The baddest bad guy in all of Star Wars is also, perhaps, the most famous fictional father of all time: Darth Vader AKA Anakin Skywalker. But, after Vader was out of the picture in Return of the Jedi, newer Star Wars movies have struggled to introduce family drama into the saga that was as meaty and as frightening. Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, the primary villain of new Star Wars has mostly been Kylo Ren, previously known as Ben Solo, before he turned evil and killed his dad, Han Solo. But, back in 2015, it was hinted that Kylo Ren had some muscle to help with his dirty work; the mysterious Knights of Ren. Now, like the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python, they’re back! Nobody expects the Knights of Ren!
Thanks to newly released photos from The Rise of Skywalker, it finally looks like we’ll get some answers about who the hell these dark knights really are.
On May 22, 2019, Vanity Fair released its latest cover story, a huge preview of The Rise of Skywalker written by Magicians novelist, journalist and all-around cool dad, Lev Grossman. As with most Star Wars films, this feature was accompanied by beautiful photos from legendary photographer Annie Lewbowitz. Chewbacca is reunited with Lando, Luke Skywalker’s ghost (maybe?) stands proudly with R2-D2 and Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out again with their lightsabers. But, for fans thinking about the villains of the new saga, one minor detail was confirmed by the photos, which has major implications: The Knights of Ren are back!
In one early photo, evildoers, dressed all in black are depicted with the following caption:
“J.J. Abrams, alongside Stunt Coordinator Eunice Huthart, directs the Knights of Ren; elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”
Up until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear if the Knights of Ren would actually return in The Rise of Skywalker, or, like, at all. After being introduced in a flashback in The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and regular people alike have been scratching their heads for four years now about who these people could be. Like Kylo Ren, are they also former students of Luke Skywalker’s turned to evil? Are all of them men? Could another, long-lost member of the Skywalker/Solo family be chilling under those creepy masks? How come they don’t all get lightsabers?
Not, it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is poised to answer this question. It may be a small thing, but considering the fact that Kylo Ren could seemingly turn back to the light side of the Force at any point, then it feels likely any of the Knights of Ren could become the latest scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. (We don’t know who Kylo is fighting in those trailers, after all.)
Star Wars loves to have a good role reversal when it comes to evildoers. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father. In, the prequels, a kindly senator was really a Sith Lord. Even in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a dreaded gang leader — Enfys Nest — is secretly a revolutionary woman in disguise.
So, now that we know the Knights of Ren are back, we should be prepared for some answers about them, but also, some twists, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Marine Corps has to recruit a bunch of teens and young twenty-somethings in order to keep recruits flowing in. And they sponsored four YouTubers to come and spend three days in basic training. The main star of the resulting video is Michelle Khare, a BuzzFeed.News journalist whose YouTube is pretty much all videos about her trying on other people’s lives like the ultimate tourist.
So when the Marine Corps asked her to try out their training, it was a pretty perfect fit.
But it’s easy to see the difference between basic training for YouTubers and people really entering the service. This author went through Army basic, but he still feels pretty certain that real Marines gets yelled at harder than this. And he definitely doesn’t remember the flock of camera people and producers who accompanied a “platoon” of about a dozen people.
But the YouTube recruits do go through some of the physical and mental challenges that break real recruits. And they made it through, partially thanks to the help of drill instructors who spurred them on even as they got too afraid. The A-Tower, familiar to most soldiers from the “confidence course,” nearly takes our friend Michelle out before the DI helps her master the fear.
The personalities go through some other fun staples of basic training, like breaking the seals on their gas masks in the chamber and firing M16s. Of course, the YouTubers get new or nearly new rifles with ACOGs, but no one said life is fair. And we don’t really need them to fire in combat successfully with iron sights anyway.
Oh, and that was the first day. And one dude literally dropped out after just that.
Like, dude, you’re doing the tourist version. It’s only three days long. Real Marine basic training is 13 weeks.
