The F-35's abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

The US military’s F-35 Joint Strike Force program may be in trouble due to its abysmal mission readiness rates, according to a report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

POGO’s report is based on a chart from the Joint Program Office’s Integrated Test Force showing that the 23-aircraft test fleet had a “fully mission capable” rate of 8.7% in June 2019 — an improvement over its May 2019 mission-capable rate of 4.7%. The average rate was just 11% for December 2018 through June 2019.

The F-35 program has been plagued with problems; loss of cabin pressure and aircraft control and serious issues in both hot and cold conditions are just a few of the challenges facing the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system.


Such low rates can typically be attributed to a lack of spare parts or one of the many previously reported problems. The POGO report specifically points to issues with the aircraft’s Distributed Aperture System, which warns F-35 pilots of incoming missiles. While the aircraft can still fly without the system being fully functional, it’s a necessary component in combat.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline at Volk Field.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

The Lightning II test fleet is actually performing far worse than the full F-35 fleet, but even that rate is less than ideal — it was only 27% fully mission capable between May and December 2018, according to Flight Global.

In October 2018, then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called for 80% mission capability for the F-35, F-22, F-16, and F-18 fleets by September, Defense News reported at the time.

But Air Force Times reported in July 2019 that the Air Force’s overall aircraft mission-capable rate fell eight percentage points from 2012 to 2018, dipping below 70% last year. Col. Bill Maxwell, the chief of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times that any downward trend in readiness is cause for concern but that the overall readiness rate was a “snapshot in time.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

The Pentagon is set to decide whether to move to full-rate production in October, but given low readiness rates, it is doubtful that testing will be completed by then. According to POGO, a major defense acquisition like the F-35 can’t legally proceed to full-rate production until after testing is completed and a final report is submitted.

The Joint Strike Fighter program declined INSIDER’S request for comment on the POGO report.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Finance Friday: should you invest in a bear market?

As I sit in my concrete bunker surrounded by hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, a wall of toilet paper ready to thwart any potential Coronavirus threats, I feel the need to press pause on regularly scheduled mortgage education and address a topic that has flared up in newsfeeds over the past few days: investing when the market has “crashed”.


Although I joke about my bunker stash (I can’t even find hand sanitizer to stock), personal finance is a highly individualistic and serious subject full of licensing requirements and government regulations. I did what any person not wanting to bring the Financial Industry Regulation Authority fire down upon them and called in the experts. Long-time trusted advisors Nick Stone and Craig Harris were both able to offer some advice to my investment-curious audience who feel that they may be missing out on a Golden Goose Egg during this bear market.

Stone provided examples over the history of time where markets have typical cycles of ebb and flow, and this was bound to come full circle even before the Coronavirus scare (which surely did compound the effect). Putting our economy into the analogy of a marathon, no one sprints 26.2 miles to a finish line. Instead, there are steady-set paces accompanied by throttles and breaks. We may not have seen the bottom of this yet since stocks are priced on what expected earnings are, and companies have yet to report on their current quarter. It could be speculated that markets will dip even a little more. Only time can tell. A piece of advice offered is to maximize on your current contributions such as 401K, IRA and other tax-friendly opportunities versus a narrow lump-sum investment to allow for dollar-cost averaging.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Harris emphasized a good time to invest when the market is in a down point. “Buy low and sell high” is not a catch-phrase but a pillar of investing. Regardless of market conditions, ANY time is a good time to start investing, but there is certainly an advantage when we are in a low market since you can get a little more with your cash. Even at the highest point, like where we just were, there is still a good strategy to be employed for investing your money. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but the market is designed in a way that, over a long enough period of time, your money should grow. He stressed that individual situations and goals are the primary driving factor in how the portfolio is built and how your money can be invested wisely.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Both discourage dumping money blindly into crashing stocks today in hopes of getting rich next week. The singular most important thing you can do with your money is to have a goal in mind versus chasing performance returns. It can be retirement, paying for a child’s college, purchasing a home, etc. but you HAVE to know what you’re working towards in order to get there. The last thing you want to do is be cash-poor and investment-rich without a plan if you need access to that money in the short term. This knowledge is especially important for my mortgage clients who may need to hang on to some cash to close on a new home.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

