The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

The F-35 Lightning II, designed to be a stealthy sensor platform that can fly and fight nearly anywhere in the world, can now feed its targeting data back to Navy ships, allowing the task force to engage dozens of targets without the F-35 having to fire its own weapons and break stealth.


The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes off from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on October 9, 2018, with inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

The change comes thanks to an upgrade on the ship side, not on the Lightning II. Basically, the Navy has a communications system known as the Ship Self Defense System. SSDS is typically built into carrier strike groups and the larger amphibious ships, like Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.

So, basically anything that an F-35 can take off from. But now, the SSDS on the USS Wasp can accept communications from the F-35’s Link 16 Digital Air Control. This allows the F-35 to directly feed its sensor data into the fleet’s communications.

The most important application of this capability is that commanders can now see what the Lightning II sees and order surface ships to engage targets with missiles, other aircraft, or even naval artillery if it’s in range.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) steams through the Mediterranean Sea.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman)

This will be a huge boost for the F-35 in a war. F-35s and F-22 Raptors can’t carry many missiles and bombs while remaining stealthy, and firing their weapons can give away their positions.

Additionally, the fleet has many more missiles than the planes can carry — and that can be key during a complex fight. If Marines are landing ashore, they don’t want to hear that their air support is running low on missiles. They want to hear that there’s an endless rain of effects coming their way, and that all of them are going to be digitally targeted against the most dangerous threats.

While the digital communications upgrade is currently only placed on the USS Wasp, the rest of the carrier and LHA/LHD groups will receive it in the near future.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, test pilot with the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force, continues First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) developmental test flights aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

In addition to passing targeting data, the F-35 sends back its status information, like fuel and weapon inventories, while receiving information from the mission commander, like assignment information.

The F-35 has been America’s single-most expensive weapons system in history, but senior generals have insisted for years that the troubled program would be worth it when it came to fruition. As setbacks, costs, and technological failures mounted, it seemed like the platform would never live up to its hype. And that would’ve been a huge deal since the plane is expected to fly until 2070 and to cost id=”listicle-2616611399″.5 trillion over the program’s lifetime.

But the Thunderbolt II has matured in the last few years, and breakthroughs like this one will continue to improve the F-35’s public image.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Steve Carell to make a ‘Space Force’ Netflix comedy

Today Netflix announced that they have teamed up with Greg Daniels and Steve Carell to create a show about the men and women who have to figure out how to make the Space Force a thing.

Based on their video announcement, it looks like the show is already brilliantly self-aware:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QgJR4pAPlE
Space Force | Announcement [HD] | Netflix

www.youtube.com

Space Force | Announcement [HD] | Netflix

“The goal of the new branch is to ‘defend satellites from attack’ and ‘perform other space-related tasks’…or something,” announced the teaser.

Daniels, whose producer credits include The Office, The Simpsons, and Parks and Recreation, along with co-creator Carell, were given a straight-to-series order for their new show, a work place comedy about the men and women tasked to create the Space Force. The episode count and release date have not yet been announced.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

So far, details about the actual Space Force have yet to be determined — although the announcement has launched the inception of hilarious memes — but if Netflix is smart, their new show will take a few notes from Veep, which is probably the most realistic depiction of government workings (you just know the government is even more balls crazy than the military — you just know it).

There have been a lot of discussions about whether the Space Force is actually necessary. That’s above our pay grade, but we did make a video about what missions it could actually perform. Check it out below:

This is what the Space Force would actually do

www.youtube.com

What do you think about the Space Force? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bringing back the original meaning of Memorial Day – with flowers

For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.

In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.


I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.

What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.

That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.

Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.

Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.

We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.

The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.

I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person

Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why 3 naval battles can claim to be history’s largest

There are a lot of articles that talk about the “largest naval battle,” but they don’t always agree on what battle that is. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, with nearly 200,000 participants and 285 ships, comes up often, but that isn’t the largest number of participants or ships that have clashed at a single point in history. So what’s really the largest naval battle?


