Flying boats, seaplanes, floatplanes – no matter what you call them, they’re pretty cool. The terms are often used interchangeably, but these three water-faring aircraft all have a different meaning. However, no matter what you call them, it seems a real shame that flying boats aren’t as much a part of the Navy as they used to be. In fact, you could say that there’s no real place for them in the current Navy at all.
So let’s get some facts clarified on the kinds of water aircraft that are hard to find in our modern Navy.
Flying boats are built around a single hull that serves as the plane’s floating body and fuselage. Flying boats take off and land on its belly. That’s exactly what happened in 1955 in Maryland when the XP6M-1 Seamaster, the world’s first jet-powered seaplane, took its first flight.
Floatplanes are also called pontoon planes. Instead of having a hull that can land on water, floatplanes have floats (also called pontoons) that serve as surfaces for take-off and landing.
Think of the Viking Twin Otter. These amphibious aircraft can take off and land on conventional runways, water, and even on skis during snowy conditions. Talk about versatile, right?
So why aren’t flying boats and seaplanes and floatplanes better utilized in our Navy today? That’s an excellent question, considering that Russia and China both have water aircraft and have been steadily perfecting their designs for the last 20 years, the latest versions of the AVIC AG-600 and the Beriev Be-200, proving that both countries know a thing or two about amphibious aircraft.
The First Seaplane of the Navy
During the first World War, the only aircraft available had serious limitations for anti-submarine duty. Seaplanes weren’t capable of operating in the open ocean without a support ship, and we’re seaworthy enough to survive the cold, harsh conditions in the North Atlantic. Rear Admiral David Taylor proposed building a flying boat with the capability to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1917 because he recognized that a self-deploying anti-submarine aircraft would be instrumental in the battle for the open seas. However, the design needs to be reliable, intended for combat, not to mention maintainable, and be able to operate both in the air and on the ocean. Talk about having your work cut out for you.
What developed was the largest flying boat ever built. It featured an unusual shape, state-of-the-art engineering, and unsurpassed sea-worthiness. By late 1918, the first NC-1 was constructed and undergoing testing. The war ended before the testing was complete, and the military need for the flying boat ended.
However, Navy leadership was undeterred and continued testing, refocusing efforts to complete testing. In May 1919, NC Seaplane Divisions One set off from New York and made history by crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
After WWI, naval aviation’s emphasis was on carrier operations, so patrol-plane development was limited to a shoestring budget.
Unlike Russia and China, our Navy isn’t so concerned with making amphibious aircraft. In fact, the XP6M-1 was the last seaplane flown by the US Navy way back in 1955, and it was only built in response to what leadership expected would be needed during the early days of the Cold War. It was never used for its intended purpose.
Flying boats have the advantage of using oceans as runways – good news for the pilot and crew since the ocean can’t be cratered by bombs. Atolls, bays, and coves become FOPs for flying boats, making the entire world a battlefield.
The end of flying boats was due in part to the last island campaign of WWII. There were so many military airbases built to meet the Pacific Theater’s needs, and most of them had long runways. Long-range land-based planes like the Privateer were able to operate just fine, taking away the need for amphibious aircraft.
The need for flying boats like the NC-1 is long gone, but the need for ingenuity and development continues to remain strong. The Navy continues to make big strides forward – it commissioned eight new ships in 2017 – and though flying boats remain a thing of the past, the push to move forward remains as strong as ever.
The United Kingdom unveiled a full-sized model of its proposed next-generation fighter jet on July 16, 2018, at the Farnborough air show in England, according to Bloomberg.
“We are entering a dangerous new era of warfare, so our focus has to be on the future,” UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he unveiled the conceptual design, according to Defense News.
The unveiling also coincided with the UK signing a future combat air strategy, which will review its technological spending and capabilities, Defense News reported.
