The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.


The AI Advantage

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The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL

Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”

This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.

“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”

In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.

TACE: Can We Trust A.I.?

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The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.

“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”

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


MIGHTY FIT

Reasons to drink a butt-ton of water first thing in the morning

There isn’t a human on planet Earth who would argue that they don’t need water. Yet such a large number of humanity neglects its most essential substance. Think of yourself like a hot air balloon, except instead of hot air, you are filled with up to 60% water. If a hot air balloon has no hot air, it can’t float around aimlessly. If you don’t have water, you can’t human around aimlessly…Yeah, I got your number.

Here are 5 reasons you should be hydrating early and often that you may not have previously considered.


The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Hipster poncho is not required for your early morning glass of water.

(Photo by Autri Taheri on Unsplash)

You lose a ton of water when you sleep

Respiration and perspiration are two things people do in their sleep. It’s obvious that you become less hydrated whenever you sweat (perspiration), but it’s also true that with every exhale (respiration), water also leaves your body. Eight hours of sleep is probably the longest time you go each day without hydrating, all while breathing and sweating. Tomorrow when you wake up, ask yourself if you’re thirsty.

In the morning routine, I prescribe for my clients, a large bottle of water is the first thing they put in their mouth each morning.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

PT and dehydration is a recipe for the silver bullet…If you know what I mean.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jesula Jeanlouis

You need water to lubricate your joints and muscles

A study on dehydrated men measured muscle soreness and water intake, and found that soreness became worse the more dehydrated the subjects were. This makes sense, as water is what makes your blood flow through your veins. Your blood transports repair cells and new proteins to your muscles to repair them. If you’re dehydrated, of course, it would take longer to repair any pain points in the body.

Many of our joints are buffered by little pillows of fluid that act as shocks for our movement. In a dehydrated state, those bursae are much worse at absorbing the impact on our joints.

If you are going to train first thing in the morning, or do anything that requires you to use your body, it is a great idea to lubricate your joints and muscles before going to battle.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Cranky and confused as to how you got so lost in the middle of some mountain range.

(Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash)

A 1% loss of water will make you cranky

Doesn’t sound terrible, but since mornings are the time of day when people are the most cranky, why add one more element into the mix. Life is hard enough, you can make it a little easier by having a glass of water. It’s that simple.

To clarify the study, if you lose 1% of your body weight in water, you will start to feel adverse effects, including crankiness and fatigue. If you’re a 200-pound male, that’s a 2-pound loss. This is easily possible after a hard workout in a hot gym or in a full combat load. It’s even more common just from neglect and consumption of diuretics (coffee) in the morning.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

At 2% dehydration you’d probably be too dumb to figure out how to drink with your gas mask on.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

A 2% loss of water will make you stupider

Same study as above but worse results.

Let’s just assume you have a job in which you are required to do physically demanding things, then immediately afterwards are expected to make decisions that put your friend’s lives on the line.

*cough* *cough* Am I speaking to the right audience here?

A 2% loss of water will make you measurably worse at those decisions. This takes that CamelBak slogan “hydrate or die” to an uncomfortably realistic level.

If you start your day in a deficit by not hydrating and then do a bunch of training that leaves you in a further deficit, a 2% loss of water is not only possible, but probably a common occurrence.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

No more late night home urinalysis sessions if you heed this wise advice…

(Marine Corps Installations West – Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

More water early means less waking up to squirt

The most practical reason to drink water early in your day is to practice what I call front-loaded hydration.

The older I get, the more often I have to wake up in the middle of the night to piss. I know this is common from looking at the research, talking to my peers, and from checking that my prostate isn’t inflamed.

This is why I recommend front-loading water intake early in the day.

You need to drink to hydrate. Five clear urinations a day is what you should be aiming for to ensure you are getting enough fluids for all of your body processes.

However, there is no law that says that you need to drink an equivalent amount of water at each meal or in each hour of the day. By drinking the majority of your water early in the day, you are lowering your water requirement just before bed. This means fewer late-night runs to the head and more uninterrupted sleep.

You will die from no water faster than you’ll die from no food. BUT, you’ll die from no sleep before you die from dehydration. High quality sleep is the key to a happy and healthy life. Develop some hydration practices to facilitate more restful sleep.
The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 rituals younger troops do before deployment

Deployments are hard on everyone. But no one feels the sting of a deployment like the troops. The more senior troops who spout the phrase “not my first rodeo” like they came up with it really are used to the lifestyle change of deployments. They’ll kiss their family goodbye and tell them that they’ll see them in a few months. No special rituals required.

