Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

More than 400 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are operating from 17 bases worldwide. From the near-Arctic region of Ørland, Norway, to a recent deployment in the Middle East, the fifth-generation jet is expanding its reach.

But a recent news report shows that weather conditions have some effect on the Pentagon’s stealthy fifth-gen fighter, raising concerns about its performance in extreme climate locations.

In a recent Defense News report series, the outlet obtained documents showing that cold weather triggered a battery sensor in an F-35 Lightning II in Alaska. While the battery was not affected, the weather “overwhelm[ed] the battery heater blanket” that protects it, prompting the sensor to issue a warning and causing the pilot to abort his mission and land immediately, Defense News said.


“We have already developed an update to the software and the battery’s heater control system to resolve this issue, and this updated software is available for users today to load on their aircraft in the event they will be conducting extreme cold weather operations,” Greg Ulmer, vice president of Lockheed’s F-35 aircraft production business, said in an interview with Military.com at the Paris Air Show, adding the update will be in new planes by 2021.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II takes off during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

The U.S. military anticipated taking the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 around the world, with partners and allies flying the plane in both hot and cold regions, including some that are changing.

“The [F-22 Raptor] and plenty of other aircraft have flown out [to Alaska] just fine for decades,” Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research told Defense News. Grant is a former director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies at the Air Force Association. “The F-35 should have had all that sorted out in the climatic lab.”

Ulmer, however, said all necessary steps were taken in lab testing, and the issue identified was a normal part of the design and development process.

“You do the best you can relative to the engineering, understanding of the environment, to design the part. And then you actually perform, and [you realize] your model was off a little bit, so you have to tweak the design … to account for it,” Ulmer said. An F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was on static display here during the show.

“We’re confident in the F-35s performance in all weather conditions,” he said.

The battery issue was first discovered during extreme cold weather testing at -30 degrees and below at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in February 2018, he added.

Ulmer explained there are various tests points done before the plane heads to the McKinley Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for robust experiments. The lab is responsible for high-range weather testing of military and commercial aircraft, munitions and weapons.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)

The lab’s refrigeration chamber can go as low as -70 degrees, lab chief Dwayne Bell told Military.com during a visit to the facility in 2017. He said at the time that the F-35 program had been one of the most expensive programs tested in the lab to date. There’s a wide range of testing costs, but they average roughly ,000 a day, he said.

It cost about million to test the Marine Corps’ B-model from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force, Maryland, over a six-month period, Bell said.

The Lightning II was put through major weather testing — the lab can do everything but lightning strikes and tornadoes — such as wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow. It handled temperatures ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees, officials said in 2017.

But even testing at McKinley is limiting, Ulmer said.

“What doesn’t happen is that they don’t stay there a long time, so once we released [Block] 3F [software] capability, now the operational fleet can actually” test new extremes, he said, referring to both speed and temperature changes.

Defense News also found that supersonic speeds caused “bubbling and blistering” on the JSF’s low-observable stealth coating, and that hot environments impeded sufficient engine thrust to vertically land the Marine variant.

“So they take it” to new environments “and they expose it more than flight test exposed the airplane. I’m an old flight test guy. You expect to learn in the operational environment more than you do in the [developmental test] environment because you don’t necessarily fly the airplane [in that environment] all the time,” Ulmer said.

“So we learned a little bit, and you refine the design, and you solve it,” he said, adding that the design and maintenance tweaks are ongoing. “The probability of the issue reoccurring on aircraft in the operational fleet is very low and with minimal impact to safety of flight or operational performance.”

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Two U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II 5th-generation fighters sit on the flight line during pre-initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

Thirteen Category 1 deficiencies were found and reported by operators, according to the for-official-use-only documents Defense News obtained. Cat 1 is a label for problems that would directly impact safety or the mission. Those ranged from coating fixes; pressure anomalies in the cockpit that gave pilots ear and sinus pain; and washed-out imagery in the helmet-mounted display, among others.

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps each fly a variant of the aircraft designed for different scenarios, from landing on conventional runways on land, to catching arresting cables on aircraft carriers, to landing like a helicopter on amphibious assault ships.

Responding to the Defense News article series, Lockheed Martin said each deficiency “is well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution.”

“We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified,” the company said in a statement June 12, 2019.

