Here's why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

This fall, Air Force fighter pilots taking to the skies to train might find themselves going up against a ghost.


Pilots chasing “enemy” jets in air-to-air dog-fighting exercises or avoiding them during training targeting runs will see the familiar sign of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is converting older-generation, retired F-16 fighters that were wrapped and stored at the military’s aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert into the latest unmanned drone called the “QF-16.”

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)

The QF-16 is a “full scale aerial target” and for all intents and purposes it looks like the sleek, single-engine jet that was built by General Dynamics (now part of Lockheed Martin) and first flown during the height of the Cold War — with the same body, same size, same profile, same maneuverability as the manned Fighting Falcon. The target drone is converted so it has similar radar signatures and capabilities as potential adversary aircraft – including the latest generation of the multi-role F-16 flying today – that U.S. pilots might encounter in the not-so-friendly skies.

The Air Force’s F-16 drone program became fully operational in September when the Air Combat Command declared it had reached initial operational capability.

“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, who commands the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, said in a Sept. 26 news release. The squadron belongs to the 53th Wing, which serves as the Air Force’s only operational test unit.

The orange-tipped jet drones can break the sound barrier in supersonic flight, sans pilot – and even reach 9Gs. That’s as tough as the latest high-tech jets out there — U.S.-built or otherwise. The “pilot,” though, is on the ground, controlling the drone just as other unmanned aircraft .

Various onboard sensors and instruments in the drone jet collect data and information that can be used by whoever’s got the finger on a missile (or other ordnance and weaponry) directed at it from the ground control station. During a 2014 ground missile test fired at the drone that registered a “kill” hit, an engineer described its role as a target to help in weapons training.

“The QF-16’s mission is really to act as a target and validate weapons systems. So, we do have a scoring system on the airplane and its job is to tell us basically how close the missile came and its trajectory,” Paul Cejas, a chief engineer, said in a Boeing news release.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4 as the next generation aerial target. (Courtesy photo)

St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space Security got the first contract in 2010 to create as many as 126 of the drones. It flew the first unmanned flight – with an empty cockpit – over Tyndall AFB in Florida’s Panhandle in 2013.

As of March, Boeing had delivered 11 QF-16s to the Air Force, and the most-recent contract called for the conversion of another 30 target drones, according to the company. Several dozen retired jets are undergoing conversion. The F-16s are pulled from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where several hundred of the mothballed jets are parked in the sun outside of Tucson, Arizona. Crews with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group help prepare for the trek to Florida, where the bulk of the conversion work is done.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
The first QF-16 arrives at Tyndall escorted by a QF-4 Nov. 19. The QF-16 will undergo developmental testing by Boeing and eventually become part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. At this time, the group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing)

The QF-16 isn’t the first unmanned fighter-like drone. But it is the latest generation, replacing the QF-4, an aerial target created from the previous generation of F-4 Phantom jets, which saw their glory during the Vietnam War.

There’s simply not enough of them left, and time has aged them toward obsolescence. The Air Force flew its final QF-4 mission on Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and the service plans to officially retire it in December.

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The Pentagon wants to buy your homemade bomb

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.


Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.

“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.

“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”

To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.

Learn more about the DARPA project here.

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Ms. Vet Finalist Recounts Night With Justin Timberlake

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Justin Timberlake with Corporal Kelsey DeSantis at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on Nov. 12, 2011.


Kelsey DeSantis’ accomplished much during her enlistment, including being the honor grad of her boot camp class and qualifying as one of the few female trainers at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. But in pop music circles she is perhaps best known for having Justin Timberlake as her date for the Birthday Ball in 2011.

“I didn’t do it because I used to wear N-Synch t-shirts or was a fan at all,” DeSantis told WATM while she prepped to compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America in mid-October of this year. “I did it because I was studying for the sergeants board and I had to know current events.”

“I had two female civilian roommates at the time and they were helping me study,” she explained. “One of them said, ‘Oh, look, Mila Kunis got invited to the Marine Corp Birthday Ball.'”

