The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

The Air Force and Boeing have reached agreement on delivery of the long delayed KC-46 Pegasus tanker, with the two sides expecting the first aircraft to arrive in October 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Boeing’s original deadline to deliver 18 planes and additional materials was August 2017, but the $44 billion program has been hit by numerous delays and setbacks, and the Air Force said this spring it expected Boeing to miss its deadline to deliver the planes by October 2018, with the first KC-46 not arriving until the end of 2018 and all 18 planes by spring 2019.

The delivery of the first KC-46 by October 2018 is two months earlier than the Air Force anticipated. Matthew Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg the timeline was “aggressive but achievable.” Under the new schedule, the other 17 planes will arrive by April 2019.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the KC-46. Once it begins receiving them, the service will start phasing out its older KC-10 tankers. It will hold on to 300 of its KC-135 tankers, which average 55 years old. That would expand the tanker fleet to 479 KC-135s and KC-46s from the current 455 KC-135s and KC-10s.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt, July 15, 2016.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

Under their contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. But delays in delivery could mean the Air Force will have to keep 19 KC-135s in service through 2023 at a cost of up to $10 million a plane annually.

The most serious problem facing the tanker has been the risk of its refueling boom scraping the surface of planes receiving fuel, which can damage stealth aircraft and potentially ground the tanker.

Other issues include the operation of the remote vision system, which is used to guide the boom; problems with the unexpected disconnection of its centerline drogue system, which is used to refuel aircraft; and concerns about the plane’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the plane to broadcast. The latter two issues were downgraded to category-two deficiencies early 2018.


Settling on a delivery date may mean that both sides believe Boeing is close to resolving the tanker’s deficiencies. Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg that a software fix for the boom scrapping the receiving aircraft is undergoing flight testing and that flight test verification for the fixes is set for September 2018.

‘It is prudent to explore options’

The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging tankers for years, and military officials have been critical of the recent delays, even as they’ve complimented Boeing on its cooperation.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told acquisition officials in November 2017 that he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.

Early 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee that “one of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these airplanes to the Air Force.”

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
The KC-46A Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time, October 9, 2015. The boom is the fastest way to refuel aircraft at 1,200 gallons a minute.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

Her remarks came a few days after Donovan encouraged Boeing to “double down” to “get this program over the goal line” during a visit to the KC-46 production and modification facility in Washington state.

Even as the KC-46 program inches forward, lawmakers are looking beyond the current, manned tankers to adapt to emerging threats.

It its markup of the 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern “about the growing threat to large high-value aircraft in contested environments” and recommended an extra $10 million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation, for a total of $38.4 million.

While the Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.

“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” it added.

Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, part of an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage, an issue that has plagued both civilian and military aviation.

Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is also working on a similar project, partnering with Kronstadt Group to develop an unmanned transport aircraft that could be used to access remote or difficult-to-reach areas.

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

popular

3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.


While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.

Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.

In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.

1. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.

Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.

You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.

 

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
TMARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California – Marines with Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion stand on line and perform rifle drills during a combat marksmanship program led by Expeditionary Operations Training Group.

 

2. Their proud history is different.

The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said,  “Oh sh*t,” to themselves as they realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.

So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.

In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.

At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.

 

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
These men have earned the bloody reputation of being skillful jungle fighters. They are U.S. Marine Raiders gathered in front of a Japanese dugout on Cape Torokina on Bougainville, Solomon Islands, which they helped to take, 01/1944. National Archives

 

3. Their missions are different

Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.

Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.

Also Read: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

Check out Nick Koumalatsos‘ video below for a detailed summary of these key differences.

(Nick Koumalatsos| YouTube)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch: Army Marksman Splits Playing Card With a Pistol

By and large, anyone who has worn the uniform for longer than a day should be a good enough shot to hit a target at the range. But when it comes to being a U.S. Army Marksman, your game has to be on point.

Enter Staff Sgt. Carl Clegg, a U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol Team Soldier who competes for the Army in bullseye competitions.

