The Littoral Combat Ship program has had a rocky history, characterized by many ups and downs. USS Freedom (LCS 1), a variant designed by a team led by Lockheed, notched one of the highs during a 2010 deployment to Southern Command, during which it quickly racked up four drug busts. Unfortunately for the LCS, for every high, there have been many lows.
Both the Freedom- and Independence-class vessels experienced many breakdowns. Last year, one ship got iced in. Additionally, the basic armament suite just doesn’t pack that much of a punch — the littoral combat ships have a single 57mm gun, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, a few M2 .50-caliber machine guns, and an MH-60R Seahawk.
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) conducts flight deck certification with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
That kind of firepower isn’t bad for a Coast Guard cutter, but for a warship, it’s just wimpy. By comparison, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (which the littoral combat ships were to replace) pack a Mk 13 missile launcher that typically carries 36 RIM-66 Standard SM-1 surface-to-air missiles and four RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm gun, two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts, and a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system in addition to an MH-60 helicopter.
As a result, the Navy has cut the LCS program from 52 vessels down to 40. Now, the Navy wants to buy guided-missile frigates. To that end, Lockheed is putting forth a version of the Freedom, called the “Freedom Frigate.” In essence, this is a LCS that will have a lot more firepower.
For starters, it will pack at least 16 cells in a Mk 41 vertical launch system and be able to fire RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, the Standard family of surface-to-air missiles, RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs, and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Not only that, the new FFG(X) will also pack eight anti-ship missiles and countermeasures against enemy missiles and torpedoes.
This model at the SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland shows some of the upgraded firepower that the FFG(X) variant of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship will pack.
The Navy plans to pick its new FFG in 2020. The Freedom is facing off against four other contenders, including one from Spain.
As a wise man once said, “They say that the best weapon is the one that you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree! I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.”
Adhering closely to this mantra, the M65 was indeed only fired once and then simply used as a deterrent in the early days of the Cold War. Why was this weapon so special? Well, it helps that it fired 280mm nuclear tipped artillery with blast power approximately that of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima.
Designed by engineer Robert M. Schwartz in 1949, the shells, in addition to being larger than anything the US military had ever produced before, had to have a case some 4000 times stronger than that of the aforementioned bomb dropped on Hiroshima in order for the nuke to survive the extreme forces it would be subjected to when the weapon was fired. While you might think designing such an round would be insanely difficult, if not wholly impossible, Schwartz reportedly had a working rough design ready in just 15 days. The resulting W9 was essentially an 850 pound, 11 by 55 inch shell with a gun type nuclear tip capable of producing a 15 kiloton blast.
Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
Of course, there was also the problem of the U.S. not then having a cannon capable of firing these W9 shells. Schwartz solved this too, drawing inspiration for the ultimate design of the M65 from German WW2-era railway cannons like the Krupp K5. He also designed the M65 such that it could be transported via roads, hugely increasing the weapon’s utility over railway cannons.
That said, to say the M65 was cumbersome is a massive understatement. Weighing around 83 tons tons, it was rather difficult to move, requiring two trucks packing 375 horsepower engines, one truck on each end of the cannon, with the drivers needing to be in constant communication as they drove. The top speed on this setup was a breakneck 35 mph, if the road was straight and reasonably flat.
Its mobility was also limited by the length of the vehicle- about 80 feet- with one soldier, Jim Michalko, recalling that after getting the cannon stuck in a narrow street during transport in Germany, they ended up having to destroy several buildings in order to make necessary turns.
Despite these issues, a well-trained crew of around 5 people could have the cannon ready to fire in around 15 minutes, with the weapon capable of hitting any target within roughly 20 miles with pinpoint accuracy. It likewise only took around 15 minutes to get the cannon back on the road, ready to nuke another target.
As alluded to earlier, the M65 is known to have only been fired once, as part of Operation Upshot–Knothole, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada National Security Site in 1953.
