Navy planners have for years been working on ways to make its battle groups less vulnerable to threats from long-range missiles, developing sophisticated radars, close-in defense and using aircraft to keep the bad guys far enough away that a launch would be futile.
But what hasn’t changed is the size and relative lack of maneuverability a Navy ship — especially an aircraft carrier — would have in the open sea.
So China has reportedly developed a specialized anti-ship ballistic missile that it could fire from the mainland and target a specific ship over 1,000 miles away. Dubbed the Dong-Feng-21D, the missile is a two-stage, solid rocket booster with a maneuverable warhead that is reported to be able to avoid ballistic countermeasures.
While Navy analysts are nervous about the missile’s ability to destroy a carrier with one hit screaming out of the atmosphere at Mach 10, others argue that China still has a long way to go before it can find and target a ship over 1,000 miles away and continue updating the DF-21D warhead’s guidance in an electronic countermeasure environment.
While the British Military has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, the country is still responsible for many great weapons systems. In fact, the towed artillery pieces the United States Military uses, the M119 105mm howitzer and the M777 155mm howitzer, are both British designs. However, the Brits also have an excellent self-propelled howitzer.
It’s called the AS-90, and it replaced two self-propelled guns in British service: The M109, an American design, and the Abbot, an indigenous design that packed a 105mm gun. The AS-90 uses a 155mm gun based on the FH70 towed howitzer. The AS-90 has an effective range of up to 18 miles, depending on the ammo used.
British Army AS-90 howitzers let loose during training in Iraq.
(Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq Photo by Pfc. Rhonda Roth-Cameron)
The system entered service in 1993, too late for Operation Desert Storm. Cutbacks after the fall of the Soviet Union meant that it also did not see a lengthy production run. It has a top speed of 34 miles per hour, which allows it to keep up with the Challenger 2, Britain’s main battle tank, which has a top speed of 37 miles per hour.
This 50-ton vehicle saw action during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in NATO peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, where it provided fire support. An improved version, the AS-90 “Braveheart,” was expected to feature a 33% longer barrel, but was cancelled after issues with the propellant emerged.
The Polish Army is also using a version of the AS-90 – well, the turret of the cancelled AS-90 Braveheart – on a K9 Thunder chassis.
(Photo by VoidWanderer)
The AS-90 has received special modifications to enable for better performance during desert operations. These upgrades include tracks designed to operate better on sand and better ways to keep the crew and the engine cool. Currently, a total of six British artillery regiments operate this vehicle.
Although the AS-90 Braveheart is getting up there in age, pieces of it will remain important for years. The turret has been mated with the chassis of a South Korean self-propelled howitzer, the K9 Thunder, to make the AHS Krab. The Polish Army is planning to operate 120 of these.
Learn more about this British cannon in the video below!
Everyone wants to get in on the pranking fun of April Fools’ Day, and people working in the national security establishment are no different.
From the individual branches of the military to non-profits run by veterans, we looked around to find out what kind of pranks were pulled on April 1st. Here they are.
From the U.S. Army:
Army drones to deliver 3D printed pizzas to forward operating bases
NATICK, Mass. (April 1, 2015) – Pizzas made to order on 3D printers soon could be delivered by drones to hungry Soldiers at outposts across the globe.
According to researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, the pizzas would be produced on specially designed 3D printers and flown to outposts while still hot. Natick researchers called it “an unexpected breakthrough” beyond the recently announced development of a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE, pizza, which has a shelf life of three years.
“It’s great to be able to offer the warfighter a little slice of home with the MRE pizza,” said John Harlow, supervisory culinary transfer engineer at Natick, “but we never lost sight of our true goal — delivering piping hot, complete, custom pizzas to our men and women in the field. Who deserves them more?”
Washington D.C. has been the home to the Marine Barracks since President Thomas Jefferson and Commandant Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows selected the spot in 1801. For more than 214 years it has been the epicenter of Marine Corps’ tradition, ceremony, and a symbol of one of the finest military branches in the world.
In mid-2016 Marine Barracks Washington D.C. will be no more. The post will begin its move to a similar sized lot located just outside of Detroit, Mich.
“It has been decided, due to budgetary constraints, drawdown of personnel, and the incentives from the city of Detroit, that it is in the best interest of the Marine Corps to relocate our post to a new and fresh arena,” said the Barracks public affairs officer Capt. Lane Kensington.