The big issue is that it’s hard to define what, exactly, is the proper metric for determining the size of a battle. While land engagements are nearly always measured by the number of troops involved, naval battles can be measured by the number of ships, the size of the ships, the number of sailors, total number of vehicles and vessels, or even the size of the battlefield.

Here are three naval battles with a decent claim to “history’s largest.” One by troops involved, one by ship tonnage and area that was fought over, and one by most ships that fought.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A French map of the movements involved in the Battle of the Red Cliffs.

(Sémhur, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Battle of the Red Cliffs—850,000 troops clashed on river and land

The Battle of the Red Cliffs is likely the largest amphibious battle of all time with estimates of the troops involved going up to 880,000 with up to 800,000 marching under the Chinese General Cao Cao. Liu Bei and Sun Quan stood up a small navy and army opposition that numbered around 50-80,000. The whole fight took place in 208 AD.

If it sounds like the allied force would get railroaded, realize that they were the ones with better ships and they had hometown advantage. They sailed their ships through the rivers, likely the Han and Yangtze, set them on fire, and managed to crash them into Cao Cao’s fleet. Cao Cao’s men on the river and in camp burned.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A Japanese destroyer withdraws from the Battle of Leyte Gulf while under attack from U.S. bombers.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

Battle of Leyte Gulf—285 ships clash over 100,000 square miles

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is what usually pops up as the top Google search for history’s largest, and it’s easy to see why. The fighting took place over 100,000 square miles of ocean, one of the largest battleships in history sunk, and 285 naval vessels and 1,800 aircraft took part. Of the ships, 24 were aircraft carriers.

It was also a key battle strategically, allowing the U.S. to re-take the Philippines and further tipping the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II in favor of the U.S. and its allies.

One odd note about Leyte Gulf, though, is that it’s often accepted as its own battle, it’s actually a term that encompasses four smaller battles, the battles of Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait, Cape Engano, and the Battle off Samar.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Painting depicts the Battle of Salamis where outnumbered Greek ships annihilated a Persian fleet.

(Wilhelm von Kaulbach, public domain)

Battle of Salamis—over 1,000 ships

At the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars, the Persian fleet of 800 galleys had penned 370 Greek triremes into the small Saronic Gulf. The Greek commander managed to draw the Persian fleet into the gulf, and the more agile Greek ships rammed their way through the Persian vessels.

The Persians lost 300 ships and only sank 40 Greek ones, forcing them to abandon planned offensives on land.

(Note that there are conflicting reports as to just how many ships took part in the battle with estimates ranging up to 1,207 Persian ships and 371 Greeks, but even on the lower end, the Battle of Salamis was the largest by number of ships engaged.)

If you had a battle in mind that didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily out of the running. The Battle of Yamen saw over 1,000 ships clash and allowed the Mongol Yuan Dynasty to overtake the Song Dynasty. At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 902 American aircraft fought 750 Japanese planes. The Battle of Jutland, the only major battleship clash of World War I, makes many people’s lists as well.

Hell, Wikipedia has a page that lists nine naval battles as potential contenders for world’s largest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best way to defeat annoying ‘robocalls’

Ask the Federal Communications Commission’s Patrick Webre when he last received a robocall, and he’ll quickly tell you: yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve received any today,” he says, “but it’s a pretty regular occurrence for me.”

This, of course, only illustrates the extent of America’s problem with automated phone calls. If the chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which oversees rule making efforts regarding issues including robocalls, is himself a repeated victim, are any of us safe from the annoyance?


The stats back it up: In 2017, there were around 30.7 billion robocalls made. The following year? Almost 48 billion. If you were to do the math, the average American would receive a machine-operated call approximately every other day. But some end up receiving way more. One Florida woman received thousands of calls from Wells Fargo bank, with as many as 23 per day. The state you live in can also have an effect. Living in Georgia; Washington, D.C.; or Louisiana? They’re the three states with area codes that receive the greatest number of robocalls per person, with an average of 55 per day, according to a recent report. “We get more robocalls during the day than we do real phone calls,” one resident said. With the number of calls the average American receives coming fast and furious, the machines seem to be winning.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

(Photo by Alexandre Boucher)

“There’s no silver bullet here,” Webre says, “so we’re taking a multi-pronged approach.”

