Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.
Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.
Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.
Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.
But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.
German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.
But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.
To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.
Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.
Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.
More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.
Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.
Preparations for President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July parade are underway, as evidenced by numerous sightings of military vehicles in the streets of Washington, DC, on July 2, 2019.
Infantry variants of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV), an armored transport vehicle, were sighted crossing a bridge and moving down streets on top of a large truck:
The BFV, which is crewed by three troops and has a range of 300 miles, weighs around 25 tons. City officials raised concerns over the weight of the tracked military vehicles in the weeks leading up to the event.
“Tanks but no tanks,” the Council of the District of Columbia tweeted.
President Trump’s decision to use military assets — including fighter jets and M1A1 Abrams tanks — for his celebration has been scrutinized for being too costly, creating flight restrictions at local airports, and the possibility of road damage caused by heavy vehicles.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new,” President Trump said on July 1, 2019. “We’re going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, DC. It’ll be like no other.”
The Russian military has made a new claim about the downing of a passenger jet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine in 2014, asserting that the missile that brought Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.
Defense Ministry officials made the claim at a news conference in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2018, in an apparent attempt to discredit the findings of an international investigation that determined the system that fired the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, and smuggled back into Russia afterward.
Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an “awkward fake,” while the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago and that Russia had made “factually inaccurate” claims in the past.
In a statement to RFE/RL, the Dutch government said it had “taken notice of the publications in relation to the press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”
“The Netherlands has the utmost confidence in the findings and conclusions of the JIT,” the statement added. “The JIT investigation has broad support by the international community. The government is committed to full cooperation with the criminal investigation by all countries concerned as reflected in [UN Security Council] Resolution 2166.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an interview, the founder of cybersleuthing outfit Bellingcat accused Russia of “lying about the content” of videos it used as evidence, and said there was “absolutely no way to know” whether the records it cited are genuine.
All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the jet, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.
The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv’s forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
The JIT also found that the Buk missile came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade and was fired from territory held by the Russia-backed separatists.
Many of the JIT’s findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based Bellingcat.
The Russian Defense Ministry officials claimed that some of the evidence used by the JIT, including videos investigators used to track the path of the missile from Russia to Ukraine and back, was falsified. They cited alleged evidence whose authenticity and accuracy could not immediately be independently assessed.
Citing what they said were newly declassified documents, the Defense Ministry officials asserted that the missile was manufactured in Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow, in 1986 — five years before the Soviet Union fell apart — and was sent by railway to a missile brigade in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine in December of that year.
“The missile belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces and never returned to Russian territory,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin, chief of the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery department.
In Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s “statement alleging that the missile that downed MH17 had a Ukrainian footprint was yet another awkward fake [issued] by the Kremlin in order to conceal its crime, which has been proven by both the official investigation and by independent expert groups.”
Earlier, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins cast doubt on the allegation that video footage was doctored by investigators, writing on Twitter that the Russian Defense Ministry “should probably know we have the original version of the video they’re talking about at the moment.”
“And we’ve never published it. And the JIT has it,” Higgins added in successive tweets.
In a statement on Sept. 17, 2018, the JIT said it would “meticulously study the materials presented as soon as the Russian Federation makes the relevant documents available to the JIT as requested in May 2018″ and required under a UN Security Council resolution.”
The JIT said that it asked Russia to provide “all relevant information” about the incident back in 2014, and in May 2018 “specifically requested information concerning numbers found on several recovered missile parts.”
The investigative body said that it had “always carefully analyzed” information provided by Russia, and in doing so “has found that information from the Russian Ministry of Defense previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points.”
Bellingcat’s Higgins echoed that statement, telling RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “the Russian Ministry of Defense has a long and well-established track record of lying and faking evidence.”
“So, really, there is absolutely no way to know that this information is genuine,” Higgins said. He also disputed the claim that videos were doctored, accusing the Defense Ministry of making “purposely misleading” statements about video evidence and “just lying about the content.”