Oral History Project Hopes To Preserve Memories Of Navy Dolphins
It’s a round-the-clock effort to save the war stories of these creatures before they’re lost. With a grant from the South Illinois SeaWorld Fund and the Aaron and Myrna Lipshitz Foundation, work is proceeding at a feverish pace. Cory Storr calls it a race against time.
CORY STORR: It’s a race against time. These dolphins are reaching their 80’s, their 90’s. We learned our lesson when we neglected to collect the stories from the Army rescue bunnies used in Korea.
SIEGEL: Belleville, of course, means beautiful city in French, and French itself is the language of love. So it’s appropriate that the Navy picked this southern Illinois town – the eighth largest in the state – to be home to retired dolphins. They are housed in what was, until recently, a facility to farm-raise whales. The recession led to that multimillion dollar business shutting down. And now, Belleville’s Chamber of Commerce is counting on the dolphin story project to succeed in its wake.
But during a recent visit to Washington, D.C., senior Air Force officials offered Uriarte “a lot of money” to focus on airmen instead.
“When I told them I didn’t really know anything about the Air Force, they simply told me ‘it’s okay no one really does, just make it about two women,” he wrote. ‘Everyone knows we have great looking women,’
“The new series will follow the hilarious predicaments of Airmen Abby and Sanchez, which makes this the first all-female leading cast of a military comic strip. Since they never deploy, the series mostly just sticks to their adventures at Starbucks and the AAFES exchange.”
A legendary airman and World War II veteran who upheld his oath by fighting enemies both foreign and domestic recently passed away after weeks in hospice care.
Dabney Montgomery was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and later a bodyguard for civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He was with Dr. King from his hometown of Selma, Alabama on the famous March to Montgomery.
He was born in Selma in 1923 and was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. He served as an aircraft mechanic in Southern Italy during the war.
The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of African-American servicemen in the WWII-era Army Air Corps, officially known as the 332d Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. While the nickname commonly refers to the pilots, everyone in the units are considered original Tuskegee Airmen – including cooks, mechanics, instructors, nurses, and other support personnel.
During WWII, the U.S. military was still racially segregated and remained so until 1948. The Tuskegee Airmen faced discrimination both in the Army and as civilians afterwards. All black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Airfield, and were educated at Tuskegee University.
“When I saw guys who looked like me flying airplanes, I was filled with hope that segregation would soon end,” he told the Wall Street Journalin 2015.
After the war, Montgomery tried to live the south but found the racial discrimination to be too much. He moved to New York for a time until he found he was needed elsewhere. He joined the Civil Rights Movement after seeing marchers gassed and beaten on the Pettus Bridge in Selma. He joined the protests in his hometown and protected Dr. King during the march.
The heels of Montgomery’s shoes and the tie he wore on the famous Selma to Montgomery March will be in the permanent collection at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. when it opens on September 24.
President George W. Bush all of the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.
Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.
Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.
He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.
“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”
By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.
That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.
When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.
It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.
The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.
The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.
It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.
Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.
Fisher Houses were born.
The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.
“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”
Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.
Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.
Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.
Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.
When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.
Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.
And that’s not new.
Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.
The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.
Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.
On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.
The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.
Israeli Col. Giora Epstein, one of the world’s greatest fighter aces of the jet era, was leading a flight of four planes during the Yom Kippur War when his team spotted two Egyptian MiG-21s. Epstein pursued the pair and quickly shot down the trail plane.
But that’s when the Israelis got a surprise. The pair of MiG-21s were bait. While the four Israeli planes were pursuing the surviving MiG they could see, approximately 20 more MiG-21s suddenly hit them with an ambush.
What followed was one of the most lopsided victories in modern aerial combat. The four Israeli Neshers fought the approximately 21 MiGs, calling out to each other to help them avoid Egyptian MiGs or to chase down vulnerable enemies.
During the fight, Epstein’s partner shot down a MiG but got missile exhaust into his own engine, causing a stall. Epstein walked him through a restart and sent him home. Another Israeli pilot chased a MiG out of the battle area, and the third headed home due to a lack of fuel.
Epstein found himself alone with 11 enemy MiGs. What followed was minutes of insane aerial combat as Epstein’s main target pulled off a maneuver thought impossible in a MiG-21: a split S at approximately 3,000 feet. It’s a move that should have caused him to crash into the ground.