There’s a big myth out there that financial advisors are expensive, but they’re really not. There are traditional brokerage accounts where you pay a small commission on everything bought and put into your account and every transaction made on your behalf. There are also fee-based accounts where you forego commissions and pay an annual fee that varies between firms, typically averages out to be less than 1.5 percent of your invested assets. If you find yourself shopping around for a financial advisor, ask about their cost, make sure they are also a licensed stockbroker so you are diversified instead of pigeonholed into one certain commodity, and ask them if they would invest you like they would invest their own family. It’s a relationship of trust, and you have the ability to establish how you want that relationship to be shaped, whether it be by twice a year comprehensive reviews, weekly phone calls or somewhere in-between.

Important to remember when you see big movement in the economy is this: What do you want to invest FOR, not what do you want to invest IN. That mind shift will help you make smart financial decisions for your future.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we need you to rally around the military spouse community

News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.


The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.

So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?

It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.

Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.

According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.

Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.

New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.

Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!

If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

youtu.be

When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Bill and Ted 3’ movie casts wounded warriors as extras

Whoa! Wounded warriors have been cast as extras for the new “Bill and Ted 3” movie. The excellent news was first tweeted by CNN news anchor Jake Tapper on Aug. 13, 2019.

Tapper, a longtime Homes for our Troops’ supporter and mission ambassador, enlisted the help of friends, namely movie stars and entertainment icons, to arrange an extensive assortment of auction items to benefit the organization back in November 2018. One of the auction items was a tour of the “Bill and Ted 3” movie set.

But screen writer Ed Solomon wanted to do more for veterans than just a tour. He also cast several wounded veterans in the film, and Tapper thanked him on social media for the righteous move.


It’s still unknown what part these veterans will play in the upcoming film starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but judging by the smiles on their faces the Hollywood experience has been epic.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

11 of the craziest lines ever spoken in battle

In the heat of battle, some people freeze up, some charge forward, and some drop awesome lines like they’re trying to win a rap battle.


These quotes are from the third category.

1. “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach! The dead and those who are going to die! Now, let’s get the hell out of here!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo: public domain)

This was shouted by Army Col. George Taylor as he urged his men forward at Normandy on D-Day. According to survivors, Taylor yelled a few different versions of this quote during the landings at Omaha Beach and all of them had the desired effect, spurring American soldiers forward against the Nazi guns firing on the beach.

2. “All right. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … They can’t get away this time.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller gave us tons of great quotes. This particular one he spit out while Chinese forces surrounded his men at the Chosin Reservoir. The Marines were expected to fight what essentially amounted to a doomed delaying action as the Chinese wiped them out. Instead, the Marines broke out and slaughtered their way through multiple enemy divisions.

3. “Nuts!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe led the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans were outnumbered, surrounded, and running short on supplies when a German delegation requested their surrender. McAuliffe was awoken with the news and sleepily responded “Nuts!” before heading to meet his staff who had to draft the formal response to the German commander.

The staff decided that the general’s initial response was better than anything they could write. While under siege and near constant attack, the paratroopers typed the following centered on a sheet of paper:

December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

N U T S !

The American Commander

4. “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War. (Photo: Public Domain)

In April 1862, Vice Adm. David Farragut was leading a fleet to capture Mobil Bay, Alabama, and cut off the major port. While sailing into the city, a Union ship hit Confederate mines in the water that were then known as torpedoes. Farragut yelled his now immortal line, sailed through the mines, and was victorious.

5. “Another running gun battle today … Wahoo runnin’, destroyer gunnin'”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

The USS Wahoo was an enormously successful U.S. submarine in World War II that sank five Japanese ships totaling 32,000 tons — including an entire four-ship convoy — during its third cruise. Near the end of the patrol, the Wahoo tried to sink a second convoy but was surprised by a previously unspotted Japanese destroyer outfitted for anti-submarine operations.

