Elon Musk says the US's F-35 stealth jet 'would have no chance' against a 'drone fighter plane' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.


At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”

“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.

The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.

The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.

Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.

The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

media.defense.gov

The Air Force conference at which Musk made his comments included senior US military officials and pilots.

Speaking with Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Musk said autonomous drone warfare “is where it’s at” and “where the future will be,” according to Defense News.

“It’s not that I want the future to be this. That’s just what the future will be,” Musk added. “The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This admiral might be the bluest falcon that ever lived

Fleet Admiral Ernest King was one of the greatest military minds of his generation, rising to command the entire Navy fleet after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and ensuring that every theater of the war had its needed material, manpower, and great thinkers throughout World War II.

But he also slept with the wives of subordinates, enforced prohibition on others while being staggeringly drunk, and punished the intelligence genius behind the Battle of Midway for outguessing his own team. Ya know, like a Blue Falcon.


Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U. S. Navy, arrives at his quarters and salutes a soldier during the Potsdam Conference in 1945.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Let’s start with his buddyf*ckery that actually affected the war. As mentioned above, King had an issue with the intelligence genius behind the Navy’s Midway success.

The problem came during the buildup to the battle. King’s staff briefed him that the most likely Japanese course of action was an attack on the U.S. West Coast and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Admiral Chester Nimitz’s staff intercepted and decoded Japanese radio transmissions that indicated an attack near Midway Island.

Both intelligence sections were actually correct. The Japanese did attack the Aleutian Islands in June, 1942, and occupy a few of them, but it was a relatively small and inconsequential action next to the massive attack at Midway that same week.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Captain Joseph J. Rochefort led the team that cracked Japan’s naval code, then prioritized which messages to translate first, and then took the collected information to paint a clear picture of the coming attack at Midway in 1942. He was rewarded by being shipped off to pasture.

(U.S. Navy)

Nimitz pressured King into giving him the needed ships for a defense at Midway, staged one of the most decisive engagements of the war, crippled the Japanese Navy, and then put in the top intelligence officer for a Distinguished Service Medal.

Seems well-earned, right? Captain Joseph J. Rochefort had led the team that cracked the Japanese code, then used intelligence garnered from that break to prepare the fleet for a decisive engagement that led to a massive American victory.

King didn’t think so. He summarily denied the award and then transferred Rochefort out of Nimitz’s staff and into a lesser position even though Nimitz begged him not to.

Caw. Caw.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

The Japanese ship Mikuma slowly sinks during the Battle of Midway in 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

But King didn’t limit his Blue Falcon practices to the official realm. He also slept with the wives of his subordinates, and often sexually harassed them. Women knew not to sit next to him at official functions because he had a tendency to let his hands wander under the table.

One officer, Captain Paul Pihl, was friends with King. He and his wife, Charlotte Pihl, would regularly attend parties with him. King reportedly held his own parties with Charlotte, going to the Pihls’ farmhouse when Paul was away at sea. This happened so frequently that King’s wife, Mattie, knew to call the Pihl house if she couldn’t find her husband at the office.

But most subordinate officers were more familiar and resentful of King’s notoriety for enforcing the rules against his own subordinates while violating them himself. While there are plenty of examples of this from ship life and day-to-day operations, it’s perhaps most notable in King’s drinking.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

The USS Lexington in 1941. King had predicted the rise of naval aviation and commanded the Lexington during a mock attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932 that almost perfectly predicted the 1941 attack.

(U.S. Navy)

King was in the service during Prohibition, and he encouraged officers around and beneath him to strictly follow the rules, except when he wanted to get drunk. He was known to carry a flask with him and doled out drinks with it when he wanted to party, even if he was pouring for people whom he would otherwise punish for drinking.

He even encouraged the commandant of his flight school to enforce prohibition against enlisted men and young officers while simultaneously joining an officers club known for its rancorous and alcohol-fueled parties.