In the last two years, the FCC has been going hard at these companies, levying over 0 million in fines to businesses found in breach of existing regulations. “It’s not only our top consumer complaint, but it’s also our top consumer protection priority,” Webre adds.

Fatherly spoke Webre on a particularly good day (any day without robocalls is a good day) and he recommended measures everyone can take to reduce the presence of robocalls in their life.

1. Do not pick up

When you receive a call from an unknown number, do not answer it. “Our first guidance is, if you don’t recognize the phone number, you should let it go voicemail,” Webre says. The reason for this is simple: Human interaction can be detected by the computer monitoring on the other line, even if you just hang up after a few seconds. This, however, can start a chain reaction in which your number can be marked for increased calling. By screening for unknown numbers, in the system you’re just another no-response.

 2. Check with Your Phone Provider

“Phone companies are providing blocking tools for consumers both on the landline and on the wireless side,” Webre says. Does your provider have these? Best give them a call and ask. In March 2019, Verizon rolled out free services to its wireless customers, simply requiring a signup. ATT and T-Mobile introduced these services two years ago gratis, while Sprint offers a service for an added monthly fee. To activate, you’ll need to contact your carrier to opt in while also having a device that can shoulder the workload. Still, for many, this should be the first line of defense.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

(Photo by William Iven)

3. There’s an app for that

Third-party app makers have jumped into the game with both feet, and they’re providing more and more sophisticated tools to prevent unwanted contact. The FCC even has a handy list here. While each of these apps has its own special sauce, generally speaking, each scans a mega-database of all reported robocall numbers. What it does from there varies. One blocks calls en masse. Another allows you to automatically send calls to voicemail so that you may manually report them to the FCC at a later date. One even allows you to record your own pre-recorded gibberish to was these companies’ time in a cathartic action of schadenfreude.

4. Add yourself to the “Do Not Call” list

Of course, the preexisting “Do Not Call” list continues to grow, and legitimate telemarketers are required to check it and abide by your decision or face stiff fines. After navigating its multi-step verification process, your information is recorded, which should cut your number of unwanted calls. Furthermore, you can also report additional harassing numbers. But one word of caution for those to whom it seems like a catchall panacea: “Unfortunately it doesn’t work well when you have a scammer trying to reach consumers,” Webre says. “They’re not going to check the ‘Do Not Call’ list.”

5. Report every ring

Finally, report any number guilty of harassment, unwanted phone calls, or texts directly to the FCC. Webre says it’s Pai’s most important priority right now, and he’s bringing down a multi-stranded hammer, which includes working with carriers to eliminate the scourge of robocalls from the public experience: “If your phone doesn’t ring, you’re not frustrated, you’re not getting an unwanted call, and we’re all better off for that.”

Featured image by Gilles Lambert.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

John Rambo was almost any other throwaway movie veteran. But luckily for the character – and fans of the Rambo series – the script for First Blood was in the hands of Sylvester Stallone. For Sly, something felt a little off about the story. So he asked real Vietnam veterans what was missing.

And movie history was made.


Sly gets input from veterans when it comes to writing “Rambo”

Given John Rambo’s place in the action movie pantheon, First Blood isn’t the shoot-em-up action movie someone might expect. In between the fight scenes, it’s a poignant remark on the treatment of Vietnam veterans, a wound that was still fresh when the movie was released in 1982. It started life as a book, but John Rambo’s speech at the end – the words that bring the entire story and its message together – wasn’t in the book. Stallone added it with the input from Vietnam veterans. It was a message that resonated with Vietnam vets in their own words.

Sly didn’t stop there. For the sequel, where Rambo is sent to Vietnam to rescue POW/MIA still in captivity, Stallone reached out to vets at Soldier of Fortune Magazine to talk about Vietnam War prisoners that might be held over. For the third, he tapped troops with experience in Afghanistan. He did the same to learn more about the decades-long civil war in Burma.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Stallone reprising his iconic role a John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.