Growing pains with new planes and weapons programs are common. But the F-35 program has been under scrutiny since its inception, mainly for cost-effectiveness and functionality. A new estimate suggests that operating and supporting fighters for the next 60-plus years will cost the government id=”listicle-2638937142″.196 trillion.

The older F-22 Raptor has had similar issues, especially with its stealth coating, which officials have said is more cumbersome to fix than the F-35, which was built with a more functional and durable coating in mind.

“The [low-observable] system has significantly improved on the F-35 when compared to the F-22,” Ulmer said June 18, 2019. “That’s all lessons learned from F-22, applied to F-35.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New technology keeps survival specialists out of ‘the danger zone’

An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit to instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, a 28,000-acre site used to train survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists.

With SHARK, sensors are embedded into shirts to transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor the data in real-time and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.

Second Lt. Matthew Dickinson, AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing biomechanical engineer, said SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explained instructors and students are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.


Maj. Toby Andrews, 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives (instructors) real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care (in cases) that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and Master Sgt. William Davis,16th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”

To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full time at 711th HPW, improved the code for his senior design project. He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced security measures and streamlined the startup process.

Baum explained the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system usable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.

The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.

In June 2019, the team traveled to JB San Antonio-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September 2019.

The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.

This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

A 437th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist walks across a dirt road during a SERE exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711th HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explained.

SHARK technology was born when the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, opted to include more proactive safety measures in its training programs. Since AFRL had experience with wearable monitoring technology, leadership from 711th HPW offered to develop a solution for the SERE instructors during an immersion visit.

“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skill sets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711th HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.

“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”

Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.

In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists, and Army special forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Their first battle: Truman rallies his men under artillery fire

Future-President Harry S. Truman was a hero in World War I who technically broke orders when, as a captain, he ordered his men to fire out of sector during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, eliminating German artillery batteries and observers in order to protect U.S. troops. But his first battle saw his men break ranks until Truman, shaking from fear, rallied them back to their guns.


Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Capt. Harry S. Truman’s ID card from the American Expeditionary Forces. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

The fight came in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France. Truman had recently been promoted to captain and given command of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery Regiment. His battery was known as a smart, athletic, but undisciplined lot. He managed to wrangle influence over them.

But he was still untested in battle when his battery moved into position Aug. 29, 1918, and began their bombardment of German positions. The battery’s four 75mm guns sent rounds downrange, and it was great—at first. As Pvt. Vere Leigh later said, “We were firing away and having a hell of a good time doing it until they began to fire back.”

Truman had been in command for less than two months, and his men began to melt away under the cover of rain and darkness. Rumors that the German shells contained gas agents sent the men scrambling to get masks on themselves and their horses.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Truman’s map of the roads through the Vosges Mountains. (Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library Museum, Independence, Missouri, map number M625)

In all this chaos, it was easy for the artillerymen, especially the support troops, to run into the woods and rocks of the area. Truman was afraid himself and had to struggle to remain in place. He would later write to his wife, “My greatest satisfaction is that my legs didn’t succeed in carrying me away, although they were very anxious to do it.”

Truman was on his horse, trying to keep his unit organized and in place until he rode into a shell crater and tumbled with his horse to the ground. A soldier had to help get him out from under the horse, and Truman watched the fleeing men around him and had to decide whether to run as well.

But he did hold position, and he began insulting and cajoling his troops to get them back on the guns. “I got up and called them everything I knew,” he said. The language was surprising coming from the relatively small and bespectacled captain, but it worked. Gun crews began shifting back to their weapons, other troops got horses back in line in case the battery needed to move, and American rounds screeched through the air to thunder home in German positions.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
“Truman’s Battery” depicts Battery D in battle in World War I. (Dominic D’Andrea)

Most of his men, of course, refused to admit if they ran. So the men began referring to it as the “Battle of Who Ran.”

Truman’s poise under fire helped endear him to the men, even if he had secretly been terrified. This would later help them stick together in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive when Truman ordered them to kill German artillery batteries and observers that were technically out of the division’s sector. Truman got in trouble for firing out of sector, but he protected his men and the armored units of Lt. Col. George S. Patton Jr. that Battery D was supporting.