The new Russian assertions follow several other attempts by Russia to lay blame for the downing of MH-17 on Ukraine, including initial suggestions — now discredited — that the jet was shot down by a Ukrainian warplane.
The 298 victims of the crash are among more than 10,300 people killed since April 2014 in the war in eastern Ukraine, where fighting persists and the Moscow-backed militants continue to hold parts of the Donestk and Luhansk provinces despite internationally-backed cease-fire and political-settlement deals known as the Minsk Accords.
This past summer, four planes took to the air in a fly-off run by the United States Air Force. This flyoff was part of the OA-X program, intended to provide a replacement for the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support aircraft.
This program has a tall order. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the A-10 Thunderbolt packs a 30mm GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling gun with at least 1,174 rounds of ammo. The Warthog can also carry up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-65 Maverick missiles, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, dumb bombs, rocket pods, and even AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
So, what are these contenders? According to an August report by Popular Mechanics, they are the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, the Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano, the Textron Scorpion, and the Air Tractor AT-802U.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the AT-6 Wolverine is a variant of the T-6 Texan II used by the United States Air Force and United States Navy. The Wolverine can carry gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns or 20mm cannon, rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and 500-pound bombs, including JDAMs and Paveway laser-guided bombs.
The Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano is also based on a primary trainer. Globalsecurity.org notes that the Super Tucano has wing-mounted machine guns, and can also drop 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, fire rockets, and even tow targets.
One late entry to the flyoff is the AT-802U Longsword. This is based not on a trainer, but a cropduster. According to MilitaryEdge.com, this cropduster carries just over 8,100 pounds of ordnance, and comes with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, so it can bring some BRRRRRT to the table.
Last, but not least, there is the Textron Scorpion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this plane can carry 9,100 pounds of ordnance, and it is also capable of reaching a top speed of 518 miles per hour, and has a range of 2,761 miles. This plane is a bit more complex than its propeller-driven competitors, but it does offer performance.
In any case, though, it seems that these planes still don’t do what the A-10 can. Perhaps the only replacement for the Warthog will be… another Warthog. In the meantime, check out a video on the OA-X program below.
The Air Force is short of funding to speed development of a laser weapon for what is already one of the most lethal platforms in the U.S. arsenal — the Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb testified April 11, 2018.
“We’re $58 million short of having a full program that would get us a 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022,” Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging threats.
Webb was responding to questions from Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, who said at the current pace of testing, and funding, a laser weapon for the AC-130 would not be operational until 2030.
“I’m quite concerned with the crawl-walk-run approach when I think we’re reaching a point in the technology where we could literally jump from crawl to run” on the laser weapon, Heinrich said.
Heinrich said the current plan called for progressive demonstration steps in moving from a four-kilowatt laser to a 30-kilowatt version, “which really isn’t operationally relevant.”
If the previous steps were successful, the Air Force would then move to a 60-kilowatt device, and “at that rate the system would not be fieldable until 2030,” Heinrich said.
“What’s wrong with skipping the 30-kilowatt demo entirely and moving to something that could be used in the field?”
(Photo by Josh Beasley)
“I would couch this as a semi-good news story,” Webb said. “I don’t disagree with your assessment at all,” he told Heinrich, adding that “we’re starting to see funding that would accelerate what you’re talking about” but there was still a $58 million shortfall.
Webb earlier pointed to the funding problem in a February 2018 roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.
Military.com reported then that Webb said “The challenge on having the laser is funding.”
“And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions. Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?” Webb said.
“We can hypothesize about that all we want,” he continued. “My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it, let’s say we can — or we can’t,”
The AC-130J Ghostrider’s current suite of armaments led retired Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the former commander of Air Force Special Operations, to dub it “the ultimate battle plane.”
In 2015, a 105mm howitzer was added to the existing arsenal of AGM-176A Griffin missiles, GBU-30 bombs, and a 30mm cannon.