Stallone’s favorite ‘Rambo’ weapon isn’t the trademark knife

There are a lot of now-iconic action scenes where John Rambo is using weapons to great effect. The large survival knife from First Blood is legendary, but Rambo has a whole cache of other tools. He uses the compound bow in every Rambo movie to come after, an M60E3 with one hand in First Blood Part II, and who could forget the time he uses a Browning M2 to first obliterate a Jeep driver at close range before taking out half of Burma’s army in 2008’s Rambo.

For Stallone, the latest weapon resonated most with him. Rambo is short on time in Last Blood and has to fashion a few weapons for himself. Among those is a “vicious” weapon crafted from a spring on a car for use in close combat. Stallone calls it a “war club” with the emphasis on war.

“That thing talks to me,” the actor tells We Are The Mighty.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Imagine all the places this pitchfork is gonna go.

John Rambo enlisted in the Air Force first

Sorry, Big Army. Before Rambo joined the U.S. Army’s most elite Special Forces unit, he crossed into the blue. It wasn’t just something he did for a few minutes before realizing he wanted to be in the Army, either. John Rambo did two tours in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and even received the Medal of Honor before he ever thought about being in the Army.

According to the man who plays Rambo himself (in the video above), John Rambo got into a fight in Saigon with a bunch of Special Forces guys who told him that anyone could fight in the sky. So Rambo went to Fort Bragg as soon as he could, reenlisting so he could join the Army’s Special Force. In the film, you’ll see John Rambo in Air Force blue.

Catch Rambo: Last Blood in theaters starting Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how this historic spy plane keeps an eye on the battlefield

The 64th anniversary of the U-2 spy plane’s historic, and accidental, first flight came in early August 2019.

While much about the Dragon Lady has changed in the past six decades — most of the 30 or so in use now were built in the 1980s, and they no longer do overflights of hostile territory, as in the 1960 flight in which Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union — the U-2 is still at the front of the military’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission, lurking off coastlines and above battlefields.

The U-2 is probably best known for what pilots call “the optical bar camera,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at an Air Force event in New York City in May 2019.


“It’s effectively a giant wet film camera,” about the size of a projector screen, that fits in the belly of the aircraft and carries 10,500 feet of film, Patterson said during a panel discussion about the U-2 and its mission.

The camera has improved greatly since the 1950s. “What we can do with that, for instance, in about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California,” Patterson said. “The fidelity is such that if somebody is holding a newspaper out … you can probably read the headlines.”

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loading test film into an onboard camera for a test in preparation for a U-2 mission at a base in Southwest Asia in 2008.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)

The aircraft’s size and power allow it to carry a lot of hardware, earning it the nickname “Mr. Potato Head.”

“We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose, and you could actually image … out to the horizon, which, if you think about it, from 70,000 feet, is about 300 miles,” Patterson said. “So if you’re looking 360 degrees, you can see 600 miles in any direction.”

Another option is “like a big digital camera,” Patterson said. “It’s got a lens about the size of a pizza platter, and it has multiple spectral capabilities, which means it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify what is this material made out of.”

“We also carry what’s called signals payloads, so we can listen to different radars, different communications,” Patterson said. “We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft [with which] we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing.”

“Some of these sensors can see hundreds and hundreds of miles, so even if we’re not overflying, you can get a real deep look at what you actually want to see,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman, also a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen preparing a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

‘Just a sensor’

The U-2 is “just a sensor in a broader grid that the United States has all over the world … feeding data to these professionals,” Patterson said.

Whether it’s radar imagery or signals intercepts, “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world where we have a team of almost 300 intel analysts,” Patterson said.

“So while we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that ISR mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe,” he added. “They’re … distilling it, turning it into usable reports for the decision makers, and [getting] that information disseminated.”

Capt. Joseph Siler, the chief of intelligence training with the 492nd Special Operations Support Squadron, was tasked leading those efforts.