The Wahoo was forced to run, evading a barrage from the destroyer’s cannons and a depth charge attack. The commander signaled Pearl Harbor with the above message and escaped. The quote was slightly changed and ran as a headline in the Hawaiian Advertiser after the patrol.

6. “I may sink, but I’m damned if I’ll strike.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
John Paul Jones was vilified as a pirate in Britain, but was a hero in America. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy legend John Paul Jones helped create the sea service during the American Revolution and, in an epic battle with the HMS Serapis, gave at least a couple of epic quotes including this one when he was asked to surrender.

A more famous quote from the battle was “I have not yet begun to fight!” but the Navy isn’t sure that Jones actually said it since the words were first attributed to him 46 years after the battle.

7. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Navy chaplain was trying to keep the men of the USS New Orleans going. He saw a group of men tiring as they carried anti-aircraft ammunition to the guns and patted one of them on the back while speaking this phrase to motivate them. It was later incorporated into songs during the war.

8. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While Gen. George S. Patton gets most of the headlines for liberating the 101st during the Battle of the Bulge, another tank legend was leading the charge through German lines, Col. Creighton S. Abrams, who allegedly uttered the awesome words above.

Stephen E. Ambrose’s famous book “Band of Brothers” attributes a similar quote, “They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards,” to an unknown Army medic. As the story goes, the medic was telling an injured corporal why none of the wounded had been evacuated.

9. “Goddamn it, you’ll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

A few different books attribute this quote to Marine Capt. Henry P. Jim Crowe. Crowe commanded a regimental weapons company during the land battle on Guadalcanal. A Japanese machine gun had pinned down a Marine advance and Crowe yelled these words to the men huddling in a shell hole. As a group, they charged the guns behind Crowe and took out the enemy position.

10. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

Americans most often associate this line with the Battle of Bunker Hill, but there’s evidence it was said by different officers at a few points in history. At Bunker Hill in 1775, the order was given by at least one of the leaders of Patriot forces building new fortifications on Bunker and Breed’s Hills near Cambridge, Massachusetts. The intent was to preserve the limited powder and shot.

The gambit worked, allowing the Patriots to inflict major damage with their initial volleys, but it wasn’t enough for the outnumbered and outgunned Americans to hold the hills.

11. “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The above line is commonly attributed to Marine Corps legend Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, though there’s some question on whether he said it and — if he did — if those were his exact words. Daly once told a Marine historian that he yelled “For Christ’s sake, men — Come on! Do you want to live forever!”

The Marine who recounts hearing “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” was in another part of the battlefield, so it’s possible that two Marines yelled similar lines in different parts of Belleau Wood or that someone misremembered a line yelled in one of World War I’s most dramatic battles.

Either way, the quote is pretty awesome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 Raptors intercept two Russian bombers in Alaska

Two U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on May 11, 2018.

The two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 300 kilometers off Alaska’s west coast, according to a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a statement to CNN on May 12, 2018.


Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the zone. The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement.

Russian bombers were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on May 12, 2018.

The U.S. fighter jets did not get closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.

Encounters between Russian and U.S. as well as NATO warplanes have increased as Moscow has demonstrated its resurgent military might.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions
F-22 Raptor
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Russia also has increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

In January 2018, a Russian Su-27 came within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014.

There have also been interactions between the United States and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.

In December 2017, two U.S. F-33 Stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.

Such incidents have added tension to Russia’s relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be preparing a ground invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine on Nov. 26, 2018, imposed martial law in parts of the country as President Petro Poroshenko warned of the “extremely serious” threat of attack by Russian forces.

Poroshenko on Nov. 26, 2018, said in a televised address that the move was necessary after Russian ships attacked Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018.

