Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed's T-50A in flight - We Are The Mighty
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Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.


The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.

So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia already threatened the US with its ‘doomsday device’

Since 2015, when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could end all life on Earth.

While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect.

If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit,” previously told Business Insider.


But Russia’s Poseidon is said to use a warhead many times as strong, perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it’s designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea and render it uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.

So why build one now?

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

A briefing slide captured from Russian state TV is said to be about the Poseidon nuclear torpedo.

(BBC)

A NATO-ender

Davis called the Poseidon a “third-strike vengeance weapon” — meaning Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.

According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.

Russia here would seek to not only reoccupy Eastern Europe “but coerce NATO to not act upon an Article 5 declaration and thus lose credibility,” he said, referring to the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear he seeks the collapse of NATO,” Davis continued. “If NATO doesn’t come to the aid of a member state, it’s pretty much finished as a defense alliance.”

Essentially, Russia could use the Poseidon as an insurance policy while it picks apart NATO. The US, for fear that its coastlines could become irradiated for decades by a stealthy underwater torpedo it has no defenses against, might seriously question how badly it needs to save Estonia from Moscow’s clutches.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin may calculate that NATO will blink first rather than risk escalation to a nuclear exchange,” Davis said. “Poseidon accentuates the risks to NATO in responding to any Russian threat greatly, dramatically increasing Russia’s coercive power.”

Davis also suggested the Poseidon would make a capable but heavy-handed naval weapon, which he said could most likely take out an entire carrier strike group in one shot.

Russia’s new nuclear ferocity

Russia has recently signaled its willingness to use nuclear weapons to coerce the West with its violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Davis said. These missiles are purpose-built for taking out European capitals from the Russian mainland.

But Russia has frequently engaged in nuclear saber-rattling when it feels encircled by NATO forces, and so far it has steered clear of confronting NATO with kinetic forces.

“Whether that will involve actual use or just the threat of use is the uncertainty,” Davis said.

While it’s hard to imagine a good reason for laying the kind of destruction the Poseidon promises, Davis warned that we shouldn’t assume the Russians think about nuclear warfare the same way the US does.

Featured image: AtomCentral.com

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

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This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

Most people set their sights on big ambitions as a kid. For those youngsters who dream of being in the military, it typically includes visions of becoming a fighter pilot, a ship commander or Navy SEAL.


But for one California resident, those lofty goals weren’t nearly enough.

Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted the Navy in 2002 and successfully made it through BUD/s and onto SEAL Team 3. During his service in the SEALs, Kim worked as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on two deployments.

Kim completed more than 100 combat missions during his time in the Middle East, earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Navy SEAL Jonny Kim takes a moment for a photo op while on a combat deployment.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

During Kim’s first combat tour, he lost a fellow SEAL which helped steer him towards a career in the medical field.

“The moment I knew I wanted to go into medicine was during my first deployment to Ramadi which is when one of my best friends was shot,” Kim has said. “After doing everything I could for him, securing his airway, controlling his bleeding, there wasn’t much more I could do for him but watch the spectacular team of emergency medicine physicians save my friend’s life.”

Kim decided to complete one more deployment with the SEALs before heading off to college to pursue his medical career.

He attended the University of San Diego earning a degree in mathematics and then a Doctorate in Medicine at Harvard. According to NASA, Kim received an officer’s commission in the Medical Corps following his graduation.

Kim went on to perform his residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston for emergency medicine .

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Dr. Kim during his ER residency. (Source: Pat Tillman Foundation/Screenshot)

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

In June 2017, Kim received some incredible news  — he’s one of 12 to be selected for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. The training will take up to two years before he could become a fully certified astronaut.

Soon, Dr. Kim could be wearing a space suit instead of his medical scrubs.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
NASA astronaut candidate Lt. Jonny Kim (Source: NASA)

Check out the Pat Tillman Foundation‘s video below to hear Dr. Kim’s story for yourself.

(YouTube, Pat Tillman Foundation)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the real-life version of Chuck Norris’s dune buggy from ‘The Delta Force’

Let’s face it, folks, we loved the 1986 movie “The Delta Force.”


And while a big part of the reason was the awesomeness that is Air Force veteran Chuck Norris, let’s face it, the motorcycles and dune buggies that packed a ton of firepower were pretty badass too.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Chuck Norris and his motorcycle. He’d probably have preferred the vehicles from Polaris Defense. (Youtube Screenshot)

That said, those motorcycles and dune buggies from 1986 are a little outclassed today. Polaris Defense has three vehicles that America’s special operators can use to take out the bad guys – and move fast after doing it.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Polaris Defense Sportsman MV 850. (Polaris Defense photo)

Two of these vehicles, the MRZR-D4 and the MV850 can be carried by the V-22 Osprey. The former is capable of holding four operators, and can also tow a trailer. Its fuel tank can carry just under ten gallons of diesel fuel. The latter looks a lot like the ATVs used by hunters, and it carries one operator and can carry a total of 850 pounds.