“I loved talking to the [U-2] pilots, and … having that pilot [who] is actually understanding the context of where they’re at and is able to dynamically change direction and help us, it just brings something to the fight,” especially when sudden changes require a new plan, Siler said at the same event, during a panel discussion about the mental and physical strain of Air Force operations.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A U-2 pilot signaling flight-line personnel while taxiing at Beale Air Force Base in California on Sep. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Valentina Viglianco)

“I got more of the quick-time, actionable intelligence” from U-2s, Siler said. “It’s all going into this common picture, but that’s where they fit into it.”

That doesn’t mean the U-2 can’t play a role in the action on the ground as it unfolds.

“We have multiple radios on board,” Patterson said. “So let’s say you’re flying a mission over a desert somewhere and we have troops on the ground that are in contact. We’ll be talking directly to them sometimes, providing imagery.”

That imagery isn’t going straight from the U-2 to the troops, but “they can tell me what they need to listen to, where they need to look, and we’ll move the sensors to that spot, snap an image, kick it back over whatever data links we need to get it to the intel professionals,” he said. “They will do their rapid analysis and send that, again, to the forward edge, where those folks can take a look at it.”

“You can see troop movements. You can see things like that,” Patterson said. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking for [improvised explosive devices] and providing [that information] real-time to convoys and things like that. I’ve done that personally.”

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greeting his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in 2010.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

‘Constant, constant stress’

Patterson analogized the relay of information to a game of telephone.

It’s on “the airmen that are receiving that to be able to make that decipherable and useful,” Siler said of intelligence gathered by U-2s. “When I was in there, in that environment, receiving all that information and how that work, it’s just such a weird place. It’s different from traditional conflict.”

The waves of incoming information are a source of “constant, constant stress,” added Siler, who has spoken about his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I’m getting information from the U-2. I’m getting information from satellites. I’m getting information from an MQ-9, and I have an Army task force that’s about to go in, and there’s people’s lives that are going to be tested,” Siler said.

“What the intelligence community does is we look at all the information we can get, from whatever sensor it is, we pipe that together, and then we say, ‘All right, based upon what the U-2 is saying and what the Global Hawk is saying and what the satellites are saying, we believe this is the best route, this is the best time.'”

Final decisions about when and where to go are made by operators. But, Siler said, “you can imagine the sense of responsibility that these young airmen, 19, 20 years old, feel as they make those calls, and we say, ‘is that the bad guy or is that his 16-year-old son?'”

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A U-2 pilot driving a high-performance chase car on the runway to catch a U-2 during a low-flight touch-and-go at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 15, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

‘Algorithmic warfare’

The reason the U-2 funnels that intelligence back to crew members on the ground is that “it’s so much data that we just simply can’t process all of it on board,” Patterson said.

A U-2 pilot can key on an interesting signal picked up by a sensor, sending imagery to intelligence analysts on the ground. Those analysts can decide to look into it, routing a satellite to take a look or sending a drone to get photos and video.

The process can run the other way as well. A tip from social media can lead an analyst on the ground to send in a U-2 to gather photos and other imagery. If necessary, assets like a drone or an F-16 with video capability can be sent in for a closer look.

“As you start networking [these assets], using these algorithms and using these processing capabilities, if I hear a signal here, and somebody hears the same signal but they’re over here, you can instantly refine that” if the assets are in sync, Patterson said. “We’re able to map down some pretty interesting stuff pretty quick.”

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A U-2 high above the earth.

(US Air Force)

But the goal is do it quicker, and the Air Force has been looking at artificial intelligence and machine learning to sort through all the data gathered by U-2s and other aircraft and sensors and make sense of it.

Integrating that into the broader intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission is still in its “infancy,” Nauman said.

“We know the capability’s there. We know the commercial sector is really doing a lot of development on that. They’re ahead on that frankly,” Nauman said. “We’re trying to figure out, A) how to catch up and be as good, and then Part B is what do we do with that, how do we make ourselves more effective with that.”