Dwight D. Eisenhower established the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 1956. Its mission was to win international competitions which were dominated at the time by the Soviet Union. The unit would go on to underpin U.S. Olympics shooting teams, including the 1964 team which yielded seven medals at that year’s Summer Olympics. Six of the seven medals were won by Army Marksmanship Unit members.

The USAMU enjoys a reputation as one of the country’s premier school for competitive shooting. It also aids in the training of U.S. military snipers and assists in the development of weapons.

Shooters like Clegg need to train with challenges that push the boundaries of marksmanship. They are also routinely coming up with trick shots to hone and showcase their skills. For the challenge in this video, SSG Clegg has decided to try and slice a playing card lengthwise in half. You read that right. He’s attempting to hit a single playing card lengthwise with a round from a service pistol. Most playing cards measure about 0.17 to 0.24mm thick. That is thinner than a grain of salt…

The trick? SSG Clegg shoots with one hand. And before you cry bull, remember, this is no long rifle with a high-powered scope.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army just taught Girl Scouts to use military robots

Soldiers of the 773rd Civil Support Team took their survey robot to Sembach Middle School in Germany to help the Girl Scouts earn their robotics patch.


Sembach Juniors Troop 991 hosted the Army Reserve soldiers for the afternoon. The three-person team demonstrated the capabilities and the functions of the Talon IV robot, nicknamed “Veronica” by the survey team.

“I think they enjoyed everything about the robot, seeing it move, being able to touch it,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick McNeely, survey team member with the 773rd CST. “I think they were just thoroughly excited about the whole idea of seeing a robot.”

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
A Talon tracked military robot. (DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders not only got to see the robot in action, climbing stairs and opening a door, but also were able to ask the soldiers questions about how the robot worked.

Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, the survey team chief, and Spc. Jonathan Boyden answered the questions and showed the girls all the things Veronica can do.

“Today we experienced a mechanical robot,” said Gabrielle Shields, a fifth grader at Sembach Middle School and member of the troop. “It can detect smoke bombs and it can smell and sense stuff … and it goes on missions and it can go under water and it can move up and down stairs.”

Also Read: This robotic Kobra bites IEDs and can move an NFL lineman

The robot can do amazing things, said Madison Perkins, another fifth-grader.

“I loved that it could climb stairs and that it has a laser and it had some cool lights on it,” she said.

The 773rd CST soldiers stayed for the rest of the Monday afternoon meeting and helped the juniors to plan and build their robots.

Here are a few photos from the day:

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 examine the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School. The Juniors were earning the robotics patch, and the 773rd CST brought the robot for the meeting.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, shows Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 how the Talon IV surveying robot can open a door Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, demonstrates the Talon IV surveying robot to the Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 react to the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, 773rd Civil Support Team survey team chief, talks to Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 as her team prepares to demonstrate the Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 pose with Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

American troops tried out this DroneKiller rifle in the field

As the fight continues with radical Islamic terrorist groups, like ISIS, enemies have begun to use drones against the coalition. These drones aren’t like the MQ-1 Predator (now retired) or the MQ-9 Reaper as used by the U.S. military. Instead, they’re commercially available quadcopter drones, like the ones you’d find on Amazon.


The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

The IXI DroneKiller comes in at seven and a half pounds and blocks five frequency bands.

(IXI Tech photo)

In the hands of the enemy, these small consumer-market devices are proving lethal, either directly or indirectly. So, coalition forces want to shoot them down. Unfortunately, there’s a problem — even a basic quadcopter drone can fly reasonably high (high enough to collide with aircraft). Plus, these things are small — which makes them both elusive and cheap.

So, to shoot them down, you’d be dispensing a lot of ammo for very little in terms of results. Plus, pumping bullets into the air quickly reminds us of the old saying, “what goes up must come down.” In fact, civilian casualties from anti-aircraft fire are not uncommon. A number of the civilian casualties during Pearl Harbor came from American anti-aircraft fire.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

A next-generation version of the DroneKiller, shown here at SeaAirSpace 2018, can fit under a M4 carbine.