Younger troops who’ve never deployed often have no frame of reference for what’s about to happen. They’ve been preparing their entire career for this moment but they are lost. Since their leadership is often more focused on getting the missed holidays out of the way early — the Joes will fall into these same traps.

Related: 7 dumb things troops do the first week home after a deployment


The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

If your way of disseminating important information is through something that you KNOW puts people to sleep, don’t expect anyone to listen.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

Forget about all of the actual pre-deployment checklists the CO put out

The commander thinks they’ve set up a nice plan for all of their troops to successfully get ready for a deployment. They probably even tasked a high-speed platoon leader with detailing it all out in a nice PowerPoint presentation to show all of the eager troops two weeks out.

Too bad no one is going to follow those plans. Troops won’t even follow the stupid simple recommendations like “unplug your car battery” or even “leave your car somewhere secure.” That’s just the light stuff. You can be certain that there’s a handful of people who never got their will finalized or a special power of attorney written.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

NCOs might join in. But their excuse is to “watch out for them doing dumb stuff.” At least that’s what they tell their spouse.

(Photo by Sgt. James Avery)

Drink heavily

The last few days of being stateside is usually filled with plenty of alcohol. From day drinking to barracks parties to bar hopping, younger troops will always have a glass or can in their hand.

To be fair, there isn’t much change in a younger troop’s drinking habits from a regular pay day to the day they find out that they’re deploying. They now just have an excuse to indulge (and a sympathy-earning reason for smelling like a brewery the following morning).

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Troops never change.

(National Archives)

The ritual of partying until you pass out

To put this as politely as possible for our more family-friendly audience, younger troops are trying have a good time with the person that they’re interested in. They often have a secondary goal while out barhopping: to find that last bit of companionship before going on a twelve month drought.

Whether they’re in the search of the “right one” or “the one right now” depends on the troop. But you can be sure that they’ll use the “I’m an American GI about to deploy” as a pickup line. This often leads directly into the next box on their checklist.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

But then again, I’m a romantic who likes to believe love isn’t dead in this world.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Marry without hesitation

It’s just a part of military culture that troops often jump headfirst into a marriage that they aren’t prepared to be in. The promise to get out of the barracks isn’t much of a concern but if they’ve already found the one that they’re in love with (or occasionally “in love” with), they’ll tie the knot right away. 

There is a financial benefit that troops keep in mind. The joke about troops and their soon-to-be spouse just after the BAH and Tricare has some grounding in reality. So why not nosedive into a presumably life long commitment for an extra bit of cash every month? Yikes. Save this very real ritual for when you’re ready.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Unless it’s something small or quick, don’t expect it to heal up before deploying either.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Katelyn Sprott)

Getting a new tat (or five) is one of the more harmless rituals

Tattoos and troops also go hand in hand. Since they won’t be getting any new ink (or at least access to a clean and healthy environment) for a while, they’ll try to get that last idea that they had in mind done before stepping foot on that plane.

Plenty of troops also forget the logistics behind huge tattoos. Back pieces or intricate artwork like sleeves take a lot of time to ink and even more time to heal up before the artist could finish their work. So it’s not uncommon for troops to deploy with just the line work done and have to wait until they’re back to finish coloring it in.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Cool points downrange aren’t given for looks — they’re given for actions.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Malissa Lott)

Buy all sorts of tacticool crap they probably won’t use- a pretty useless ritual

There’s kind of a misconception spread by video games that troops can just attach whatever they want onto their weapon or that they can use whatever tacticool stuff they want for their deployment. The actual truth is that if it wasn’t issued out (or sold at the Exchange), it can’t be used.

It’s their money so they can spend it how they like. But no platoon sergeant will ever let their private go outside the wire wearing some gear that looks operator AF but is really just cheap and painted black. Same goes for any kind of modification to their assigned weapon.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Oh the joys of life without responsibilities. ​

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Josef Cole)

Blow all of their money

This is possibly the dumbest ritual on the list. There are benefits to deploying while being young, single, and debt-free. Troops can blow every single cent in their bank account and not have to worry about making ends meet for the next few months.

There are at least three meals a day and a bunk to sleep on until they get back and blow all that money they saved.