“Processing is getting really good, really fast, so there are a number of efforts to actually take a lot … of the stuff that we collect, running it through an algorithm at … what we call the forward edge — like right on board the aircraft — [and] disseminate that information to the fight real-time, without having to reach back, and those some of the projects that we’re working right now,” Patterson said, describing what senior leaders have called “algorithmic warfare.”

“It’s easier to put racks and racks of servers and [graphics processing units] on the ground, obviously, to do the processing, but how do we take a piece of that and move that to the air?” Nauman said. “I think that’s going to be kind of the follow-on step.”

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

Articles

Now you can help develop drones and apps for the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is looking for a few good innovations to shape the future force.


The Quantico, Virginia-based lab will kick off the first “CMC Warfighting Challenge” this month, said Col. John Armellino, the warfightinglab’s operations officer. Marines can starting submitting ideas through the new “CMC Innovation Portal” once it officially goes online Sept. 15. A different challenge will be offered every other month.

Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has encouraged Marines — from general officers to privates — to get creative and identify new ways to bolster the service’s storied combat force. Neller wants, as he often says, “disruptive thinkers.”

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

Officials seek ideas that are “forward looking, futuristic and cutting edge,” Armellino said. “What we are trying to do is to address our current challenges to ensure the Marine Corps is organized, trained and equipped to meet the demands of the future environment,” he added.

Submissions can be made via the web portal, which had a “soft” opening on Sept. 1. While the first challenge is aimed at getting Marines’ input, Armellino said, the Marine Corps also wants to hear from people in academia and industry. And anyone who submits an idea will be kept in the loop, he said, and “remains part of the process.”

First up: Ideas and ways to make autonomous, robotic systems that can better support Marine air-ground task force operations. The September challenge is targeted at finding solutions to what “Marines do today that seem considerably dull or dirty or dangerous,” Armellino said.

So the lab has pitched this challenge: “Identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine (or Marines) to accomplish, that could, and should, be replaced by robotic, autonomous, or unmanned systems. Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty or dangerous in nature.”

Some Examples:

  • Dull: Filling sandbags
  • Dirty: Going into a potential CBRNE environment to sense for chemicals
  • Dangerous: Sweeping for mines/IEDs

For November, the Marine Corps wants ideas from developers for apps “that enhance quality of life, physical fitness and warfighting in general,” Armellino said.

The innovation challenges are part of the service’s broader and ongoing effort to help develop the future force. The CMC Warfighting Challenge, he said, will provide “a focused, analytical framework.”

And it wants answers and solutions a lot faster.

So the Marine Corps also is establishing a Rapid Capabilities Office. The office will manage the crowd-sourcing portal and other pathways for innovation and will be “empowered to accelerate turnkey solutions or further incubate ideas” that could be demonstrated, tested and experimented, Armellino said. It also will play a part in the Future Force Implementation Plan.

The RCO, he said, will be a bridge between the Marine Corps’ combat development and systems commands — think, concepts and ideas and the equipment and systems that bring those to life. And it “could accelerate technology for development or rapidly get” what’s available to the operating force much faster, he said.

Innovation is a hot phrase of late, perhaps driven by the resetting of the force mired in two major wars over nearly a generation and facing a much more-advanced, high-tech and hybrid threat environment. Agencies like DARPA have reached out to outsiders for ideas, say, to counter threats to drones.

And the Marine Corps isn’t alone in tapping crowd-sourcing to broaden its stable of thinkers and developers. The Navy created Task Force Innovation in January 2015, along with a web portal for virtual collaboration called The Hatch, spurred by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus‘ Innovation Vision for the department.

The Army in 2013 started soliciting ideas for its “Rapid Equipping Force” program through a website that remains in place today. Soldiers can submit ideas or solutions online. The Army is taken a greater collaborative approach with workshops and meetings to pull ideas from soldiers and others whose innovations, expertise and skills just might help develop better gear, vehicles and equipment. Its third annual Innovation Summit was held Aug. 16-17.

“Innovation needs to be a culture, not a niche corner or a specific time,”Army Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins told the audience at the two-day meeting in Virginia. Soldiers “are natural innovators. We just need to make sure we don’t stifle them.”