All-in-all, not the best example or steadiest hand at the wheel.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Admiral Ernest King onboard the USS Augusta (CA-31) with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox during a visit to Bermuda in September 1941.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

But the Navy put up with him and promoted him all the way to fleet admiral, making him one of only a handful of American service members who have ever worn five stars. Only five admirals ever received the honor, four of them during World War II.

That’s because, for his many flaws, he was also a brilliant tactician, strategist, and organizer. He predicted the rise of submarine warfare and naval aviation, attending and graduating both Navy schools, while the rest of his contemporaries were focused on battleships.

And he was known for doing what needed to be done, even if he was a jerk while doing so. When he was promoted to Chief of Naval operations over eight more senior admirals after Pearl Harbor. Legend has it that a reporter asked why he thought President Franklin D. Roosevelt had picked him, and King responded, “when the shooting starts, they have to send for the sons of bitches.”

As Roosevelt might have put it, “He’s a SOB, but he’s our SOB.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


Runner for life

Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

“It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

“It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

“I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

Nothing but net

Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

“Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

“My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

“Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

Leaping over obstacles

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

“I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

“The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

The MDNG athlete

For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

“The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

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

popular

These 11 weapons have been in the US military’s inventory a very long time

The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:


1. M2 (1933)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.

2. B52 (1954)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber carries enough up to 70,000 pounds of ordnance on flights up to 9,000 nautical miles. Don’t worry if it needs to go further; it can refuel in the air. There are plans to upgrade the B-52’s carrying capacity to 105,000 pounds as well as computer upgrades to let this plane originally built in 1954 serve until 2040.

3. C-130 (1954)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew

The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.

It has delivered tanks at high speed, dropped paratroopers, and transported supplies to every corner of the globe. An armed version, the AC-130, has supported troops in combat since Vietnam.

4. KC-135 (1956)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman

The first KC-135 took to the air in Aug 1956, and the flying gas station has been serving America’s best jets, helicopters, and prop aircraft ever since. Carrying up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, it has served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. U-2 (1956)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The high-flying U-2, famous for its reconnaissance role during the Cold War, took flight in 1956 and has received repeated upgrades ever since. Today, the U-2S can fly at 70,000 feet and is being eyed for service beyond 2050.

6. M14 (1957)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

The M14 entered service in 1957 and was the standard rifle for U.S. Marines and Soldiers from 1959-1970. While it was replaced by the better known M16 for most missions from Vietnam on, improved versions have continued to see action in American hands, mostly as a weapon for squad marksmen and special operators.

7. UH-1 (1958)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg

The UH-1 first flew with the U.S. Army as the HU-1 in Vietnam in 1958 as an air MEDEVAC platform. It was quickly adapted for troop transport and attack missions. Today, upgraded versions of the UH-1 with a second engine serves in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force as well as in foreign militaries.

8. M72 LAW (1963)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Parkinson

Capable of piercing nearly 8 inches of enemy armor from over 200 yards away with a 66mm rocket, the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon was designed to give U.S. infantry a fighting chance against Russian armor in 1963. Though no longer in production, the U.S. uses stockpiled weapons to knock out light enemy armor and buildings.

9. AH-1 Cobra (1967)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: US Marine Corp Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

Originally introduced to the military in 1967 as a stopgap solution in the Vietnam War while the AH-56 was developed. The AH-56 never materialized and the AH-1 reigned supreme until the adoption of the AH-64 Apache. While the U.S. phased out the AH-1, the Marine Corps still fields an upgraded version, the AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper.

10. CH-47 (1962)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

The CH-47A Chinook entered Army service in 1962 and were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. Today, conventional Army units fly the CH-47F with engine, computer, and avionics upgrades from the CH-47A while the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flies the MH-47G with increased fuel storage and inflight refueling capabilities.

11. A-10 (1975)

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Photo: DARPA

The beloved Warthog. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is famous for its seven-barrel, 30mm gatling gun but has also been firing rockets, missiles, and bombs since 1975. It’s recent retirement plans have been indefinitely canceled.