Nicknamed the “Tempest,” the aircraft is a joint venture by BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo, and MBDA, and could be an optional unmanned system armed with lasers, swarming UAVs, and be resilient against cyber attacks, according to several news reports.
BAE Systems graphic on some of the Tempest’s possible capabilities.
“While some of these may be abandoned during further development, tackling all of this in a single project places the barrier for success extremely high,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
Although “the concept sounds extremely promising, the level of ambition could make actual development and production problematic,” Tack added.
Tack also said that this “program is the British response to seeing Dassault (France) turn towards the Franco-German fighter,” Tack added.
It was announced last year that Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas would be a main character in FX’s new series, Mayans M.C. This week, at San Diego Comic Con, fans got to see a little bit more of the series and, in short, it looks amazing. Yes, it’s awesome that the series is going to take off where Sons of Anarchy ended (Spoiler alert:The series that was basically a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet ended in pretty much the same way as Shakespeare’s Hamlet) — but the fact that one of the veteran community’s own made the cut is a win for all of us.
There’s a long history of veterans taking up acting careers after serving. Steve McQueen, Chuck Norris, and Morgan Freeman all served before becoming on-screen legends. Even several post-9/11 veterans have graced the big screen, like Adam Driver and Rob Riggle.
Now, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas joins that list.
Vargas has been making a name for himself ever since leaving active duty. He became the Chief Operations Officer of Article 15 Clothing and has appeared in many of their YouTube videos. He also appeared in a bit role in Ross Peterson’s Helen Keller vs Nightwolves before both of them went on to star in Range 15.
Vargas also appears in many episodes of the YouTube series, Dads in Parks, created by Navy veteran and comedian Jamie Kaler.
Vargas is set to play Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez, a good-natured MMA fighter that rides for the Santo Padre chapter of the Mayans Motorcycle Club. Unfortunately, he’s only listed as being in two episodes on IMDb, but we’ll still count this as a win.
Not much else is known at this time about the series, but we do know it’ll star JD Pardo as a potential recruit to the Mayans M.C. Check him out when the series premieres on September 4th on FX.
Having more veterans in Hollywood is a win for every veteran who wishes to take on more artistic and creative roles after service. Just as Adam Driver’s work with the Arts in the Armed Forces proves, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas is also showing the world that veterans are capable of much more than just grunt work.
All of his videos, blogs, podcasts, and films are proof that the world wants to hear the veteran’s voice. But for further proof that Vargas has the interests of the veteran community at heart, watch this short film he wrote and starred in calledThe Long Way Back.
Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.
Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.
In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.
In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.
The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.
Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.
Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)
Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.
Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.
Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.
The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.
A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”
It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)
Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.
For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.
And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.
On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.
“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.
Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.
Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)
“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.
“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”
Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.
Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”
There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.
The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The United States Institute of Peace released a wide-ranging report on the U.S. military’s capabilities and outlook from the National Defense Strategy Commission, a body tasked to assess the U.S. military’s capabilities within the environment it is expected to operate — and the analysis isn’t good.
“America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt,” the report says. “If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.“
As American military advantages degrade, the country’s strategic landscape becomes more threatening, the report says. The solution is to rebuild those advantages before the damage caused by their erosion becomes devastating.
More than 900 Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship Pre-Commissioning Unit America march to the ship to take custody of it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos.)
The USIP is a body independent from government and politics, though it was founded by Congress. It seeks to keep the U.S. at peace by addressing potential conflicts before they explode into violence by offering training, analysis, and outreach to organizations and governments working to prevent those conflicts. Their 2018 report, Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission, was commissioned by Congress in 2017.
While the panel praises the efforts and strategies enacted by Defense Secretary James Mattis in January, 2018, it also warns about continuing issues that need to be addressed immediately. The commission’s report is the first step to addressing these issues.
Marine Corps Cpl. Johnathan Riethmann, a mortarman with Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, walks to a staging area in preparation for Exercise Sea Soldier 17 at Senoor Beach, Oman, Feb. 15, 2017.
(Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.)
The biggest threats to American interests are authoritarian competitors, like China and Russia, who seek to become regional hegemons to neutralize American power in their areas through military buildup. Less powerful actors, like Iran and North Korea, seek technological advances and asymmetrical tactics to counter U.S. power, while transnational threats, like jihadist groups, will fight American power with more and more capability.
Nowhere are these challenges to American power more apparent than in what the report refers to as “gray-zone aggressions,” areas somewhere between war and peace. Here, adversaries large and small are in competition and conflict with the United States in areas of cyber warfare and diplomacy.
U.S. Army Soldiers wait to be picked up by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters south of Balad Ruz, Iraq, March 22, 2009. The Soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter J. Pels)
Chiefly to blame for the decline in American advantage is the dysfunction in competing American political parties, who have failed to enact “timely appropriations” to U.S. defense. This is particularly true in the case of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which ended the debt-ceiling crisis of that same year. The act required some 7 billion in spending cuts in exchange for a 0 billion increase in the debt ceiling. These cuts hit the Department of Defense particularly hard, affecting the size, modernization, and readiness of the U.S. military.
The report goes on to say that current National Defense Strategy “too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world. We believe that the NDS points the Department of Defense (DOD) and the country in the right direction, but it does not adequately explain how we should get there.”
Senior Airman Mario Fajardo stands guard Jan. 25 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The 355th Security Force Squadron is responsible for the worldwide force protection and security of seven flying squadrons and 4,400 tactical and stored aircraft on Davis-Monthan AFB worth more than 32.3 billion dollars.
(U.S. Air Force)
Writers of the report say the U.S. needs substantial improvements in military capability based on relevant, operational warfighting concepts. The United States military must also invest in favorable military balances while diminishing the power exerted by adversaries and regional hegemons and limiting military options available to them. Most importantly, the DoD muse clearly develop plausible strategies to achieve victory against any aggressor in the event of a war, noting that much of current defense policy includes meaningless buzzwords.
There is also a lot the U.S. has never addressed, like how to counter an adversary in a way that falls short of a full-scale war or if the United States limits technological development with potential rivals and keep threatened defense-related industries from seeking agreements with those rivals.
These are just a few of the recommendations the commission makes to rebuild the U.S. military and its advantages at home and abroad. You can read the full report at the United States Institute for Peace site.
One of the struggles that many returning, wounded veterans face is trying to find a new normal after a horrific incident. What was once a simple pastime, like playing a quick round of your favorite video game to relieve stress, is taken away from someone who has lost the ability to hold and operate a controller as they once did.
This is what Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed to alleviate. And any little thing that can help give our wounded brothers and sisters a better chance at living a comfortable, normal life should definitely be counted as a win for the veteran community as a whole.
AbleGamers has founded many Accessibility Arcades to give gamers with disabilities a space with a wide variety of modified controllers.
(USDA photo by Bob Nichols)
The disabled gaming community has had to find ways to compensate for many years, going to either extremely costly or very frustrating lengths to do so. If a gamer with disabilities isn’t able to successfully adjust the way they play to fit their condition, they have to abandon the game, wasting cash and taking a hit to morale as they have to say goodbye to their favorite titles.
And then came the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires tech companies to outfit all forms of communication, including laptops, smartphones, and video game consoles, with accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since the CCVAA’s passing, nearly all tech giants have taken steps in the right direction, introducing many text-to-speech features for the visually impaired and other accessibility options, like color-blind support settings in most major game titles. Then, Microsoft moved leaps and bounds ahead of the wave when they announced a partnership with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space.
The engineers at Microsoft began working on a versatile prototype controller that can interface with all types of external input devices, allowing for an adaptive remapping of inputs. There are 19 ports on the back of the controller that can be connected to joysticks, standard controllers, buttons, switches, or whatever other type of device is most accessible to the gamer. If need be, any Xbox game can be played with one hand and a foot, one hand and a shoulder, one shoulder and a foot — whatever allows the gamer to play most comfortably.