On May 2 and 4, 1972, two SR-71 Blackbirds overflew Hanoi, North Vietnam at noon. The first plane broke the sound barrier, causing an ear-splitting sonic boom over the city. Fifteen seconds later, the other Blackbird did the same thing.
Prisoners at Hoa Lo developed a code-tapping language to communicate with each other. Capt. James Stockdale, who was the senior ranking officer at the prison, taught many incoming POWs this code. It kept the men sane and their spirits up.
Communicating with Washington was trickier. Three months into his captivity, Stockdale was allowed to write to his wife, Sybil. Two months later, he was allowed to write again. When she received the letters, she found them confusing. Nicknames and references to their mutual friends were wrong.
Sybil gave the letters to Naval Intelligence in San Diego who figured out he was using doublespeak – deliberately misleading language –to let his superiors know he was not being treated well in North Vietnam. With her cooperation, the CIA and Office of Naval Intelligence decided to use her correspondence back to her husband as a way to communicate with the prisoners.
Her first letter included a Polaroid of her with a secret message sandwiched between the sheets of photographic paper. It explained the process of using invisible ink to send messages to the CIA. He listed the other POWs with him and detailed the abuses inflicted on American prisoners there.
The new communication policy allowed the prisoners and the CIA to trade a wealth of information, so much so that the prisoners were actually able to assemble a small shortwave radio, which was eventually discovered during an inspection).
In 1969, two prisoners, Air Force Captains John Dramesi and Edwin Atterberry, escaped from the prison at Cu Loc but were recaptured the next day. Massive reprisals from their captors followed, and thus the prisoners’ leadership determined the retribution was too much and escape attempts should only be made with a “high likelihood of success and assurance of outside assistance.” That’s when they came up with the Red River plan.
Members of the escaping POW group sent their plan to the U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird approved the plan in January 1972. By May, everything was in place. The sonic booms were a go.
Despite a few setbacks, members of SEAL Team One and Underwater Demolition Team Eleven used SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV – mini-submarines) and HH-3A helicopters to patrol the coastline throughout May and June looking for escaped POWs. They never found any.
As the senior ranking officer, Stockdale forbid any escape attempts. He judged the plan too risky and the threat of reprisals too harsh. (Prisoners were often killed during these reprisals). The would-be escapees were frustrated by the policy, but they obeyed.
Article III of the Code of Conduct for prisoners does say American POWs should make every effort to escape captivity. Article IV, however, prohibits any action that would cause harm to other captured personnel. So Thunderhead was terminated.
The POWs would communicate with Washington throughout the war. Eventually, another radio was smuggled in, which gave POWs a direct line from the camp to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commanders aboard ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.
In January 1973, 591 POWs were repatriated back to the United States. For his leadership among the prisoners and work to galvanize the resistance to their captors, Stockdale received the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford.
Valor thieves are some of the most obnoxious wannabes on the planet, but at least they’re easy to spot. With all the militaries’ peculiar rules and jargon, most stolen valor culprits are quickly outed by a misplaced uniform ribbon or a slip of the tongue.
Which makes it all the more amazing that one likely survived for months on an active duty post while living in special operations barracks and surrounded by actual soldiers. And, he was conducting room inspections and signing out keys to others while he did it. He was only caught after being arrested for DUI.
So how did a poser manage to get access to one of America’s most active bases, slip into the ranks among some of the nation’s finest warriors, and then get the keys to the building he was squatting in? According to an investigation uncovered by the Fayetteville Observer, a 20-year-old kid just lied. And not even that well.
The Observer’s writer, Amanda Dolasinski, matched up details from the Army investigation to the arrest of Triston Marquell Chase, a 20-year-old. Chase has a criminal record for various felonies including identity theft.
He invited women, who would often bring food, into the third-floor room. Other soldiers reported that he conducted room inspections and signed rooms out to new soldiers. So, this squatter successfully gained the ability to run the building he was illegally staying in.
He also borrowed vehicles from soldiers in the barracks and filled his Snapchat account with photos from around the building.