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Get a free Root Beer Float from A&W to benefit DAV today

A&W restaurants are again giving away their famous Root Beer Floats on National Root Beer Float Day, Monday, August 6. The celebration is a way to say “thank you” to guests and to raise money for Disabled American Veterans. From 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., participating restaurants will serve free small Root Beer Floats, no purchase necessary. Guests will be encouraged to make a donation to DAV.

There are more than 630 A&W Restaurants in the U.S. and this is A&W’s sixth annual National Root Beer Float Day celebration — the second it has partnered with DAV.


The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

AW and DAV hope to raise 0,000 for the organization, which serves more than one million veterans annually. Donations also can be made online at www.rootbeerfloatday.com. The 0,000 AW raised for DAV in 2017 provided an estimated ,000,000 in direct benefits to veterans.

“AW has a longstanding relationship with America’s Armed Services,” said AW CEO Kevin Bazner, who noted that AW Root Beer was introduced at a parade honoring returning World War I veterans in 1919. “The needs of our veterans continue to grow, which is why it is so important that we use a fun event like National Root Beer Float Day to also raise funds for DAV and to call attention to veterans’ issues.”

Since it started to celebrate National Root Beer Float Day, AW has raised more than 0,000 for veterans groups. “We are grateful to AW for supporting our ill and injured veterans through National Root Beer Float Day, donating 0,000 last year to DAV,” said Marc Burgess, DAV National Adjutant and CEO. “As both AW and DAV approach their centennial anniversaries, we are proud to join together again this year to support our true American heroes for their decades of service and sacrifices to keep us free.”

Use#RootBeerFloatDay or visit www.rootbeerfloatday.com for more information.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fun facts about countries with biggest US military bases

Not including the Middle East, there were more than 225,000 U.S. military personnel stationed abroad last year. A military career is a great way to learn about different cultures. You’ll also learn some pretty cool (and sometimes strange) things about life in other countries. Here are some interesting facts about some of the countries with large U.S. military populations:


The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(Marine Corps Photo)

South Korea

Camp Humphreys is America’s largest overseas base, and it’s located in South Korea. But did you know that South Korea is also home to the world’s best airport? Incheon International Airport has consistently been ranked the best in the world. It has lush gardens, saunas, an ice skating rink, free showers and free massage chairs. It even has craft areas where you can create traditional bags and fans. It’s pretty much a tourist destination in and of itself.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Germany

It’s good to be a kid in Germany. In a tradition dating back to the 1800s, every first grader gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy. Today, some kids even get cell phones and video games. When you make it through school, you’ll also get an entirely free college education. But don’t count on standing out among your classmates for your unusual name; the government has a say over what parents name their children, and they reject strange names (including ones where the gender is not obvious).

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Japan

Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. In fact, every street in Japan has at least one vending machine (for a total of over 5 million in the country). Umbrella vending machines are helpful when it rains (versus in New York, where you’ll have to grab one from a street vendor). Forgot your tie for work? Buy one in a vending machine. You can buy every kind of food imaginable—including vegetables. There are even vending machines entirely for bananas. And here’s one Americans will love – there are toilet paper vending machines in Japan too.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Italy

The Italians take their ice cream (gelato) very seriously. In fact, there is an even an entire university dedicated to studying it and making it. It’s called Gelato University, near Bologna, and it attracts both Italians and non-Italians wanting to learn the secrets behind making this revered dessert.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(US Army Photo by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable)

Kuwait

Kuwait isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you do find yourself there, look for Sadu woven textiles. This craft goes back to the country’s nomadic peoples – even though most of the country’s population today are expatriates. Symbolism in the weaving shows the desert landscape and commemorates the nomadic lifestyle.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Battles/Released)

Turkey

Turkey is the right place if you’ve come to shop. It has one of the world’s largest and biggest shopping centers, called the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 1400s. It includes over 3,000 shops taking up over 60 streets. Many of the shops sell traditional Turkish items like ceramics, lamps, spices, rugs, jewelry, and tea.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Surprising aircraft vying to be Army’s new bird

There’s a new company vying to build the Army’s new family of helicopters, and the gyrocopter design is at least as radical as the compound helicopters being offered by Sikorsky or the tilt-rotors that Bell is building.


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Heliplane

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The company, Skyworks Global, has a history of producing gyrocopters. These look a bit like helicopters, but they’re much less complex, are often more efficient, and cost a lot less. But they have a big weakness against helicopters: they can’t traditionally take off or land vertically.