The rest of the personalities pushed on through physical training to muscle failure, drill instruction, rappel training, more obstacles, and a ruck march.
You had choices when you showed up at the recruiting offices at your local strip mall. If you didn’t pick USAF you missed out, and here are 9 reasons why:
1. We call each other by our first names and don’t get hung up on rank. (It helps us prepare for not working as a grocery store bagger when we separate.)
2. Because Chuck Norris.
3. The Air Force coined the term “counterspace operations” because it couldn’t be contained to just this planet.
4. The Air Force has the best and the most expensive toys. This is why the Air Force budget is the largest. You’ve only seen the B-2 because we wanted you to see the B-2. The other ones are the //redacted//, the //redacted//, and best of all the //redacted//.
5. The Air Force ages gracefully. (The SR-71 Blackbird is still the coolest thing ever made for the US military.)
6. Iron Man and the War Machine are stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.
7. The enlisted have the same or better operational survival rate than the officers.
8. No service delivers more freedom in one serving.
Weeks prior to the 2017 NFL draft, service members from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, were given the chance of a lifetime to undergo a surprise mission as part of the “Salute to Service” program.
Hosted by USAA, these unexpected military analysts from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, received the opportunity to team up with NFL broadcasters Ron Jaworski and Sal Paolantonio (US Navy vet) for a chance of a lifetime and partake in a draft strategy session.
Imagine the U.S. building a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the middle of New York City. Or one of Nikita Khrushchev in Washington DC. As unlikely as its sounds for a mighty empire to build such a monument to a once-great, potentially vanquished foe, that’s how Ancient Rome used to roll. No matter what your high school history teacher told you, the Romans were not always the preeminent ancient group of ass-kickers history gives them credit for.
Mighty Carthage would field its greatest commander, Hannibal Barca, against Rome. He would turn out to be a leader so great even the Romans would build statues in his honor.
It didn’t end well for Carthage but Rome famously got its ass handed to it a few times.
Don’t get it twisted, Rome in its heyday did kick a lot of barbarian ass from Londinium to Mesopotamia and is worthy of its reputation. But before any of that, the young Roman Empire wasn’t even as big as modern-day Italy. In the Punic Wars, they chose the wrong empire to square off against. Carthage was much more powerful than tiny Rome, and its leadership was much better at fielding armies. One of those was Hannibal Barca, known to history simply as “Hannibal” (when you’re famous on the level of Cher, Madonna, or Jesus only one name is required).
Hannibal fought Rome from the start of the very first Punic War, but it was the Second Punic War where Hannibal was really unleashed. After crushing Roman allies in modern-day Spain, he left on his now-famous crossing of the Alps to hit Rome from behind, a move no one expected, least of all Rome. It was a move that shocked the ancient world and allowed Hannibal to plunder parts of northern Italy for almost a year. The following Spring, he crushed a Roman army at Cannae, killing or capturing some 70,000 men.
That face when you kill 70,000 Romans on their home turf.
For almost a decade, Hannibal and his army slogged around the Italian Peninsula, defeating the Romans and killing thousands in battles at Tarentum, Capua, Silarus, Herndonia, and Petelia. Tens of thousands of Romans died at the hands of Hannibal and his army, but time was not on his side. The Romans would not give in, and Carthage was losing ground elsewhere. Rome gained new allies and fresh troops, while Hannibal couldn’t take a Roman harbor. It ultimately doomed him. He would be recalled to Africa where he was defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Zama, his invincibility finally shattered.
Rome would never get its hands on its greatest enemy. Hannibal died after escaping from Roman soldiers, circumstances unknown. To this day, no one is sure where he escaped to or where his final resting place was. What they know is that for decades, Romans lived in fear that he might mount an army and return to exact revenge. When Rome was in its full glory days, and the threat of Hannibal’s return was diminished by time, the Romans built statues of the man in the streets, an advertisement that they were able to beat such a worthy adversary.
