Let’s face it. Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are pretty damn expensive. According to Popular Mechanics, the ships cost $13 billion to build and also involved another $4 billion in research and development costs.
So why not build a smaller, cheaper carrier?
Well, let’s lay it out. The British were able to use the Invincible-class carriers, which came in at about 20,500 tons, according to naval-technology.com. It could carry up to 24 V/STOL aircraft and helicopters, including nine Sea Harriers or Harriers.
These ships were enough to win the Falklands War, but it was still a close call.
Here’s what a Ford-class carrier displacing about 100,000 tons can bring to the table: Four squadrons of multi-role fighters (one with 12 F-35Cs, three with 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets), plus an electronic warfare squadron (five EA-18G Growlers), an airborne early warning squadron (four E-2D Hawkeyes), and a pair of C-2 Greyhound cargo planes. There’s also a helicopter squadron with a mix of MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters.
So, what about a somewhat smaller carrier, like France’s Charles de Gaulle or the Russian Kuznetsov? Well, naval-technology.com notes that the 42,500-ton de Gaulle can carry up to 40 planes, including the Rafale M, Super Etendard, and three E-2C Hawkeye, plus helicopters. The 58,500-ton Kuznetsov carries 18 Su-33 Flankers and 17 Kamov Helix helicopters according to MilitaryFactory.com.
How long would either carrier last in a fight with the Ford? Well, after the Kuznetsov Follies, it’s hard to give a wooden nickel for the Russian carrier’s chances. Hell, a Midway-class carrier would likely take the Kuznetsov down. The French carrier would be toast as well.
Why? Because their air wings would still be much smaller than what a Ford-class carrier could bring to the fight. That is ultimately why the United States is sticking with its big carriers. A carrier’s primary weapon is its air wing. The bigger the carrier, the more planes it can have in the air wing.
Large aircraft carriers clearly have an advantage, but the US Navy is trying to harness the best of both worlds with future smaller, lighter carriers.
In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.
This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.
Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.
The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.
No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.
How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?
“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”
Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound in 1947, and the Air Force has never looked back.
The Air Force partnered with NASA to develop and test the X-15, a hypersonic, rocket-powered aircraft in the late 1950s and most of the 1960s.
A great deal of human capital and money was invested in making the leap from supersonic to hypersonic — the potential to travel at five times the speed of sound or more than 3,000 mph.
But a series of near misses and research “gotchas” stalled much of the advancement in hypersonic capabilities, according to Dr. Russ Cummings, Air Force Academy professor of aeronautics, and newly-appointed director of the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program’s Hypersonic Vehicle Simulation Institute.
Now DOD leaders are seeking to combat the weaponization of hypersonic capabilities by peer adversaries.
At a Washington lecture series on hypersonics in December 2018, Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said, “In the last year, China has tested more hypersonic weapons than we have in a decade. We’ve got to fix that.”
Undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin.
Griffin has pinpointed hypersonic capabilities as his “highest technical priority” since taking office with the goal of creating a decisive American advantage.
The HVSI stood up in 2018. The DOD program will issue million in grants over the next three to five years to universities for research to fill computational modeling gaps in the field of hypersonic simulation.
“Outdated modeling leads to conservative engineering approaches,” Cummings said. “For example, having inaccurate estimates for designing to mitigate the high heating on hypersonic vehicles impacts the weight and volume of the design, which can take away from the size of the payload.”
The grants will be used to fund applied science research in ten categories to help engineer accurate computer codes for hypersonic vehicles while jump-starting interest and scholarship in the field.
Ten-to-15 percent of the research will take place at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the aeronautics department. Many test facilities were closed in the 1970s, but the Academy has two on-site high speed wind tunnels, including a Mach 6 Ludwieg Tube. Starting summer 2019, cadets will join industry and university partners in a variety of hypersonic-related summer research programs.