But the real game-changer of these vehicles is the DAGOR. While it’s too big for the V-22, two of these vehicles can be carried by a CH-47 Chinook. It can carry over 3,000 pounds of cargo and personnel. One load shown by a display model at the AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland had three litters in the rear while also carrying a M2 heavy machine gun and five operators.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Polaris MRZR-4D carrying troops ready for action. (Polaris Defense photo)

While these vehicles look simply awesome, you can forget about getting them. On the page that offers you a chance to get a quote on these vehicles, you are required to confirm that you are “an authorized government purchaser, government supplier, educational institution, non-profit organization, or representing a government agency” and not seeking to buy one of them “for personal use.”

So, no chance of getting a present-day version of the Chuck Norris dune buggy from “The Delta Force” any time soon.

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How the Marine Corps took money from this charitable gunny

Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.


Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.

Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Marine Staff Sgt. Jared C. Coons receives the 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Spirit of Hope Award during the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award Ceremony at the Pentagon Library, Nov. 19, 2013. (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.

But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.

Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.

Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.

Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.

“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”

Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”

But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.

Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.

The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.

“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”

Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.

He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.

“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon may have cheated in the A-10 vs. F-35 fly off

While the congressionally mandated close-air support tests between the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and A-10 Warthog wrapped up in July 2018, lawmakers may not be satisfied with the results as questions continue to swirl about how each performed.

“I personally wrote the specific provisions in the [Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act] mandating a fly-off between the F-35 & A-10,” Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, tweeted July 13, 2018. “It must be carried out per Congressional intent & direction.”


McSally, a former A-10 pilot whose home state includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said she had reached out to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to “ensure an objective comparison.”

The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the bill amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35. McSally was one of the architects of the bill’s language.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

(Lockheed Martin photo)

Her comments follow a Project on Government Oversight report that slams what it calls skewed testing techniques, saying the flights overwhelmingly favored the F-35.

The watchdog organization, which obtained the Air Force’s test schedule and spoke to unidentified sources relevant to the event, claimed that the limited flights also curbed the A-10’s strengths while downplaying the F-35’s troubled past and current program stumbles.

The Defense Department says it is complying with the required testing.

The JSF operational test team and other Initial Operational Test and Evaluation officials “faithfully executed” the F-35 vs. A-10 comparison test “in accordance with the IOTE test design approved in 2016,” and did so in compliance with 2017 NDAA requirements, said Army Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, spokeswoman for the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE).

The testing happened from July 5 to 12, 2018, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Baldanza said in an email.

“The [Joint Operational Test Team] will continue to schedule and fly the remaining comparison test design missions when additional A-10s become available,” she said.

She said the data points collected will add to the scope of the side-by-side comparison test.

The “matched-pair” fourth-generation A-10 and fifth-generation F-35A comparison test close-air support missions “are realistic scenarios involving a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), surface-to-air threats, some live and inert air-to-ground weapons employment, and varying target types,” which include “moving target vehicles and armored vehicles across different conditions,” such as day and night operations and low-to-medium threat levels, Baldanza said.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

A-10 Thunderbolt II

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The challenging scenarios are designed to reveal the strengths and limitations of each aircraft,” she said, referring to radars, sensors, infrared signatures, fuel levels, loiter time, weapons capability, electronic warfare and datalinks.

“Each test design scenario is repeated by both aircraft types while allowing them to employ per their best/preferred tactics and actual/simulated weapons loads,” Baldanza said. “Therefore, references to individual scenarios or specific weapons loadouts will not reflect the full scope of the comparison test evaluation.”

DOTE will analyze the flight test data collected and results will be compiled in an IOTE report as well as DOTE’s “Beyond Low-Rate Initial Production” report.

The reports will offer comparative analyses of “differences, strengths, and weaknesses of the F-35A versus the A-10 across the prescribed comparison test mission types [and/or] scenarios,” the DoD said.

For these reasons, the Air Force has consistently avoided calling the highly anticipated test a “fly-off.” Aviation enthusiasts and pilots have also said putting the two aircraft side-by-side remains an apples-to-oranges comparison.