Because Brrrrrt!

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6 tips to help you get through Air Assault School

Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.


Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.

(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)

If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne

If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.

If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.

Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.

Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending

The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.

The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)

Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day

“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.

The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.

(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)

There’s actually a lot of math

After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.

And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.

(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)

Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping

Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.

The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.

(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)

Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed

If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.

If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy Coast Guard rescue of an Air Force pilot in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, some Coast Guard pilots were given the chance to volunteer for service on the front lines, relieving the pressure on over-tasked Air Force pilots. Some of those Coast Guard pilots who volunteered would go on to dramatically rescue a downed Air Force pilot and were later awarded Silver Stars for their actions.


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Pararescuemen leap out of a HH-3E during an exercise. The HH-3E, known as the “Jolly Green Giant,” was widely used in Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The 11 Coast Guard pilots selected for the program went through months of special training in survival, tactics, and the aircraft they would be flying, the HH-3E, before flying to Vietnam to start their tours.

In country, they were folded into flight crews, often with Air Force copilots, engineers, and pararescuemen. Their job was to pick up isolated personnel — usually downed aircrews — provide immediate medical care, and deliver them to field medical facilities.

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A U.S. Air Force F-105G, similar to the one lost on July 1, 1968, leading to a dramatic rescue by U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel under fire.

(U.S. Air Force)

On July 1, 1968, an F-105 Thunderchief with the callsign “Scotch 3” was hit over the Vietnamese peninsula and made for the gulf, but fell too fast and the pilot was forced to eject into a jungle canyon. Lt. Col. Jack Modica was knocked out by the impact of his landing, and woke up two hours later.

He reported his condition to the forward air controller, and the HH-3Es attempted to get to him. The first attempts were unsuccessful due to ground fire, so the Air Force sent in another HH-3E with ground attack aircraft suppressing enemy air defenses.

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A Douglas A-1 Skyraider like the one shot down July 2, 1968, while trying to suppress ground fire in Vietnam.

(Clemens Vasters, CC BY 2.0)

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Lonnie Mixon flew the helicopter during these attempts, taking fire that damaged his fuel tank, a hydraulic line, and the electrical system. Shockingly, even after all that damage, he made one more attempt, but was again forced to break off due to anti-aircraft fire. This forced the pilot to spend the night in the jungle. Mixon later received the Silver Star for his brave attempts.

So, the rescue birds came back again in the morning, but it went even worse than the night before. One of the ground-attack aircraft, an A-1 Skyraider, was shot down, and the rescue chopper was forced back home after suffering heavy damage, including having an unexploded rocket lodged inside of it.

With this list of failures, dangers, and damage, the Air Force turned to Jolly 21 pilot U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Lance Eagan and asked him to fly in behind a B-52 bomber strike. Eagan and his Air Force crew accepted the mission and went to work.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

An Air Force crew lowers a jungle penetrator from a HH-3E helicopter during an exercise.

(U.S. Air Force)

Again, ground fire opened up, striking the rescue bird, but Eagan was able to get through the flak intact and spotted smoke thrown by Modica. He found a nearby open patch to lower the PJ into the jungle to go grab Modica. The PJ found that Modica had a pelvic break.

Eagan was forced to lower the helicopter down into the trees, striking some of the high branches, to get the jungle penetrator as close to the pilot as possible, but the PJs still had to carry the injured man a short distance. As the crew began raising the men from the jungle floor, the Vietnamese sprang their trap.

Automatic weapons fire thundered into the helicopter, shattering the windscreen and penetrating the thin metal skin, but Eagan kept the bird steady until the hoist cleared the trees and the HH-3E was able to tear away low and fast.

The injured pilot was successfully delivered to a hospital, and the rescue crew was later decorated for their bravery. Eagan was awarded the Silver Star by the Air Force for his actions.