In late August, Army Secretary Eric Fanning announced the creation of a Rapid Capabilities Office to find and field technology and equipment more quickly. “We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said, in an Army news story. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”

What tangible, concrete innovations come of these efforts remain to be seen.

The CMC Warfighting Challenge is like a next-gen take on “Marine Mail” from the mid-1990s, when the top general, Gen. Chuck Krulak, sought out creative and innovative ideas from Marines. Krulak also established the warfighting lab during his tenure as commandant. In 2007, in the midst of two major conflicts, then-commandant Gen. James Conway revived Marine Mail, but it’s not clear what specifically came of that effort.

Marine Mail, said Armellino, was “a great idea” that also was “unsustainable.” If it’s set up as a “virtual suggestion box,” he said, “you run the risk of being potentially overwhelmed.”

Will the new CMC Warfighting Challenge work?

The Warfighting Lab worked through the web portal bugs during a beta test in July to collect thoughts about wearable technologies. That drew 260 ideas, Armellino said. It likely will fall to the lab’s RCO to cull through those suggestions.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wanted to be a CIA agent

Today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is an actor and all-around American treasure. But things were almost very different.

On June 12, 2018, Johnson revealed his long-held dream to be a CIA agent on Instagram. In the post, The Rock said he would have pursued his dream if his academic advisor didn’t give him a reality check.

“In college, my goal was to eventually work for the CIA,” he wrote. “Until my criminal justice professor and advisor (Dr. Paul Cromwell) convinced me that the best operative I could become for the agency is one that also had a law degree.”


But Johnson realized that wasn’t exactly the right path for him.

“I thought that’s a great idea until I realized no respectable law school would ever let me in with my pile of steaming s— grades,” he wrote.

At the time, Johnson was a self-described “Smirky Beefy McBeef,” 22-year-old football player for the University of Miami in Miami, Florida. After college, The Rock went on to play football for the Calgary Stampeders, a football team based out of Alberta, Canada. However, he was cut from the team two months into the season, The Globe and Mail reported.

But, you know, things turned out just fine for The Rock.

The athlete went on to become a professional wrestler before pivoting to a career in movies. And now? He’s known for being a doting father, dominating the action movie scene, and giving back to his fans. Not too shabby.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This speedy missile gave bombers a lot of punch

In the late 1960s, the cancellation of the B-70 Valkyrie program and the retirement of the B-58 Hustler meant that the United States Air Force was likely to struggle with bypassing Soviet defenses. The FB-111 Switchblade was coming online to help address this gap in capabilities, but the plane’s production run was cut down to 76 airframes (from an originally planned 263) in 1969.

The US Air Force needed an answer — a fast one.


That answer came in the form of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile, or SRAM. The “short range” bit in the name, in this case, was relative. The AGM-69 SRAM had a maximum range of 100 miles. That’s considered “short” when compared with something like the AGM-28 Hound Dog (which had a 700-mile range). In theory, this weapon allowed B-52s or FB-111s to take on enemy air-defense sites.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

A training version of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile is loaded onto a B-1B Lancer. The B-1 could carry two dozen of these missiles.

(USAF photo by Technical Sgt. Kit Thompson)

Any air-defense site that drew the ire of a B-52 or FB-111 enough to require the use of a SRAM was in for some hurt. The SRAM packed a W69 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 200 kilotons. A single AGM-69 sounds painful enough — the FB-111 could carry as many as six of these missiles. The B-52 could carry an even 20. By comparison, the legendary BUFF could only carry two AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missiles.

The AGM-69 entered service in 1972 and was widely deployed among Strategic Air Command units. This missile had a top speed of Mach 3 and weighed just under 2,300 pounds. The missile was 14-feet long and 17-and-a-half inches wide. Over 1,500 SRAMs were built.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet

The AGM-69 could be carried in a rotary launcher inside the bomb bay of bombers like the B-52, or on pylons on the wings.