Two weeks ago, a man named Bob and the soldiers of Headquarters Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment had never met. They would have never met. They would have continued being perfect strangers and never knowing of the other’s existence. But due to torrential rainfall and catastrophic natural disasters occurring across Oklahoma and the surrounding states, Bob and these guardsmen were soon to meet.
On Friday, May 24, 2019, members of the 279th were sent to a site along a levee in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. There was severe flooding and the looming threat of homes being affected. The mission of these soldiers was to monitor and maintain the pumps that were placed on the property to move the water and put it into the creek on the other side of the levee.
When events like flooding, tornados, or other disaster hit the state, the Oklahoma National Guard activates for state active duty upon the request of the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management and with approval from the governor of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma National Guardsmen are working alongside first responders and emergency personnel to provide disaster relief following record-breaking flooding of the Arkansas River in the Tulsa, Okla. area.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“I got here last Friday,” said Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse, a Stillwater resident and an infantryman with HHC 1-279 Infantry Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “We didn’t know what we were getting into.”
For the first day or two, the soldiers remained in or around their vehicle during their shift monitoring the pumps. A kind man named Bob who owned the property would come out every now and then and check on them.
“He was always asking if we needed anything,” said Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist from Miami, Oklahoma with HHC 1-279. “He would bring us food and drinks, make sure we had enough water.”
Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
He even offered them a more comfortable place to get out of the sun and maintain the pumps, under the shade of his hand-welded gazebo, adorned with classic decorations and lawn furniture. At first, the soldiers respectfully declined. At the persistence of Bob’s selfless and giving nature, the guardsmen graciously accepted his invitation.
Over the next several days, Bob and the soldiers developed a rapport and a working relationship. The soldiers would fulfill their mission while Bob kept them company and took them under his wing. He cooked food, let them use his gator, a side-by-side off-road vehicle, and simply offered them the care and support of a grateful and appreciative community member.
Spc. Allison Smith, a combat medic specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“Bob has been a really great blessing to us and thanking him just doesn’t cover it,” said Spc. Allison Smith, a combat medic specialist from Salina, Oklahoma with HHC 1-279. “This mission would have been a lot harder if we didn’t have the support from neighbors like Bob and other people in the community.”
The acts of kindness from Sand Springs residents fueled the Oklahoma guardsmen in a way that you rarely get to witness first-hand.
Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse and Spc. Allison Smith of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, move sandbags to the base of a tree in Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold’s yard, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“The unlimited energy these soldiers have, how do they keep going?” asked Bob Casebold, a Sand Springs resident and owner of the land that the soldiers were monitoring. “Carrying sandbags, wading through water, filling sand boils and things like that.”
It didn’t take long for Bob to gain notoriety through the ranks of the guardsmen responding to the floods across the Tulsa metro area. Miles away, at the main hub for flood operations, the name Bob was buzzing around the building. The stories of his selflessness and support were being told by people who hadn’t even met Bob. Everyone wanted to shake the hand of the man that had given back so much to the soldiers who were protecting his community.
(Left to right) Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse, Spc. Allison Smith and Spc. Kailey Bellville works together to unload sandbags to protect the trees in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“We did not ask for these guys to come down here,” Bob said. “They volunteered and came down here to help us; to protect us. It was totally amazing and I appreciate it so much.”
Bob would be the last person to pat himself on the back for his support of these soldiers, but that certainly wasn’t lost on the soldiers that he helped.
Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“He’s one of the cornerstones to the support of this mission out here in the area,” Smith said. “It’s awesome knowing that they rely on us and we can depend on them if we have to.”
Now that conditions are improving, for the time being, soldiers and residents can take a deep breath and work on returning back to normal life. But the bonds that were made during this trying time are going to remain long after the guardsmen return to their homes and families.
