The military has given the civilian world some great technology like satellites, GPS, and the internet. But, in other cases the services have adopted civilian tech and taken it to the next level of awesomeness in the process. Here are 7 examples:
The White House is giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to determine the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, in another move by President Donald to shift greater power to his military leaders.
The decision will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to send more forces into Syria, to assist U.S.-backed local troops as they move to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group, which has used the city as a de facto capital.
It will also let him adjust the force numbers in Iraq, in the ongoing fight to oust IS from Mosul and stabilize it as the rebuilding begins.
The Pentagon has already been making quiet, incremental additions to the troop levels in both countries in recent months, adding hundreds of Marines in Syria to provide artillery support, and sending more advisers into Iraq to work with units closer to the fight in Mosul. Those moves were done with White House approval, but without any formal adjustment to the longstanding troop caps that had been set by the Obama administration.
Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said Wednesday that Mattis has not made any changes yet to the current authorized force levels.
Under the Obama White House, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that forced commanders to get approvals for routine tactical decisions and personnel moves, and provide justification for any troops sent into war zones. Commanders have argued that they should be able to determine troop deployments based on the military capabilities they believe are needed at any given time.
The new authority will provide greater transparency about the actual number of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria after several years of public confusion about the accurate totals. Under the Obama-mandated caps, the U.S. was limited to 503 officially deployed troops in Syria, and 5,262 in Iraq. The Pentagon, however, has closer to 7,000 in Iraq, and hundreds more than the cap in Syria, but doesn’t count them because they are on temporary duty or not counted under specific personnel rules.
The change, however, could trigger concerns — particularly in Iraq, where there are political sensitivities about the footprint of American and coalition troops and fears about occupation forces. Officials worry that if they publicly acknowledge there are thousands more troops there, it could fuel opposition and problems for the Iraqi government.
decision applies only to the two countries, and so far does not affect Afghanistan, although that change has also been discussed.
“This does not represent a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ,” said White, using another name for the Islamic State group. She said the U.S. will continue to work through and with local forces, but giving Mattis the authority to make troop-level decisions will allow commanders to be “more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”
She added that the the change will allow the Pentagon be more open with Congress and the public.
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
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:
An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. The aircraft arrived at the base to conduct operational testing in order to determine its combat capabilities.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 28, 2016. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and is a highly accurate and survivable weapons delivery platform.
Senior Airman Daniel San Miguel, an aerospace propulsion journeyman with the 35th Maintenance Squadron, oversees an F110-GE-129 engine being tested during its afterburner phase at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 4, 2016. Each engine is tested multiple times for consistency and safety to ensure each engine has the capability to reach peak performance.
A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.
Army readiness is paramount to accomplishing a full range of military operations and winning the nation’s wars. The 82nd Airborne Division is a critical component of this requirement by being prepared to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a drag plane during a training demonstration at Skydive Arizona. The Leap Frogs are in Arizona preparing for the 2016 show season.
Sailors assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) render honors to a column of Indian naval vessels to mark the conclusion of India’s International Fleet Review (IFR) 2016. IFR 2016 is an international military exercise hosted by the Indian Navy to help enhance mutual trust and confidence with navies from around the world. Antietam, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Capt. Robert Mortenson, a company commander with Black Sea Rotational Force, spends time with a Norwegian search-and-rescue dog during cold-weather training aboard Skoganvarre, Norway, Feb. 5, 2016.
U.S. Marines provide security for a Japan Ground Self Defense Force CH-47 Chinook during Forest Light 16-2 in Yausubetsu Training Area, Hokkaido, Japan, Feb. 1, 2016. The exercise strengthens military partnership, solidifies regional security agreements and improves individual and unit-level skills.
“I will maintain a guardian’s eye on my crew at all times, and keep a cool, yet deliberate, hand on the throttle.” – Coast Guard Surfman’s creed
U.S. Coast Guard crews work hard and train hard to be ready – regardless of weather conditions!
India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.
Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.
But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.
Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.
The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.
In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.
The Iraqi Security Forces are now much less likely to quit fighting and becoming much more aggressive and consistent in their ongoing combat against ISIS, Pentagon and U.S. Coalition officials said.