He and Mixon weren’t the only Coast Guard pilots to receive that award. Lt. Jack Rittichier had been shot down the month before during a rescue attempt, and he was awarded the Silver Star along with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

The Coast Guard’s involvement in combat air rescue continued for another four years, ending in 1972.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Crocodile Hunter’s kids continue legacy during wildfires

Hearing the devastating fires that are ripping through Australia right now is heartbreaking, but one family is really stepping up, and their father would be really proud. Steve Irwin’s kids are continuing his wildlife preservation legacy and have already saved 90,000 animals in their homeland.


According to CNN, The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s daughter, Bindi, and the rest of the family, have rescued and treated over 90,000 animals who were injured in the recent wildfires in Australia. The Australia Zoo, which is owned and operated by the Irwin family, and their conservation properties, are not endangered by fires raging right now, and they’ve taken in and cared for animals affected by the fires. The 21-year-old shared the Wildlife Hospital at their zoo is “busier than ever” and they will continue to help as many animals as they can.

The environmental activist and conservationist has been sharing photos on her Instagram account of some of the animals that her Wildlife hospital has seen and treated, and the stories of some who, sadly, they could not safe. Blossom, a possum, was featured along with powerful words urging others to help how they can.

“Devastatingly, this beautiful girl didn’t make it even after working so hard to save her life,” she writes. “I want to thank you for your kind words and support. This is the heart-wrenching truth, every day is a battle to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Statistics show almost a third of koalas in Australia’s New South Wales region may have been killed in the raging bushfires, and there’s no question what Bindi and her family are doing to try and help is incredible.

The family shared how others can get involved in caring for the animals who have been harmed. “If you would like to lend a hand, the local fire stations could sure use donations as they are working so hard to keep everyone safe,” she writes. “One of our team members is currently fundraising to construct drinking stations on our conservation property due to the critical drought. You can find his fundraiser by visiting the link in my bio.”

“‪Together we can make a difference to help our planet in this time of devastation.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 absurd military habits that stay with you forever

The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.

There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.


Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”

The bug-out bag in your trunk.

This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.

To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?

Now: 12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

I would rather ride in silence.

Shouting in the passenger seat.

Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.

Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

How to gain credibility in one easy photo.

Staring at everyone’s shoes.

Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Eating too fast.

How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Carrying everything in your left hand.

When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.

Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it. 

There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.

Military Life

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

There is another maritime “service” you may not have heard much about, yet, the United States Merchant Marine is arguably incredibly important to the Armed Forces. They also help keep America’s economy moving. But what exactly is this?


6. It is civilian-manned ships

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military. Now, some of them run a number of ships that support the U.S. Navy, like the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships, as well as the sealift vessels like the Bob Hope-class vehicle cargo chips.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204). The oiler is manned by merchant mariners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

5. The United States Merchant Marine is small

The total civilian merchant fleet of the Untied States is 393 vessels, according to the CIA World Factbook. It ranks 27th in the world, behind Russia (11th with 1,143 merchant ships) and China (2nd, with 4,052 merchant ships). This includes privately-owned ships, as well as those owned by the federal government.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
The Maersk Alabama is one of only 84 container ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine. (U.S. Navy photo)

4. The United States has a special agency for the Merchant Marine

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

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Seal of the Maritime Administration (Department of Transportation graphic)

3. You can become an officer by going to one of seven “maritime academies”

To become the captain of a merchant ship, your best route would be to attend a “maritime academy.” There are seven of them located across the country: The United States Merchant Marine Academy, the California State University Maritime Academy, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, the Maine Maritime Academy, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College, and the Texas AM Maritime Academy.