In addition to a variety of rockets, missiles and bombs fastened to hardpoints under its wings, the A-10 most notably employs its GAU-8/A 30mm gun system, which produces an iconic sound that ground troops never forget.

“There’s just nothing that matches the devastation that that gun can bring,” A-10 pilot “Geronimo” said in the 2014 mini-documentary “Grunts in the Sky: The A-10 in Afghanistan.” The nearly four-year-old footage was made public in January 2018.

“The ground troops that I work with — when they think close-air support, they think A-10s,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Hauser, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller then based at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan, said in the footage.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight

F-35A Lightning II

(U.S. Air Force photo)

But the F-35, a stealth platform with high-detection sensors that is expected to have a wide variety of munitions once its delivery capacity software is fully implemented, is meant to penetrate a contested airspace using its very-low-observable abilities.

Those qualities are what will get the fighter through the door before it performs a CAS-type role, officials say.

“In a contested CAS scenario, a JTAC would absolutely want to call this airplane in, and we practice just that,” said Capt. Dojo Olson, the Air Force’s F-35A Heritage Flight Team commander and a pilot with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

Olson spoke with Military.com during the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow here at RAF Fairford, England.

“We practice close-air support, and we practice contested close-air support, or providing close-air support in a battlespace that is not just totally permissive to fourth-generation airplanes,” he said.

“We foresee future combat environments where even in close-air support, even in counterinsurgency operations, there will be air defense systems,” added Steve Over, F-35 international business development director. “And you need to have sensors that will be able to find the target.”

The service has also expanded how it defines close-air support. For example, bombers such as the B-52 Stratofortress and B-1B Lancer can execute CAS missions — but only by using precision-guided weapons.

“It may not do it the exact same way as legacy systems do,” Over said. “The most prominent legacy close-air support platform that’s currently in use is the A-10, and it uses a large Gatling gun on the nose of the aircraft.”

He added that the F-35A model also has a Gatling gun — the GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm gun, made by General Dynamics. “But more than likely it’s going to be using other precision-guided munitions” such as small-diameter or laser-guided bombs, he said.

Olson agreed.

“You can provide [CAS] from a precision-strike platform from tens of thousands of feet in the air, so there’s a lot of different types of” the mission, he said. “Getting up close and personal like an A-10? Of course, the airplanes … they’re apples and oranges.”

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

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DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

A new book by a longtime defense journalist tells the story of how the Pentagon used creative methods involving technologically-savvy humanitarians to collect data on Afghanistan.


The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World,” tells the story of how the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) collaborated with a loosely associated group of “humanitarians, hacktivists, and technophiles” to collect crowd-sourced data in 2009, when the Taliban was taking power.

Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.

“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.

The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.

DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.

What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.

DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.

The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”

The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”

The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.

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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

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Forget The Terminator Arm — DARPA Wants An Implantable Hard Drive For The Brain

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: YouTube Screengrab


An experimental Pentagon program has already developed two types of a highly advanced, Terminator-like prosthetic arm.

What’s more, a quadriplegic woman with sensors implanted onto her brain controlled one of the robotic limbs to grab a cup, shake hands and eat a chocolate bar. She even flew an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator using just her thoughts.

Now, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to expand on that cutting-edge work to build other potential breakthrough medical technologies, including a pacemaker-sized device that might someday improve the memory of troops who suffered a traumatic brain injury. Think of it as a hard drive of sorts for the brain.

“We know we need a next-generation device that doesn’t exist today,” said Justin Sanchez, who manages DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office in Arlington, Virginia. “That’s what these new programs are all about — not only understanding the brain and these conditions, but building the hardware that enables us to address those issues. You need both.”

Memory Chip

Over more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside bombs and other explosive devices took a toll on the U.S. military. An estimated half to two-thirds of the more than 7,100 Americans killed or wounded in combat were victims of such blasts and some 1,800 lost limbs, according to USA Today. Hundreds of thousands more suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

While researchers have been scanning the brain for years, very little is known about memory, which is stored in the side parts of the brain known as temporal lobes, Sanchez said. Like epileptic patients, troops who damage this part of the brain can suffer from memory loss and other issues.

One of DARPA’s newer projects, Restoring Active Memory, seeks to build a prosthetic device that could aid in the formation and recall declarative memory, a form of long-term memory that can be recalled such as a fact. For example, a future experiment might involve a patient who is asked to identify a series of faces and names with the aid of an implant.

“The twist on this is he or she will be interacting with a prosthetic device,” Sanchez said. “So at some face and name presentations, maybe we’ll stimulate the part of the brain that is involved in the memory formation and see if there are particular patterns of stimulation that can facilitate the formation and recall of that memory.”