Chase’s amazing alleged adventure came to an end when he pulled into the Fort Bragg KFC’s parking lot where military police were talking to a driver who had attempted to flee. Chase, visibly intoxicated, pulled up to the scene and told police that he was worried about one of his soldiers.
The police administered a field sobriety test (because as police officers that’s a thing they can do). According to the investigation, Chase then told the police, “Yeah, I’m wasted.”
Chase’s completely sober female passenger at the time was allowed to leave. No report on why he didn’t ask her to drive him.
Once 3rd Group became aware of the suspect incident, they quickly launched an investigation. When the investigating officer caught up with Chase, the fake soldier was leading a formation of six people. He told the officer that he had recently transferred into 3rd Group from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Delta company.
For the record, 82nd has a lot of Delta companies. That’s why actual soldiers will also list the battalions and brigades of the Delta company they were in.
As the officer began calling the valor thief on his bull, the story quickly unraveled and the Fort Bragg Provost Marshal Office got involved. Chase was arrested and is facing a number of new felony charges. Meanwhile, 3rd Group is trying to get their ducks in a row in terms of barracks security.
Chase may go down in history as one of the ballsiest valor thieves ever caught. Not many of them take over barracks buildings or lead formations.
Miller at one point drew his sidearm during the attack, but did not fire, according to CNN.
The attack took place in Kandahar, and led to the death of Gen. Abdul Raziq, a powerful Afghan police chief.
Several other Afghan police and officials were killed or wounded, and three Americans were wounded in the incident as well. The assailant was reportedly killed in the firefight.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley was among the Americans wounded in Oct. 18, 2018’s incident and is recovering from a gunshot wound, a NATO spokesman confirmed to CNN on Oct. 21, 2018. Smiley is in charge of the NATO military advisory mission in southern Afghanistan.
The attack highlights just how insecure Afghanistan is, and came just two days before the country held national elections.
It was an astonishing moment in a conflict that recently entered its 18th year, and perhaps the most embarrassing piece of evidence yet the US is badly losing the war.
The Taliban hoped to kill a US general to get America to leave Afghanistan
A Taliban commander told NBC News if it had been successful in killing Miller, who emerged from the attack unscathed, that President Donald Trump would’ve withdrawn the roughly 15,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. The Taliban still feels the attack was a “major success” due to the death of Raziq.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday described the loss of Raziq, whom the Taliban attempted to kill dozens of times, as the “tragic loss of a patriot.” But Mattis also said the attack hasn’t made him less confident in the ability of Afghan security forces to take on the Taliban.
Despite the Pentagon’s efforts to downplay the significant of this attack, it’s a sign of how emboldened the Taliban has become via major gains over the past year or so.
The war has reached its deadliest point in years as the Taliban gains ground
At the moment, the Taliban controls or contests roughly half of all the country’s districts, according to the US military. But many military analysts claim approximately 61% of Afghanistan’s districts are controlled or threatened by the Taliban.
There have been eight US military deaths in Afghanistan in 2018. This is a far-cry from the deadliest year of the war for American in 2010, when 499 US troops were killed.
But civilian casualties are reaching unprecedented levels in Afghanistan, a sign of how unstable the country has become over the past year or so. The war is on track to kill over 20,000 civilians in Afghanistan this year alone, according to data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, meaning the conflict has reached its deadliest point in years.
America’s ‘forever war’
There is still no end in sight to this war, which costs US taxpayers roughly billion per year, and the US government is running out of answers as to why American troops are still fighting and dying there.
The conflict began as a reaction to the 9/11 terror attacks and the Taliban’s close ties to Osama bin Laden, who has since been assassinated by the US.
At this point, Americans born after 9/11 are old enough to enlist in the military with parental consent, and will have the opportunity to fight in a conflict sparked by an event they couldn’t possibly remember.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The real question you need to ask yourself is, do you conduct the PFT to actually show how combat-ready you are or do you conduct the PFT to get a 300 and hopefully put yourself “in zone” for promotion?
I think we all know the answer to that.