(Harold Hutchison)

So, instead of shooting at a blip in the sky, the armed forces have made a push for a way to take out the ISIS drones without putting civilians at risk. One company, IXI Tech, came up with something they call, aptly, the DroneKiller. This system looks a lot like a Star Wars Stormtrooper’s blaster, but in a more tactically appropriate color. This system can block five frequency bands and disable a hostile drone (sending it crashing to the earth). The system was tested last month at ANTX 2018.


The DroneKiller weighs about seven and a half pounds, a little less than a SKS rifle. It has an effective range of 800 meters (roughly a half-mile) and can operate for four hours in active mode. It can be easily updated thanks to a USB port.

But what’s really interesting is a version of the DroneKiller that can be mounted on a M16 rifle, just like the M203 and M320 grenade launchers. Soon, every fire team could have a drone killer to go with a grenadier and SAW gunner!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s first woman fighter pilot was inspired by ‘Top Gun’

When Misa Matsushima joined the Japan Air Self Defense Force, she was one of 13,707 women service members who made up just 6.1% of all Japanese troops.

Four years later, now 1st Lt. Matsushima is in even more rarified air: The 26-year-old was named as Japan’s first female fighter pilot on Aug 24, 2018.


For Matsushima, the achievement was inspired by the movie that made the fighter jock a mainstream figure.

“Ever since I saw the movie ‘Top Gun’ when I was in primary school, I have always admired fighter jet pilots,” Matsushima told reporters on Aug 23, 2018.

“As the first female (fighter) pilot, I will open the way. I would like work hard to meet people’s expectations and show my gratitude to people who have been supporting me,” she added. “I want to become a full-fledged pilot, no different from men, as soon as possible.”

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force / Twitter)

Originally from Yokohama in eastern Japan, Matsushima graduated from the National Defense Academy in 2014. After that she got her pilot’s license and moved to fighter-pilot training with the JASDF.

Matsushima completed the fighter-pilot course alongside five men and is expected to start flying F-15s in six months to a year. The F-15J that the JASDF flies is a twin-engine fighter designed for air-to-air combat. It can hit a top speed of Mach 2.5 — nearly 2,000 mph.

She has to undergo further training to qualify to scramble the jet to intercept aircraft that enter Japanese airspace. She will be stationed at Nyutabaru air base on the eastern coast of Kyushu, the southern most of Japan’s four main islands.

Her appointment comes amid a broader move toward gender equality in Japan’s armed forces, which are also trying to grow their ranks.

Japan’s Air Self Defense Force opened many of its positions to women in 1993, but they were still barred from fighter and reconnaissance aircraft until 2015, when the prohibition was lifted as part of an effort to increase the number of women in the service. Matsushima had planned to fly transport planes before the restriction was lifted.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force / Twitter)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged in 2013 to empower more women to join the workforce, a landmark move for a leader in a society that has long been male-dominated.

Spring 2018, Japan’s Defense Ministry began several initiatives to boost the number of women in the military from the current 6.1% of the 228,000-strong force to 9% by 2030. Women are 16% of the US’s military’s roughly 1.29 million enlisted personnel.

Other women have achieved similar feats. Ryoko Azuma became the first woman to command a warship squadron in early 2018, a decade after Tokyo lifted a ban on women serving on warships. Women are still barred from submarines.

But Japan remains profoundly unequal for women. The country slid three spots in the World Economic Forum’s global gender-equality rankings for 2017, falling from 111 to 114 out of 144 countries. That drop was driven largely by the low proportion of women lawmakers and Cabinet ministers.

Matsushima’s accomplishment comes amid a broader push by the hawkish Abe government to grow the military. The Defense Ministry said in early August 2018 that it would raise the maximum age for military recruits form 26 to 32 to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to the country’s low birth rates and aging population.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How much a beer costs in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world

Three cities currently share the title of most expensive city in the world — Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore — and, across those cities, the average price for a beer ranges from $1.77 and $2.27.

That’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report, which uses over 400 prices across 160 different products and services — including food and drink — to calculate rankings. Among these products is the average cost of a bottle of beer (330 ml).