Terminator Arm

The research builds on the work of a precursor program, called Revolutionizing Prosthetics, which dates back almost a decade and reflects the cornerstone of the agency’s research into neural signaling.

Jan Scheuermann, one of two patients in the program, in 2012 agreed to let surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center implant a pair of pea-sized electrodes onto her left motor cortex — which controls movement — and connects her to a robotic arm. She hoped she might feed herself for the first time in a decade. She did that and more.

Scheuermann, a 55-year-old mother of two who became paralyzed in middle-age due to a rare neurological disorder known as spinocerebellar degeneration, became so adept at manipulating the arm developed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory that her participation in the study was extended until October, when the electrode arrays were removed.

“That is the first program in the agency where you have humans interacting with really advanced prosthetic devices to do something extremely useful,” Sanchez said.

Reading the Mind

The sensors on Scheuermann’s brain measured just four-millimeters long, yet included hundreds of contact points designed to pick up signals from individual brain cells called neurons.

“When you intend to move your arm, for example, there are certain places in your brain that become active, the neurons that are there become active, and that activity can occur when you physically move your arm or even if you imagine moving your arm,” Sanchez said.

The signals were relayed to a computer running software that matched the activity to patterns associated with physical movements, such as raising or lowering an arm. Scientists used vector mathematics to build algorithms that determined the intended motion of the not only the arm, but also the wrist and fingers. The code translated into operating instructions for the robotic prosthesis.

“Neurons in this particular part of your brain are tuned to certain movement directions,” Sanchez said. “You can imagine how you can use that information to operate a robotic arm. Once you know those associations, you can say, ‘Oh, whenever I see that guy firing, I’m trying to go in this direction.”

Flying the F-35

While the program’s potential real-world applications aren’t limited to prosthetics, patients won’t be flying drones into combat anytime soon. When Scheuermann piloted the F-35 simulator, she didn’t drop bombs or launch missiles. Rather, she simply cruised along — sometimes erratically — and tried to bank the aircraft on simple flight patterns.

The process of linking her brain to the aircraft’s motion was similar to the robotic arm. Scientists would tell her to imagine trying to steer the plane to the right and left, and then would have to figure out how the neural activity would connect to control of the rudders.

“You have to try to find this functional mapping,” Sanchez said. “This is a real core part of this from a science perspective: How do you learn what those signals in the brain mean when you intend to do something and how do they relate to the device you’re trying to actuate, whether it’s a robotic arm or an airplane?”

Scheuermann also virtually piloted a small Cessna plane around the Eiffel Tower in Paris — an experience she found “liberating,” Sanchez said.

“That’s a really powerful statement,” Sanchez said. “We think of neurotechnology as hardware, but we don’t often think about it in terms of how it can improve somebody’s life or change somebody’s life.”

Bringing Back Sensation

The next and final phase of the program will seek to reverse the signaling process by understanding the patterns for sensation in the central nervous system.

“It’s really easy to say, ‘We want to bring sensation back,’ but it’s really difficult to actually do it,” Sanchez said. “You have to go to a different part of the brain that’s involved in the perception of touch — the primary central cortex — and again the challenge is the same: You have an electronic device that is measuring something and we need to translate that into signals that the brain understands.”

His office is working to identify potential civilian patients for the program. The agency doesn’t perform experiments on troops, even though the research is designed to help those who serve.

“Military personnel make the ultimate sacrifice,” Sanchez said. “They serve our nation and their lives often are changed through their injury. The very least we can do is develop a technology that will help to improve their quality of life. We have to stay true to that. It’s essential.”

Reversible Procedure

In the early 2000s, connecting a brain to a robotic prosthesis would have required multiple rooms full of computers, cables and other hardware. While its recent work proved it could be done with more advanced systems and less space, the agency still wants much smaller components.

“All of the new programs have fundamentally by their design the goal of developing medical devices that are fully implantable — the size of a cardiac pacemaker that could be implanted somewhere in the body,” Sanchez said.

Under another new effort called Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (Subnets), DARPA is funding the development of implantable devices designed to more precisely identify and treat psychiatric diseases.

“All of these procedures, at least the ones we’ve talked about thus far, are reversible,” he added. “Neurotechnology is being designed in such a way that it’s reversible, so if it’s not providing a benefit for you, you don’t use it. You just take it out.”