I do foresee some commanders making this portion of the test “highly encouraged” if not blatantly recommended.
Peep that date. I’m like the Nostradamus of PT tests or something.
It seems like either my timing was perfect or someone was listening.
Apparently, all of the services are revamping their fitness standards. I’m a fan. I don’t even care about all the haters that think the Army is going to go bankrupt buying equipment for the new ACFT and treating low back injuries from sh*tty deadlift form.
Soldiers, just read 5 Steps to Deadlift Perfection and you’ll be fine. Also, don’t listen to any senior enlisted that all of the sudden became deadlift experts after a two-day course. There are thousands of people who have been teaching the deadlifts for decades. Talk to them please.
On Dec. 16, 1944, Adolf Hitler launched an ambitious but badly planned counterattack meant to break the back of the Allied forces and allow the Nazis to dictate the peace terms that would end the war.
Instead, it guaranteed his defeat, but not before forcing hundreds of thousands of soldiers on each side to fight in bitter, near-Arctic levels of cold amidst driving winter storms and winds. Managing a surprise attack with dozens of divisions is no easy feat. Here’s how they did it at the Battle of the Bulge.
In France, German communications were more reliant on the use of radio waves, which could be intercepted. French citizens were also likely to report Nazi movements, providing near real-time intel. On the German side of the border, both of these advantages disappeared.
Despite these advantages, the German troop buildup was a logistical nightmare. Hitler’s plan required 30 divisions, including 12 panzer divisions, and over 1,000 planes be transported to the Ardennes using only trains and horses to limit fuel consumption. In addition to all supplies consumed, Hitler wanted to stage 4.5 million gallons of fuel and 50 trainloads of ammunition for the advance.
All of this buildup had to take place under Allied air attack without the Allies getting wise. Surprisingly, the Germans were mostly successful.
The troop buildup portion was actually more successful than planned with approximately 1,500 troop trains and 500 supply trains carrying 12 armored divisions and 29 infantry divisions to the staging areas for the offensive.
The aerial buildup was less successful. The Germans had 1,250 planes ready before Dec. 16 — 250 less than originally planned.
But the weather turned in the German’s favor in the days before the attack. The heavy fogs that limited reconnaissance flights also grounded most other planes, neutering the Allied air forces and eliminating that advantage.
So, on Dec. 16, the Germans launched their three-pronged attack against what were largely inexperienced and exhausted troops defending the forest. The most combat-ready troops had been moved to other areas to prepare for an Allied invasion across the German borders.
Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium. January 15, 1945. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army)
The Germans further complicated the American’s situation by sending thousands of English-speaking German troops behind American lines in captured uniforms and jeeps to commit acts of sabotage and to spy on the American response.
Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff briefing was interrupted that night with word of the German advance, and he immediately pegged it as a massive counterattack with the goal of driving to the Atlantic. He ordered both the 7th and 10th Armored divisions to drive in to help.
Many American units were quickly surrounded and forced to fight against a siege by German units. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were ordered forward to relieve pressure on the American lines, arriving before the siege was complete.
The 101st was dedicated predominantly to the defense of Bastogne, a city where seven key highways met, making it crucial for the victory or defeat of the German attack. When the Germans requested the 101st’s surrender from Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff, the general famously responded with “NUTS!” and continued the defense.
For the first week, the Allies fought desperate defensive and delaying actions against the Nazi juggernaut, usually at a disadvantage in terms of numbers, supplies, and equipment.
But the weather cleared on Dec. 23, and Allied air forces surged into the sky to beat back the Luftwaffe and provide support to the beleaguered forces on the ground. Bombing runs broke up German forces in staging areas while strafing by fighters tore through attacking columns.
A few days later, Patton’s Third Army reached the German lines and cut a path through them. Hitler’s bold advance had fallen well short of its goal of the Belgian coast and German units, overextended and undersupplied, began to be rounded up and captured. By the end of January, the Allies had regained the lost ground and were once again marching towards Berlin.