“Russia has been waging a hybrid war against our country for a fifth year. But with an attack on Ukrainian military boats it moved to a new stage of aggression,” Poroshenko said.


Ukraine says Russia opened fire on its navy and seized three of its vessels, injuring at least six of its servicemen. Russia claims the ships entered Russian waters illegally, and gave them warning to turn back.

Poroshenko said in his video address that martial law was necessary as intelligence services had evidence that Russia was preparing for a massive incursion.

“Here on several pages is a detailed description of all the forces of the enemy located at a distance of literally several dozens of kilometers from our border. Ready at any moment for an immediate invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Flagship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces.

The country’s parliament granted him emergency powers in areas of the country most vulnerable to attack, and suspended elections for 30 days.

Critics alleged that Poroshenko’s request for martial law was an attempt to postpone elections scheduled for 2019, though lawmakers confirmed the polls would take place as scheduled.

President Donald Trump said he was working with EU leaders to assess the situation, though he refused to condemn Russian aggression. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the incident “a dangerous escalation” and a violation of international law, and called on both countries to exercise caution.

Several countries, including Britain, France, Poland, Denmark, and Canada, denounced Russia’s use of force.

Russia has been steadily increasing its control around the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014. Nov. 25, 2018’s stand-off came to a head after Russia used a huge tanker to block passage through the Kerch Strait — the only access point to the Sea of Azov, which is shared by both Ukraine and Russia.

The Sea of Azov has been a flash point in the conflict between the two countries. In May 2018, Russia completed its construction of a massive 18-kilometer (11.2 mile) bridge linking the Crimea peninsula to mainland Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukraine of “well-thought-out provocation” in order to justify ramping up sanctions against them. Russia also alleged that Kiev was working in coordination with the US and EU and warned of “serious consequences.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to raise the stakes with Russia and make Putin rethink his meddling

After a chaotic week of unforced errors courtesy of President Donald Trump, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats calmly explained that Russia’s efforts “to undermine our basic values,” “divide us from our allies,” and “wreak havoc with our election process” are “undeniable,” grimly concluding: “We’re under attack.” Noting that “the very pillar…of democracy is the ability to have confidence in your elected officials—that they were elected legitimately,” Coats added, “We have to take every effort to ensure that happens in this upcoming election and future elections.”

Before discussing some of the efforts the U.S. might take in response to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s worth recapping what Moscow has been doing.


Using cyber-technologies, social media, and false-front organizations, Russia has carried out strategic-influence operations targeting political-electoral systems in 27 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and several other NATO allies.

Freedom House reports that Russia has “deepened its interference in elections in established democracies through…theft and publication of the internal documents of mainstream parties and candidates, and the aggressive dissemination of fake news and propaganda.” Kristofer Harrison, who worked in the State Department and Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush, points to examples at Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times and other reputable news organizations.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Fountain Hills, Arizona, before the March 22, 2016 primary.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Moscow’s goal in these actions, according to a U.S. intelligence report, is to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.” Moscow may be succeeding.

A plurality of Americans (45 percent) believe Russia leaked hacked material to impact the 2016 election, and 68 percent of Americans express concern that Russia will interfere in future elections. Beyond the U.S., just glance at recent headlines: “Russian hackers are targeting Macron,” blares a France24 report. “Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote,” reads a headline from The Times of London. “Merkel warns of Russian cyberattacks in German elections,” Deutsche Welle adds.

Add it all up, and both the evidence of Russian interference and the worry regarding future interference serves to undermine democratic institutions all across the West.

In this light, NSC-68, the pivotal national-security document penned in 1950 that provided a roadmap for waging the Cold War, seems strangely relevant. NSC-68 noted that Moscow’s “preferred technique is to subvert by infiltration and intimidation,” that “every institution of our society is an instrument which it is sought to stultify and turn against our purposes,” that institutions “that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets,” that Moscow’s objective is to prevent those institutions “from serving our ends and thus to make them sources of confusion in our economy, our culture and our body politic.”