But the MiG succeeded, barely. It got so close to the ground that it created a cloud of dust against the desert ground, but then escaped the cloud and flew back toward the sky. Epstein managed to get a burst of machine gun fire out before the MiG could escape, destroying the Egyptian jet. Epstein was left in the fight with 10 MiG-21s out for vengeance for their lost comrades.
The MiGs flew in pairs against Epstein, firing bursts of machine gun fire and missiles at the Israeli ace. Epstein outmaneuvered them, killing two with 30mm cannon fire and forcing the rest to bug out.
The entire battle had taken 10 minutes. See how Epstein did it in the video below:
The United States Marine Corps has, arguably, the best heavy-lift transport helicopter in the world in the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion. However, the chopper, which entered service in 1981, is getting kind of old. So, the Marines and Sikorsky have teamed up to put the Super Stallion on a regimen of aeronautical steroids.
Here’s what they did:
The cabin of the new CH-53K King Stallion is almost 18 inches wider than that of the CH-53E. Marines are trained to make the most out of what they have, which means that extra 1.5 feet will go a long way. The most obvious effect of this latest round of upgrades to the CH-53 is the amount of cargo it can haul: 39,903 pounds, according to Lockheed handout. This adds almost 4,000lbs of lift capability to the aircraft.
Three external cargo hooks help the CH-53K haul almost 40,000 pounds of gear.
The CH-53K is also faster. It has a top speed of at least 170 knots, a significant upgrade to the 150 knots of the CH-53E. But how is this possible? The CH-53K is built primarily out of composites metals, which are much lighter than the materials used in previous iterations of the chopper. By weighing less, the CH-53K doesn’t have to work as hard to haul itself around, allowing it to distributed more lift. The CH-53K also replaces the three T64 engines of the CH-53E with T408 engines. The result is about 22,000 horsepower for the new King Stallion, as opposed to the 13,200 of the CH-53E.
In addition, the CH-53K also features numerous other improvements, including fly-by-wire flight controls, composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips, a low-maintenance rotorhead, an improved external cargo handling system (with three hooks), and a “glass” cockpit (replacing dials and gauges with multi-function displays). The chopper can still carry as many as 55 troops.
A head-on view of the CH-53K in flight – it comes in about 18 inches wider than the CH-53E, but a little space can mean a lot.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Molly Hampton)
The CH-53K is also in contention to replace Luftwaffe CH-53s currently in service. Israeli Defense Forces are also looking into this heavy-lift helicopter. Believe it or not, this bigger Stallion will still fit inside a C-17 Globemaster III transport plane, but can also self-deploy to operating locations and operate off ships.
Currently, the plans are for this helicopter to reach initial operating capability in 2019. When it does, it’ll certainly give the Marines a huge boost.
Lewis was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He died on the USS Oklahoma with 427 of his shipmates.
“It made life hard,” said his brother, Carl Wagoner. “To think about it.”
Seaman Wagoner’s remains could not be identified and were placed in mass graves with 393 other sailors. Generations of the Wagoner family have made the trip to Hawaii to see the memorial to those unidentified sailors and the names included on it.
“I was glad to see there was something,” said Lee Longaker, Lewis Wagoner’s niece. “But it was still empty as far as who’s really there.”
After decades, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the sailors from the Oklahoma and used new techniques to identify their remains. Luckily, Carl Wagoner was still alive to see his brother’s remains repatriated to their home in Haysville, Kansas in October 2016.
AARP studios brings the story of Lewis Wagoner’s remains and his family’s efforts to bring him home in the video below.
“To have him come home actually, to be close to all of us, means a whole lot to them and to me,” says Mark Wagoner, Lewis Wagoner’s nephew. “Now I can show my children and tell my children what and who he was.”
The US Army is preparing to field new night vision goggles and an integrated weapons sight that will change the way US ground forces go to war.
The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) and the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) will make US soldiers and Marines deadlier in the dark by offering improved depth perception for better mobility and increased situational awareness at night, as well as the ability to accurately shoot around corners and from the hip.
The Army will begin fielding this capability late September 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas, where this new technology will be delivered to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The night vision goggles offer higher-resolution imagery, as well as improved thermal capabilities, giving ground troops the ability to see through dust, fog, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular.
(US Army photo)
The goggles wirelessly connect to the weapon sight, delivering Rapid Target Acquisition capability. With a picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can see not only what is in front of them, but also whatever their weapon is aimed at, allowing them to shoot from the hip or point their weapon around a corner.