Seems like the behavior should’ve been expected from the guy who managed to wrangle Battery D into a unit that would stand and fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Army is sending 20,000 troops across the Atlantic to see if they have the ‘bandwidth’ to fight a major war

US Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Benavidez and US-flagged merchant vessels MV Resolve and MV Patriot set off across the Atlantic for Europe last month, escorted by guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf through a path made by the Eisenhower carrier strike group.


Crossing the Atlantic isn’t new for the Navy, but this exercise — a convoy operation simulating an opposed transit — is the first of its kind since 1986.

“We may not have been doing it for the last 35 years, but we have had … to conduct convoy operations around the planet,” Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, told reporters last week. “So we’ve put some of those concepts and lessons learned into how we’re executing this particular operation.”

The convoy comes ahead of this spring’s Defender-Europe 20, a massive multinational exercise to which the US is shipping 20,000 troops and much of their gear — the largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe in 25 years.

Defender-Europe 20 will feature “a fictional near-peer competitor” in a future “post-Article V environment,” an Army planning official said last year, referring to NATO’s collective-defense provision.

Like the Navy’s convoy, the Army-led Defender-Europe 20 is about practicing old skills to confront new challenges.

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USNS Benavidez in the Atlantic, February 26, 2020.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Jordan R. Bair

The right bandwidth

Preparations for Defender-Europe 20 began in January, when US personnel loaded vehicles and equipment for rail transport to US ports.

The first combat power arrived on February 20, when US Army tanks and other vehicles rolled into the port of Bremerhaven in Germany. Participating countries will stage equipment at 14 air and seaports in eight European countries as the exercise gets underway.

Another 13,000 pieces of equipment will be drawn from Army Prepositioned Stocks in northwest Europe and deployed across 18 countries for training — ground convoys will cover some 2,500 miles to stage the exercise.

Defender-Europe 20 will end with US and partner forces cleaning training areas, returning equipment to those stocks, and for US troops, redeployment to the US.

Like crossing the Atlantic, getting around Europe isn’t new, but doing so now will test skills that haven’t been used much in the years after the Cold War, when the US presence in Europe dwindled and NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy atrophied.

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A M1 Abrams tank was the first piece of combat power to roll into Europe for Defender-Europe 20, in Bremerhaven, Germany, February, 20, 2020.

US Army/Sgt. Benjamin Northcutt

“I’m concerned about the bandwidth to be able to accept this large force,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, when asked what challenges he expects the exercise to present.

“I’m also concerned about road and rail from the center portion of Germany … all the way to the eastern border,” Wolters said.

“Because we have the appropriate resources, we now possess a white-team capability to examine our speed of move from west to east, and we also have enough white-cell individuals to assess how safely we get stuff through Bremerhaven and to the next point,” Wolters added. “Bandwidth with respect to size and speed are my greatest concerns.”

This exercise “will allow us to see ourselves at all three levels — tactical, operational, strategic,” Gen. Gus Perna, head of US Army Material Command, which oversees installations, maintenance, and parts, told reporters in February.

“It will reinforce where we think we are tactically as far as material readiness,” Perna added. “Can we mobilize ourselves out of the barracks and the motor pools, move to the ports and the airfields, and then strategically project ourselves to some place across the ocean?”

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Tracked vehicles are unloaded from US vessel ARC Endurance at Bremerhaven, Germany on February 21, 2020.

US Army/Jason Johnston

Counting every second

Since Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine, the US military has boosted its presence in Europe and increased its logistical capability there, disembarking in new places and using new methods to get around.

“On the logistics side of the house, the environment in Europe has to be mature enough to be able to absorb 20,000 soldiers and get those soldiers to the right prepositioned locations to be able to grab the appropriate gear that they’re supposed to get to their foxhole and be able to execute,” Wolters said.

“What we want to do is count every second that it takes to get the soldier from the first point of entry all the way to his or her foxhole to be successful … and we anticipate that there will be some snags,” Wolters said.

Wolters credited the European Defense Initiative, started after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with making Defender-Europe 20 possible.

EDI has “funded the rotational brigade combat teams that go to Poland, and that teaches all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines how to lift and shift larger quantities of forces across the Atlantic and to do so without any harm,” Wolters told the committee.