Yes, NSC-68 was a response to the communist Soviet Union. However, it pays to recall that post-Soviet, post-communist Russia is led by a former KGB intelligence officer who was trained in the dark arts of disinformation and influence manipulation. His intelligence agencies and cyber-soldiers have triggered a cascade of scandals that are paralyzing our government, sowing confusion and undermining public confidence in our institutions.

Consider: Russia’s hacking into U.S. political campaigns, manipulation of social media and use of weaponized leaks first eroded support for the Clinton campaign; then undermined the legitimacy of the Trump administration; and finally, as former CIA official Mark Kelton concludes, helped “advance Putin’s over-arching goals of degrading American power, denigrating American ideals, and driving a wedge between President Trump and the U.S. intelligence community.”

President Barack Obama’s too little, too late and toothless “cut it out” warning to Putin as well as Trump’s obsequious echo of Putin’s promise that “it’s not Russia…I don’t see any reason why it would be” have failed to address this threat. Both leaders have overlooked a basic truth in dealing with dictators: All that matters when interacting with Putin, and his kind are actions — theirs and ours. What Churchill said of his Russian counterparts remains true of Putin and his puppets. “There is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin outside Moscow, Russia on July 7, 2009.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Here are some pathways policymakers could take to change Putin’s calculus and raise the costs of his malign actions.

1. Defend the Homefront against Foreign Intrigue

In his farewell address, Washington warned about the “insidious wiles of foreign influence” and the “mischiefs of foreign intrigue,” urging his countrymen “to be constantly awake” to such dangers.

The good news amidst all the troubling news is that key institutions—Congress, federal and state agencies, and the press—have been awakened to the dangers posed by Russia’s strategic-influence operations. Day by day, these institutions are exploring and exposing Russian intrusion into the U.S. political system.

Several Senate and House committees are investigating Russia’s reach, which is altogether appropriate. But to restore and preserve the integrity of America’s institutions, Congress should create a joint committee of seasoned members—with fact-finding and legislative authority—dedicated to a) monitoring, investigating and exposing attempts by Russia and other foreign entities to interfere in the U.S. political-electoral system; b) identifying individuals and entities in the U.S. that collaborate with or work on behalf of hostile governments like Russia; and c) securing necessary, sustained funding to help state and county election agencies shield themselves from foreign intrusion.

That last point highlights the genius of America’s decentralized election system. Its highly diffuse nature—with the electoral process governed not by some national agency, but rather by 50 states and 3,141 counties—makes it difficult for a foreign power to manipulate outcomes. Even so, evidence of Russian efforts to penetratelocal election systems and acquire firms that handle voter-registration data are raising flags. Federal resources can help expose these efforts and harden these targets.

2. Take the Fight to Russia

Even as they stand up their new committee—call it the Joint Select Committee on Election Integrity—congressional leaders should reopen the U.S. Information Agency, which was shut down in 1999, after decades of countering Moscow’s Cold War propaganda. Former DNI James Clapper proposes “a USIA on steroids to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than we’re doing right now.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.

Likewise, NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti urges Washington to “bring the information aspects of our national power more fully to bear on Russia.” He recommends strengthening and unleashing the Russian Information Group (a joint effort of U.S European Command and the State Department) and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (a project charged with countering foreign disinformation).

Further up the ladder, the United States could respond in kind to Putin’s assault on the West’s political systems. It’s not difficult to imagine the U.S. executing a cyber-operation that turns Putin’s stage-managed elections into a full-blown farce: returns showing Leonid Brezhnev finishing second or Czar Nicholas II winning a few oblasts or no one at all winning. Putin would get the message.

3. Shore up the Infrastructure

Arguing that democracy “needs cultivating,” President Ronald Reagan helped create the National Endowment for Democracy “to foster the infrastructure of democracy.”

Similarly, perhaps it’s time for the world’s foremost groupings of democratic nations—the G-7, European Union, NATO and its partners in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia—to create a pool of resources to reinforce and rebuild the infrastructure of liberal democracy, monitor and expose Moscow’s cyber-siege of the West, and help those countries under information-warfare assault preserve the integrity of their democratic institutions.