Responding to questions about numerous reports citing large desertions of Iraqi troops not wanting to fight, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that circumstance has been rapidly shifting for the better.
Many observers said large numbers of Iraqi soldiers simply refused to fight or put up any kind of defense when ISIS first seized territory in Iraq; that equation has now changed, U.S. officials say.
Warren said recent victories in Ramadi and villages near Makhmour have emboldened and empowered Iraq forces to fight, despite reports that many were still laying down their weapons and taking off from the battlefield.
“Small units confidence and morale is growing and strengthening. The training, advising and equipping that we have done is having an effect,” Warren told reporters.
Citing that the U.S. has trained 20,000 Iraqis over last 20 months to elevate their performance levels and instructed them how to better conduct operations in Tikrit and Ramadi, Warren added that Iraqi force have favorable responded to recent combat success.
“They have tasted victory and they want to taste more of it,” he said.
As evidence of increased Iraqi combat aggression, Warren pointed to a specific M1 Abrams tank crew in Hit, Iraq, which has earned the knickname “beast” for its ceaseless activities against ISIS. The one tank has been systematically and aggressively attacking enemy defenses, maneuvering and blasting enemy IEDs, Warren explained.
Hit is a city along the Euphrates river where U.S. Coalition forces continue to make substantial gains against ISIS, Warren said.
There are still some problems with Iraqi soldiers quitting, particularly in areas around Makhmour, Warren explained.
“Iraqi senior leaders have noticed this (Iraqi soldier quitting) and have fired some commanders. They have been replaced with more aggressive commanders,” he added. “Broadly speaking across the board we are seeing their level come up. As this Army drives closer to Mosul the fighting will only get harder.”
Warren added that Iraqi and U.S. Coalition combat tactics involved combined arms maneuvers on the ground along with air attacks and efforts to dismantle ISIS’ finance operations, cyber abilities and overall command and control.
“An enemy that is shattered and scattered has significantly reduced ability to mass combat power. We believe that by shattering them, fragmenting them and dismantling them, we move ourselves closer to the ultimate goal,” he said.
Although there has been widespread reporting quoting senior U.S. military officials saying there will likely be more U.S. combat outposts in Iraq, Warren emphasized that the U.S. Coalition strategy is grounded in the priority of having Iraqi forces make gains on the ground.
“The Iraqis are the only ones who can defeat ISIS in a way that is a lasting defeat,” Warren proclaimed. “Our intent here is to deliver them a lasting defeat. We believe that by degrading them in phase one and then dismantling them in phase two – we will be set up for phase three which is to defeat them.”
The U.S. Coalition’s recent killing of several ISIS senior leaders has had a substantial negative impact upon ISIS, Warren said.
“Any organization that has lost three of its most senior leaders in a span of 30 days – is going to suffer for it; the organization then turns in on itself. We’ve seen an increase in a number of executions (ISIS killing members of its own group). It creates confusion, paranoia and ultimately weakens the enemy,” Warren said.
Warren expressed confidence in the ultimate defeat of ISIS, in part due to the resolve of a 66-nation coalition that, he said, “understands that this is an enemy that needs to be defeated.”
Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.
However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.
What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?
There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.
From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.
Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.
The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.
So what’s the tie-in to resilience?
The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.
1. Behavioral Health
People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.
For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.
In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.
2. Social Support
People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.
Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.
3. Positive Thought
Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.
U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)
In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.
Aren’t there downsides to religion?
It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.
If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.
- Big Question Inspiration
- What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
- How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
- What do I believe?
- Where do I need to go to learn more?
- Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
Every military professional has his or her favorite war novel and picking the “greatest” is a tall order. But that’s what we do here at WATM. These are our picks for the greatest war novels ever written:
Written from several third person points of view with a circular dynamic centered around the paradox that is Catch-22, this Joseph Heller classic was in many ways years ahead of its time in that the wider audience didn’t relate to his reading of the military until well into the Vietnam War years. Beyond the biting satire and staccato pacing Catch-22 captures the personalities that populate the military to this day: inept commanders, opportunistic junior officers, and enlisted men staying sane by not taking anything around them too seriously. This is a must-read before every major deployment.