Some cities, such as Copenhagen — home to major brewing company Carlsberg — saw price drops when compared to last year’s average prices. New York, meanwhile, led the charge with the highest price per beer bottle.

Keep reading for a look at the cost of beer in 10 of the most expensive cities worldwide, along with some of the areas’ best-known breweries. All prices are in USD.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / Ralf Steinberger)

Tel Aviv, Israel: .94

City ranking by cost of living: 10

Tel Aviv’s price per beer bottle dropped 25 cents from last year’s price of .19. Though Israel’s two major breweries are located farther up the coast in Ashkelon and Netanya, Tel Aviv is home to micro-breweries such as The Dancing Camel Brewing Company.

Source: Time Out, Hareetz, Bloomberg, Tempo, Carlsberg

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr photo by Jörg Schubert)

New York, USA: .33

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with Copenhagen and Seoul)

New York has the highest price per bottle. The city is known for its breweries, and while many are upstate, several are located in the city area. Brooklyn especially is infamous for new pop-ups — including Circa Brewing Company and Five Boroughs Brewing Company — along with Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, which was established in 1988. Overall, the price of beer in New York changed only eight cents, rising from last year’s price of .25.

Source: Time Out, New York State Brewers’ Association, City Brew Tours, NY State Senate, Brooklyn Brewery

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / Ryan Bodenstein)

Copenhagen, Denmark: .61

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Seoul)

Home to the Carlsberg Group, Denmark’s capital has been brewing beer for over 170 years. Copenhagen’s price per bottle dropped almost 50 cents compared to last year, lowering its cost from .06.

Source: Carlsberg Group, Visit Denmark

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / Philippe Teuwen)

Seoul, South Korea: .13

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Copenhagen)

Seoul’s beer scene is best known for the Oriental Breweries headquarters, more commonly known as OB. The city saw a bottle price reduction of eight cents compared to .25 last year.

Source: Bloomberg

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / Pedro Szekely)

Osaka, Japan: .30

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Geneva)

As the popularity of craft beer in Japan steadily increases, Osaka remains a major hub for both food and drink. Alongside restaurants with prime beer on tap, the city is home to several breweries, including Dotonbori Beer. The price change from last year included an eight cent raise from .22.

Source: Culture Trip, Dontonbori Beer Co., Culture Trip

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / ITU Pictures)

Geneva, Switzerland: id=”listicle-2632285079″.54

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Osaka)

While it is best known for its watchmaking and Swiss chocolate shops, Geneva hosted its first Open Air Craft Beer Festival in 2017 and is also home to Les Brasseurs micro-brewery. The city’s per per bottle dropped 34 cents compared to its 2018 price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.88.

Source: Les Brasseurs, Geneva Live Tourism

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / szeke)

Zurich, Switzerland: .25

City ranking by cost of living: 4

At over a dollar more than fellow Swiss city Geneva, Zurich’s price per bottle rings in at .25, down three cents from last year. Travel + Leisure noted that craft beer is becoming more accessible, and several small breweries now exist in the region.

Source: Travel + Leisure, MySwitzerland

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / Barbara Willi)

Hong Kong: id=”listicle-2632285079″.77

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Paris)

Hong Kong is home to Hong Kong Beer Co., the city’s first craft brewery. According to the company’s website, it is also the first craft brewery in Asia to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. Though Hong Kong is tied for the No. 1 most expensive city, it actually offers the cheapest beer prices amongst the expensive cities, with a price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.77 — down from last year’s id=”listicle-2632285079″.93.

Source: Hong Kong Beer Co., Time Out

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(John Towner / Unsplash)

Paris, France: .10

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Hong Kong)

While Paris is better known for its wine — brought from vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy — the French capital has several microbreweries. Located both inside and just outside the city arrondissements, locations include La Brasserie de l’Etre, Paname Brewing Company, and Le Triangle. Beer prices dropped 35 cents compared to .45 in 2018.