(USAF)

The missile served until 1990. It was retired after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The planned successor, the AGM-131 SRAM II, which would have had longer range (250 miles) and smaller size (under ten-and-a-half feet long and a little more than 15 inches across) was cancelled the following year.

Learn more about this essential, Cold War-era missile in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUfEYhODsjg

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines will soon get these new night-vision goggles

Marines will have better situational awareness on missions in dark areas thanks to new night-vision goggles.

The Binocular Night Vision Goggle II, or BNVG II, is a helmet-mounted binocular that gives operators improved depth perception at night, and uses white phosphor image intensification technology to amplify ambient light, with a modular thermal imaging overlay capability. BNVG II helps Marines identify potential buried explosive devices, find hidden objects in foliated areas and safely conduct tasks that require depth perception.

Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding the BNVG II to force reconnaissance and explosive ordnance disposal Marines this spring, and full operational capability is planned for early 2019.


The BNVG II includes a binocular night-vision device and a clip-on thermal imager, or COTI. The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay that allows the image to be viewed more clearly, helping Marines with situational awareness in conditions with little to no light.

Enhanced Vision

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Kishawn Tucker peers through night vision binoculars.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

“The BNVG II helps Marines see enemies at a distance, and uses the COTI to detect ordnance or power sources for an explosive device that gives off heat,” said Nia Cherry, an infantry weapons program analyst. “The COTI intensifies Marines’ ability to see anything in dark conditions, rain, fog, dust, smoke and through bushes that the legacy binoculars couldn’t.”

The BNVG II is a follow-on to the legacy, battle-proven AN/PVS-15 binocular, but offers more features, such as the COTI, for increased survivability. The BNVD component is a compact, lightweight, third-generation, dual-tube night -vision goggle with an ergonomic, low-profile design. It offers superior situational awareness compared to the AN/PVS-15 used by reconnaissance Marines and the single-tube AN/PVS-14 monocular night-vision device used throughout the rest of the Marine Corps, officials said. It mounts to the enhanced combat helmet and may be used individually or in conjunction with the COTI.

“In March 2018, we held an exercise in San Diego where Marines provided positive feedback on their ability to easily maneuver with the goggles,” said Joe Blackstone, optics team lead in infantry weapons. “The depth perception provided by the BNVG II enhances precision and increases the operator’s survivability while on missions with limited lighting.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

8 awesome photos of an A-10 refueling over Afghanistan

The Air Force recently released a bunch of crazy pictures of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs getting refueled over Afghanistan, where the US recently redeployed a squadron of 12 Warthogs.


The A-10s were deployed in late January 2018 to Kandahar Air Base as part of a new campaign announced in November 2017. The US is increasing airstrikes on Taliban revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin drug-producing facilities.

Since then, the US has released several videos of A-10s striking Taliban vehicles, as well as training and drug-producing facilities.

Also read: The A-10 vs. F-35 showdown could happen this spring

Some analysts, however, have criticized the new strategy as a game of whack-a-mole, since the Taliban can rebuild such drug-producing facilities in three or four days.

The latest SIGAR report also noted that civilian casualties increased in November 2017. “Press reports stated several civilians were killed during the November bombings,” the report said.

The recently released A-10 photos though are pretty incredible, providing a close-up of how the Warthog is refueled in mid-air.

Check them out:

1. The pictures, taken from a KC-135 Stratotanker, first show the A-10 maneuvering into position for refueling.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot maneuvers into formation while waiting for his wingman to conduct refueling operations with a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan on March 12, 2018. (DVIDS)

2. Slowly…

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

More: Watch an A-10 light up a Taliban vehicle in Afghanistan

3. But surely …

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

4. Once in position, the KC-135 extends the refueling boom down towards the Warthog.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

5. And refueling begins.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

Related: This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

6. Once refueled, the A-10 inverts away and launches flares.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

7. And goes on its way.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
(DVIDS)

8. After the refuel, the photographer got a close-up of the cockpit.

The F-35 can now act as the eyes of the fleet
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot flies over Afghanistan after completing aerial refueling operations with a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan on March 12, 2018. (DVIDS)