Tim O’ Brien’s Vietnam-era literary masterpiece is brimming with pathos. The novel’s strength isn’t necessarily in how it deals with war straight-on, but it lies in O’Brien’s atmospherics and states of mind and the resultant permanent scars of an ill-defined conflict carried out by a nation riven by it.
Most people think of Patrick ‘O Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series as the definitive historical fiction works around the heyday of warfighting sailing ships, but Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first book in C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, skips getting bogged down in technical detail and instead offers timeless lessons in military leadership at sea and amazing perspective around what 17-year olds had to tackle responsibility-wise in the fledgling American Navy.
James Salter’s poetic prose elevates this Korean War-era story about Air Force pilots to timeless art as well as a definitive reading of those drawn to that particular warfare specialty. The Hunters has it all: a burned out CO, a confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.
Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman who couldn’t interest anyone in his manuscript until the Naval Institute Press – a publisher that had never done fiction – decided to take a chance based on the story’s level of technical detail that bordered on classified. The book’s sales were relatively flat until President Ronald Reagan was seen carrying a copy, and from that point The Hunt for Red October became the title that launched a thousand technothrillers as well as Clancy’s prolific and lucrative career.
6. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Author Ben Fountain paints an all-too-accurate portrait of what “support the troops” has come to mean a decade and a half after 9-11. “Halftime Walk” is set at the Dallas Cowboys stadium where an Army unit is feted by the team’s owner and his circle of Texas fat cats who demonstrate the distance between the American population and those sent to do their fighting. More than a novel about war, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a national indictment.
Remarque’s groundbreaking World War I novel was among the first to dispel any laudable mystique surrounding war through its detail about trench warfare and mustard gas attacks and the portrayal of the protagonist’s decent from idealistic recruit to member of a generation forever scarred by “The Long War.” Paul Baumer’s heartbreak is that of the hundreds of thousands of service members who followed him into battle in the decades after his war ended, many of whom certainly read the book but went anyway.
An instant classic. Phil Klay’s much heralded debut novel about the Iraq War is worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Redeployment is at once timely and timeless in capturing the nuance of the emotions and states of mind of Marines at war and back home between tours. To get to what’s honorable about service you have to face the realities of an unclear mission without end and what accepting them does to those involved. In this effort Klay emerges as the de facto spokesman for the post-9/11 cohort of warfighters.
Kurt Vonnegut’s best-known novel if not his masterwork, Slaughterhouse Five builds off of the author’s real-life experiences as an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Dresden firebombing during World War II and adds a time-traveling protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, to create a book that deftly illustrates the pointlessness and futility of war. (Also recommended by Vonnegut: Mother Night.)
World War II was one of America’s defining moments, and there are dozens of well-known photos that still resonate with viewers. But the same pictures get used every time the war is discussed, overshadowing the hundreds of other worthy images. Here are 36 of the best World War II photos that you’re probably not familiar with.
You can vote on your favorite images, helping them climb the list.
The Navy is now integrating and preparing weapons systems for its advanced Ford aircraft carrier during a now-underway 12-month period called Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) — one of several key final steps designed to prepare the ship for ocean warfare when the ship deploys in 2022.
While the Ford’s electromagnetic catapult, larger deck space and nuclear power technology are heavily emphasized in public discussion of the ship’s newer technologies, layered ship defenses, are commanding commensurate developmental attention – given the global threat environment.
This includes efforts to build in the latest interceptor missiles and close-range guns, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Block 2 (ESSM) and the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).
Therefore, alongside the more emphasized items for the PSA, such as the advanced weapons elevator and advanced arresting gear upgrades, preparing ship defenses for deployment will also function as an indispensable element of the Navy’s strategy for the Ford-class.
(U.S. Navy photo)
“The scheduled 12-month PSA/SRA will install remaining combat systems, complete deferred work and correct remaining discrepancies identified during sea trials and shakedown,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman told Warrior Maven.
The PSA is intended to build upon lessons learned and adjustments emerging from previous testing.
The ship’s crew has been “conducting post-delivery testing and trial operations that identify construction and design issues. They have been extremely effective in identifying any issues early, which helps us address them prior to returning to the fleet.” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a published Navy statement.
During testing and developmental phases immediately preceding the start of the PSA, the Ford successfully completed fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft integration and compatibility testing, air traffic control center certification and JP-5 fuel system certification, Couch added in the statement.
