar and avionics suite.

Northrop is also a subcontractor to Boeing on the F/A-18 Hornet.

Highlights from Northrop Grumman’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 2% to $6 billion (compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 of 2015)

•Earning per share increase by 4% to $2.85

•Earning per share guidance increase to $10.75 to $11.00

•Cash from operations of $604 million

Raytheon

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

Raytheon, the world’s largest missile manufacturer, announced $6 billion in net sales for Q2 2016, which is up 3% compared to $5.8 billion in the second quarter 2015.

Earnings per share was $2.38 compared to $1.65, this time last year.

“We begin the second half of 2016 with continued confidence in our growth outlook, and we have increased our guidance for earnings and cash flow as a result of our strong year-to-date performance,” CEO and Chairman Thomas A. Kennedy said in a statement.

Highlights from Raytheon’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 3% to $6 billion (compared to $5.8 billion in Q2 2015)

•Increase in operating cash flow to $746 million (compared to $376 million in Q2 2015)

•Backlog and funded backlog at the end of the Q2 2016 was $35.3 billion and $26.1 billion, respectively.

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The church that was destroyed on 9/11 is returning as a shrine to victims

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood for nearly a century at 155 Cedar St. in lower Manhattan. It started in a small row house that was previously a tavern. Over the decades, the row houses that surrounded the church became high rises. Although developers attempted to acquire the church property for years, it was never sold. Surrounded by a parking lot and ever-climbing skyscrapers, the small church stood out in the evolving neighborhood.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
The church sat in the middle of a lower Manhattan parking lot (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

In the 1960s, the World Trade Center was built, along with its iconic Twin Towers. As the area continued to sprawl with new buildings, the church remained a place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city, welcoming people of all faiths. “It was a little church on a lonely parking lot, and it was always open,” Rev. Alex Karloutsos, vicar general of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, told PBS. “People found it like an oasis.” Sadly, the peaceful church was destroyed on September 11, 2001.

When the Twin Towers fell, so too did St. Nicholas. The small church, which sat in the shadow of the skyscrapers, was buried under the falling rubble. It was the only place of worship destroyed during the attacks on 9/11. However, 20 years later, St. Nicholas returns to lower Manhattan.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
St. Nicholas sits below the Twin Towers before they collapsed on 9/11 (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

On the same site where the original church stood, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center is being built. The new church not only offers a place of worship for Orthodox Christians, but also a shrine to the victims of 9/11. In addition to the traditional house of worship, the building will also house a non-denominational, ecumenical remembrance room. The majority of the church’s exterior will be finished for the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2021.

The standout feature of the new church is its illumination. Architect Santiago Calatrava placed over 1,000 LED lights inside the domed building to serve as a beacon of peace and remembrance in lower Manhattan. On September 10, 2021, the church will be illuminated for the first time. “We will turn on the lights of the church from within and the church will glow to the world,” Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, said to PBS.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
A rendering of the church and shrine with it illuminated from the inside (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

The interior lighting will be magnified by the Pentelic marble that covers the exterior of the church. The brilliant white marble is the same type used in much of ancient Greece’s art and architecture, including the iconic Parthenon. However, the new St. Nicholas church and shrine will also incorporate modern visuals with its traditional design.

Orthodox churches often feature colorful images depicting Biblical scenes, prophets, and saints. “According to the tradition that we have in our church, all senses have to participate in prayer,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. “The visual part of prayer is the icon. And the icon helps the faithful to focus on prayer when they are in the church.” One such icon is the resurrection which depicts Christ lifting Adam and Eve up from Hades. In the St. Nicholas version of the icon, Adam and Eve will be joined by police, firefighters, and other first responders who perished on 9/11.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Construction of the church’s exterior almost complete on August 17, 2021 (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

Another icon that will be modified is the Virgin Mary and the Christ child which is usually shown in the apse, the area of the church behind the altar table. In St. Nicholas, the icon will also depict the New York skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano-Narrows and Brooklyn Bridges, and Ellis Island—the first stop for many Greek immigrants who came to the United States.

The construction of the interior of St. Nicholas will continue into 2022. However, it is scheduled for completion in time for Orthodox Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, in April. The consecration of the church is set to follow on the 4th of July. “We were immersed in this great darkness and feeling the great pain and the great loss,” Karloutsos said. “That’s why for me personally, seeing now this church—that will be like a candle lighting up and giving hope to so many.”

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This Army hero was honored by ESPN for being awesome

It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.


The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Sgt. Elizabeth Marks. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.

Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.

Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.

In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me, she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Marks competes for Team USA. (Photo: Army.mil)

For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Fewer than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Also read: Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks receives the 2016 Pat Tillman award

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.

And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.

The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.

Articles

Move over Amazon, the Army also wants to deliver supplies with drones

At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.


“Send the droid,” one of them says.

Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.

Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.

During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.

Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.

Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.

See if Domino’s can beat that!

Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.

The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.

SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.

The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.

Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.

The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.

Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”

Articles

This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

Articles

3 things I wish I knew about military transition

There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing
Staff Sgt. John Carlin walks off the flightline with his family May 13, 2001, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Sergeant Carlin is assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis


Before my husband retired from the Air Force, a co-worker asked if I was ready for his retirement. She, an ex MilSpouse, insisted that the transition to the civilian world was going to be hard.

I disagreed.

I told myself I had never fully immersed myself into the military way of life. After every PCS, I found a job in the civilian world and made friends outside the military gates. I did not feel the change was going to be that drastic or difficult.

Two years after my husband’s retirement I now know how right she was. These are the things I wish I knew then.

3 Things I Wish I Knew About Military Transition

1. Consider where you plan to live after retirement. When planning for retirement, I recommend that your family consider living near a military installation. You really don’t realize how important all the perks of living near a base are until you leave the military.

We all have heard of the safety net — this invisible shield that protects all military families from stressors, financial hardships, and provides support during deployments and emergencies. I never fully took advantage of this safety net, but I came to appreciate it when my husband retired.

We retired an hour from the nearest base and suddenly I missed the camaraderie that comes with living near one. I missed running to the commissary and knowing it wouldn’t break the bank. I missed the safety of living on a military base. I knew my family was surrounded by some of the bravest in the world.

Also, it is harder to participate in transition services and career counseling. I no longer live in a community that encourages military spouses during transition, especially in the job hunt. I had thought I would not miss all of these safety net services because I had sometimes opted out of them. I know now retiring close to a base would have made things so much easier.

2. Take time out for vacations and alone time. The stress involved in the transition from the military to civilian world actually surprised me. Not only is the camaraderie gone, but also the adventure that comes with being a military spouse.

Whenever things were too stressful, there was always some new place to travel to and explore. There was always the anticipation of the next assignment. MilSpouses, for the most part, are independent. Being in charge of everything while the military person is deployed cultivates independence. We don’t need help, right?

But do not hesitate to ask for assistance or even a few minutes of alone time. A week after the moving truck dropped 200 boxes off at my house, my sister had heart surgery and came to live with us. l should have asked for help then, from family or neighbors to open boxes or just watch the kids when I took a few minutes for myself.

Throw your independence to the side. If you need help with anything, during the transition, ask for it. You will be able to better deal with the difficulties that always come with the move. Take a break, or take a vacation. I have discovered that you and your spouse need to find out who you are without the military. The kinks in your relationship that were put aside due to deployments or a PCS, will now have to be dealt with.

Take time and breathe.

3. It is important to get involved in your community. The military community made it easy. During deployments, moving, and emergencies, someone was always there to assist. Sometimes it was just the person next door who was going through the same thing. Sometimes it was the squadron commander or base chaplain. Information on support groups, activities and financial assistance was always readily available. As a spouse it wasn’t hard to stay informed about events and activities.

It is important that you form these same kinds of bonds in your civilian community. It will be harder. No one will have your name on a list and ask you to the next squadron picnic.

I suggest you become involved in military charities or organizations. Find a church that all members of your family are comfortable with. Volunteer. Use social media to connect to the local community.

While you may be tired and stressed, make even the smallest of efforts to engage in your new community. It will make things so much easier during the adjustment. Create your own safety net.

Amy is the spouse of a recently retired service member who spent 23 years in the Air Force. She currently works as a full-time mom, freelance writer, and part-time baker. During the active duty years, she worked as a preschool teacher, librarian, bookseller and SEO specialist. She currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys traveling and volunteering in her new community.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why armies used to fight in long lines while marching in the open

To the modern eye, accustomed to seeing armies wearing concealing uniforms and even face paint, to avoid becoming a target, an army wearing bright colors and marching in formations on a wide-open ground seems insane. 

After all, the point of warfare to the untrained eye is to kill as many of the enemy as possible while not being killed yourself, right? The whole point is to make the other bastard die for his country, right? 

That basic premise is as correct today as it was back then. Today, however, armies place the emphasis of that doctrine on the “while not being killed” part, whereas the armies of old placed the emphasis on the “killing as many of the enemy as possible” part. 

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The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs during the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington July 10, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

The difference is in the kind of weapons infantry could use and the power organized forces had over individuals. A long line of men, three ranks deep and firing at the same time can put out a lot of destructive firepower at one time. The idea was to maximize the number of guns shooting into an enemy formation. 

There was power in those formations. Formations provided protection and cover from charges and cavalry while making it easier for commanders to control their men and communicate with lower officers. It also was a morale booster for the men in the formation. Against a loosely dispersed formation, the rate of fire could be devastating. 