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An aerial view of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. (United States Merchant Marine Academy photo)

2. A lot of famous people were in the Merchant Marine

Some very familiar names have served in the Merchant Marine at one point or another. While today’s most famous merchant mariner is Richard Phillips, former captain of the Maersk Alabama, others include filmmaker Oliver Stone, writers Louis L’Amour and Jack Vance, as well as playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

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Capt. Richard Phillips, former Captain of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama, publicly thanks Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) for his dramatic rescue at sea. On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Navy SEALs positioned on the fantail of the Bainbridge opened fire and killed three of the pirates who were holding Phillips hostage. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. There is a merchant mariner’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor

While merchant mariners cannot receive the Medal of Honor or other military decorations, valor doesn’t go unrecognized. The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Department of Transportation to those who show “outstanding conduct or service in the line of duty.” A list of awardees from World War II can be seen here.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
Front and back views of the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. (DOD graphic)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 5 scams that hurt military families

It seems so urgent. You receive a call saying your deployed or traveling military member has lost their ID, needs cash, and has asked this trustworthy person to contact you. While you may recognize this to be along the lines of the Nigerian-prince-asking-for-money email, some other scams that hurt military families may be more difficult to spot.

Military members are often young and financially inexperienced, have reliable income, and frequently move around, a combination which may make them and their families seem like easy targets to scammers, especially since it might take them some time to notice an irregularity in a bill or credit report.

Can you spot a would-be scammer? Here are a few to watch out for, as you protect your loved ones, your personal information, and your wallet.


Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)

1. Scams Preying on Deployed Families

What it is: Scammers contact the spouse or parents of a deployed service member and pretend to be someone in authority, claiming the military member has been injured/lost their wallet/is held up somewhere traveling. Using the fear that families already feel about their loved one or lack of knowledge about military processes, the scammer hopes family members will give up personal information to “prove who they are” or even cash.

Why it matters/what to do: The military won’t ever contact family members via phone or email asking for personal information or money. Military members won’t need cash from their families to travel to or return from deployment. Don’t let fear compel you to share your personal information with strangers.

2. Rental Scams

What it is: You’re due to PCS in a few months and have decided to start looking at homes online. You come across what seems like the perfect house for your family–a rental decorated with that farmhouse style that would meet Joanna Gaines’ approval, with four bedrooms, amazing upgrades, new appliances, and in the school district you’ve been hoping for…all with amazingly low rent! The kicker? The landlord pushes for a security deposit or money to hold the property before you or a representative can even view the home in person, because “it’s going to go fast.” And you need to send that money, like yesterday.Hurry!” they press, “I’ve already got someone else looking at it!”

Why it matters/what to do: This sense of false urgency should be a red flag. While it could be legit, it’s possible the person listing the property simply copied it from another listing, isn’t the actual property manager, and is using the compressed military move timetable to try to make a quick, dishonest buck.

Stick with reputable sites or trusted referrals. Better yet, wait until you arrive to tour the home yourself. If that’s impossible, see if you have a friend in the area who can Facetime you while touring the home or hire a MILLIE Scout to do the legwork (the company hires military spouses just for this purpose!). Get more details about online rental scams.

3. Tickets or High-Priced Items at a “Too Good to Be True” Discount

What it is: Crooks hide behind all the goodwill and discounts offered to military by many businesses around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Putting ads on Craiglist or other sites, sellers offer “great deals” for active duty on everything from tickets for professional sporting events to home goods. The seller, of course, requires money to be wired first to hold the item at this phenomenal price (seeing a pattern here?) and then when the item is to be picked up or transferred, disappears.

Why it matters/what to do: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to well-known business and sites when you see military or veteran deals around holidays, especially for big ticket items like cars or in demand concert or event tickets.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

(Photo by Jeff Drongowski)

4. Scams Targeting Extended Family

What it is: Along the lines of the scams targeting deployed family members, this one preys on elderly relatives of service members. One scammer contacted a soldier’s 84-year-old grandmother and asked her to wire money in order to assist him, with the caller claiming that her grandson had lost his ID card on his way home from Iraq and couldn’t get home without her help. Thankfully, she realized the request was not legitimate.

Why it matters/what to do: The military doesn’t require funds from family members to transfer wounded back home (another scam) or help with getting ID cards or other belongings. There’s a system in place that would not involve contacting the member’s spouse, parents, grandparents, or anyone else for money. Educated your elderly relatives about how the military handles emergencies and advise them to call authorities if they are contacted by a scammer or suspicious person.