At the time Kunis and Timberlake were doing interviews to promote the movie “Friends and Benefits” that co-starred them. One interviewer brought up the fact that Kunis had been invited to the USMC Birthday Ball by a Marine in Afghanistan who’d posted a video on YouTube. Kunis claimed she’d never seen the video, which caused Timberlake to emphatically encourage her to attend, saying “you have to serve your country.”

Timberlake’s enthusiasm and the way he framed Kunis’ obligation to attend as a form of national service didn’t impress DeSantis. “He said it about three of four times – ‘do it for your country; serve your country – which made my blood boil,” she said. “I was like . . . really?”

So the young corporal decided to make a YouTube video of her own inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. “I wasn’t even sure where the ball was being held,” she said. “I thought it was going to be in Washington when it actually was going on in Richmond.”

DeSantis had never produced a video for YouTube, but she had a basic concept in mind: she’d address the camera with the appropriate mix of directness and sass with a line of her fellow Marines standing behind her. The next day she asked one of her senior enlisted guys if he’d be in the video, knowing that if he participated she’d also get others to join. The tactic worked, and without wasting any time the group assembled and shot the video. “We did it in one take,” DeSantis said.

“You want to call out my girl Mila?” De Santis says to Timberlake in the video. “Well, I’m going to call you out and ask you to come to the Marine Corps ball with me on November 12. If you can’t go, all I have to say is, cry me a river.”

As soon as the video hit YouTube “it blew up,” DeSantis said. Her CO called her in and ordered her to take it down. She demurred, saying that her roommates had posted the video on a special Facebook page they created to entreat Timberlake to respond and she had no control over that.

The concern of higher-ups intensified when Timberlake wound up accepting. But instead of fighting it, the Marine Corps public affairs machine decided to use the pop star’s attendance as a vehicle to promote the service in a positive light.

The night proved to be very successful from all points of view, including those of DeSantis and Timberlake. They shared one dance and a hug at the end of the evening.

“He was a complete gentlemen,” DeSantis said. “You could tell he genuinely enjoyed himself.”

For his part, the next day Timberlake posted his sentiments on his blog, describing the Marine Corps Birthday Ball as “one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had.”

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Kelsey DeSantis at the Ms. Vet America event in Leesburg, Virginia in Oct. 2014. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

DeSantis’ enlistment ended the following year, and she left the Corps to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and to pursue her passion for veteran advocacy. The MMA part of the plan was interrupted earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant.

She feared her pregnancy would jeopardize her ability to be a contestant in the Ms. Vet America event to which she’d committed after being selected as a finalist, but when she informed Jas Boothe, the event founder, Boothe replied, “Are you kidding me? This is what we’re all about.”

DeSantis was eight months along during the Ms. Veteran America event, and her proud presence on the runway among her fellow contestants was evidence that this wasn’t just another beauty pageant.

See Kelsey Desantis in The Mighty TV mini doc about the Ms. Veteran America Event here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

India has the second-largest military in the world with about 1,444,000 active personnel. By comparison, the United States is the third-largest with about 1,400,000. The nation with the largest military in the world, and a not-so-friendly neighbor to India, is China at 2,183,000. In recent years and months, skirmishes along the border with China have prompted modernization efforts throughout India’s military forces.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Indian soldiers equipped with INSAS rifles (Indian Army)

Since 1998, the standard-issue infantry rifle of the Indian Army has been the domestically produced Indian Small Arms System rifle. The INSAS is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO like the M4/M16 family and includes carbine and light machine gun variants. However, the INSAS received poor reviews from Indian and Nepali soldiers. In battle, the weapon was prone to jams, the magazines were prone to cracking, and the 5.56x45mm NATO round lacked stopping power.

In March 2019, the Indian military announced that the INSAS family would be retired. The light machine gun variants were replaced by the Negev Ng7 produced by Israel Weapon Industries. Conversely, the rifles would be replaced by the domestically-manufactured AK-203. Chambered in the venerable 7.62x39mm and based on the AK-74M, the AK-203 was designed in Russia and produced at the Amethi ordnance factory in India under license.