Source: Trip Savvy, Urban Adventures, Culture Trip

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr / nlann)

Singapore: .37

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Paris and Hong Kong)

Beer in Singapore is dominated by Heineken Asia Pacific — formerly known as Malayan Breweries Limited — which produces both the Heineken brand and also owns craft breweries such as Archipelago Brewery, whose headquarters are located outside the city in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

The area is best known for Tiger Beer, first brewed by Malayan Breweries Limited in 1932 but now distributed worldwide. Retaining its position as the most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year, Singapore’s beer prices dropped from .53 in 2018 to .37.

Source: The Heineken Company, Time Out, Archipelago Brewery, Tiger Beer, CNBC

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private Care Program allegedly enriched companies and hurt vets

For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.


Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.

The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.

“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”

The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.

Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.

“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”

Trump’s promises to veterans were a central message of his campaign. But his plans to shift their health care to the private sector put him on a collision course with veterans groups, whose members generally support the VA’s medical system and don’t want to see it privatized. The controversy around privatization, and the outsize influence of three Trump associates at Mar-a-Lago, has sown turmoil at the VA, endangering critical services from paying student stipends to preventing suicidesand upgrading electronic medical records.

A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.

One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.

TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”

Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.

Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.

In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.

Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.

Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.

In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.

One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.

In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.

But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.

The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Senator John McCain.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.

The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.

The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.

Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.

Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.

Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.

Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.

John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.

“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.

Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)

After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.

Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.

The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.

The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.

The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.

TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.

The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.

“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”

The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.

“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”

Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.

“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”

The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

David Shulkin.

But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.

TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.

In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”

Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”

McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”

But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.

McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”

McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.

“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”

The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.

The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.

That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.

“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”

Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.

This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @ProPublica on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia needs an Iranian presence in Syria

Following their meeting in Helsinki, Donald Trump hailed Vladimir Putin as a potential partner in Syria, who can provide humanitarian relief and preserve Israeli security. But if the United States hopes to deny Iran “open season to the Mediterranean,” as the President previously said, Russia is anything but an ally. Putin has no interest in pushing out the Iranian forces that defend the Assad regime by taking heavy casualties on the ground while Russia fights mainly from the air. Rather, the most recent offensive by pro-regime forces — a sprint towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders — demonstrates that Russia enables Iranian operations in Syria.


In late June 2018, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on Deraa, a flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed November 2017. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.

Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, 2018, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for Deraa province.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tank in 2012 in Tehran.

Two Iranian-aligned militant groups comprised of Iraqi Shias, Liwa Abu al Fadl al Abbas (LAFA) and Liwa Zulfiqar, have also participated in the offensive. LAFA was one of the original foreign Shia militias to deploy to Syria in 2012, ostensibly to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, a major Shiite religious site. Since then, however, the group has integrated into the Syrian Republican Guard, even to the point where it openly identifies as a Republican Guard unit. LAFA’s trajectory illustrates how forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran.

Since the current offensive began, LAFA has posted numerous photos and videos on its Facebook page showing its men alongside regime troops in Deraa. Its leader, Abu Ajeeb, has also been pictured with Syrian military officers in several of the photos. Opposition sources report that a LAFA commander met with Russian military officers in Deraa.

Liwa Zulfiqar has also confirmed its involvement in the offensive, as well as its integration into the regime’s military. The militia, which has been fighting alongside Syrian regime troops since 2013, posted several photos from the town of Busra al Harir in which it asserted it was participating in the offensive. The militia’s leader, Haidar al Jabouri, appeared in a video shot inside the Syrian 4th Division’s military operations command room, demonstrating Zulfiqar’s integration into the Syrian command structure.

Reports have also suggested that other militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have been taking part in the offensive, sometimes disguised as Syrian troops. In late June 2018, the Washington Post briefly noted Hezbollah’s participation. Quoting an official in Damascus, Reuters reported that “Hezbollah is a fundamental participant in planning and directing this battle.” Another pro-regime source reportedly confirmed the use of Syrian military uniforms by Hezbollah and other militias to the wire service.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Hizbollah flag in Syria.