5. Catfishing

What it is: Recently, I noticed a Facebook friend request from a high ranking service member I’m friends with, who I know is not on social media. I let him know and quickly deleted and reported it, since the photo showed him in uniform in his official photo. His comment about the situation was sad, “It happens all the time.”

Why it matters/what to do: Scammers assume identities of military members in order to befriend, lure, or get money from strangers. With many official military photos online, this is not difficult to do. In fact, over 30,000 military consumers reported identity theft in 2017.

Help protect your identity and those of people you know. Monitor your own social media for obvious duplicate accounts and let friends know if you see a duplicate account of theirs. Use identity theft protection and credit monitoring from reputable providers such as Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of data breaches.

A New Meaning to the Phrase “Trust but Verify”

A couple of good rules to follow: never send money to an unknown entity, no matter how urgently they appeal, and never share your personal information over the phone or by email, even to an “official” sounding person. Family members, double check with the military member’s unit if you receive an urgent call regarding their situation.

As long as there have been phones and the internet, there have been people bent on using it for harm. While it can seem like a losing battle, staying vigilant about your personal information and trusting your gut will go a long way towards protecting yourself. Changing passwords frequently, monitoring your accounts regularly, putting a security freeze on your credit reports to prevent unwanted access to your information, and even not listing your birthdate on social media are some simple ways to thwart the scammers. Deployed members can put an ‘active duty alert’ on their accounts, which will notify businesses to take extra steps before offering credit in their name. For more ideas to protect yourself, see Consumer Report’s “Protect Your Identity.”

If you’ve been the victim of a scam or need to report suspicious activity, get more information from:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Phone Scam Information

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
(Photo: U.S. Army)


Over the course of fighting America’s most recent wars, troops faced the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs on a daily basis. More than a decade later, the U.S. Army is building a new crash test dummy to better understand the physical risks these crude but deadly weapons pose to soldiers downrange.

In addition to registering the location of impacts and stress during tests, the new design will be coupled with an extensive database to help predict how likely an individual is to suffer a serious injury. The ground combat branch has dubbed the program the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin, or WIAMan. As anyone in the military probably already knows, “WIA” is also the acronym for “wounded in action.”

The Army hopes that the new device will help provide more information on just what happens when a bomb goes off underneath a vehicle. “There is a wide range of test conditions and environment parameters” and “no two sets of system responses are the same,” engineers and scientists working on WIAMan explained in a briefing in June.

The individuals from the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Research Laboratory sat down with defense contractors to talk about the state of the program. The service wants to start looking for a company to make WIAMan dummies by the end of 2017.

But just building a prototype machine that fits the requirements has been a long and complex process. The Army kicked off WIAMan more than five years ago as the bulk of American forces were starting to leave Iraq.

By that point, IEDs were a well-known threat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, huge bombs routinely ripped through unarmored Humvees and better-protected vehicles. The Pentagon had responded by rushing mine-resistant trucks, bomb detectors and jammers and other gear to troops in the field. Though this equipment saved lives, it did not eliminate serious injuries.

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, explosives had accounted for more than three quarters of all military injuries, according to a study Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, Chairman of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Neurosurgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, led and published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2013. Explosions underneath vehicles specifically were likely to cause severe damage to the pelvis, spinal column, legs and feet, Andrew Merkle, a principal professional staff member at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and his colleagues explained in another 2013 piece.

At that time, Army researchers had to rely on modified auto industry manikin, called Hybrid III. The manufacturer, Humanetics, only intended the original dummy for testing head on collisions in commercial cars. On top of that, the design reflected an outdated 1970s body shape.

Instruments in this surrogate person only show damage and strain in broad areas and joints. To help engineers and scientists log potential injuries, the Army’s version only has five so-called “biofidelity response corridors,” or BRCs.

By comparison, WIAMan will have more than 800 BRCs. This means that instead of simply sensing impact on a section of chest or foot as a whole, the manikin would report dangerous forces on particular ribs or the soles or heel specifically.