The controller has been released to the public — and at a reasonable price. Our friends at Operation Supply Drop were given many adaptive controllers to be deployed to military hospitals around the world. The chief medical officer of OSD, Maj. Erik Johnson, has long been a supporter of using video games as a therapeutic tool for wounded troops.
With these controllers, many more wounded veterans will be able to bring gaming back into their lives.
With the spread of the coronavirus around the country, we saw the unprecedented stoppage of sporting events around the world and in the United States. Starting with several universities canceling conference tournaments, the NCAA decided to ban crowds from its venerable tournament. That alone was big news until the NBA suspended operations after a player tested positive. The resulting snowball turned into an avalanche the likes of which we have never seen. Play stopped after 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, but not like this. We will see how things shape up long-term but in the meantime, we can start to wonder what comes next.
After the positive test of Rudy Gobert (two days after his ill-conceived hijnks with the press corps’ mics and recorders), the NBA immediately suspended operations. While Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner said that it would be about 30 days at this point, the season could still be in jeopardy if the spread of the coronavirus worsens.
We can be looking at the NBA picking up with the playoffs and running them into July. Not a bad prospect, but there are many things to consider outside of the virus. The NBA has to worry about TV revenue (a big portion comes from playoff broadcasts); the loss of revenue may affect player salaries and negotiations and potentially the draft lottery. The Olympics and players’ union requirements will also factor into the future of the NBA season.
In almost the same category as the NBA (minus the Olympics), the NHL suspended their season after the NBA. With multiple teams sharing the same locker rooms and facilities, it made sense. We can also be looking at hockey in the summertime as well. The league can pick up with the playoffs (which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest playoffs in any sport), but other questions also factor in as well. You will also have to deal with the players’ union here. Players might not get paid during this time, so look to management and unions to work closely to make sure the suspensions for both the NBA and NHL don’t cause labor issues as well.
The NHL has asked teams to make sure that arenas are available through the end of July, but that also brings up logistics. Running both the NBA and NHL with adapted schedules into the summer might be too much to sort out.
The NHL does have a rule that says that in the event of a shutdown, the team with the most points would be the Stanley Cup champion if the season doesn’t continue. That would mean the Boston Bruins (ugh) might get the Cup. I don’t even think Bruins fans would be happy if it ended that way.
Well, the good news is you wont get insanely mad this year that the girl at work who picked winning teams based on which mascots were “cuter” will have a better bracket than your highly researched, data-driven bracket.
Joking aside, March Sadness is real. The NCAA decided to cancel both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments and it looks like they will not be rescheduled at this point. The bad news continued when word spread that both the Men’s and Women’s College World Series were also canceled. Most schools and athletic conferences have canceled or suspended team sports.
The NCAA will lose a lot of TV money due to the cancellation of the Big Dance. And a lot of sponsors, advertisers, and corporate partners won’t get the return on investment they would from the exposure.
But…. The real losers in this is the student athletes. Not going to get into if they should get paid or not, but the fact remains that a lot of seniors across many sports just saw their athletic careers potentially end with a series of press releases.
Will players lose this year of eligibility? Will they be able to come back next year? That question looms large as scholarships and recruiting come into play. Most schools have also canceled recruiting activities as well so look to see the fallout from that.
College football has been affected with the cancellation of spring games and practices. Look for more schools shutting down football activities in the next 2-3 weeks.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans would have to admit there has been an attendance problem the last few years. Ticket sales have dropped, and teams have struggled to fill the seats. Luckily, the TV money is what moves the league now. But when the coronavirus news spread, MLB was forced to cancel all spring training games and have, for now, pushed back Opening Day by two weeks.