EDI also funded “our emergency contingency air operations sets for the Air Force, and our deployable air base systems for the Air Force,” Wolters said. “We’ve also been able to dramatically improve our airfield infrastructure and the reception infrastructure in the eastern part of Europe to where it is equipped today to safely receive those resources and effectively get those resources where they need to go.”

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US Army troop carrier vehicles are put on railcars during an Army Prepositioned Stock movement, the first in support of Defender-Europe 20, at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany, January 28, 2019.

US Army/Spc. Elliott Page

But EDI funding has been particularly important for the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks.

Two years ago, “we weren’t mature enough with respect to the prepositioned stockpiles to have a soldier show up at location X and be able to grab resources. Today, we can do that,” Wolters said. “We know the fitness of the resources, and now we’ll be able to examine the speed at which they can get to the foxhole and be able to execute.”

Those stocks keep heavy equipment like tanks and critical supplies like ammunition at forward locations so troops can deploy, equip, and move to the front line.

Perna, head of Army Material Command, said last month that his command was working on another prepositioned stock to be located where Wolters and the head of US Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, felt it was needed.

“I can envision where Defender 2020 might illuminate several things” about those stocks, Perna said. “Is it in the right place? Do we need to adjust? Do we want to set up alternate sites to keep everybody guessing about what we’re doing? Is there a better place to put things for better advantage?”

“I also think coming out of Defender 20 might be a thought process of, ‘Hey, we need more … or we need different from what we have,'” Perna added.

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US Army Reserve soldiers check vehicles at Fallingbostel, 30 miles outside of Bergen-Hohne, Germany, for Defender-Europe 20, February 8, 2020.

US Army/Maj. Joseph Bush

‘Shoot, move, and communicate fast’

In his testimony, Wolters expressed concern about road and railways in eastern Germany, but transportation infrastructure throughout Eastern Europe has been a persistent worry.

In addition to a tangle of customs rules and transport regulations, railway sizes often vary between countries in that part of Europe, meaning delays as cargos cross borders. Roadways there are often narrow and, in some cases, can’t handle heavy vehicles — a particular problem for Eastern Europe’s many aging bridges.

All this would be complicated in wartime, as Russia, which used to control much of Eastern Europe, is familiar with the weak points. (Russia is “not overly pleased” with Defender-Europe 20, Wolters said.)

NATO and the European Union have also devoted resources to improving local infrastructure. NATO also set up two new commands to oversee movements like those underway for Defender-Europe 20. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, oversees operations in the Atlantic, while Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, oversees allied armor and troop movements in Europe.

Limitations on civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are “an issue that all of Europe was very, very aware of in the mid-’80s, and they are getting themselves reacquainted with it today,” Wolters said.

“They understand the imperative of making sure that we have bridging programs in the regions in the northeast and the southeast of Europe to ensure that we can shoot, move, and communicate fast.”

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

popular

This Japanese pilot led the attack on Pearl Harbor then moved to the US

Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.


Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

 

Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.

It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.

 

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

 

He later wrote:

“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”

See Also: The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.

He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.

When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.

 

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer  a few years later.

He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.

 

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Mitsuo Fuchita with Jacob DeShazer and family after WWII ended.

After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.

Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

It was a day like any other day. Dwight Johnson was on his way to the nearby corner store to get some food for his infant son. When he walked in the store that day in April 1971, he accidentally walked in on the store being robbed. That’s when the storekeeper shot him to death.


While he was in Vietnam, he seemed impervious to bullets. Dwight Hal Johnson wasn’t gunned down until he left his home to go to the nearby liquor store at the wrong time.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

President Lyndon Johnson puts the Medal of Honor around the neck of Sgt. Dwight H. Johnson.

In 1968, Army tank driver Spc. Dwight Johnson was part of a reaction force near Dak To, in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. With his platoon in the middle of fierce combat with North Vietnamese regulars, Johnson’s tank threw a track. It would not move. With friendly forces to his rear, and a heavily entrenched enemy coming at him, a regular person might have told Johnson not to leave the safety of the tank and just wait. That wasn’t Dwight Johnson’s style.