The same year, India announced a deal with Sig Sauer to purchase 72,400 rifles chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. “We are very proud, and honored that the SIG716 was chosen for use by the fighting forces of the Indian Army, and we are looking forward to developing a strong partnership with India’s Ministry of Defence,” said Ron Cohen, President and CEO of Sig Sauer. The New Hampshire-based company is hot on government contracts as it continues to supply the U.S. military with its new sidearm, the M17/M18 pistol. Sig Sauer also recently won a contract to provide the U.S. Army with a new combat rifle optic.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
The SIG716 was designed as a precision rifle with military and law enforcement marksmen in mind (Sig Sauer)

Although, the exact specifications of the Indian SIG716 rifles was not released, the weapon does appear to differ slightly from the off-the-shelf variant. Though the rifle is offered in direct-impingement and short-stroke piston gas systems, the Indian model appears to use the former. Additionally, the Indian model features 1913 rails on the 12 and 6 o’clock of the handguard, a feature not found on commercial variants of the SIG716. The rifle uses standard AR-15 controls like the charging handle, bolt catch/release, and magazine release. It features an ambidextrous selector switch and accepts AR10/SR25-style magazines. The rifles purchased by India also include a full-auto fire mode, although the practicality of an automatic infantry rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO is up for debate.

The first shipments of the SIG716 have already been issued to the troops of the Indian Army’s Northern Command. Moreover, in July 2020, India doubled down on their purchase. “We are going to place an order for 72,000 more of these rifles under the financial powers granted to the armed forces,” Defence sources told Asian News International. The exact reason for the return purchase is unknown. However, slow production of the Russian-licensed AK-203s may be to blame. Whatever the reason, India has seen a need to equip more soldiers with better rifles, and fast.

During his trip to India in February 2020, President Trump addressed a crowd in Ahmedabad at the world’s largest cricket stadium on the economic partnership between India and the United States. “India is now a major market for American exports,” the President said, “and the United States is India’s largest export market.” With over 140,000 rifles on order to India and an indefinite quantity contract with the U.S. military for the M17/M18 pistol, the folks in Sig Sauer’s defense contracting department are surely due for a hefty Christmas bonus this year.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
An Indian soldier takes aim with the new SIG716 (Indian Army)
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This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

That satisfying “Ping!” of bullets on target is as regular as a metronome when former Green Beret sniper, Aaron Barruga, is running tactical marksmanship drills on his home turf in Santa Clarita, CA. With his company, Guerrilla Approach, Barruga trains civilians, military, and law enforcement in proper and effective tactical firearm deployment.

The man does not miss.


“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis paid a visit to Barruga’s training facility to bone up on his sharpshooting and found himself in good hands, drilling shoulder to shoulder with this veteran entrepreneurial success story. Barruga’s advice?

“I would definitely say that, if they have the opportunity, use that G.I. Bill. Get that piece of paper that says, “I’m smart and employable.” And just grind away, basically. You gotta hustle.”

As the day progresses, the sweat beading on Ryan’s brow is a testament to his hustle, if not his dead shot accuracy. And when he challenges Barruga to an Old West-style duel, our host quickly learns what high noon looks like at the Less-than-OK Corral.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Mommy? (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Barruga makes plinking targets look easy, and Curtis proves his monkey is definitely the drunkest, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

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‘Avengers – Age Of Ultron’ lays claim to ‘greatest ensemble in the history of cinema’

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
(Photo: Marvel Studios)


How does director Joss Whedon follow the success of the first Avengers movie, that $220 million budget ensemble cast epic that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide?

“With the smallest thing I can think of,” Whedon said at a recent gathering of the cast at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? It’s never the big picture stuff – although that’s cool too – it’s how can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? I write reams and reams of paper just thinking about the tiniest part.”

But “tiny” is not the first word one might use to describe the sequel, “Avengers – Age of Ultron.” It is a big movie in most ways that picks up where “Avengers” left off, taking the interpersonal and witty aspects of the team to the next level while hurtling full tilt across the screen for the duration.