Believe it or not, this might be good for baseball long term. There have been calls to shorten the season to the original 154 game length or even more. Fewer games might make things more meaningful in the dog days of summer and keep attention spans locked in. But there are major drawbacks too. Instead of baseball owning the summer like they usually do, they will have to potentially compete with the NBA, NHL, Olympics and MLS who now will be on TV as well.
Right now, the NFL has not been affected much other than practice facilities being closed down. But the big question right now is the draft. Scheduled to take place in Vegas this year, the NFL might be skittish to have the event with such a large crowd attending. League meetings have also been postponed and players will soon find out if they have to attend dreaded OTA this summer.
While most leagues have a security blanket to fall back on for now, the upstart reincarnation of the XFL doesn’t, so it made sense that they were among the last to announce the end of their 2020 season. The first year for any new sports league is tough. What makes this bittersweet was that the XFL was doing really well and had a lot of good press. (Those sideline interviews were pretty awesome.)
It sounds like the league has enough capital to get it through its first three years, but the loss of exposure will hurt. That being said, look for Vince McMahon and his team to come back stronger in 2021.
NASCAR flirted with the idea of racing with no fans in the stands. While it would suck for fans wanting to attend, there was hope that racing would still continue as planned. But it looks like the first race since the news, set to take place in Atlanta, has now been postponed. NASCAR has an extremely long schedule from February to October so it will be interesting to know if these races will be raced at all this year. As more states issue decrees prohibiting large gatherings, look for the potential for more cancelled races.
The most expensive and glamorous sport in the world was put into park yesterday when the Australian Grand Prix, the official start of the F1 season, was cancelled. It was surprising it got that far. The McClaren team had already pulled out due to a team member testing positive for coronavirus, and the likelihood that all teams and drivers who hang out in the paddock and pit lane have been exposed is high.
But the organizers waited until right when fans were lining up before cancelling. This morning, they also cancelled the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix, which were to be held next. The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed
With the events rotating around the world, it is hard to imagine Formula 1 (as well as Formula 2 and Formula E) being able to transport hundreds of drivers, mechanics, engineers, team members, tv crews, and logistic personnel around the world without any risk. There is a good chance most of the season might be scrapped.
Major League Soccer announced a delay in the season relatively quick. The Women’s and Men’s teams also cancelled friendlies that had been scheduled. MLS has grown rapidly in teams and fans the last few years, so this is a setback as far as capitalizing on the growth. That being said, the biggest challenge to MLS would be when play resumes. They have held their own (and then some) competing with baseball in the summer. But a delayed NBA and NHL schedule would definitely hurt attendance and most importantly TV ratings.
Champions League and European Soccer
Leagues across the continent have been cancelled. Serie-A, Italy’s top tier league was the first following the disastrous outbreak that has gripped that nation. Spain followed suit with La Liga. Today the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga have been suspended as well. These leagues were headed into the final part of their season. While they don’t have playoffs like American league sports, they do have a promotion and relegation system in place. A prolonged suspension could cause significant issues with that, as promotion into top tiers and relegation into lower level tiers usually results in a gain or loss of tens of millions of dollars.
The PGA yesterday announced the suspension of all tournaments up to the Masters, giving sports fans around the country hope that the “Tradition Unlike Any Other” would survive the onslaught of cancellations. But hope died this morning when the Masters put out a statement saying all activities would be postponed. Much like NASCAR and Formula 1, the steady stream of events on the calendar might make it hard for even a venerable event like this to be held this year.
The massive summer event will be held in Tokyo, Japan this year. While we don’t have any word yet on the impact to the Summer Games, national teams and governing bodies have put a hold on training and activities while the coronavirus is dealt with. The growth of the virus will have an effect on the Games if things get out of control. The mass amount of people that would come into and exit Japan for the one-month sports extravaganza would likely test the government’s abilities to track any carriers from countries that have had outbreaks. That is, unless they ban certain countries from attending. In all likelihood, look for the Olympics to keep things on track as is and look to see what other sports leagues and organizations do in the next few months.