Since Johnson was unable to drive the tank, he figured it was time to stop being a driver. He grabbed his pistol and hopped out of it. He cleared away some of the enemy from the perimeter, and then hopped back into the tank, somehow not getting hit by the hail of enemy gunfire and rockets. He had just run out of ammo.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

He tossed his pistol down and grabbed a submachine gun. Returning to his former position, he began to take out more of the oncoming enemy fighters. Unconcerned with the situation being a well-planned and well-placed ambush, he stayed put, killing the enemy until he ran out of ammo again. After he used the stock of his rifle to kill one more, he moved to his platoon sergeant’s tank, carried a wounded crewman to a nearby armored personnel carrier, then went back to the tank to get a pistol so he could fight his way back to his own tank. Again.

Instead of hopping in, however, he mounted the .50-cal on the back of the tank, using the heavy machine gun to force the enemy back and put an end to the ambush while protecting his wounded comrades in arms. For most of the time he was engaged in close quarters combat, vastly outnumbered by an often-unseen enemy, Spc. Johnson was carrying only a Colt .45 pistol to defend himself.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Having grown up in some of Detroit’s rough neighborhoods gave Dwight Johnson an edge in keeping his cool under fire. Johnson never quit, never left anyone behind and fought an enemy who outnumbered him ten to one while restoring American dominance to a situation that got out of hand. Sadly, it was those same mean streets that would do him in just a few years after coming home from Vietnam.

He struggled with regular life when he returned home, as most veterans did and still do. He struggled with debt and depression until he walked into the Open Pantry Market on April 30, 1971, just one mile from his home. There are conflicting reports of what happened next – some say Johnson had a gun at his side and was robbing the store, other sources say that Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we can’t be sure what motivated the store owner to open fire, we can say he shot one of America’s heroes four times, killing him. Dwight Hal Johnson was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The complete hater’s guide to the F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle has proven itself as one of the best air-superiority planes of all time. In fact, unlike some legends of air combat, including the P-51, F-86, and F-4 Phantom, it remains undefeated. This plane is loved for its speed, performance, and sheer dominance in combat.

Despite all that, there are some folks who hate this aerial powerhouse. This, too, is very understandable — and the hate isn’t limited to those who’ve faced it in air-to-air combat (though we’re sure they make the list).

Plenty of folks have reasons to hate the F-15C. These reasons, specifically.


Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
A F-15C Eagle fires an AIM-7 Sparrow.
(USAF)

 

Why it’s easy to make fun of the F-15C

The F-15C Eagle is always flying high — it has its cockpit in the clouds. But it’s not like it can do anything air-to-ground, anyway. It was developed as a strict fighter, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, with some bomb-dropping ability tacked on as an afterthought

So, this is a plane that hasn’t gotten any real action since 1999, when F-15s scored kills a few MiGs over Serbia. Twenty years without any real action — that’s one heck of a dry spell.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Nope, nothing loaded to help support the grunts.
(USAF)

 

Why we should hate the F-15C

Well, what does it do for the grunts? Nothing. As an air-to-air specialist, the grunts don’t get jack from the Eagle. In essence, the pilots are getting flight pay to… what? Bore holes in the sky? To wait for MiGs and Sukhois that never come? To bring their ordnance back to base?

Plus, these birds are getting up there in years — some are even falling apart. These planes need replaced. Restart the F-22 production line, anyone?

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
When Eagles are around, Fulcrums and Flankers won’t be.
(USAF)

 

Why you ought to love the F-15C

When it comes right down to it, the F-15C is the plane that makes it possible for every other plane to support grunts. Without the Eagle, the enemy could very well achieve air superiority, and that would leave planes like the A-10 and F-16 in a world of hurt.

Instead, historically, it’s been enemy planes that end up getting shot down or being forced to dump ordnance long before they reach their targets. Thanks to the F-15, A-10s and F-16s can drop their bombs, launch their missiles, and fire their guns at the bad guys without having to worry about enemy fighters.

Furthermore, it will keep dominating for years, aging like fine wine.

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4 awesome traditions to look for at the Army-Navy Game

Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.


Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.

Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.

And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

1. The Prisoner Exchange

Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.

The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.

2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle

At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.

3. “The March On”

Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.

4. “Honoring the Fallen”

Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.

To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.

Articles

8 awesome war movie moments we can’t stop watching

Sometimes war movies give us such stunning visual imagery, outstanding acting performances, or laugh-out-loud knee slappers that audiences can’t wait to rewatch.


They either jump back in line at their local theater to grab another movie ticket or buy their own copy as soon as it’s released.