In the one and only time a nuclear bomb has been shot from a cannon, during the Grable test at Frenchman Flat, the nuke flew 10 kilometres (roughly 7 miles) through the air, where it exploded about 500 feet above the ground.
The resulting explosion incinerated everything within about a mile of desert, excepting of course a lead lined fridge that was thrown free, and released a shockwave of searing hot air that tore apart lightly armoured vehicles positioned at set distances from the target area- all while several thousand soldiers, hundreds of military officials, several members of congress and then Secretary of Defence, Charles Wilson, looked on in awe from a mere 10 miles away.
Footage of this test was quickly circulated by the military as a show of force to the Soviets, and twenty M65 cannons were ordered to be created, all of which were shipped to Europe and South Korea where they spent around a decade being moved to various classified locations.
However, with the combined advent of tactical nuclear missiles and smaller nuclear shells that could fit in more widely used 155mm and 203mm cannons, the M65, which debuted with a bang in 1953, quietly went the way of Dodo by 1963.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The Air Force has confirmed that an American pilot from the California Air National Guard was killed during a familiarization flight with a Ukrainian pilot in a Su-27UB fighter aircraft on October 16 during the Clear Skies 2018 exercise, an event orchestrated to allow Ukraine to better incorporate its forces with eight NATO militaries.
The U.S. service member involved in the crash was a member of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, Fresno, California. The Airman was taking part in a single-aircraft familiarization flight with a Ukrainian counterpart. No other aircraft were involved in the incident. The identity of the service member is being withheld for 24 hours pending next of kin notification.
The Ukrainian pilot was also killed in the crash.
“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, California ANG commander and Clear Skies exercise director, said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and fellow Airmen of both the U.S. Airman and Ukrainian aviator who were killed in the incident.”
A Su-27B aircraft flies during Open Skies 2018 in Ukraine.
(U.S. Air National Guard)
The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. A statement from the Ukrainian General Staff gave the first indication of what had occurred.
“We regret to inform that, according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” it said.
The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.
The United States Military is good at its job and, understandably, a little cocky about it. That cockiness got the U.S. Strategic Command in hot water on New Years Eve 2018 when it posted a tweet about being able to drop something “much bigger” than the ball that drops in New York City’s Times Square every year.
In a move the House Armed Forces Committee members called “tacky,” the official Twitter account of the United States Strategic Command sent a tweet featuring a music video of B-2 bombers hitting targets during a training exercise – 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrators – also known as “bunker busters” – on a test range.
#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.
Watch to the end! @AFGlobalStrike @Whiteman_AFB #Deterrence #Assurance #CombatReadyForce#PeaceIsOurProfession… pic.twitter.com/Aw6vzzTONg
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) December 31, 2018
U.S. Strategic Command is the body that maintains and commands the United States’ nuclear arsenal. A Strategic Command spokesperson told CNN the post was intended to remind Americans that the United States military was on guard and had its priorities in order, even on a holiday like New Years Eve.
The command was later forced to apologize for the tweet, via Twitter.
The video itself was one created by airmen based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss. and is less than a minute long. According to the Aviationist, it likely wasn’t filmed recently but is one of the first videos to show a dual dropping of Massive Ordnance Penetrators.
Once in a lifetime, there comes a motion picture which changes the whole history of motion pictures. A picture so stunning in its effect, so vast in its impact, that it profoundly affects the lives of all who see it. One such film is, yes, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And while I lifted that copy (which was originally intended to be tongue-in-cheek) straight from the trailer, the film’s legacy has proven the trailer correct.
Even those who don’t think they’ve heard some of the most memorable lines from the movie likely have, whether they smell of elderberries or they’ve heard of the knights who say “ni.” Perhaps the most memorable scene, however, is the one where Arthur is forced to fight the Black Knight guarding a small footbridge, one who refuses to accept defeat.
The story that exposes all of the historical narratives and false legends about the chivalry and bravery of Medieval knights through vicious mockery turned history on its head even further in the encounter with the Black Knight. On the Wired podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” Monty Python member John Cleese spoke about the inspiration for the Black Knight scene in a memory of his time at school, where he was taught by a two-time World War veteran.