4. Deploy Additional Instruments of National Power

Finally, the United States should offer moral support to democracy inside Russia and along Russia’s periphery. “A little less détente,” as Reagan argued, “and more encouragement to the dissenters might be worth a lot of armored divisions.”

Toward that end, Washington should provide a sturdy platform to human-rights activists, journalists and political dissidents from Russia; use high-profile settings to highlight Russia’s democracy deficit; and draw attention—relentlessly and repeatedly—to Putin’s assaults on human rights, civil society, religious liberty and political pluralism.

To his credit, Trump took this very tack vis-à-vis North Korea during his 2018 State of the Union address. It’s time to use the bully pulpit in the same way against Putin. If the president is unable or unwilling to do so, leaders in Congress and at relevant agencies must fill the vacuum, as Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray recently have.

Hard-power tools can serve as an exclamation point to these words: More defensive weaponry could flow to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s fragile democracy; rotational deployments in the Baltics and Poland could be made permanent to reassure NATO’s easternmost members; NATO could stand up an Allied Command-Arctic to checkmate Putin’s next landgrab; the U.S. could deploy its vast energy reserves, in Gen. Martin Dempsey’s words, “as an instrument of national power” to make Russia’s oligarchs feel the consequences of Putin’s actions.

Revelations of Russian interference are troubling. But they are also clarifying. In light of its actions, there should be no question as to whether Putin’s Russia is a friend, no illusions that Putin can be mollified by promises of “resets” or post-election “flexibility,” no doubts about Moscow’s motives, no debate over the threat posed by a revisionist Russia.

The task ahead is to fully expose Russia’s reach into our political system, strengthen our institutions to harden them against another wave of foreign influence, and defend liberal democracy at home and abroad.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s new strategy in Europe is allegedly confusing Russia

The National Defense Strategy document released in January 2018 emphasized dynamic force employment as a method to maintain the US Navy’s combat capabilities while changing the duration and intensity of its deployments.

It was intended to be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”

According to Adm. James Foggo, head of US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the chief of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, it’s already working — leaving Russia guessing about what the Navy is doing.


The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

The USS Harry S. Truman transits the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

When asked for an example of the successful use of dynamic force employment on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” Foggo pointed to the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group’s recent maneuvers.

“They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theater for the entire deployment. We had other plans,” Foggo said. “But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”

“Then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Adm. Franchetti’s command of BaltOps 2018 in the Baltic Sea,” he said, referring to Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the US 6th Fleet, which operates around Europe.

“So the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BaltOps operation with airpower from the Adriatic.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

A US sailor takes a photo of Jebel Musa from the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, Dec. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Joseph A.D. Phillips)

Baltic Operations, or BaltOps, is an annual US-led exercise that was one of more than 100 NATO exercises in 2018, held during the first half of June 2018. After that, Foggo said, the Truman strike group returned to US for about a month.

“I don’t think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels,” he added.

“In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn’t go there. She went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle.”

The Truman left its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of August 2018, and about six weeks later it became the first US aircraft carrier since the early 1990s to sail into the Arctic Circle.

“It was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture [live exercise], and she was a force multiplier,” Foggo said, referring to NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.

“This is the first time that we’ve operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War,” Foggo added. “I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The Truman strike group eschewed the traditional six-month deployment that carrier strike groups have normally undertaken, sailing instead on two three-month deployments.

Between April and July 2018, it operated around the 6th Fleet’s area of operations, including strikes against ISIS in Syria, as mentioned by Foggo.

After five weeks in Norfolk, it headed back out, operating around the North Atlantic and the Arctic — forgoing the traditional Middle East deployment.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the end of November 2018 that the first dynamic-force-employment deployment had gone “magnificently” and that the strike group had carried out more types of missions in more diverse environments that wouldn’t have been possible with a normal Middle East deployment.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, joins sailors for a Thanksgiving meal on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 22, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)

“I would say that the Navy by nature is predisposed to being dynamic and moving around. It is very good to kind of get back into that game a little bit,” Richardson told the press in the days before Thanksgiving 2018.