Sand Springs resident Bob Casebold gives Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, an appreciative hand after she helped lay sandbags around trees at his Sand Springs home, May 30, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)
“I definitely believe that God put me out here to help these people,” Humerickhouse said. “And I believe coming out here and meeting Bob was meant to be.”
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Bob said. “It comes from a bad deal, but I’ve made some great friends. I would consider them lifelong friends.”
There have been a few developments in the stealth world in February 2018 with Russia deploying its Su-57 to Syria and China announcing its J-20 is combat ready.
With more countries now fielding and trying to market stealth jets, Business Insider spoke to Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at the thinktank CNA and fellow at the Wilson Center focusing on Russia’s military and defense, about how the Su-57 and the J-20 match up with the US’s stealth planes.
The partial transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Brown: What are your general thoughts on the recent deployment of the Su-57 to Syria?
Michael Kofman: They deployed them to Syria really for two reasons. One is to change the narrative that’s been going on in Syria for the last couple weeks and take a lot of media attention to the Su-57. And second is to actually demo it in the hope that there might be interested buyers, as they have deployed a number of weapons systems to Syria.
They’re always looking for more investors in that technology. Fifth-generation aircraft are expensive.
Kofman: I think it’s a stealthier aircraft than your typical fourth-generation design. I don’t think it matches the stealth capability of the F-22 or F-35, nor does it match the price tag of them. I think it’s a poor man’s stealth aircraft. I think it’ll be a very capable platform. I don’t think it’ll match or compete in the low-observation rules that US aircraft do.
On the other hand, it will definitely be a step above a fourth-generation aircraft — in terms of how maneuverable it is, Russian aircraft are always very capable, very maneuverable.
The F-22 is actually really good in maneuverability, too. The F-35 not so much, but the F-22 is actually a brilliant aircraft. We still have a lot of them. But the Su-57 is not meant to be a direct competitor to the F-22 or F-35.
Brown: That’s how Russia seems to be marketing it.
Kofman: Yeah, I’m sure some guy thinks his Honda Civic is better than my BMW.
Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: There is a fifth-generation market out there. Where can you go to get a fifth-generation aircraft? The US is very tight on technology with the F-35. The only other people that have one in development is the Chinese.
So, here’s the real question: Is the Su-57 better than the J-20?
Kofman: Well, it’s certainly far — if not further — along in technology design.
Here’s what it’s important: At the core of every plane is the engine — it’s all about the engine. Everything else is super cool, but it’s all about the engine.
The Su-57 is not in serial production because they’ve not finished the engine for it. It is flying on an upgraded engine from the Su-35S, so it cannot be a fifth-generation aircraft yet.
Now, is it low-observable relative to the Su-35? Yes. Is it low-observable relative to F-35? No. But you know what, if it was, probably no one would be able to afford it, least of all Russia. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the affordable.
Brown: What do you think about the J-20 compared to the F-22 or the Su-57? Where does it stand?
Kofman: I suspect that the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, early Chinese low-observation aircraft designs are all based on ancient Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.
That’s where I think it stands. In terms of observation, when I look at it, I suspect it also has a lot of stealth issues.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
U.S. Army weapons officials plan to purchase subcompact weapons from 10 different gun makers for testing in an effort to better arm personal security detail units.
U.S. Army Contracting Command, on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, recently announced it will spend $428,480 to award sole-source contracts to Beretta USA, Colt Manufacturing Company, CMMG Inc., CZ-USA, Sig Sauer and five other small-arms makers for highly concealable subcompact weapon systems “capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage,” according to a June 6, 2018 special award notice.
“Currently, Personal Security Detail (PSD) military personnel utilize pistols and rifles; however, there is an operational need for additional concealability and lethality,” the notice states. “Failure to provide the selected SCW for assessment and evaluation will leave PSD military personnel with a capability gap which can result in increased warfighter casualties and jeopardize the success of the U.S. mission.”
Companies selected have until June 16, 2018, to respond to the notice. The weapons will be used in an evaluation to “inform current capabilities for the Capability Production Document for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence,” the notice states.