“We’re excited to see HVSI become the latest center added to (U.S. Air Force Academy’s) research portfolio,” said Col. Donald Rhymer, the Academy’s dean of research. “Dr. Cummings brings the necessary expertise and leadership to direct the institute, as well as the pulse of the hypersonics community. I’m confident his work will ultimately benefit both the cadets and the Air Force.”
The Marine Corps plans to begin replacing its legacy Light Armored Vehicle with modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle late in the next decade.
The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal. The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.
“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.
Since the 1980s, the LAV has supported Marine Air-Ground Task Force missions on the battlefield. While the LAV remains operationally effective, the life cycle of this system is set to expire in the mid-2030s. The Corps aims to replace the vehicle before then.
Marine Corps Systems Command has been tasked with replacing the vehicle with a next-generation, more capable ground combat vehicle system. In June 2016, the Corps established an LAV Way-Ahead, which included the option to initiate an LAV Replacement Program to field a next-generation capability in the 2030s.
U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle.
Preliminary planning, successful resourcing in the program objectives memorandum and the creation of an Office of Naval Research science and technology program have set the conditions to begin replacing the legacy LAV with the ARV in the late-2020s.
“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”
The Office of Naval Research has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.
The office is amid a science and technology phase that allows them to conduct advanced technology research and development, modeling and simulation, whole system trade studies and a full-scale technology demonstrator fabrication and evaluation.
These efforts will inform the requirements development process, jump-start industry and reduce risk in the acquisition program.
The office is also supporting the Ground Combat Element Division of the Capabilities Development Directorate by performing a trade study through the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Michigan. This work will help to ensure ARV requirements are feasible and to highlight the capability trade space.
U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division standby to be armed with ammunition to conduct a platoon level gunnery range at Fort Irwin, California, March 22, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Smith)
ONR has partnered with industry to build two technology demonstrator vehicles for evaluation. The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an “at-the-edge” vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.
“The purpose of those vehicles is to understand the technology and the trades,” said Myers.
In support of acquisition activities, PM LAV anticipates the release of an acquisition program Request for Information in May 2019 and an Industry Day later in the year to support a competitive prototyping effort. The Corps expects a Material Development Decision before fiscal year 2020.
“We will take what we’ve learned in competitive prototyping,” said Myers. “Prior to a Milestone B decision, we’ll be working to inform trade space, inform requirements and reduce risk.”
The Corps believes the ARV will support the capability demands of the next generation of armored reconnaissance.
“This vehicle will equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion within the Marine Divisions to perform combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance and security missions in support of the ground combat element,” said Myers. “It’s expected to be a transformational capability for the Marine Corps.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.
After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.
My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!
I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.
Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:
We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.
Pay it forward.
Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.
Know that you’re both worth it.
Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.
Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!
Share your strength.
Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!
Give her resources.
You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.
Show her love.
Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.
Uncharted Supply Co. is the only non-veteran-owned company we’re featuring in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide. Founder Christian Schauf will be the first to tell you that his credentials, while prodigious, do not extend to military service. However, that doesn’t mean he lacks firsthand experience in combat zones.
As frontman of the band Catchpenny, named by the Pentagon the “Armed Forces Entertainers of the Year” in 2008, Shauf made 38 separate trips to Iraq, performing 150 shows for servicemen and women stationed all over the Middle East.
Spc. Stephen L. Bray, administrator with the 248th Area Support Medical Company out of Marietta, Ga, and Catchpenny lead singer, Christian Schauf, rock out at Joint Base Balad, Iraq (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
He even engineered a touring kit compact enough to fit in a Black Hawk so Catchpenny could get out to remote bases to perform for the most isolated operators. Through 7 years of non-stop Armed Forces entertainment, Schauf and his bandmates encountered sniper fire, sand storms, mortar attacks, brutal temperatures, and gnarly pit latrines. And they kept going back for more.
According to Shauf, the experience of retooling his touring kit to suit a changing mission influenced the thinking behind his current offering, the Seventy2, a go bag designed to help you (f)ace the crucial first 72 hours of a mass emergency.