The U.S. Air Force has successfully tested a new loadout for the F-15E Strike Eagle that allows the highly capable multirole fighter to carry a whopping 15 JDAMs at once, though it won’t be able to leverage them all in a single sortie.
Entering service more than a decade after the F-15 Eagle it’s based on, the F-15E is a multi-role fighter that specializes in high-speed interdiction and ground attack operations. That means the Strike Eagle uses the same brute force, high speed, and maneuverability that’s made the Eagle the world’s undisputed air-to-air champ for strike missions against targets on the ground.
In keeping with the F-15E’s ground attack specialty, Strike Eagles have come to rely on JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, for delivering ordnance with pinpoint accuracy during their bombing runs. JDAMs are, in their simplest form, dumb bombs with a smart guidance system added to them.
Each JDAM’s guidance system includes a GPS receiver and aerodynamic control surfaces to guide the bomb’s descent. With the guidance kit installed and GPS working properly (i.e. isn’t being jammed by the opponent), JDAMs ranging in weight from 500 to 2,000 pounds can hit their targets within less than five meters at distances as great as 15 nautical miles. Of the 400,000 or so JDAMs Boeing has built, around 30,000 have also added laser targeting capabilities, giving pilots even more options when engaging ground targets.
The Air Force’s inventory of F-15E Strike Eagles can be fitted with nine of these broadly capable weapons currently, but the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron has now confirmed that F-15Es can manage a whopping six more.
“Currently the F-15E is authorized to carry a max of nine JDAMs, but the success of this test expands that to 15 JDAMs,” said Maj. Andrew Swanson, F-15E Weapons System Officer, 85th TES.
Unfortunately, as much as we here at Sandboxx News love shouting “bomb truck” into the air while we spin in our office chairs, the six additional JDAMs these Strike Eagles can carry can’t actually be leveraged in a single combat sortie. Instead, the goal is to use each F-15E to carry those additional bombs to austere landing strips where they can be used to rapidly re-arm the jet they came from, or to re-arm other fighters in the area.
“The Strike Eagle can now carry enough JDAMs for an active combat mission, land at a remote location, and reload itself and/or another aircraft – such as an F-35 or F-22 – for additional combat sorties,” said Lt. Col. Jacob Lindaman, commander, 85th TES.
The F-15E has already been carrying up to three JDAMs beneath each of the jet’s two “Fast Pack” conformal fuel tanks, as well as two more that can be carried in place of external fuel tanks, and one more on the fighter’s centerline. The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron was able to successfully mount three more JDAMs on upper hardpoints on each “Fast Pack,” but it doesn’t appear as though the weapons can actually be deployed from this position.
Despite not being able to drop these additional bombs, this is still an important development as the U.S. military pivots back toward an era of great power competition. Right now, in order to re-arm F-15Es on austere airstrips, the U.S. Air Force has to dedicate two C-130s to the job. One would carry bombs and JDAM kits for assembly, the other would carry the personnel required for the job. By carrying that extra firepower on the F-15Es themselves, they can eliminate the need for the second C-130. Fighter aircraft are also more survivable in lightly contested airspace than the large and comparatively slow C-130, reducing the inherent risk involved in re-arming aircraft while forward deployed.
This concept isn’t unique to the F-15E. The Air Force and Marine Corps have both been experimenting with the idea of re-arming F-35s from austere airstrips with an eye toward the potential for island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific.
China’s massive area denial bubble, created by their hypersonic anti-ship missiles, extends nearly a thousand miles from its shores, but America’s carrier-aircraft offer a combat radius of only 500-750 miles. In order to extend their range, the Navy has been exploring aerial refueling supported by drones, and both branches have tested landing F-35s on dirt airstrips as they might need to if their carriers can’t close the distance between them for fear of being sunk.
In those circumstances, heavy-lift helicopters have also been tested as a means of getting the resources to these aircraft where they need them, but F-35s could also be re-armed thanks to JDAMs flown in beneath the wings of a Strike Eagle.