Skyworks made some progress in a 2005 DARPA program, but the program had its funding cut. Now, Skyworks has partnered with Scaled Composites, a company that rapidly develops aircraft prototypes, to make a functional version to compete in military programs.

Thanks to the lack of a rotor mast, transmission, and some other complex parts, Skyworks thinks it can make an aircraft much cheaper while still exceeding Army requirements for range and other capabilities. In fact, the firm told Flight Global that it could build a gyro for four passengers for a mere million.

That would leave a lot of upgrade money for the company to strap on sensors, a more powerful engine, and other upgrades and still stay way below the Army’s planned million per aircraft to replace the Black Hawk by 2030.

The aircraft is known as a VertiJet, and while it looks like a traditional helicopter, the physics are quite different. Basically, a traditional helicopter has a powerful engine that powers the main rotor—the spinning, horizontal blades mounted on top of the aircraft—as well as an anti-torque rotor that keeps the rest of the aircraft from spinning. The main blades produce lift and allow the helicopter to fly.

On a gyrocopter, the big blades on top of the aircraft don’t receive any engine power. Instead, power is delivered to a rotor at the front or rear of the aircraft. That sends the aircraft forward and feeds air over the blades. That air spins the blades, and that generates the lift that sends the aircraft skyward.

This has some serious advantages for the military. First, air generally flows up through a gyrocopter’s rotors instead of down, eliminating brownouts and improving pilot visibility near the ground. But there’s a severe downside, the gyrocopter has to get good forward speed before it can take off, and it can’t hover.

Skyworks turned to a 1950s experiment to fix the vertical takeoff problem. Their design feeds air up through the rotor and out of the blade tips during takeoff, causing the blades to spin like a traditional helicopter’s would during takeoff or hover. Since this is achieved with compressed air instead of engine power, they don’t need to add a transmission or masthead.

Even with Scaled Composites’ skill at rapidly developing prototypes, it’ll be pretty late to the game for the Future Armed Reconnaissance program to produce a new armed scout. But other Army programs could be a good fit, and the Marine Corps is looking for helicopters or helicopter-like aircraft that can keep up with the V-22 Osprey. Skyworks has not said what programs it will compete for with the new push.

For decades in the early 20th century, the military only flew balloons and piston-powered planes. In World War II, the first helicopters joined the war effort. Over 45 years later, the V-22 became the first tilt-rotor aircraft to enter military production. Now, there are two new aircraft designs in consideration, the compound helicopter and the gyrocopter.

The skylines over military bases are about to get a lot more interesting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch WW2 vet finally receive her service medal — during quarantine

In possibly the most polite and delightful medal ceremony of all time, World War II veteran Edna Wells, 94, was surprised with her long overdue service medal — and a few extra celebrants.

Edna, a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, was eighteen years old when she became a “Wren” — the popular term for those who served in the WRNS.

“It was great. I was just so happy to be doing my time for my country,” Edna shared of her military service.

When the war was over, Edna didn’t know that service members had to ask for their commendation medals, but thanks to her granddaughter Sharron and Joanna Lumley of the BBC, Edna finally received the gratitude she deserved.

Watch the video — and trust me, you’re going to want the sound on for her lovely Scottish lilt alone!


World War Two veteran Edna never claimed her service medal – until now?️ | VE Day 75 – BBC

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When asked what it was like to serve with “all those sailor boys” Edna joked, “Well, I had a few! And a lad in every port!”

Edna’s ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies gained victory over the Axis powers in the European Theater of World War II. Lumley asked Edna what she remembered of May 8, 1945.

“It was one party after another. Nobody did anything that day. It was just abuzz. We didn’t believe it to begin with — we went to the officers and they said, ‘Yes it’s true. The war is over,'” Edna recalled.

Lumley then hinted that Edna would be receiving her overdue medal sooner than she’d expected and invited the veteran to go outside. Waiting for her, from a respectful and safe distance, was Captain Chris Smith, regional Navy commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Smith presented Edna with her medal, placing it before her so that Sharron could pick it up and wipe it clean before hanging it from her grandmother’s collar.

Edna returned Smith’s salute with one as sharp as ever while neighbors banged pots and pans and cheered her on.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service
An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service
Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

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A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how “RED Friday” became a thing and why it still matters today

It’s a tiny act that means much more than people seem to realize. On Fridays, civilians back home wear an article of red clothing — a shirt, a tie, anything — as a reminder to all to Remember Everyone Deployed. These Fridays became known as R.E.D. Friday.