The prototype dummy was structured around a 50th percentile male soldier. After the Pentagon removed the last restrictions preventing women serving in combat roles in December 2015, the full production run will have to include female body shapes.

Combined with an extensive and growing knowledge-base of injury data, WIAMan should not only be able to highlight possibly dangers but predict them, too. This means that when the Army considers a new tank or truck in the future, researchers might be able to gauge the likelihood of the drivers and occupants suffering specific injuries if they run over a roadside bomb.

And capturing more data from the dummy itself means engineers won’t have to try and cram secondary cameras or sensors inside armored vehicle compartments or truck cabs to gather additional significant information. These spaces are cramped to begin with and these sensitive systems are often damaged in testing.

A “blast test of a surrogate vehicle structure … provided realism,” another one of the June presentations noted. “However, it is costly, not repeatable and occupant response cannot be fully observed.”

Unfortunately, WIAMan alone won’t be able to fill all of the Army’s research gaps by itself. The manikin will not be able to test for a slew of effects beyond an underbody blast.

In its prototype form, the soldier stand-in cannot determine whether troops might be at risk from shrapnel or burns. In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs often set off fuel or ammunition in vehicles leading to serious burns.

In 2006, the Marine Corps notably banned leathernecks from wearing synthetic clothing, including popular Under Armour undershirts, because of their low melting points. The Corps found evidence that the garments could fuse to skin with horrific results in a fire.

More importantly, WIAMan will not be able to help gather badly needed information about the potential for traumatic brain injuries, commonly called TBIs. Concussions and other TBIs have been increasingly linked to long-term brain damage and increased risk of serious health conditions.

Since 2000, the Pentagon has diagnosed more than 340,000 active service members with various kinds of TBIs, according to statistics compiled by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Medical professionals classified 5,000 of these cases as “penetrating,” instances where an actual object pierces the skull and physically hits the brain.

By far, the majority of the instances are “mild,” a synonym for concussions.  However, research shows that people who suffer from multiple instances of these injuries suffer far from mild consequences.

While scientists are still studying the exact relationship between concussions and other health issues, there is significant correlation between the injuries and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also seen in boxers and other professional athletes, this is a form of dementia characterized by declining memory, cognition and motor control and itself linked to depression, suicidal behavior, and aggressive outbursts.

American troops have already spent some 15 years in a state or near constant combat operations. Given the rise of new terrorist groups like Islamic State, the Pentagon’s high operational tempo seems unlikely to change in the near future.

In the meantime, soldiers and other service members will likely continue to suffer TBIs and other injuries from IEDs. Though not perfect, WIAMan will give scientists and engineers critical information to help protect our men and women in uniform.

Articles

How a soldier earned a rare battlefield promotion during an ISIS fight

When Jeremy Penderman joined the Army, he wasn’t quite sure what his job would entail.


“I’m not even sure the recruiter knew what the job was,” he said.

But Penderman, a multichannel transmission systems operator/maintainer, said the job hasn’t disappointed.

Now serving in Iraq with Fort Bragg’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Penderman has an undeniable impact on his unit and the ongoing fight to retake the key northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State terrorist group, officials said.

So undeniable that Penderman, who has spent nearly seven years in the Army, was the recipient of a rare battlefield promotion in April of 2017.

In an impromptu ceremony near Al Tarab, Iraq, Sgt. Penderman became Staff Sgt. Penderman when Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin pinned the new rank to his chest.

Penderman, who was at the base repairing communications equipment, said the visit — and the promotion — were unexpected.

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’
U.S. Army Col. Pat Work, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides an operations update for Paratroopers at a patrol base near Al Tarab, Iraq, March 30, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

Martin, the commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command — Operation Inherent Resolve and the 1st Infantry Division, was able to promote Penderman after determining that the soldier “demonstrated an extraordinary performance of duties” while filling a job that’s typically held by someone of a higher rank.