Jamming 15 JDAMs under the wings of an F-15E might sound like putting a hat on a hat, but it might be the capability that gets America’s jets back into the fight faster in the event of a conflict in the Pacific. When every second counts, it never hurts to have an extra six JDAMs hanging off your belt.
There exists a population within America’s bravest. A culture of warriors who heard and answered the call throughout history- American warfighters.
The military is an expansive network, full of various roles and professions. While any service is honorable, there’s no arguing that some join for the battle- to run as fast as possible toward the danger.
We call upon these warriors in times of conflict, to utilize their fighting spirit, ready to charge into any battle without hesitation. During times of peace, this subculture faces rejection when the focus shifts to training for a mission in the unknown future instead of the dependable cycle of deployments during surges. To the warrior, who gains self-worth in their ability to live through combat, the blank space where a deployment slot belongs destroys the mind and soul. War rages on within them, awaiting the time when they can again serve to their true potential.
“I don’t have an answer for why I keep going back, why ‘getting into it’ is what I feel I need to do. There’s nothing else to do with the intensity or specific skillset I’ve acquired, so I guess it’s more like- why not” explains Staff Sergeant Bradford Fong, Army Infantryman and aptly known warfighter to those who served with him.
With several combat deployments, he is among a rare breed of active-duty leaders today – those who embarked on combat deployments to remote combat outposts.
“Yes, I’m intense, but I have a good damn reason for it. Training soldiers now is frustrating, to be honest. I was ‘raised’ through a lineage of leaders who when things varied slightly from the books, you knew it was due to their fresh combat experience.” The aggravation was clear in his tone when he explained how this once invaluable knowledge has become borderline unwanted and potentially misunderstood by leadership and peers without the same background.
“The Army has this tremendously valuable crop of soldiers- as we age, we clearly aren’t the fastest, but we damn sure have a lot to offer mentally, developing other combat leaders and the kind of knowledge you won’t find in any FM guide” he states. “I wish there was a space where that’s all I could do because anything less feels a bit meaningless.”
Training those in his command specifically for combat as an Infantryman is a conversation that brought an audible smile to his face. “I’m not here to train them into textbook soldiers,” he says. The training of his men clearly means a great deal to Fong, who has no problem with discussing the blunt reality of the job.
On his second deployment to Afghanistan, Fong was one of the only members of his platoon that had seen combat before. While the other Soldiers awaited their own baptism by fire and showered him with questions about combat and how to react, Fong knew what was coming. The men around him naively prayed for a chance to prove themselves. Toward the end of their tour, they got their wish.
“I’d been there already (Afghanistan), seeing and experiencing what this new platoon had waited ten months for. After it happened, there were a lot of them who didn’t come back mentally,” said Fong while recalling his 2010-2011 deployment.
Operational tempo changes during times of drawdown or withdrawal pose a significant risk to the warrior culture. Schedules are intense but intently purposeful with a clear goal in mind- to remain a highly capable and rapidly deployable unit. The aftermath of coping with what is witnessed in war remains a struggle, one which Fong admits he’s put away, but not packed neatly enough to never surface.
“A lack of empathy is required to remain in this profession. It’s not nice to say, but it is true.” Fong explains how shutting off parts of himself for his job has become slightly problematic with the new dynamic of adding a family in the last few years.
Stories like Fong’s remind us all of the reality of what’s being asked of soldiers. We sound the horn for these men and women to rush in when we need it most. We will always need true warriors, unafraid and unapologetic of their calling. And now, during a new era, we must find an honorable space for them to thrive, for their purpose to continue to feel fulfilled within the ranks- creating the next line of warriors within.
Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.
So what gives? What is really happening?
To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.
Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?
Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.
The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.
This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.
Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.
There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.
This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.
The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.
Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.
I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.
Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.
In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.
Think about that.
Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowlydeveloping its future capability as a secondary effort.
For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.
Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.
To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:
1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.
2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.
2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.
3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.
4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.
5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.
6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.
7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.
The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.
A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.