“There was a lovely guy named ‘Jumper’ Gee who died at the age of 101, and who managed to fight in both World Wars—I never came across anyone else who did that. He was a good teacher of English and I liked him enormously, and he would go off on these wonderful excursions where they were nothing to do with the subject he was teaching, and he told this story about a wrestling match that had taken place in ancient Rome. … There was a particularly tough contest in progress, and one of the wrestlers, his arm broke—the difficulty of the embrace was so great that his arm broke under the pressure—and he submitted because of the appalling pain he was in. And the referee sort of disentangled them and said to the other guy, ‘You won,’ and the other guy was rather unresponsive, and the referee realized the other guy was dead. And this was an example to ‘Jumper’ Gee of the fact that if you didn’t give up you couldn’t lose, and I always thought this was a very dodgy conclusion…”
Pictured: The Eleans crowned and proclaimed victor the corpse of Arrhachion.
The story “Jumper” was trying to relate is that of Arrachion of Phigalia, an athlete in ancient Greece who was skilled at the pankration event. Pankration was an event similar to today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship, where the winner must force his opponent to submit, through some kind of brute force. Arrachion was fighting for the championship. One ancient historian described the hold that not only killed Arrachion but caused his opponent to submit to the then-deceased Arrachion’s own hold.
It seems Arrachion’s opponent choked the life from the great wrestler as Arrachion wrapped part of his body around his opponent’s foot. Arrachion yanked the man’s ankle from his leg as the undefeated wrestler died in his opponent’s chokehold, and his opponent was forced to tap out from the pain. Arrachion, now dead, remained undefeated.
He got a statue for his efforts, the stupid bastard.
During the MAKS 2017 air show at Zhukovsky, a city about 25 miles from the Russian capital of Moscow, A Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker E” or “Super Flanker” gave a stunning performance of aerial maneuverability.
The full name of the show is the International Aviation and Space Show, and it is held every two years on off years. Often, the cream of Russia’s cutting-edge aviation is introduced at the show, including the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-27 Flanker. Russia has been showing this plane off for the last few years. It entered service in 2010, and among its most notable innovations was a radar that not only looks in front of the plane, but behind it as well. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, and it has a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds. The plane also is equipped with a thrust-vectoring capability.
The Su-35 has dealt with a long development. Early versions, known as the Su-27M, were built in the 1990s, but the Russian military was short on money, and so it didn’t take off. The Su-35S, the Flanker E, was developed through most of the 2000s. The Su-35 did see some action in Syria on behalf of the Russian military, and China has ordered two dozen of these planes.
Today, Russia has acquired 58 of the Su-35s, and plans to buy as many as 90, according to GlobalSecurity.org. To put this into perspective, the similar Dassault Rafale has over 160 airframes, with orders from India and Qatar pending. The Eurofighter Typhoon, another similar plane to the Su-35, has over 500 examples in production.
You can see the Su-35 putting on an aerial demonstration of its maneuverability. Do you think this plane will prove to be better than the Rafale or Typhoon, or is it a pretender? Let us know!
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.
He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.
He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.
Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.
“It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”
Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.
He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.
“I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”
The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.
“I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”
Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.
Finally off the road, he assessed the damage. “[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”
Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.
Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.
“I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”
It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.
“There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled. “Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”
After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.
At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.
“I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”
Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”
In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.
“From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”
After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.
Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.
“It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”
He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.
Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.
After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.
“I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”
Russia has vowed to retaliate against a plan by Norway to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country.
The Russian Embassy in Oslo issued the warning on June 14, 2018, two days after Norway announced it will ask the United States, its NATO ally, to send 700 Marines starting 2019.
The move came amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
The Russian Embassy said that Norway’s plan, if realized, would make Norway “less predictable and could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race, and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe.”
“We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence,” it said in a statement.
Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the additional U.S. troops would be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.
Soereide also said that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.
The initial decision to welcome the Marines irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo.