Veterans understand the importance of preparedness. They know what belongs in a good go bag. Most civilians have no idea (ie: this dum dum). The Seventy2 was meticulously curated for the trained and untrained alike.
Each tool has multiple uses. Crucial system components, like light sources, cutting edges, and firestarters have secondary backups. Detailed instructions cover the bag’s tactical insert. Hobbyist toys, like blow darts and night vision goggles, are conspicuously absent.
What remains is a concise answer to the question “How do I ensure the safety of my loved ones in case of a civil emergency?”
The Seventy2 is a gift bearing an old-school American message:
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Four Belgian Air Force F-16AM jets are deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic region since September. As part of their mission to safeguard the airspaces over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Baltic Sea, the Belgian Vipers (just like the fighters of all the other air forces which support the BAP mission with rotational deployments to the Baltic States) are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian/non-NATO aircraft that fly in international airspace near NATO airspace.
While Il-76s, Su-27s and other interesting “zombies” are often escorted over the Baltic, the Russian Navy Tu-134 UB-L, RF-12041 nicknamed “Black Pearl”, that the BAF F-16s intercepted last week is a real first. The Belgian Air Force shared an IR image (most probably taken by the F-16’s SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod used in air-to-air mode for long range identification) of the rare bird, along with a file photo of the same aircraft taking off in 2019:
The Tu-134UB-L, NATO reporting name Crusty-B, is a variant of the civilian Tu-134B aircraft designed to train Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers aircrews (in particular, the Tu-134 was chosen because of the thrust to weight ratio and landing/takeoff characteristics were similar to those of the Tu-22M). The Tu-134UB-L (Uchebno-Boyevoy dla Lyotchikov, Russian for combat trainer for pilots) is indeed a Tu-134B airframe with a Tu-22 nose. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, a total 109 Tu-134UB-L were built, with the first one making its maiden flight in March 1981.
Noteworthy, according to some sources, the “Black Pearl” is no longer used as a trainer, but was converted to be used for transportation tasks in 2017.
Whatever its current mission is the Tu-134UB-L RF-12041 is an extremely interesting and rare aircraft. Let’s just hope the BAF will release more images of this beauty!!
Marines in the Pacific carried out the first-ever, at-sea F-35B “hot reloads” in that theater, allowing the aircraft to drop back-to-back 1,000-pound bombs on a target in the middle of the Solomon Sea.
Marines from the amphibious assault ship Wasp went to war last week with the “killer tomato,” a big red inflatable target that was floating off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The Joint Strike Fighter jets left the ship armed with the 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb.
Once they dropped the bombs on the target, they returned to the Wasp where they reloaded, refueled and flew back out to hit the floating red blob again. It was the first-ever shipboard hot reloads in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a Marine Corps news release announcing the milestone.
Or as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese put it, they showed how Marines operating in the theater can now “rain destruction like never before.”
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, move Joint Direct Attack Munitions and laser guided bombs during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reloading exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), Solomon Sea, Aug. 4, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
“Our skilled controllers and pilots, combined with these systems, take the 31st [Marine Expeditionary Unit] to the next level,” he said in a statement. “… My ordnance team proved efficiency with these operations, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The aircraft, which are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) and deployed with the MEU, also fired the GAU-22 cannon during the exercise. The four-barrel 25mm system is carried in an external pod on the Marines’ F-35 variant.
An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, armed with a Joint Direct Attack Munition and a laser guided bomb, prepares to take off during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reloading exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
The F-35Bs weren’t the only aircraft engaging the “killer tomato” during the live-fire exercise. MV-22B Osprey aircraft and Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters also fired at the mock target.
An ordnance Marine with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares ordnance during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reload exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)
The 31st MEU was the first Marine expeditionary unit to deploy with the F-35B. The aircraft has since had its first combat deployment to the Middle East, where it dropped bombs on Islamic State and Taliban militants.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut took to the skies in 1997, some thought the aircraft, featuring a forward-swept wing, was the future of Russian aviation. Although the Berkut had finally ended its career as a testbed, it wasn’t even that groundbreaking. In fact, the United States had flown its forward-swept wing testbed in the 1980s.