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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7 extreme civilian jobs custom-made for vets

Transitioning to a civilian career doesn’t have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):


1. Wilderness guides

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: Wikipedia/Josh Lewis

Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn’t required. Avg. Salary: $42,000

2. Firefighting

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: US Department of Agriculture Lance Cheung

Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of  the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000

3. Diver

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKQZJFhGKh0feature=youtu.bet=19s

Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000

4. Law enforcement

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team

There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork.  Both wear uniforms.  Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000

5. Pilot

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: Wikipedia/FreebirdBiker

It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first — an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies.  Avg. Salary: $61,000

6. Helicopter lineman

Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000

7. Videographer or photographer

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: flickr/Christian Frei Switzerland

Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000

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ISIS has reportedly captured two Turkish soldiers

The fate of two Turkish soldiers now hangs in the balance as they have become the unwilling guests of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS).


Supporters of the terrorist group have reportedly been debating what to do with the captured soldiers.

According to a report by al Jazeera, the two Turkish troops were captured during a battle near the Syrian village of Elbab. The announcement from the terrorist group about the captives caused a celebration on Facebook and other social media sites.

The celebration then turned to into a debate when one ISIS dirtbag solicited opinions on what to do with the prisoners.

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ISIS fighters in Iraq | Photo via Flickr

“Expect a nifty video with the soldiers of the tyrant infidel Erdogan,” one ISIS supporter tweeted, adding two knife emojis. ISIS has routinely beheaded some of its captives, including American journalist James Foley. “Jihadi John,” the ISIS jihadist who was responsible for the terrorist group’s most notorious beheadings, became a good jihadist in Nov. 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0QO2fKVbdc
Others advocated not beheading them, but treating them humanely and educating them about Islam, with one saying, “it would only give the members a momentary boost of adrenaline but not much more.”

Most followers of jihadists, though, were calling for the summary execution of the Turkish troops, whom they deemed “nonbelievers.” One of the senior terrorists claimed, “All the options are on the table for the Islamic State organization to decide what to do with the two Turkish soldiers.”

The terrorist group burned a captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in February 2015 after his F-16 crashed due to a mechanical failure.

MIGHTY BRANDED

This Army veteran built his dream home and horse farm with the help of his family

Travel with Navy veteran Stephanie Sanchez and visit a one-of-a-kind dream home built in Indiana. This Army veteran was inspired by community architecture from his time in West Germany to come back to the States and build a horse farm based on the concept of “all under one roof.”


With the help of family and friends, they were able to build an amazing home able to host an entire community.

Brought to you by Veterans First Mortgage.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Andre Hayes, a 374th Civil Engineer Squadron journeyman, holds his daughter during the holiday tree lighting ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 24, 2015. The lighting of the tree signals the beginning of the holiday season.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Airman 1st Class Delano Scott/USAF

Members of Florida Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment play members from Florida Air National Guard’s 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron in a friendly “Turkey Bowl” football game at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2015. The Army National Guard team won the game 42-35. The 1-265th is from Palm Coast, Fla., and the 290th JCSS are stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo: USAF

Members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron perform prefight checks before leaving to refuel F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Republic of Singapore air force over Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Dec.1, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/USAF

ARMY:

A soldier, assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fires an M240B machine gun while conducting battle drills, part of Operation Atantlic Resolve, at Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, Dec. 2, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Behlin/US Army

A soldier, assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, conducts airborne operations during the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)’s Operation Toy Drop at Drop Zone Nijmegen on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Pfc. Darion Gibson/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts a team live-fire training event at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/US Army

NAVY:

Burial at sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 28, 2015) Cmdr. Joseph Coffey, a chaplain aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), leads a prayer during a burial-at-sea ceremony. Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

Replenishment-at-sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors organize cargo pendants on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during an ammunition offload with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8). Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors exercise in the seaside gym aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is currently underway with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) phase of their pre-deployment schedule.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Casey S. Trietsch/USN

MARINE CORPS:

Cpl. Taylor Giffard, a ground signals operator with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, acts as an opposition force during a mission readiness exercise for 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel/USMC

On the prowl: Cpl. Marvin M. Ernest, a power plant mechanic assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Squadron 2, performs a turn-around inspection on an EA-6B Prowler on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Dec. 1, 2015.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Chief Petty Officer Ty Aweau, a rescue swimmer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, jumps into the beautiful southern California water from his MH-60 helicopter during training.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Petty Officer Rob Simpson/USCG

Petty Officer 1st Class Daryk Brekke offloads toys from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Kalaeloa Airport in Oahu, Hawaii, as part of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The USCG works with Marine Corps Recruiting every year to deliver presents to disadvantaged children for the holidays.

Here is a 360 degree view of Lockheed’s T-50A in flight
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/USCG

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