“This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” according to the Army.
This system was tested with US soldiers, special operators, Marines, and National Guard personnel.
Sgt. First Class Will Roth, a member of the Army Futures Command Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, was skeptical when he first learned about this technology, he told the Army in a statement. “I couldn’t envision a time when soldiers would accept this product and trust it in the field,” he said.
His mind changed after he saw a Marine lie down on his back and fire over his shoulder at targets 50 to 100 meters away, relying solely on the goggles paired wirelessly to the optics on the Marine’s rifle. “He hit five out of seven. It gave me chill bumps,” Roth said.
“I decided this was an insane game changer,” he added. “I’m a believer, one hundred percent. Nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”
Senior Army officials are optimistic about the capabilities of this new technology.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, told Congress earlier this year, adding that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told reporters in October 2018 that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The ENVG-B and FWS-I mark the first deliverables of the US Army’s one-year-old four-star command, Army Futures Command, which is dedicated to the development of next-generation weapons and warfighting systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Officials revealed that the U.S. Navy is confident its carriers and other key strategic units can hold their own inside China’s growing anti-access zones in the Asia-Pacific region.
Anti-access, area-denial “is certainly a goal for some of our competitors, but achieving that goal is very different and much more complicated,” argues Adm. John Richardson in an interview with the National Interest, indicating that rival states with anti-access ambitions are struggling to develop weapons capable of permanently boxing out the U.S. military.
When questioned about whether or not U.S. carriers can survive rival anti-access A2/AD systems, Richardson reportedly responded with an adamant “Yes.”
The logic is that A2/AD weapons technology, while it has a fancy new name, is not a new concept. A2/AD weaponry is essentially long-range weaponry. Missiles are just the latest evolution of long-range weaponry, explains the National Interest.
China’s “keep out” diplomacy and projectile-based A2/AD defense systems are generally regarded as threats to the resurgence of American military power in the Asia-Pacific. China’s so-called “carrier killer” missiles are considered serious challenges to American naval and air operations in the Asia Pacific by military insiders.
China is building a missile wall to deter U.S. incursions into the South China Sea and the East China Sea — regions where China hopes to carve out a sphere of influence for itself.
China cannot compete with U.S. Naval and air power, so it uses missiles as a primary deterrent. Projectile weapons are much easier and cheaper to produce than advanced naval and air units. Anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), surface-to-air missiles (SAM), fast attack submarines, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are the core components of China’s A2/AD strategy.
Richardson and Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller assert that Chinese A2/AD zones are not “impenetrable domes.
Defense strategies using long-range weapons to deny access to superior forces has been a component of war for centuries, the military is factoring this into its calculations and strategies. That other countries are developing A2/AD technology is not a surprise.
Miller suggested that the A2/AD threat to the U.S. Navy was actually greater during the Cold War when the Soviets deployed countless Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfires and sent out numerous Omar-class cruise missile submarines to eliminate U.S. carriers. By comparison, China’s present A2/AD advancements are less threatening.
To counter potential A2/AD threats to U.S. Naval and air units at sea, U.S. carrier air wings, groups consisting of aircraft carriers and several aircraft detachments, are being outfitted with the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network. This system allows any unit in the carrier air wing to act as a sensor or shooter for another unit.
Richardson and Miller expect the F-35C, a joint strike fighter, and the MQ-25 Stingray, an aerial refueling unit, to dramatically boost the strategic strike capabilities of U.S. carrier wings.
“When the F-35 enters the air wing, I think it’s going to be quite potent,” Rear Adm. Miller told the National Interest. “The F-35 is a quantum leap in air superiority,” he added.
The F-35C will likely be combined with the MQ-25 Stingray, the airborne early warning (AEW) E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, and the multipurpose F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter, as well as the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) to create an elite carrier wing capable of dealing with projectile weaponry and penetrating enemy anti-access zones.
Adm. Richardson and Rear Adm. Miller believe that U.S. aircraft carriers will remain viable well into the future, especially with the deployment of the improved Ford-class aircraft carriers.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
US defense secretary Jim Mattis said August 14 “all options — from withdrawal, to using private contractors, to adding thousands of US forces to the fight — remain on the table for Afghanistan.”
Mattis repeated the White House and Pentagon were ‘very close’ to finalizing a new strategy to present to President Trump.
Mattis, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have worked for months to craft strategy options for President Donald Trump.