That’s right, in the era of big hair, when Bon Jovi exploded into prominence and Maverick and Goose graced the silver screen, America had the X-29 in the sky. This plane used the F-5 airframe and had a single F404 engine. In essence, this was the same basic configuration of the F-20 Tigershark.
But it wasn’t all Tigershark. While the Tigershark was just a modified F-5 and didn’t need fancy fly-by-wire systems, the X-29 did. In fact, the X-29 had three fly-by-wire (FBW) computers and three backup computers. Like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the X-29 was inherently unstable and needed the help of the FBW system to stay in the air. One thing it didn’t have: weapons.
The X-29 had a top speed of 1,131 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,553 miles. The two X-29 airframes built as part of the program flew for seven years before being retired. One was donated to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the other is at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
By comparison, the Berkut was based on the Su-27 Flanker. This plane was also initially unarmed, but plans were for production models to carry a full suite of weapons. The Berkut flew from 1997 to the mid-2000s, before the four constructed prototypes were sent off to retirement.
Learn more about America’s nimble testbed in the video below. Tell us, do you think the X-29 could have been a good dogfighter?
The two Broad Area Maritime System aircraft arrived in Guam in January.
The U.S. Navy deployed the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime System (BAMS) to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the first operational deployment. According to the official photos, the two aircraft arrived at their forward operating base on Jan. 12, 2020, even though the deployment was announced only on January 26.
The Triton is operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) squadron of the US Navy, in an Early Operational Capability (EOC). VUP-19 will develop the concept of operations for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with the MQ-4C in the 7th Fleet, where it will complement the P-8A Poseidon. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC), planned for 2021, will include four air vehicles with capacity to support 24/7 operations, according to the Navy.
“The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the Seventh Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific,” said Capt. Matt Rutherford, commander of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72. “Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of P-8, P-3 and EP-3 will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives.”
The Triton will bring in the Pacific theater new capabilities with an increased persistence, as wrote in a previous article by our Editor David Cenciotti:
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
An MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) taxis after landing at Andersen Air Force Base for a deployment as part of an early operational capability (EOC) to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a high-altitude, long-endurance system in the maritime domain. Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Triton UAS squadron, will operate and maintain two aircraft in Guam under Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, the U.S. Navy’s lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.
This first deployment was actually expected to happen in late 2018, after the MQ-4C was officially inducted into service on May 31, 2018. However, in September 2018, VUP-19 had to temporarily stand down its operation following a Class A mishap with the new aircraft. As stated by Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, to USNI News in that occasion, the Triton “had an issue during flight and the decision was made to bring it back to base. While heading in for landing, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly on the runway. No one was hurt and there was no collateral damage.”
The announcement of this first deployment arrived just as Germany canceled its plans to buy four MQ-4C for signals intelligence missions (SIGINT), opting instead for the Bombardier Global 6000, as the Triton would be unable to meet the safety standards needed for flying through European airspace by 2025, as reported by DefenseNews.
The Air Force has begun a formal study to analyze the sleep habits of airmen in an effort to prevent mistakes and mishaps caused by exhaustion.
The service said its 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will examine sleep, fatigue and overall performance by tracking sleep habits “while also evaluating sleep-monitoring technology to ensure its accuracy and ability to work in an operational setting,” officials said in a recent release.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach to studying sleep and fatigue,” said Dr. Glenn Gunzelmann, 711th HPW Airman Systems Directorate training core technical competency lead, in the release.
“Providing airmen with information on their sleep patterns and history helps airmen understand how sleep affects their operational effectiveness,” Gunzelmann added. “Giving leadership this data also helps inform policy and how to account for sleep needs in their planning.”