“The acquisition of the SCW is essential in meeting the agency’s requirement to support Product Manager, Individual Weapons mission to assess commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) SCWs in order to fill a capability gap in lethality and concealability.”
Here is a list of sole-source contracts for the subcompact weapons:
Beretta USA Corporation for PMX subcompact weapon. Amount: $16,000.
Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC for CM9MM-9H-M5A, Colt Modular 9mm subcompact weapon. Amount: $22,000.
CMMG Inc. for Ultra PDW subcompact weapon. Amount: $8,500.
CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun. Amount: $14,490.
Lewis Machine & Tool Company for MARS-L9 compact suppressed weapon. Amount: $21,900.
PTR Industries Inc. for PTR 9CS subcompact weapon. Amount: $12,060.
Quarter Circle 10 LLC 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompact weapons. Amount: $24,070.
Sig Sauer Inc. for MPX subcompact weapon. Amount: $20,160.
Trident Rifles LLC for B&T MP9 machine gun. Amount: $36,000.
Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompact weapons. Amount: $39,060.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
When I’m choosing what vacations we want to take for the summer, I like to take advantage of ALL the discounted (if not FREE) options available to our military family.
So since I’m a huntress for deals and cheap escapes, here are some ideas that we spouses can benefit from this summer.
1. Reunite with your favorite FRIEND/FAMILY!
I just thought recently about all my distant friends (due to PCS) that I miss. I crave their company and miss laughing with them and watching our kids play together. So here’s an idea for a vacay (on the cheaper side).
During the summer is the perfect time to pack up the kids and take a road trip. We’ll take some time to spend a few days crashing at our friends’ house. Depending on how we plan it, the cash costs will mostly be for gas and some food. Maybe an outing, but you can do activities that don’t cost much money. Just do the things that you commonly did when you were stationed together like letting the kids play at the park, walking through the mall, and even cooking together. We may even get a girls night and leave the kids with the hubbys!
2. Take advantage of Space-A with Armed Forces Vacation Club
Typically when we hear Space-A (space available) we think of the free flights that are offered from base to base. This space available with Armed Forces Vacation Club is for resorts that allow you a week’s stay at a fixed rate of $349 for the room. The rooms are priced per unit, not per person so you can have 6 people in your room and the price will be the same. They are currently running a sale for $299. You can choose to vacay in a variety of places like Texas, Florida, the Bahamas and more. Less than $50 per night, fixed price of $349 in early May 2018. That’s a SEVEN night stay for less than $300 bucks. Yes, rush and get that!
3. Check out lots of military travel deals for Hotels
If you are just looking to get out of town make sure you plan ahead so you can get ALL your savings!
You can check out sites like goseek.com that will give you a listing of hotels that offer military savings on their price per night. The savings range from $8-$445 a night depending on where you choose to stay.
4. Drive to another base!
Sometimes you just need a CHANGE of scenery. Here’s a way to STAYcation. For example, if you are stationed in a place like Jacksonville Florida, you have access to two bases…and those are NAS Jax and Mayport. Mayport’s lodging sits right on the beach. Rooms include 2 queens and a kitchenette, free wifi, free breakfast and pets are allowed. Ocean view rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor are $85 per night and 1st floor beach access rooms are $77 per night.
No matter where you are in the country, you can probably plan something similar!
5. Theme Parkin’ it
Active duty military gets free entry into Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place along with 3 dependents. But there are other theme parks you can explore and enjoy that offer military members (active and retired) admission at discounted prices. This list details over 30 locations that offer military deals with savings up to 45%.
There are plenty of ways you can plan your vacay! Whatever you choose, have fun, be safe, and SAVE a few bucks in the process!
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Britain’s royals are guarded by the best London’s Metropolitan Police have to offer — a special unit known as Protection Command. These officers, trained as armed bodyguards for the royal family, can often be seen escorting the Queen, Prince Philip, and other members of the family with steely gazes in blacked-out Land Rovers.