While the loss of sports is huge, and the impact on local economies will suffer, we do want to note that it seems like all leagues, organizations and government officials are doing the right thing during this time of uncertainty. Hopefully it is all over soon and we can back to being fans again.
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
An extension of the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia should include new weapons systems that Moscow is developing, a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing on March 9.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is scheduled to expire on February 2021 and Washington has said a new accord should encompass “slightly exotic new systems such as the nuclear-powered, underwater, nuclear-armed drone called Poseidon; the nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile, air-launched ballistic missile, and that sort of thing,” the official said.
The Trump administration has said it wants an extension of New START to also include China. The United States and Russia are the two signatories of treaty that went into effect in 2011.
China, the third-largest nuclear power, is on track to double its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on December 2, 2019.
However, China’s arsenal would still be less than half of that of the United States and Russia.
The nonproliferation agreement limits deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs held by the United States and Russia to 1,550, a reduction of nearly 75 percent from the 6,000 cap set by START 1, according to the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based, nongovernmental organization.
The treaty also allows for the verification of warheads held by each side.
It can be renewed for up to five years if both sides agree. Moscow has already offered to extend the treaty.
Growing up, learning about World War I usually involved learning about three things: trench foot, poison gas, and bloody stalemate. Right before the history teacher moves on to World War II, we learn the old mnemonic device — on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, ‘The War to End All Wars’ ended with an armistice.
Then, there was one kickass, worldwide party.
Obviously, glossing over one of the deadliest, most expensive, and most avoidable wars in American history does the Doughboys of the American Expeditionary Force an injustice. We need to remember that World War I was more than just a prelude to World War II. The horrors of WWI led to the annual recognition of those the who had to fight it. The day The Great War ended came to be remembered thereafter as Armistice Day.
But, when the 11th day of the 11 month rolls around, we all celebrate Veterans Day. What happened?
This is what Armistice Day 1938 looked like in Omaha, Nebraska.
The first public celebration of Armistice Day came in November, 1920. Much like how we celebrate Veterans Day today, the occasion was marked by speeches, parades, and exchange of drinks and stories between veterans of the war. The exception came when that 11th hour rolled around. For a moment, there was a pause in all activities across the country.
In that moment, mere years ago, millions of armed men stopped butchering each other over control of several yards of No Man’s Land.
In 1926, Congress made Armistice Day official, resolving that the “recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918, should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace between nations.” In 1938, Armistice Day became a Federal Holiday.
As we all know, the “War to End All Wars” didn’t actually end all wars — or any wars. It actually led very directly to the next war, World War II. Which led to the next war, the Korean War, which was part of a greater war, the Cold War. You get the point. By the time the Korean War ended, there was a whole new generation of war veterans who felt deserving of recognition for a job well done.
Veterans of those war lobbied Congress to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, in order to honor veterans of every war. Congress agreed and President Eisenhower signed on to it, too.
Gerald Ford, the voice of reason.
In 1968, Congress acted again. This time, they wanted to give federal employees a couple of three-day weekends throughout the year, so they changed the dates of some major holidays to fall on certain Mondays. Columbus Day, Memorial Day, and Washington’s Birthday were all given Mondays. And Veterans Day was moved from the historic date of November 11 to “the fourth Monday in October.”
The states rightly thought that was a stupid idea and refused to recognize the movement of Veterans Day until President Ford changed it back in 1975.
Veterans Day is currently celebrated nationally on November 11, as it has been for decades. When the day was originally changed to Veterans Day in 1954, it was just in time for then-104-year old Albert Woolson, the last surviving veteran of the Civil War, to celebrate it. With him were two veterans of the Plains Wars, veterans of the Spanish-American War, and vets from the Philippines War.
States, local municipalities, and other governments have declared their own Veterans Days, some dating as far back as the end of World War II, recognizing the courage and sacrifices of every U.S. citizen who answered the country’s call to arms.