Tech. Sgt. Ray Decker, 320th Special Tactics Squadron special operations weather team, takes a nap on an MC-130P Combat Shadow bound for Sendai Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
The service said it will develop ideas to reduce exhaustion, with some already being workshopped in a NATO aircrew fatigue management working group. The group also includes Army and Navy researchers, according to the release.
The working group is constructing a “sleep toolbox,” which officials say will “have educational resources on fatigue risk assessment with ways for mitigation.”
“It will also have information on insomnia, including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and other sleep disorders,” the release states.
“Our current operations cross over multiple time zones, resulting in circadian rhythm issues, sleep deprivation or insufficient sleep,” Lt. Col. Dara Regn, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine internal medicine branch chief, said in the release. Both Regn and Gunzelmann participate in the group.
“As partner nations, we all deal with similar challenges, like increased mission tempo, long-range missions and pilot shortages. We are working together to optimize our pilots and bring back the importance of sleep,” Regn said.
A patient falls asleep during overnight sleep study.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher R. Morales)
The pooled resources will be made available through an open-source NATO website as well as a “secure offline application,” the officials said.
The overall goal is to reduce detrimental sleep habits that lead to fatigue or exhaustion, especially in the pilot community.
“About 80% of aviation accidents are due to human error, and pilot fatigue accounts for about 15 to 20%of that,” Regn said.
It’s not the first time the Air Force has looked for better sleep habit solutions.
For the last few years, Air Force Maj. Alexander Criss has researched ways to get more rest for pilots and crew heading out for operations across the globe.
Through his study, Criss, who has flown as a C-21, KC-10 and C-5 pilot, found that more than half of mobility pilots — 53% — were flying “during this window when their body thinks they should be sleeping,” he said during a recent interview with Military.com.
Criss, now assigned to U.S. Transportation Command in Illinois, said his research helped with the development of a smartwatch app and system that aims to help pilots and crew understand their bodies’ rhythms and when they’re most drowsy.
The project, known as the Better Effectiveness Through Tracking Yourself, or BETTY, “helps fill a gap in our current fatigue risk management system,” Criss said.
While BETTY is a multi-pronged process, the data-gathering system includes a wristwatch that measures a pilot’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle.
“Circadian rhythm disruption … is when our bodies are out of sync with our sleep and wake cycles,” Criss said. After flying, many people feel jet lag because the body and mind interpret differently when they should be asleep or awake, he explained.
A proposed software app would monitor data from the watch, in addition to comparing and contrasting it through some of the sleep models that are already out there, he said.
All too often the Arctic region is portrayed as an area on the cusp of military crisis. This is an easy narrative to sell; it harks back to the Cold War. Potent imagery persists of submarines trolling silently beneath the Arctic ice and nuclear ballistic missiles pointed across the North Pole.
During the height of the standoff between NATO and the USSR, the world feared a barrage of nuclear warheads streaming in from the frozen north – and this experience has imprinted on the collective imagination and created distinct ideas about the region. This fear, for example, motivated from the 1950s the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Lines, a system of radar stations across the northern US (Alaska), Canada, and Greenland. The DEW Lines were meant to give the US and its NATO allies an early warning of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike.
The Cold War was a significant period in history. But catchy headlines playing off the parallels between the region and a new “cold” war are misleading. There have, of course, been increased tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 due to the conflict over Ukraine and Crimea. The 2018 Trident Juncture exercises in the Arctic, featuring “50,000 personnel from NATO Allies and partner countries”, are evidence of this. But the tension is not Arctic-specific and militaries are diverse actors in the region. This nuance, however, is often overlooked.
Belgian and German soldiers of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train their weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.
Current military exercises and equipment acquisitions fuel old Cold War perceptions. And a certain militarization is indeed occurring in the Arctic. Russia, for example, has recently invested heavily in updating its northern military infrastructure. So too have other Arctic states, such as Canada and Denmark. But military activity has, to varying degrees, occurred for decades in the north – it was just largely ignored by those not living there until recently.