Today, you’ll see this tradition honored by most AAFES workers, military family members, and supporters of the troops, but it actually got its start about a dozen years ago. Let’s talk about how this patriotic way of showing your support for the troops that are in harm’s way got started and why it’s an important movement.


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For once, we’re lucky that forwards from grandma don’t get filtered directly into spam…

There are actually two competing origin stories of this unofficial trend. The first says it all began in 2005 with a specific email that recipients were supposed to forward to others.

That email had a very polite snippet in it for a good cause:

If every one of our members shares this with other acquaintances, fellow workers, friends, and neighbors, I guarantee that it will not be long before the USA will be covered in RED — and make our troops know there are many people thinking of their well-being. You will feel better all day Friday when you wear RED!

Now, there’s no telling if this chain email tactic is really what got people wearing red on Fridays, but if it was, it has to be one of the only times that people actually read one of those chain emails.

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The tradition may not entirely be an American concept, but the sentiment is the same. Our brothers to the North still have troops in harm’s way, too.

(Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

In March, 2006, another more-tangible movement began in Canada that implored subscribers to wear red to support the troops who are deployed. Now, there’s no telling if this movement got its start from the previously-mentioned email chain, but they do credit it as being an “American initiative.”

Military spouses Lisa Miller and Karen Boier organized an event and rallied many of their fellow Canadians to show up wearing red. While the “RED” is the color that fits the acronym, it also happens to work perfectly with the Canadian flag.

These events gathered steam and grew continuously until, eventually, its reach extended all the way up to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. On Sept 23rd, 2006, Harper led a rally of thousands in a show of solidarity for the Canadian soldiers deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

RED Fridays seem to wax and wane in terms of popularity among civilians, but the core of the movement is important: to Remember Everyone Deployed. The Global War on Terrorism is now officially older than troops eligible to enlist and serve in that same war — it’s important to remember that we’ve still got men and women out there fighting for us.

It’s not hard to show your support for the troops: Simply pick something red from your wardrobe and be ready to wear it on Friday, volunteer your time organizing care packages for troops who still need essential items, or write a deployed troop. I know from personal experience that every letter I received was a boost to morale that I happily honored with a reply. Simple gestures go a long way.

Remember everyone deployed.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 VA loan myths busted: What to know before you go

If someone were to ask me what the best advice is for someone buying a home, I would have to say “educate yourself.” I realize that sounds vague, but there is SO MUCH information, more importantly, incorrect information, out there and every family situation is unique. I’m hard-pressed to say what is most important, but breaking barriers to getting started would be first. Unfortunately, I see a lot of myths repeated on a daily basis, sometimes from fellow mortgage professionals! I will continue to share digestible pieces of information, but first, need to get these common myths out of the way, so no military family is deterred from getting started:


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There is no debt-to-income ratio cap.

The VA’s deciding factor on whether or not you can afford a loan is based on “residual income” (p.57), meaning how much money is left over every month after your debt obligations are met. This is a formula based on loan amount, geographic location and family size; it’s not always a one-size-fits-all answer. Some lenders have “overlays,” which are additional requirements that reach beyond what the VA themselves require, which is why the DTI myth is still floating around. The big takeaway here is that if you’re told by one lender your DTI is too high, they might have extra requirements on top of what the VA states, and you should SHOP AROUND! Not all lenders are created equal.

Residency requirements.

The VA has one residency requirement (pp.12-13), that you intend to make the home your primary residence and occupy “within a reasonable period of time” – usually deemed as 60 days. A spouse or dependent child can fulfill this residency requirement, but no other family member. I continuously see the myth of “one year,” circulated, but it is simply a myth. Last-minute moves and orders happen; the VA knows that, and according to their guidelines, you are not tied to live in any home for any period of time that doesn’t work for your family – period.

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County loan limits still apply for multiples.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Sec.6(a)(1)(C)(ii) that went into effect January 2020 lifted the VA county loan cap for how much money you can borrow with down, but that’s only if you have full entitlement available. A borrower can have multiple VA loans out at once, but if any entitlement is currently used, the county loan limits DO apply for bonus entitlements. You may be subject to a downpayment requirement if you exceed your remaining entitlement available.

Work history – what counts?