Demonstrating the ship’s defensive systems was also a vital element of these preparations for the PSA. While carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups, protected by cruisers and destroyers, the platforms are increasingly being viewed as ships in need of their own organic defensive weapons.
This is particularly true in light of the often discussed threats of Chinese DF-21D “carrier killer,” a long range anti-ship guided missile reported to reach ranges greater than 900 miles.
There is much discussion about how the USS Ford’s massively-increased onboard power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will potentially enable emerging weapons, such as defensive lasers and railguns.
In the near-term, however, the USS Ford will use the PSA to solidify integration of several upgraded ship defense weapons.
“Besides carrying over 75 warplanes, the USS Ford has some serious destructive capability. Engineers and designers included ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), and a Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS,” a report from Engineering.com writes.
An RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)
Upgraded Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile
The USS Ford is expected to deploy with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2, or ESSM, a weapon designed to track and destroy incoming enemy supersonic missiles and anti-ship missiles, among other threats.
The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can achieve improved flight or guidance to its target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, Navy and industry ESSM developers told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.
The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.
A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon officials told Warrior.
The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance.
Also, the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Navy officials explained.
The MK-15 Phalanx CIWS
Phalanx Close in Weapons System
The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.
CWIS fires a 20 mm Vulcan cannon mounted on a swiveling base. An essay in Naval Forces magazine called “CIWS – the Last Ditch Defense,” further specifics that the weapon fires “armor piercing tungsten penetrater rounds with discarding sabots.” CIWS fires a M61A1 Gatling gun out to ranges of 3 km.
Navy officials say the latest CIWS Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
A CIWS overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.
The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC),
The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer.
The OGB/ELC combine to provide tighter dispersion and increased first hit range, a Navy official added. The Phalanx 1B fires Mk 244 ammunition, using the Enhanced Lethality Cartridge specifically designed to penetrate anti-ship cruise missiles.
The Mk 244 ammunition is engineered with a 48 percent heavier tungsten penetrator and an aluminum nose piece, according to information from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.
The Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade is a new digital radar that provides improved detection performance, increased reliability and reduction in sailor man-hours for system maintenance, developers said.
The Baseline 2 upgrade mitigates obsolete components inherent in the existing analog radar by introducing COTS-based (commercial off-the-shelf) signal processing coupled with a new signal source and mixer.
CIWS uses “Ku-band radar featuring closed-loop spotting technology capable of autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions,” the Naval Forces essay writes.
The Baseline 2 radar also provides the Phalanx CIWS with “surface mode,” meaning it adds the ability to track, detect and then destroy threats closer to the surface of the water compared with previous models of the weapon, developers explained.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Long before the Facebook profile was a thing, American soldiers saw the value of photos taken in historical landmarks like Hitler’s retreat or Hirohito’s palace.
1. The Band of Brothers hung out together in Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.
As World War II was ending, American soldiers coming off of frontline conflict were assigned to guard important structures from both looting and attempts by criminals to destroy evidence of war crimes. 101st paratroopers from the famous Easy Company were given the task of guarding Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.”
2. American troops toured, lived in, and worked in Saddam’s palaces.
After the fall of the Baath Regime, U.S. commanders looking for headquarters turned to buildings abandoned by the Iraqi Army in their retreat. Among those repurposed for American military operations were a number of Hussein family palaces. The “Victory Over America Palace” was a part of many tours.
3. An Italian Palace became a way station for Allied troops pushing up through the “soft underbelly” of Europe.
The Palace of Caserta was originally commissioned for Charles VII of Naples but he abdicated his thrown and so it passed to his son Ferdinand IV of Naples in the late 1700s. Ferdinand’s two major claims to fame were being curb-stomped by Napoleon twice and executing a bunch of his own citizens.
The palace of this amazingly ineffective dictator was one of the largest palaces in the world and was in good shape when World War II rolled around. Allied soldiers moving up the Italian peninsula moved into the palace grounds and used the fountains for swimming and baptisms as shown above.
4. Gen. MacArthur hung out with the Japanese emperor.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was tasked with occupying Japan after the island nation’s surrender that ended World War II.