However, especially in this day and age of modern terrorism, there will likely be situations in which Protection Command finds itself hard-pressed to deal with appropriately on their own. That’s when the British Army steps up to the plate with the most elite soldiers they have to offer — the men of the Special Air Service, the oldest active special missions unit in the world.
Should the unthinkable happen where Protection Command’s agents find themselves overrun and outgunned in a fight against terrorists, hostage-takers, or other hostiles, the SAS is prepared to mobilize at a moment’s notice, arriving on-site, locked and loaded to end the situation decisively.
Though the British military and those charged with guarding the royals don’t particularly see such an incident happening anytime soon (or at all, for that matter), the British Army still rigidly maintains that informing and demonstrating their procedures to members of the royal family is an extremely important step in keeping them safe.
To that end, royals are brought up to Stirling Lines, Hereford, the home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, and given a crash course in special operations and counter-terrorism… at least in the ways it would directly relate to them. Donning black coveralls with “His” and “Hers” stenciled on the back, each royal couple gets an unparalleled look into the SAS’s operational capabilities and strengths.
The royals, especially the younger ones, are given a lot of leniency in terms of their personal transportation. This means that they can fly commercial (generally on British Airways) and drive their own vehicles with an escort or a small protection team always nearby. However, should a vehicular ambush occur, the SAS teaches princes, princesses, duchesses, and dukes alike how to drive tactically, using their cars as battering rams to escape the area to safety while larger protective teams are scrambled to pick them up.
Of particular note was the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana underwent their training course and a hot fragment from a stun grenade landed in Diana’s hair, singeing it. The new princess had her hair trimmed immediately after, so that members of the press would be completely unaware.
Interestingly enough, vehicular ambushes are among the more tame scenarios the royals are put through when they train with the SAS at Stirling Lines. The fun really begins when young royal couples are sent to the Killing House for an up close and personal look at the SAS in action.
The Killing House is a legendary facility in the special operations community, where SAS candidates and active troopers all train on entering and clearing buildings full of terrorists and hostages. The building is replete with rubber-coated walls, large fans to ventilate smoke, fire suppression systems, and closed-circuit cameras that monitor all the action and record them for debriefing and review.
Metal targets with scorch marks and indents represent enemies to be terminated with extreme prejudice. None of the training that goes on in the Killing House is hypothetical with troopers yelling “bang!” or firing blanks to simulate combat. Instead, the SAS uses live ammunition and sometimes, live hostages, to make every training evolution as realistic as possible.
Occasionally, these live hostages happen to have blue blood in them.
That’s right — the royals are brought into the Killing House and told to sit down on chairs or couches, as though being held captive by hostage-takers. SAS operators then storm the House with stun grenades, quickly shooting and killing all enemy combatants without harming the hostages.
Prince Charles famously scribbled a personal note during his training course, saying, “Should this demonstration go wrong I, the undersigned Prince of Wales, will not commit B Squadron 22 Special Air Service Regiment to the Tower of London. Charles.”
The note still sits framed at Hereford to this very day.
According to former members of the SAS, the royals generally handle the shock and awe of the Killing House take-down well, though they’re understandably stunned at first by the brutal noises and the explosions that occur during the assault.
The younger royals aren’t exempt from these specialized protection courses. Actress Meghan Markle recently had to undergo such training due to her engagement to Prince Harry. Kate Middleton and Prince William were also put through a similar course run by the SAS.
All in all, the members of the British royal family can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their nation’s best are an alert away from coming to the rescue, should the need ever arise.
What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.
We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.
Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.
Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.
But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.
Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects
Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.
“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.
Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.
“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”
High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.
What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.
Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth
Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.
All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.
Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.
Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail
Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.
“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.
The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.
Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.
These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.
Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep
Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.
Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”
As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.
The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.
You really don’t know what’s in them
These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.
One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.
So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?
Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,
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