“I read the script, and I said, ‘This is great; let’s go shoot it,'” said Robert Downey, Jr., who returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man. “It’s a Swiss watch to begin with, and Josh really created some great new situations for Tony to be in.”

James Spader plays Ultron – the evil robot who’s trying to use artificial intelligence to destroy the world – and the actor found the Whedon’s production process a challenge to keep up with.

“I really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very quickly,” Spader said. “I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit and all this gear and I went through a range of motion and within 15 minutes I was watching me on a monitor move around this big room as Ultron. That pace was what it was throughout the entire project.”

Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, a character who many fans felt got short shrift in terms of screen time in the first movie. But that’s not the case in “Age of Ultron.”

“I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” joked Renner. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome, and dive into some killer aspects of the character.”

As Renner’s Hawkeye role grew so too did that of Black Widow, played once again by Scarlett Johansson.

“There some sense of normal in a way at the beginning of Avengers 2,” Johansson said. “But at the end she let her guard down. . . She had this moment of false hope. She put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay off, but she realizes her calling is a greater one. That’s not something she’s necessarily thrilled about, but that’s what’s most heroic about her.”

Johansson (who was pregnant during the shooting of the film) also allowed that her action sequences were the result of a multi-person effort. “There’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and badass motorcycle riding happen. All that work being seamless takes a lot of choreography and team spirit.”

Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Banner who turns into The Hulk when provoked, and when asked what methods he draws on acting-wise to differentiate between the two forms, he joked, “I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that except for the accent I was using, maybe.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige summed up the state of the Avengers brand by reflecting on how far it’s come in the last ten years or so: “It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios, and then it continued with Robert in ‘Iron Man 1’ and having Samuel L. Jackson come in in the end and say, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,’ thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant . . . but the world got it much more quickly than I anticipated.”

Feige pointed down the table at the cast and said, “It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

Now: Revolutionary War history gets complicated in Season Two of ‘Turn’

OR: Watch ‘Captain America’ in under 3 minutes:

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


AIR FORCE:

Eleven C-17 Globemaster IIIs line up on the runway at Moses Lake, Wash., after an airdrop during exercise Rainier War Dec. 10, 2015. Rainier War is a semiannual large formation exercise, hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing, designed to train aircrews under realistic scenarios that support a full spectrum operations against modern threats and replicate today’s contingency operations.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Divine Cox

An F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during exercise Razor Talon Dec. 14, 2015, over the coast of North Carolina. The aircrew and other support units from multiple bases conducted training missions designed to bolster cohesion between forces.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho

ARMY:

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska drops off United States Air Force Airmen during a field training exercise at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Alaska, Dec. 9, 2015.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

An explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, assigned to the 20th CBRNE Command, checks for a simulated improvised explosive device during an exercise at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Dec. 9, 2015.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Zachary Burke

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Dec. 14, 2015) Capt. Brian Quin, commanding officer of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), takes a “selfie” with Tigers during a Tiger Cruise. Essex is the flagship of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU), is deployed to the 3rd Fleet area of responsibility.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason M. Graham

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 10, 2015) Santa Claus gives a pediatric patient a gift at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Santa Claus and NMCSD staff members brought patients toys and cookies to lift their holiday spirits.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 5, 2015. During this exercise the unit conducted maneuvers as a mechanized infantry company in preparation for upcoming operations.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi

A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461, sits on top of a CH-53E Super Stallion aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Dec. 15, 2015. HMH-461 conducted helicopter rope suspension training with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Recon Battalion.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

COAST GUARD:

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba returns to their homeport of Boston, Dec. 19, 2015, following a successful 52-day deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The crew aboard the Escanaba successfully interdicted 1,009 kilograms of cocaine, two vessels, and five suspects, in support of Operation Roundturn.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles crew conducts emergency aircraft evacuation trainingSubscribe to Unit Newswire Subscribe 2 Crew members of Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles conducted emergency aircraft evacuation training at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 16, 2015. Each member is harnessed into an aircraft seat situated inside a metal simulated aircraft cabin.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

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Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

President Barack Obama commuted the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence on Tuesday, with only three days left in office.


Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.

She received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.

Manning, a transgender woman, has attempted suicide twice while in prison.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said last week that he’d agree to be extradited to the US if Obama grants clemency to Manning.

The US has threatened to prosecute Assange over the 2010 leak. Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, to avoid extradition to Sweden where he has been accused of sexual assault.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there’s a “pretty stark difference” between Manning’s case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Chelsea Manning | via Twitter

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Snowden declared his support for Manning on Twitter.

“In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!” Snowden tweeted.

The president has not granted clemency to Snowden.

Obama pardoned 64 other people on Tuesday and shortened the sentences of 209 prisoners. Over his two terms, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people and granted 212 pardons.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines are testing out a new ‘lethal’ grenade launcher

The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.

The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.

“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.


The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.

“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)

Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.

In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.

The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.

The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.

“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”

The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.

“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.

Analyses supports sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.

The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.

During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.

“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.

The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.

“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”

However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.

“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”

Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.

“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army wants huge 40mm cannons on Bradleys and Strykers

BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.

“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.


CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.

The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
(Photo by BAE Systems)

The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.

Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.

One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.

Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.

He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.

Articles

US military helicopter crashes off southern coast of Yemen

A US military Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the southern coast of Yemen while training its crew, leaving one service member missing, officials said.


Five others aboard the aircraft were rescued, officials said in a statement issued by US Central Command.

The crash took place on August 25. Officials said the accident was under investigation.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Photo from DoD.

Asked if the crash involved another special forces raid, Central Command told The Associated Press that “this was a routine training event specifically for US military personnel.”

“Training events such as this are routinely held by US forces within a theater of operations in order to maintain their proficiency within the operating environment,” CENTCOM told the AP in a statement.

“Commanders deemed this location appropriate and safe for a routine training event, considering both the operational environment and weather conditions at the time.”

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
A Missouri Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter (left) sits next to an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on the flightline. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik.

Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen, with at least 80 launched since the end of February.

A small number of ground raids using US Special Operations forces have also taken place, including one in January which resulted in the death of a US Navy Seal.

Articles

How this letter from a genius pacifist inspired the US to build the most powerful weapon known to man

A month before World War II, German-born genius Albert Einstein wrote a two-page letter that launched the US into a nuclear arms race against the Nazis.


In the 1939 letter, Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that a massive nuclear chain reaction involving uranium could lead to the construction of “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” — the atomic bomb.

Einstein, a pacifist who fled Nazi Germany, learned that three chemists in Berlin were on the brink of perfecting a game-changing weapon after they used nuclear fission to successfully split the uranium atom. The reaction released an unprecedented amount of energy, capable of powering a massive bomb.

“A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory,” Einstein wrote to Roosevelt.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Photo: US National Archives

Two years later, and after multiple letters from Einstein, the US created the “Manhattan Project,” America’s plan to design and build the most devastating weapons ever produced up to that time.

Because he did not have a security clearance, Einstein didn’t work on the Manhattan Project. But his simple, eloquent formula E=mc2 appeared in physicist Henry DeWolf Smyth’s report, the first official account of the development of the atomic bomb in 1945.

Einstein’s letters played more of a role in the construction of the bomb than his equation. His formula showed that atomic bombs were theoretically possible, but the equation was irrelevant in the actual creation of a bomb.

Here is the letter that launched America’s A-bomb research:

And here’s President Roosevelt’s response to Einstein:

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped a 5-ton atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The blast killed 80,000 people immediately and leveled four square miles of the city.

Three days later, the US dropped another bomb on Japan’s Nagasaki, killing about 40,000 people instantly; thousands more would die of radiation poisoning.

Eight days later, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
Photos: US Army Air Force

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Air Force defends nuclear cruise missile

The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.


At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated — given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs, and submarine-launched nuclear firepower.

However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
US Air Force image by R.L. House

Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.

The Long Range Stand-Off, or LRSO, weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52.  The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.

Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.