The stop in Norfolk July 2018 was a working visit for the Truman and the rest of its strike group.

The strike group departed the 6th Fleet area of operations on Dec. 11, 2018, and returned to Norfolk on Dec. 16, 2018, marking the transition from its deployment phase to its sustainment phase, when the group’s personnel will focus on needed repairs and maintaining their skills.

In July 2018, “we came back in working uniform and we got to work,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, the commander of the Truman strike group, said in late November 2018, according to USNI News. “This time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”

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

Humor

11 hand salutes that are just plain bad

We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.


Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.

Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.

Related: 5 awful military haircuts that would fail inspection

1. When Michael Cutler, son of a truck-driving arm wrestler, returns home from military school. (Over the Top)

2. That time Cousin Eddie felt super patriotic during Christmas. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

3. Some dude watching wrestling and drinking a beer. (USA Network)

4. After that former TV president gave a motivational speech. (House of Cards)

5. No clue where this is from, but it’s funny as hell.

Also read: 7 ways you know you’re an officer

6. When that little kid who turned out to be Darth Vader found out his dad was into superhero cosplay. (Jingle All the Way)

7. An unsat salute from a guy who once played a Marine in a movie. (Some award show on MTV)

8. So, we’re not exactly sure what she was trying to accomplish with her initial type of salute… but at least she ended it with a solid pointing performance.

9. At least Ms. Kaushtupper correctly mounted the American flag on the wall… (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Don’t forget: 5 common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

10. Even though his salute is off, it’s still pretty funny. (M*A*S*H)

11. There’s nothing wrong with this troop’s salute, but Dmitry Medvedev epically failed.

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 5th

It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.

Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.


At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!

(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.

And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via 1st Civ Division)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Private News Network)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme by Ranger Up)

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sunset ceremony honors USS Utah’s 58-member crew

As prior and present service members are gathered for the public USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony, there is one thing on everyone’s mind: remembrance. Remembering the bravery of the crew that was lost 78 years ago, remembering the honor possessed by each soul onboard and the legacy they left behind. Fifty-eight members of the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) crew were lost that day, but today they are celebrated.

The capsizing of the USS Utah is honored every year on the eve of December 7. The former battleship, that was once used for target and gunnery training, was the first ship to be struck by two torpedoes during the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.


As the amber rays of the sunset reflected upon the island of Oahu, USS Utah survivor Warren Upton along with World War II veterans Roy Solt and Burk Waldron were greeted by applause from those attending the ceremony.

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, gave thanks to those that served and showed gratitude to everyone honoring the fallen ship.

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, says a speech during the USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael Amani)

“There’s often a phrase that is associated with the USS Utah,” said Ashwell. “That somehow she is the forgotten ship of Pearl Harbor. It is obvious that the USS Utah is not the forgotten ship. We are all here to remember her and her crew.”

Ashwell recounted the memory of the late U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who served as a full-time volunteer to Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office until his passing earlier this year. He served as a liaison for the survivors of Pearl Harbor and their families.

“He helped lay to rest many Pearl Harbor survivors who chose to come back and have their ashes spread in these waters around the Utah and for those who served on the Utah to be placed within the ship,” said Ashwell.

USS Utah Survivor Warren Upton was embraced by many families in attendance as he shook hands and gave hugs to those that thanked him for his service.

“This ceremony was very good,” said Upton. “I really miss Jim. He was a friend to all of the old Utah sailors.”

The ocean breeze and the water washing up against the memorial site are the only sounds heard as Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow, from Herndon Va., plays “Taps” upon his bugle. Sailors of many different ranks render a salute as the melody flows from his instrument. The ceremony comes to an end as everyone is reminded to never forget USS Utah.

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