It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. On June 24, 2018, Russian warplanes conducted at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, spurring on a stalled regime offensive. Within two days, Liwa Zulfiqar announced its participation in operations there. On July 4, 2018, Russia hit Saida and Tafas, supporting offensives involving Zulfiqar and LAFA, respectively. Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.

Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.

Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest and ability to serve as a partner in Syria. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes is designed to fortify the regime, not rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Coast Guardsman earned a Silver Star at Guadalcanal

Douglas Carlton Denman was born in Tallapoosa, Georgia, in February 1922. At the age of 18, he decided to join the Coast Guard and travelled to Atlanta’s recruiting office where a Coast Guard chief boatswain filled out his paperwork. Early on, he must have shown promise as a boat driver. He was sent to New Orleans to train at Higgins Industries, builder of landing craft, and in less than a year of enlisting, he was advanced from seaman first class to coxswain.

In November 1941, less than a year after enlisting, Denman was assigned to the Number 4 landing craft aboard the fast attack transport USS Edmund Colhoun (APD-2) known as an APD or “Green Dragon” by the Marine Corps’ 1st Raider Battalion. The Colhoun was a World War I-era four-stack destroyer converted to carry a company of marines. The Navy designation of APD stood for transport (“AP”) destroyer (D”). These re-purposed warships retained their anti-submarine warfare capability, carried anti-aircraft and fore and aft deck guns, and could steam at an impressive 40 mph. Their primary mission was rapid insertion of frontline marine units in amphibious (often shallow-water) operations, so they were equipped with landing craft.


Each APD carried four landing craft designated LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel). Also known as “Higgins Boats,” the LCP was the U.S. military’s first operational landing craft. It had a snub nose bow supporting two side-by-side gun tubs with each position holding a .30 caliber machine gun. The helm and engine controls were located behind the tandem gun emplacements. Diesel-powered, the LCP measured 36 feet in length, could hold 36 men, and had a top speed of only nine miles per hour. This early landing craft carried no front ramp, so after it beached, troops debarked over the sides or jumped off the bow. The LCP required a crew of three, including a coxswain, an engineer and a third crew member that both doubled as gunners. The LCP exposed its crew to enemy fire, so its crew members braved serious upper body, head and neck wounds when landing troops.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
Douglas Carlton Denman, at age 18, in his original recruit photograph, including suit and tie.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Colhoun was one of four APDs that comprised Transport Division 12 (TransDiv 12). TransDiv 12 ships inserted the Marine Raiders on the beaches of Tulagi, on Aug. 7, 1942. The amphibious assault of Tulagi was the first U.S. offensive of World War II. It was also the first battle contested by entrenched enemy troops, giving the Americans a taste of the horrors to come in island battles like Tarawa, Saipan and Palau. Colhoun’s sisterships Francis Gregory (APD-3) and George Little (APD-4) took up station 3,000 yards offshore and served as guard ships marking a channel into the landing area. TransDiv 12’s slow-moving Higgins Boats plowed up the slot to land the Marine Raiders in the face of enemy fire. Within two days, the marines had taken the island eliminating nearly all its garrison of 800 Japanese troops.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
The APD USS Colhoun refueling in the Pacific. Notice this fast attack transport’s camouflage paint scheme and Higgins Boats hanging from davits on the port side.
(U.S. Navy photo)

After landing the Marine Raiders at Tulagi, Colhoun continued patrol, transport and anti-submarine duties in the Guadalcanal area. On August 15, the TransDiv 12 APDs delivered provisions and war material to the Marine 1st Division on Guadalcanal Island. It was the first re-supply of the marines since their August 7 landing. On August 30, Colhoun made another supply run to Guadalcanal. After completing a delivery to shore, the Colhoun steamed away for patrol duty. As soon as the APD reached Iron Bottom Sound, the sound of aircraft roared from the low cloud cover overhead and Denman and his shipmates manned battle stations.