While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
AGM-86 ALCM cruise missile

“We’ve had cruise missiles for a very long time. The first cruise missile was the hound dog, so we’ve had cruise missiles since the 1970’s and what we’re doing now is developing a long-range standoff weapon for a modern A2-AD (defensed Anti-Access/Area Denial) environment. People write articles that say these weapons are destabilizing, but I don’t understand that. They’re not destabilizing when they’re protecting your nation,” Weinstein said.

In effect, the rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.

Furthermore, Dave Majumdar from The National Interest writes that Russia is now developing a next-generation S-500 air-defense system able to destroy enemy aircraft at distances up to 125 miles.

Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.

Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber or services now-in-development next-generation bomber, the B-21, might be challenged to attack without detection.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
A B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

A stealthy, high-tech nuclear armed cruise missile, such as an LRSO, may indeed in some cases be one of a very few weapons able to hold certain heavily defended or hard-to-reach targets at risk.

The U.S. Air Force has released a request for proposals, RFP, to industry for its Long Range Standoff, or LRSO, nuclear cruise missile program.  Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017, a service statement said.

A report in “Inside Defense” says the service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.

Along these lines, a report from “War is Boring” explains that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 calls for around $1.8 billion in spending on the missile during the next five years.

“There will be two versions—one to carry an updated W80 thermonuclear warhead, and another packed with conventional explosives for non-nuclear attacks,” the War is Boring report states.

The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.

LRSO to Keep the Peace

Weinstein made the argument that if, for example, the Russian military believed having an advanced nuclear cruise missile would give them a distinct advantage – they would be likely to pursue it. As a result, US deterrence strategy needs to ensure its offensive nuclear fire power can match or exceed that of any potential rival. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for why many US military leaders believe it is vital for the Air Force to have an operational LRSO.

“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” he said.

However, several reports have cited a group of US Senators who are making the case against development of LRSO, claiming it would both be redundant, too costly and too “destabilizing.” The concern, grounded in nuclear non-proliferation sensibilities, maintains it could further inspire nuclear arms-race type provocations and introduce new, more threatening elements into the air-triad of the nuclear arsenal.

In addition, a report in The National Interest cites the Federation of American Scientists as saying that LRSO would be redundant, expensive and not necessary.

“The FAS believes that a new, stealthy and conventionally armed cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is a better and cheaper choice. “The new nuclear cruise missile will not be able to threaten targets that cannot be threatened with other existing nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, according to the report from Mike Peck of The National Interest.

At the same time, the FAS statement does not seem to address the concern from Air Force leaders that a longer-range nuclear threat may, in fact, be necessary in today’s high-tech threat environment. The LRSO, naturally, is being engineered to launch both nuclear and conventional attacks. While many details and plans for the weapon are, quite naturally, not available for public discussion, it takes little imagination to point out that the LRSO is being designed to be much more capable than both the ALCM and JASSM-ER in terms of range, command and control technology and stealth characteristics.

Weinstein also reiterated that the existence of an LRSO will not destabilize decision-making regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons. He emphasized that, despite the presence of an LRSO, nuclear weapons will only be fired by the President of the United States.

“The actual truism when it comes to nuclear weapons is that no one in the United States military releases nuclear weapons – nobody. The President of the United States releases nuclear weapons, therefore when we develop new capability based on the environment we’re in, based on defensive systems that other nations have, it doesn’t make us able to use them any quicker or any faster,” Weinstein explained.

LRSO B-52

The historic and somewhat iconic B-52, which is now bombing ISIS, will be among the platforms to be armed with the emerging LRSO; the idea is to equip the large bomber with long-range conventional and nuclear attack potential. The Air Force is now upgrading the platform with new radios, data links, avionics and weapons capability to ensure the older aircraft remains relevant and function for at least several more decades.

Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts
A B-52 Stratofortress | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths

“You have to look at the history of it. We needed something that would go high and fast and penetrate to say – ‘well the world has changed.’ It goes low and we use it in conventional conflicts, and then we use it to fight ISIS and we use it to defend on a nuclear standpoint, and it’s a great platform that has many years left in it,” Weinstein said.

Air Force Statement: LRSO Acquisition

“The RFP identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase.  After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors.  The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.”

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