If a rabble of hunters and frontiersmen were taking on an enemy army marching in formation, as is so often (falsely) depicted to be the case in places like the American frontier, the difference in rate of fire would mean that for every shot fired from the loosely-configured forces, each man could expect an estimated 16 rounds coming back at them – at once.

Besides, having a small, loosely formed rabble hiding in a treeline to try and pick off hundreds or thousands of well-trained and well-armed soldiers at a distance is suicidal. The weapons of the time aren’t accurate enough to maintain enough distance to keep the rabble from  getting slaughtered, the smoke from the charge will give away their positions, and there probably isn’t enough treeline to hide enough men to actually take down a formation.

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Camp Alger, near Falls Church, Virginia, was established May 18, 1898, for the Spanish–American War. (Wikimedia Commons)

After firing their first round, the soldiers didn’t just take a knee to stop and reload, they countermarched to the rear so fresh troops with loaded rifles ready to go would come to the front. By the time the first three ranks were at the front again, they were loaded and ready for a new volley. 

For anyone who thinks that firing a volley into a packed formation of soldiers is enough to scare off the rest of the formation, think again. The soldiers of yesteryear knew their lives depended on maintaining that formation. Forces who broke and ran became a loose formation, subject to the massed weight of fire any formation could shoot. It was far better for your own survival to march over your buddy’s dead body than turn and run.

Finally, men at arms in the armies of old did take cover whenever cover was possible, but on an open field, it’s not possible at times. Where armies of today would get into a prone position and make themselves as small a target as possible, soldiers of yesteryear would have a hard time reloading in a prone position. 

After taking one shot, consider either rolling around on the ground trying to reload the muzzle-loading weapon you have or marching to the rear of a formation while you stand and reload standing up, behind a human wall, next to hundreds of battle buddies. Strength in numbers.

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See why the Cold War-era B-1B Lancer is still a threat to America’s foes

As tensions with North Korea escalate in the wake of that country’s sixth nuclear test, the United States is also flexing its military muscle.


One of the primary systems being spun up is the B-1B Lancer.

This Cold War-era bomber is a very powerful system – it carries 84 500-pound bombs internally, and also could carry another 44 externally. Should Russia try to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Lancer is very likely to take out their ground forces with weapons like the CBU-97.

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A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That sort of deadly precision can also apply to Kim Jong Un’s massed artillery. The preferred weapon in this case would be more along the lines of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Each B-1 can carry up to 24 of these weapons, enabling it to knock out hardened artillery bunkers. The B-1B can also use smaller GBU-38 JDAMs, based on the Mk 82 bomb, to hit other positions.

According to airforce-technology.com, the B-1B is equipped with powerful jammers and the Federation of American Scientists web site notes that the plane was designed as a low-altitude high-speed penetrator.

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A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo

The B-1B has recently been demonstrating its capabilities over South Korea. North Korea has denounced those test flights, claiming that the United States is preparing for nuclear war (although most reports indicate that the B-1B no longer carries nukes).

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986. It has a top speed of Mach 1.2 at sea level, and “intercontinental” range. Among the other weapons it can carry are the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. A Navy release noted that the B-1B recently tested an anti-ship version of the JASSM.

You can see the B-1B carry out one of its recent training missions over Korea in the video below. Note the heavy F-15 escort. These are valuable bombers – and only 66 are in the active Air Force inventory.

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VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

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David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

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Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

An aircrew walks the flightline after taking part an in-air refueling mission over Iraq. The aircrew unloaded 40,000 gallons of fuel to aircraft completing missions in Iraq.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./3rd Combat Camera Squadron

An F-22 Raptor and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., F-16 Fighting Falcons from Shaw AFB, S.C. and Eielson AFB, Alaska, and an F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB, Fla., sit on the flightline at Tyndall AFB Dec. 17, 2015, during exercise Checkered Flag 16-1. Checkered Flag 16-1 is a large force exercise that simulates employment of a large number of aircraft from a simulated deployed environment.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa

ARMY:

An AH-64 Apache helicopter crew, assigned to 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), prepares to take off for a training mission at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Dec. 28, 2015.

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U.S. Army photo by PV2 Yeo, Yun Hyeok

An Army Military Working Dog (MWD) and his favorite toy.