In the military community, we have high expectations from films that portray war, troops, or veterans — it’s not easy for filmmakers to get it right.

Related: 5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

So check out these awesome (and maybe even surprising) movie moments that make us want to rewind over and over:

1. The sniper duel (Saving Private Ryan)

Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed war epic.

After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, Spielberg successfully captured the moment Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.

A perfect shot. (Image via Giphy)We could have used every movie clip this film has to offer (it’s that good), but that wouldn’t be fair.

2. The nose breaker (Dead Presidents)

This 1996 drama doesn’t necessarily fit under the war genre category, but the main character Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) goes through a few tours in Vietnam with the Recon Marines, and we got to see his journey.

Bam! (Image via Giphy)

3. Meet Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)

This opening scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film left audiences afraid to sign up for the Marines Corps. But iconic character introduction of Gunny Hartman had many pressing the rewind button (or the back chapter button) to rewatch the intense and perfectly executed scene over and over again.

(FrostForUs, YouTube)Damn, the first act was totally badass.

4. “You can’t handle the truth” (A Few Good Men)

Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.

In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,” Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climactic third act to discover the truth of who ordered the “code red.”

(The Dude Abides, YouTube)Seriously, Jack killed this monologue.

5. Forrest saves the day (Forrest Gump)

In this fictional biopic, our slow but lovable Forrest Gump saves his squad in a highly visual war sequence and had viewers questioning how director Robert Zemeckis managed to pull it off.

Hint: it’s called special effects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN-KyP96wZk

You know you teared up when Forrest and Bubba share that moment together — you can admit it.

6. War! It’s fantastic! (Hot Shot: Part Deux)

This is a hilarious comedy and not a war movie, but give us a pass because this clip is one of the funniest moments ever.

(Chuck Robertson, YouTube)

7. Meet Gunny Highway

The 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm when it showcased Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality.

In Gunny’s own words, “Be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters.”

You tell them, Gunny. (images via Giphy)That is all.

8. The Bear Jew

Quentin Tarantino helped these war-hungry Jews score a little payback against their Nazi counter parts. No one saw this mighty swing coming, but once we witnessed its crushing strength — it was freaking awesome!

(Movieclips, YouTube)What war movie moments did you rewatch? Comment below.
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force has more pilots but struggles to train them

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.


Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.

Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.

A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”

Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.

Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.

‘A leap into the unknown’

The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.

Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”

Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)

At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.

“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.

But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.

“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”

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

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This is why you don’t mess with South Korean pilots

When you look at South Korea, this is a country that has a need to be very ready to fight for its survival. This is particularly true for the pilots in the Republic of Korea Air Force. If South Korea were to lose a war with North Korea, the ones who survive the war and who are captured will be unluckier than those who are killed in action.


Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Three F-15K Slam Eagles fromt he South Korean Air Force participate in ‘Red Flag Alaska.’ (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Hyperbole? Well, just look at the “re-education camps” that the North Vietnamese used after they conquered South Vietnam. The stakes are at least that high for South Korean military officers should South Korea fall to the North.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
South Korean P-51 Mustangs. (Air and Space Museum)

 

As you can imagine, these pilots train a lot. South Korea has often taken part in Red Flag Alaska, where American and allied pilots train for war. But the Republic of Korea’s Air Force is also very powerful in its own right – flying high-tech fighter jets that are made in South Korea. That is a far cry from when it was flying second-hand P-51 Mustangs during the Korean War.

 

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

 

According to FlightGlobal.com, South Korea has 169 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, 59 F-15K Slam Eagles (comparable to the F-15E Strike Eagle), 71 F-4Es, 158 F-5Es, 20 FA-50s, 80 T-50s and 36 F-5Fs in service. This is one of the most modern air forces in the world. By comparison, North Korea has 35 MiG-29s, 56 MiG-25s and still relies on nearly 200 J-5 and J-6s, which are Chinese copies of the MiG-17 Fresco and MiG-19 Farmer, respectively.

 

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
The KA-50 light multi-role fighter, based on the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

The combination of good planes and well-trained pilots is a very difficult one to defeat. South Korea stands a very good chance of being able to take control of the air should hostilities break out with North Korea.

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Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

www.youtube.com

1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

www.instagram.com

She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

www.instagram.com

This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?
Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

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