The Arctic states guard their land and waterways through aerial, submarine and surface ship patrols, much as they have done for years. This hardly constitutes an escalation of military tensions, even if the infrastructure is being updated and, in some cases, increased. Despite this, talk of a new Cold War is heating up.
A nation’s armed forces often play a range of roles – beyond their traditional responsibilities in armed conflict. They are useful for rapid response during disasters, for example, and provide a range of security roles that don’t necessarily mean an escalation to war. They offer search and rescue (SAR) services and policing support.
In Norway, for example, the coast guard is one of the branches of the navy, along with the armed fleet, the naval schools and the naval bases. In Denmark, meanwhile, the coast guard’s Arctic activities are managed by the Royal Danish Navy.
The US Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which “secures the nation’s air, land, and sea borders to prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade“. By law, however, the US Coast Guard is outside the Department of Defense “in peacetime and is poised for transfer to the Department of the Navy during war“.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420 ft. icebreaker.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Prentice Danner)
Because of affiliations such as these, the line between military and civilian activity can become blurred. But that doesn’t mean all military activity is hostile or equates to an escalation towards war.
Climate change and technological advances have begun to open up the Arctic. And this means that more policing is required in a region that is remote and often out of reach for traditional police forces.
Other issues are also arising from climate change, such as increased forest fires. In July 2018, Sweden suffered major forest fires. As part of its effort to combat the fires it deployed “laser-guided bombs to douse forest fires”. This initiative was led by the Swedish air force. By using laser bombs, the “shockwaves simply blew out the flames in the same way our breath does to candles”.
As the region’s economic activity expands, armed forces are also being asked to assist more with civilian issues. In 2017, for example, the Norwegian Coast Guard was called in by local police in Tromsø to help police Greenpeace protesters who had entered a 500-metre safety zone around the Songa Enabler rig in an effort to stop drilling in the Korpfjell field of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, KV Nordkapp, responded, resulting in the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and the arrest of all 35 people on board.
Given the Arctic’s growing economic potential, military infrastructure is getting more attention. Russia, in particular, has made it clear that with economic potential on the line in the Arctic, a military build up is essential. For Russia, Arctic resources are central to the country’s economic security so the government line is: “National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence.” But issues of national security are wide ranging and are not solely a matter of building capacity to defend oneself from or in war.
Overall, it is vital to remember that while militaries are tools of war, they are not just tools of war. They also contribute to and provide a wide range of security services. This does not mean that increased military spending and activities should not be viewed with a critical eye. Indeed, they should. But discussing “a new Cold War” is sensationalist. It detracts from the broader roles that militaries play throughout the Arctic and stokes the very tensions it warns of.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division working with members of the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps or ATAC, one of the center’s premier leadership development programs, are in the early stages of acquiring the next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35.
Recently, with recommendations from ATAC, the Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants via AFWERX Vegas to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019.
The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas, an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors, to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.
Replacing legacy helmets on fixed-wing aircraft has become a priority in part because over time new requirements have added sub-systems, and devices, that the helmets were not originally designed for.
A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)
“It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything — technology — that we are putting on them,” said 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division. “If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment.”
Michael DeRespinis, program manager with the Human Systems Division said that working with AFWERX has been beneficial in that it has helped increase competition to replace the helmet and is facilitating the rapid delivery of prototypes.
DeRespinis also said that the division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by Sept. 2019 for further development activity and future production.
Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.
An Airman and an attendee of the AFWERX Helmet Challenge discuss new helmets at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)
The ATAC team comprised of a group of competitively selected mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center, are focused not only on supporting the Human Systems Division during this process, but also on figuring out the best way to transition technology.
“Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force,” said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade. “A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process.”
Nicole Barnes, ATAC contract specialist and member said that working with AFWERX, the Human Systems Division and being part of a rapid acquisition process has been rewarding. She added that the ATAC program is an example of leadership’s commitment to the workforce and to positive change.