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U.S. Army photo

NAVY:

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Jan. 1, 2016) Sailors observe fireworks behind the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG65) to celebrate the new year from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paolo Bayas

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Dec. 30, 2015) The Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast-transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) departs Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Spearhead is scheduled to deploy to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support the international collaborative capacity-building program Africa Partnership Station and associated exercises.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge

ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 28, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Fist of the Fleet” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class B. Siens

MARINE CORPS:

Aircraft rescue and firefighting Marines battle a controlled fire during a live-fire exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Jan. 22, 2015. The AARF Marines here fine-tune their techniques quarterly to maintain proficiency.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Neysa Huertas Quinone

Marines with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, currently assigned to 3/12, fire the M777-A2 Howitzer down range during Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 at Blacktop Training Area aboard Camp Wilson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 31st, 2015. ITX 2-15, being executed by Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 4, is being conducted to enhance the integration and warfighting capability from all elements of the MAGTF.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Marines attached to 2nd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment – “The Lava Dogs” take up position on a ridge top during Lava Viper aboard Pohakuloa Training Area, Hi., May 29, 2015. “The Lava Dogs” attacked an enemy compound in this simulated training event.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ricky S. Gomez

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton free a turtle from a make shift buoy off the coast of Guatemala Dec. 18, 2015. The turtle had a line wrapped around one of its fins about 20 times. A lookout from Stratton spotted the turtle while the crew was on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff.

Crew members of Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles conducted emergency aircraft evacuation training at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 16, 2015. Each member is harnessed into a simulated aircraft seat where he will be turned upside down before attempting to exit the aircraft.

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Official U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

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The U-2 Dragon Lady is keeping her eye on Pyongyang

With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.


Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.

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USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.

Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.

In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.

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Lockheed TR-1 with the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron. (USAF photo)

An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.

The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.

The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.

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A pilot guides a U-2 Dragon Lady across the air field in front of deployed E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, en route to a mission in support of operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (DOD photo)

That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.

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This museum sub may find new life as artificial reef

A submarine that just missed serving in World War II may soon find itself making one last dive off the coast of Florida.


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USS Clamagore as a GUPPY II. She was later converted into a GUPPY III, and is the last surviving vessel of that type. (US Navy photo)

According to WPTV.com, the Balao-class submarine USS Clamagore (SS 343) could be towed to a point off Palm Beach County and sunk as an artificial reef. The vessel is currently at the Patriot’s Point Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, along with the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV 10) and the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724).

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Clamagore is the only surviving GUPPY III-class submarine in the world. Nine GUPPY III-class submarines were built. According to a web page serving as a tribute to these diesel-electric submarines, most of the vessels modified under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program were scrapped, sunk as targets, or sold to foreign countries.

The reason she is going to wind up becoming a reef? The report from WPTV states it is about money.

“The museum up in Charleston is losing money and they would really like to unload this as quickly as possible,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told the TV station. The alternative to turning the 2,480-ton submarine into an artificial reef is to scrap her.

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USS Clamagore SS-343 at Charleston, South Carolina November 24, 2003. This is the only surviving GUPPY III diesel-electric submarine in the world. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“We wanted to honor the people that served on it, we wanted to honor the submarine service in general,” Valeche said.

Several organizations are trying to save the Clagamore for continued service as a museum. A 2012 FoxNews.com report indicated that at least $3 million was needed to repair the vessel.

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Here’s why the US Navy isn’t worried about Russia and China’s supposed threats to its fleet

On Tuesday, the Navy announced that the USS Coronado had completed initial operational tests and evaluations with Raytheon’s SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system, and in doing so, they answered a big question.


Anti-ship cruise missiles have long been an area of concern for US military planners as China and Russia develop increasingly mature and threatening missiles of that type.

Effectively, both Russia‘s and China‘s anti-ship missiles and air power have the capability to deny US or NATO forces access to strategically important areas, like the South China Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltics.

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USS Coronado arriving in San Francisco | Flickr

And that’s where the SeaRAM anti-ship cruise missile could potentially be a game changer. Building upon the already capable Phalanx close-in weapons system, a computer-controlled 20 mm gun system that automatically tracks and fires on incoming threats, the SeaRAM system simply replaces the gun with a rolling-airframe-missile launcher.

The autonomous firing controls of the SeaRAM system, as well as it’s use of the existing Phalanx infrastructure, means that the system will have relatively low manning costs, and that its procurement was affordable.

The tests showed that the SeaRAM system performed in hostile, complicated conditions. Raytheon claims the system shot down two simultaneously inbound supersonic missiles as they flew in “complex, evasive maneuvers.”

Here is the SeaRAM tracking and firing on a target:

“The successful testing on the Independence variant (USS Coronado) demonstrates the self-defense capabilities of the ship and systems and installs confidence in Coronado as the ship prepares for its maiden deployment this summer,” said LCS program manager Capt. Tom Anderson in the statement.

Currently, the Navy plans for the Coronado to take an extended deployment to Singapore.

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Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) load a rolling-airframe-missile launcher onto the ship on August 12, 2015. | US Navy photo

“USS Coronado is designed to fight and win in contested waters, where high-end anti-ship cruise missiles pose a significant threat to naval forces,” Cmdr. Scott Larson, Coronado’s commanding officer, said in a NAVSEA statement.

“Today’s test validates the Independence variant’s ability to effectively neutralize those threats and demonstrates the impressive capability SeaRAM brings to our arsenal.”

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