The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.
The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:
Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.
With the announcement of the B-21 Raider, the United States has begun the process of developing a replacement for the B-1B Lancer and the B-52 Stratofortress. But the United States is not the only country looking for a new bomber. Russia wants to get one, too.
According to a Facebook post by Scramble Magazine, the Tupolev design bureau is making major progress on the PAK-DA program. PAK-DA stands for, “perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal’ney aviatsii,” which is Russian for, “prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation.”
The magazine noted that Tupolev has reportedly already delivered a number of production models, including smaller-sized replicas for wind-tunnel tests and a full-scale mock-up. The PAK-DA will reportedly be a flying wing design similar to the B-2 Spirit, which first flew in 1990, with advanced features, like stealth technology and carrying all of its weaponry in internal bays.
According to Russian news, the Kremlin sees this as a potential replacement for the Tu-95 “Bear,” Tu-160 “Blackjack,” and Tu-22M3 “Backfire” bombers in service. Some estimates speculate that Russia is planning to introduce the plane into service as early as 2025, while others estimate 2030. The B-21 Raider is expected to have an initial capability in the 2020s, according to a 2016 Air Force release.
However, the upgraded Tu-160M2 version of the Blackjack will enter serial production in 2020, with the first flight scheduled to take place this year. 50 Tu-160s are on order for Russia, according to World Air Force 2018. The document also notes that the Russian Air Force has a total of 68 Tu-22M3 Backfires, 42 Tu-95 Bears, and 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks currently in service.
Compare these numbers to the United States Air Force’s bomber count. The USAF has a total of 75 B-52H Stratofortresses, 60 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2 Spirits on inventory. The Air Force plans to order 100 B-21s.
There are many versions of the age-old story. A Marine is assigned to a remote area of Twentynine Palms when he suddenly finds himself alone, in the dark, and being circled by a wild, growling beast. He pulls up his weapon and flashlight to see an eight-foot-tall hairy creature on two legs with glowing red eyes. The Marine then is either knocked cold or passes out from fear, awaking to find his weapon bent or broken in half.
Another Marine survives his encounter with the “Yucca Man,” a Bigfoot-like beast of military legend – and the story is given new life.
Yucca Man sightings have persisted among military personnel as late as 2009.
He goes by a number of names, including the Mojave Bigfoot, the Sierra Highway Devil, and even the slightly endearing nickname “Marvin of the Mojave.” His appearance isn’t limited to the relatively recent arrival of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The local native tribes have been telling stories of “hairy devils” who have lived in the deserts among the Joshua Trees for as long as native tribes have been around.
As the area around the San Bernardino mountains began to develop in the middle of the 20th century, it seems the wild man, the Yucca Man, were pushed out of their native habitat and headfirst into developing civilization. Strange reports of large, bipedal beasts were reported as far west as Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base.
Unlike traditional Bigfoot sightings, the Yucca Man was said to be “huge, scary, aggressive, fast, and threatening.”
It was at Edwards AFB, with its numerous security cameras, that reports of the Yucca Man were said to be captured on video. More strange than that, the wild men were said to have actually been caught on camera, moving through the guarded, secure underground tunnels that hide the U.S. military’s most advanced top secret technology. In the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. Air Force air police units would be sent on wild goose chases in the catacombs of Edwards tunnels after the men, who would suddenly disappear.
On Edwards AFB, however, the beast had blue eyes, not red. The blue eyes, according to one air policeman who was caught alone with the beast, were said to be four inches apart – the eyes of a predator – and rise seven feet off the ground. They glowed blue to the man who was sitting in his police truck. Suddenly, the eyes darted closer and covered half the distance between the animal and the truck in the blink of an eye. As an overwhelming stench filled the air, the airman took a disturbance call and drove off.
The airmen called it “Blue Eyes” for the rest of their time in the desert – and still talk about him to this day.