It was a special recognition for Penderman, who had spent nearly two years awaiting a promotion but still lacked the requirements for a typical bump in rank.

“It was a complete surprise,” Penderman told The Fayetteville Observer from Iraq last week. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

Penderman, 25, is a Durham-native who oversees communications for the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute infantry Regiment, which has about 700 soldiers in Iraq and deployed late last year.

In that role, he leads a small team of soldiers who work to ensure troops can communicate across the battlefield, keeping a network in place to spur a constant flow of information from advise-and-assist teams embedded with Iraqi forces and between unmanned aerial vehicles and soldiers on the ground.

The job often sees him working with complex communications equipment, tapping into satellites and generally maintaining a tactical communications network in an austere and ever-changing environment.

Not bad for someone who knew little to nothing about his career when he joined the Army.

“I didn’t even know what an IP (address) was,” Penderman said. “I didn’t know anything about computers.”

Instead, Penderman had high hopes that baseball would be his future.

“I played everywhere,” he said of his time at the Durham School of the Arts. “But I went to college as an outfielder.”

That college was Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, where Penderman received a scholarship to play baseball.

But after being redshirted his freshman year, he began to reconsider another dream.

Penderman always wanted to join the military. He wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a Marine, although his parents urged him to try college instead.

He made a promise that he would give college a year, and, if that didn’t work, he’d be free to enlist.

Today, Penderman might have been a Marine if it wasn’t for one more discovery.

“I found out about the airborne,” he said.

Over spring break his freshman year — March 2010 — Penderman walked into a recruiting center and enlisted in the Army.

At first, he wanted to be an airborne infantryman, but a recruiter instead guided him through a list of available jobs.

He described Penderman’s current military occupational specialty, known as a 25Q, as “half infantry, half radios” and promised he could still become a paratrooper. Also, the job came with an enlistment bonus.

Since enlisting, Penderman spent more than four years in Germany with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team before joining the 82nd Airborne Division about two years ago.

He has seven years in the Army and plans to apply to become a warrant officer in the Signal Corps. While he wants to stay in the Army as long as possible, he said the skills he’s learned have opened the door to a bright future no matter if he wears the uniform or not.

“It’s really set me up for success, whether I stay in or get out,” he said.

Penderman is noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of his battalion’s S6, or communications, shop.

Typically, that organization would have upward of a dozen soldiers, including an NCOIC and an officer. But Penderman’s shop has three soldiers and no officer.

That shows the faith and trust that leadership has in the soldier, officials said.

In training while preparing for the deployment, the battalion trained with the smaller force. But Penderman said little could have prepared him for another aspect of the deployment — a constant leapfrogging of the battlefield.

When Penderman’s battalion arrived in country, they set up more than 20 miles from Mosul to partner with the 9th Iraqi Armored Division, one of the local forces looking to take back the city.

“And we moved six times,” Penderman said. “As they gain ground and they move forward, we move forward with them.”

Today, he’s based out of a tactical assembly area near the village of Bakhira. From there, he’s near the border of the city and close to the fighting.

“We can hear them shooting off mortars,” Penderman said.

He’s also seen forces treating wounded. And he said that knowing he has played a role in the march into the city has been humbling.

“It’s fulfilling work,” Penderman said. “I get to impact the battalion on a daily basis… It definitely feels like I’m making a difference in my battalion and helping to make a difference in the fight in Mosul.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump declares he’ll be Putin’s worst enemy if talks fail

President Donald Trump distanced himself from allegations that he was cozying up to Russia and said if President Vladimir Putin crossed the line, he would Putin’s “worst enemy.”

“If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” Trump said in an interview with CNBC anchor Joe Kernen on Thursday. “The worst he’s ever had.”

Trump made his comments three days after his summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where he was criticized for holding reservations against US intelligence reports and failed to condemn Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

After returning to Washington the next day, Trump walked back his comments and said he misspoke after a
wave of Republican lawmakers voiced their concern.

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

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