As part of the effort to both diminish the emperor in Japanese eyes and to raise the stature of the American occupiers, MacArthur had photos taken of himself and the emperor together, a surprising visual for the Japanese people. He also had men stationed on the palace grounds.
The single most cherished item that Uncle Sam has given its fighting men and women since the Vietnam War has got to be the poncho liner or, as it’s affectionately known within the military community as, the “woobie.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one piece of military gear that was designed with a troop’s comfort in mind has a huge fan base.
It’s more often than not called the “woobie” because, in practice, very few people use it for its intended purpose: lining a poncho. Obviously, there’s no hole for your head to go through, so you’re not actually wearing the woobie with the poncho at the same time. The designers want you to use the little holes on the side that correspond with poncho straps to tie it together, but show of hands: How many people have actually taken those steps each and every time instead of just using the woobie as its own individual item? Thought so.
Here’s how the woobie is actually being used by troops:
It’s funny. Just one one piece of fabric can make 48-hour patrols suck a little less.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
1. Blanket… obviously
The sleeping bag system that the military offers is nice, but it’s not enough. It’s missing a nice, homey touch that you can only get with a warm and cozy woobie.
And this doesn’t end when troops go on their last field exercise. It’s not uncommon for vets to snag a poncho liner (or two) and keep them laying around the house or in an emergency kit — or on their bed, just like it used to be.
When this is your life for 12 months, you might be willing to bite that bullet to get a bit of privacy.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
2. Tent divider
While deployed, troops aren’t typically given enough room for personal space. Your “personal space,” at best, is usually just a single bunk that everyone can walk past.
If you need some alone time and you’re willing to part with your precious poncho liner, you can string it across the tent to mark off your side.
Now, the real question is, are you willing to destroy your woobie to make it into something else?
(Photo via Reddit user Hellsniperr)
Cutting a hole in the poncho liner to actually line a poncho is ridiculous — but walking around the barracks wrapped in a poncho liner like it’s a cape is some how… not?
Troops and vets have been known to step their woobie game up by having it made into a wide assortment of apparel — like a bathrobe or a smoker’s jacket. Fashion and function!
This is basically the one thing every troop wishes they could have done with their woobie while in the field.
(Screengrab via YouTube: PrepareToPaddle)
4. Hammock insulator
The mesh pattern and all-weather durability of a poncho liner means it’s perfectly suited to surviving outside for long periods of time. This quality is best exemplified by the fact that you’ll find it in the backyard of nearly every veteran who owns a hammock. You’ll probably find their old woobie inside it.
How can you say no to that face? You can’t.
(Image via Northwest Firearms Blog)
5. Dog bed
Even animals aren’t immune to the draw of a good poncho liner. A folded-up woobie is the perfect comforter for the bottom of a dog’s kennel.
Maybe it’s the texture or maybe it’s the fact that it almost always smells like the animal’s veteran parent — whatever the case, expect your dog to fight you for woobie ownership.
Sleep well, future soldier. Sleep well.
6. Family heirloom
The overly silly name that troops and vets gave a woobie makes a bit more sense when it’s given to their kids. Yeah, it’s kind of small for a full-grown warfighter, but it’s the perfect size for their kid.
When vets pass down a woobie to their kid or grandkid, it typically comes with a long, drawn-out origin story — but it’s so comfortable that the recipient probably doesn’t mind curling up and listening to the same story for the tenth time.
Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan — and many people who have trained at sandy places like the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California — know about the beautiful halo of light that surrounds helicopter blades at night when the air is full of dust.
What most people don’t know is that photojournalist and Special Forces veteran Michael Yon learned that these halos didn’t have a name and so decided to give them one. He chose to honor two soldiers, an American and a Brit who died from wounds suffered in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Kopp-Etchells effect is named for U.S. Army Ranger Cpl. Benjamin Kopp and British Cpl. Joseph Etchells. Kopp was a soldier shot and MEDEVACed to the U.S. where he later died. His organs were donated, including his heart which went to a family member’s friend.
Etchells was an infantryman and athlete known for how well he prepared his men for combat. He died of injuries suffered during an explosion on a foot patrol.
Jill Stephenson, Kopp’s mother, later learned about the halos named for her son and told Fox News in 2013 that she was deeply touched by the gesture.
“What I see in it, even four years later, is the beauty in a tragedy,” she said.