I repeatedly see posts in social media about a service member transitioning, receiving a new job (or job offer), and they don’t think they can qualify for a loan until two years into the job. This is totally false! Military active duty counts towards work history. The VA allows future employment income to be counted if the lender can verify a non-contingent job offer, including start date and salary. Documented retirement and disability pay also count towards qualifying income, but GI bill benefits do not.

Social media can give instant access to other people’s experiences, but some of the answers to your VA loan questions can only be found in a licensed professional. Make sure you’re talking to a lender that is passionate about educating you and your family, allowing you to make smart financial decisions. Not all financial institutions lend “by-the-book,” so ask more than one lender if something doesn’t feel right, or you’re not satisfied with the answer. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is certainly worth well more than a pound of cure!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Curious Kids: What’s it like to be a fighter pilot?

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children of all ages. The Conversation is asking young people to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome: find details on how to enter at the bottom.

What’s it like to be a fighter pilot? – Torben, aged eight, Sussex, UK.


Thanks for your question, Torben. I’m a professor working at the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory, where we study how humans respond when going into space, mountains, deserts and the sea, as well as what it’s like to be in submarines, spacecraft and, of course, jet planes.

To be a fast jet pilot, you must be fit and smart, and able to do what’s needed, even when the going gets tough. You also get to wear some very special clothes, to protect your body while flying.

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Capts. Andrew Glowa, left, and William Piepenbring launch flares from two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs Aug. 18, 2014, over southern Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

If you’re a fighter pilot, you’re not allowed to get air sick (which is a bit like getting car sick, in a plane). And you have to be the right height and weight to fit in the cockpit — and to jump out in emergencies.

Fighter jets can go 1,550 miles an hour: that’s more than twice the speed of sound, or 25 miles in a minute. So, if you live two miles from school, you could get home in less than five seconds in a fighter jet.

Only the best pilots in the world can fly a plane that goes so fast: you have to be able to think and act very quickly. To help you, modern jets listen to your voice, so you can tell them what to do — it’s called “voice command”.

Fast jets aren’t smooth to fly in, like the kind of planes you go on holiday in — they’re more like a fast fairground ride. You have to be strapped into your seat very tightly, so that you don’t get thrown around.

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First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the squadron’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

In fact, flying that fast and making lots of turns and dives can make you feel very sick. Can you imagine being sick, while wearing a mask and flying a plane at 1,000 miles an hour? That’s why fighter pilots have to be checked and trained to make sure they don’t get air sick.

Fast jet pilots also have to wear lots of special clothes to protect them in different situations. One thing they have to wear is a helmet to protect their head, and a mask with a microphone.

The mask is linked up to a system that can provide extra oxygen if anything goes wrong — after all, there’s less oxygen in the air when you’re flying very high, and humans need plenty of oxygen to breathe properly.

Standing on Earth, humans experience gravity at 1G (that’s one times the acceleration due to gravity). But when fighter jets make fast turns and rolls, the pilot can experience up to 9G (by comparison, roller coasters only produce 3-6G). That means they feel nine times heavier, which can be very unpleasant and would make most people black out.

To help with this, fighter pilots also wear special trousers that squeeze their legs tightly when they go round bends — this keeps the blood pumping up to their brain, to stop them from fainting: trust me, you don’t want to faint when flying a fast jet.

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Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II, March 6, 2013.

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

Fast jet pilots may also have to wear a flying suit, a life jacket and an “immersion suit” — that’s a suit which keeps you warm and dry, if you end up in the sea. They may also wear another suit to protect them from chemicals and other dangerous things.

All this kit and clothing can make a fighter pilot pretty hot. Plus the jet has a plastic lid and lots of very clever electronics, which can also heat up the cockpit. And when the plane goes fast through the air, it warms up due to friction — like when you rub your hands together fast.

To stay cool, fighter pilots can wear a special vest with long small tubes in it, which pump cold water around. Or, they can wear a suit next to their skin which has cold air blowing through it.

Pilots sit on a rocket-powered ejector seat, so if he or she gets into trouble, they can pull a handle and be blasted up into the air and away from the crashing plane.

Luckily, the seat has a parachute that opens up and lets them float down to the ground safely. But the force of the ejection actually makes them shorter for a little while afterwards.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. You can:

  • Email your question to curiouskids@theconversation.com
  • Tell us on Twitter by tagging @ConversationUK with the hashtag #curiouskids, or
  • Message us on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Fortnite’ announces ‘The End’ as final season powers down

The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”

It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.


If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.

Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.

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

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