Mattis said both withdrawal and a private contracted force were still under consideration. “The strategic decisions have not been made,” Mattis said. “It’s part of the options being considered.”
Military Times previously reported on Trump supporter and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s efforts to outsource the now 16-year Afghan war to private contractors, including offering a privatized air force for Afghanistan.
Military Times also reported that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince. It is not clear whether that refusal has frustrated Trump.
According to NBC News, Trump has asked both Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Nicholson as the top US general in Afghanistan. due to the president’s frustration with how that campaign is going.
On August 14, Mattis defended Nicholson, saying he “of course” supports him. But Mattis could not say whether the White House similarly supported him.
Gen. John Nicholson. (Dept. of Defense photo)
“Ask the president,” Mattis said. “[Nicholson] has the confidence of NATO. He has the confidence of the United States.”
The new strategy for Afghanistan was expected about a month ago. Mattis said he was still confident a decision was close.
“We are sharpening each of the options so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one so that there’s no longer any new data you are going to get, now just make the decision.”
The F-15 Eagle, arguably the most successful fighter jet of the modern age, could be in for an early retirement with the US Air Force thanks to skyrocketing upgrade and refurbishment costs.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force and Air National Guard brass informed the panel that a plan was recently formed to retire and replace the F-15C/D variant of the Eagle far ahead of schedule by a matter of decades, though no decision had been made on that plan. While the Air Force did plan to keep the Eagle flying till 2040 through a $4 billion upgrade, it was recently determined that a further $8 billion would need to be invested in refurbishing the fuselages of these Eagles, driving up the costs of retaining the F-15C/D even higher than originally expected — presenting what seems to be the final nail the Eagle’s eventual coffin.
So, what will the Air Force likely do to replace this 40-year-old wonder jet?
The Air Force had at first planned to replace the F-15 with the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but successive cuts to the Raptor program left the branch with only 187 fighters, a substantially lower quantity than the planned buy of around 700. This forced the decision to keep the Eagles in service longer, and thus, the aforementioned investment of over $4 billion was made towards upgrading all combat coded F-15C/Ds with new radars, networking systems, and avionics to keep these fighters in service up till around 2040, when it would be replaced with a newer sixth-generation fighter, also superseding the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.
Once the F-15 gets pulled by the mid-2020s, the Air Force claims it already has a solution to replace what was once a bastion of American air power.
This solution comes in the form of enhancing F-16 Fighting Falcons with new radars from Northrop Grumman, and networking systems to take over the Eagle’s role in North American air defense, at least in the interim until the Air Force begins and completes its sixth-generation fighter project, which will bring about an even more capable air superiority fighter replacement for both the F-22 and the F-15.
The Air Force has already begun extending the lives of its F-16s till 2048, through a fleet-wide Service Life Extension Program that will add an extra 4,000 flight hours to its Fighting Falcons. Air Force leadership has also advocated buying more fighters, namely the F-35A Lightning II, faster, so that when the hammer does eventually drop on the Eagle, the branch’s fighter fleet won’t be left undersized and vulnerable.
Even with upgrades, however, the F-16 still has some very big boots to fill.
The F-15 was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, meaning it was built to excel at shooting other aircraft down; all other mission types, like performing air-to-ground strikes, were secondary to its main tasking. To perform in this role, the Eagle was given stellar range, sizable weapons carriage, fantastic speed (over two and a half times the speed of sound), and a high operational ceiling. Conversely, the F-16 was designed as a low-cost alternative to the F-15, able to operate in a variety of roles, though decidedly not as well as the F-15 could with the air-to-air mission. Its combat range, weapons load and speed fall short of the standard set by the Eagle. Regardless, the Air Force still believes that the F-16 will be the best interim solution until the 6th generation fighter is fielded.
The USAF’s most decorated F-16 pilot, Dan Hampton, doesn’t disagree with these plans. In an interview with The War Zone, Hampton argues that though the F-16 lacks the weapons payload that the F-15 possesses, advances in missile guidance and homing make carrying more air-to-air weaponry a moot point, as pilots would likely hit their mark with the first or second shot, instead of having to fire off a salvo of missiles. Hampton adds that the F-16’s versatility in being able to perform a diverse array of missions makes it more suitable for long-term upgrades to retain it over the Eagle. Whether or not this will actually work out the way the Air Force hopes it will is anybody’s guess.