A formation of 16 Japanese bombers descended from the clouds and Colhoun’s gunners threw up as much anti-aircraft fire as they could. The first bombers scored two direct hits on the APD, destroying Denman’s Higgins Boat, blowing Denman against a bulkhead and starting diesel fires from the boat’s fuel tank. Denman suffered severe facial wounds, but he returned to what remained of his duty station. In spite of stubborn anti-aircraft fire, the next bombers scored more hits. Colhoun’s stern began filling with water and the order was passed to abandon ship. Denman remained aboard and, with the aid of a shipmate, he carried wounded comrades to the ship’s bow and floated them clear of the sinking ship. He and his shipmate also gathered dozens of life jackets and threw them to victims struggling to stay afloat on the oily water.

Colhoun’s bow knifed into the sky as it began a final plunge into the fathomless water of Iron Bottom Sound. Denman managed to jump off the vessel before the ship slid stern-first below the surface. The time between the bombing and the sinking had taken only minutes, but during that time, Denman saved numerous lives while risking his own. In spite of his severe wounds, Denman survived along with 100 of Colhoun’s original crew of 150 officers and men. Coast Guard-manned landing craft from USS Little and the Coast Guard boat pool on Guadalcanal raced to the scene to rescue the survivors.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
Chart of Iron Bottom Sound showing Tulagi (off Florida Island) and location of final resting place of Colhoun off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.

After the battle, Denman could not recall the traumatic events surrounding the bombing. He was shipped to a military hospital in New Zealand and diagnosed with “war neurosis.” However, after a month, medical authorities reported, “This man has gone through a trying experience successfully and may be returned to duty . . . .” For the remainder of the war, Denman served stateside assignments and aboard ships, including an attack transport, LST and a U.S. Army fuel ship. In early September, APDs Little and Gregory were sunk in night action against a superior force of Japanese destroyers and the fourth TransDiv 12 APD, USS William McKean (APD-5) was lost in combat in 1943.

For his wounds and heroism in the face of great danger, Denman received the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. During his career, he completed training for port security, intelligence specialist, and criminal investigation specialist. He also qualified in handling all classes of small boats and buoy tenders and was recommended for master chief petty officer. However, he retired as a boatswain senior chief petty officer to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Georgia with a major in animal science. He was one of many combat heroes who have served in the long blue line and he will be honored as the namesake of a new fast response cutter.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker
Photograph of a Fast Response Cutter underway.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is how a new generation of computers will help America dominate

One of the reasons why American weapons systems have been so dominant is computer power. Whether it’s helping the M1 Abrams keep its gun on target or helping secure communications, computers give American troops an edge. Now, the Pentagon wants to bring the next generation of computers, quantum computers, into the fight.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what, exactly, is quantum computing and how would it give our troops an edge? Well, here’s a quick rundown.


As explained by one of America’s top tech companies, IBM, quantum computing is a form of computing that uses quantum mechanics — the mathematics of subatomic particle movements. Current processors distill all information down, eventually, to a simple ‘0’ or ‘1.’ Quantum processors, however, can distill information down to ‘0’ and ‘1.’ In short, this has the potential to greatly increase the baseline speeds at which computers operate. To put that increase in speed into perspective, it’s the difference between using a horse to go from New York to San Diego and using a SR-71 Blackbird for that same trip.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Joint Direct Attack Munitions, currently dependent on GPS, could become more accurate thanks to quantum clocks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

So, how might this translate to military operations? Well, one application could be a replacement for the Global Positioning System. The satellite-based system relies on multiple updates per day, and there have been concerns the system could be vulnerable to attack. Quantum clocks could provide GPS-like accuracy when the satellite system is down.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Quantum computing could help make satellite communications more secure.

(NASA)

A number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, are also working on quantum computing programs. The Air Force Research Laboratory expects to have working prototypes in five years, with other systems rolling out later. In one sense, this program is an urgent one: China is also working on quantum computers, and has reportedly launched a purportedly unhackable satellite using that technology — and it’s not a good idea to be technologically outgunned if tensions should boil over.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why peacetime training actually matters

It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.

We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.

But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:


The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

So you don’t get complacent

It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

So you’re prepared for the next real mission

You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way

If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Train your boots like their life depends on it.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)

So you can prepare the next generation 

Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

So you can prepare other countries

If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.

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