You’re on a foot patrol in an enemy-infested region of Afghanistan when a massive explosion detonates within just a few meters of your position. Immediately after, heavy incoming rounds penetrate the surrounding terrain. Without thinking, your brain makes one of two initial reactions:
Will you stay and fight, or run away from the stressful situation to battle it out another day?
Although we understand the dangers of battle from extensive training and, typically, volunteer to surge forward to fight once we’ve assessed the situation, our initial and default response is all thanks to a unique part of your brain called the amygdala.
Located at the end of the hippocampus (the floor of the brain), the amygdala is part of the limbic system that governs our emotions, like fear, pleasure, and anger.
When the human brain encounters intense stimuli, a significant amount of hormones and neurotransmitters flood the body to prepare you to either immediately dash away from the danger or fasten your resolve to stay in the fight.
Although the majority of all ground troops are trained to bring the fight back to the enemy, one or more of the troops’ in the squad’s initial reaction may be a “flight” response.
A European ally has decided to pull a warship away from a US carrier strike group sent to deter a possible Iranian attack on American interests, according to multiple reports.
The Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez and its 215 sailors are peeling off from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a powerful naval force consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as support ships.
The Spanish defense ministry announced May 14, 2019, that the country had decided to withdraw its warship because the new mission is inconsistent with the initial agreement. “The U.S. government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy,” Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles said, Reuters reported.
The US Navy vessels were recently rerouted to the Persian Gulf in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” US Central Command explained.
The USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
The US military has also deployed a bomber task force consisting of four B-52H Stratofortress bombers, a San-Antonio class amphibious transport dock, and a Patriot air-and-missile defense battery to the CENTCOM area of responsibility to demonstrate to Iran that the US is prepared to respond to any attack with “unrelenting force,” as the White House said.
The Pentagon and the White House are reportedly exploring worst case scenarios, which could involve sending as many as 120,000 troops to the region, a force nearly as large as US troops who invaded Iraq in 2003.
Some observers have suggested that this is escalating situation could cause the US and Iran to inadvertently stumble into a conflict, whether they wanted one or not.
The Álvaro de Bazán-class Spanish navy frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez (F 104) pulls into Naval Station Norfolk.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gwendelyn L. Ohrazda)
Spanish media reported that “Spain wants to avoid being involuntarily dragged into any kind of conflict with Iran,” but while the defense ministry has distanced itself from US actions, the ministry did not specifically identify this as a justification for its decision.
The decision was “not an expression of distaste,” the defense minister clarified, adding that the ship will rejoin the US fleet once regularly-scheduled operations resume, Fox News reported. Spain insists that it remains a “serious and trustworthy partner.”
The incorporation of the Méndez Núñez into the carrier strike group was planned over a year ago, and joint operations were expected to last six months. The initial mission was meant to mark a historic seafaring anniversary, the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world, Reuters reported.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The budget overview states that “this budget fully funds the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Fleet strategy and viability will be assessed as the Air Force determines a long term strategy.”
While the A-10 was supposed to slowly be sidelined beginning in fiscal year 2018 on paper, it appears the budget is proposing the exact opposite, though during the close of the Obama administration, then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James said in October that the service is thinking about keeping the A-10 around for a longer period of time.
The A-10 has seen extensive use in Iraq and Syria to fight against Islamic State militants, and the fighter jet has turned out to be so useful that the Air Force put out a $2 billion contract to replace the fleet’s wings.
In the past, Air Force leadership has pushed hard to mothball the A-10, in order to devote those resources to the F-35, which has seen incredible cost overruns and delays as the military’s most expensive weapons system in history.
And although Congress has thwarted this attempt multiple times, Air Force officials have still been looking to replace the A-10 with other aircraft like the A-29 Super Tucano, the AT-6 Wolverine and the AirLand Scorpion. The Air Force intends to test these three jets in July.
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