On Tuesday, the first ever F-15EX took to the skies in a test flight that brought the U.S. Air Force that much closer to fielding what may be the most capable 4th generation fighter on the planet. The F-15 has been in service for more than 45 years to date, and is widely regarded as the most successful air superiority fighter in history.
“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager.
“Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”
The last time the U.S. Air Force took delivery of an F-15 was in 2004, but the aircraft’s design has not stagnated in the 17 years since. Boeing, who absorbed the F-15 program when they merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, has been updating and improving the F-15 for foreign sales throughout. In fact, foreign purchasers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funneled more than $5 billion into improving the F-15 Eagle as America moved on to sourcing more advanced, stealth fighters. The result of all this time and money is an incredibly capable iteration of the F-15 that couples advanced avionics with the low maintenance cost of non-stealth fighter.
Most of the world still relies on 4th generation fighters for engagements in the sky, which means the F-15EX may have some stiff competition… but this new bird isn’t resting on the F-15’s historic laurels. Instead, it just may be the baddest fighter of its generation anywhere on the planet.
Why doesn’t the Air Force just buy more F-35s?
In this era of flying stealth supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, many have questioned the wisdom of purchasing a slew of new old fighters. The F-15EX does not boast any stealth capabilities, nor does it have the same knack for sensor fusion that has earned the F-35 the unofficial nickname of “quarterback in the sky.” Despite this apparent lack of capability, the Air Force is procuring F-15EXs at a cost of around $87.7 million each, as compared to the now lower F-35 price of just $77.9 million per aircraft.
This price differential only emboldens the F-15EX’s critics, who point out that the F-35 offers a far wider variety of capabilities and is considered much more survivable in contested airspace (thanks to its stealth capabilities). When you only consider those figures, the F-15EX may seem like a pretty poor choice.
However, the reality of military acquisitions and combat capability are far more nuanced than a side-by-side tale of the tape might represent. While the F-15EX may indeed cost more per airframe than the latest batch of F-35s, it may actually be the savvier purchase. The F-35 is intended to have an operational lifespan of around 8,000 hours, whereas each F-15EX is expected to last 20,000. In other words, in order to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX, the Air Force would need to purchase not one, but three F-35As.
That price reduction is further bolstered by operational costs. Keeping a high performance fighter in tip-top shape is expensive and time consuming, but in that portion of the ledger, the F-15EX once again shines. The Air Force expects to spend around $29,000 for every hour the F-15EX is in the air, far cheaper than the F-35’s figures recorded in 2018 of around $44,000 per hour. Now let’s do a bit of back-of-the-envelope math to assess how much these aircraft will actually cost in a fight.
The F-15EX costs $87.7 million per aircraft, and can fly for up to 20,000 hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. So $29,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $87.7 million for the aircraft comes out to a pretty serious $667.7 million dollars.
In order to match that operational lifespan, it would take three F-35As. So the math would look like $44,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $233.7 million for three F-35s… and it comes out to more than a jaw dropping $1.1 billion. The F-15EX, then, offers a saving of around $446 million per aircraft over the lifespan of the jet (if things were this simple, anyway).
To give the F-35 a slightly more realistic shake, let’s use larger volumes of aircraft, rather than 1:1 comparisons. The Air Force plans to purchase at least 144 F-15EXs, but for the sake of simple math, let’s call it 100. The above per-aircraft cost times a hundred comes out to $66,770,000,000 spent on aircraft and 2,000,000 flight hours. You would need 250 F-35s to match the same flight hour total, which combined with operating costs come to $109,925,000,000. In this more realistic comparison, the F-15EX offers a less pronounced advantage, but still comes to the tune of some $43,155,000,000 in savings over the span of the program. $43 billion is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Now, it’s important to note here that this math is egregiously simplified: Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are already working tirelessly to reduce the operating costs of the F-35 (because the Air Force says they can’t afford them if they don’t).
The cost per hour of the F-35 is sure to drop in the years to come — and just as importantly, the F-35 is a stealth platform built largely to engage ground targets. The F-15EX, on the other hand, is an air superiority fighter designed to duke it out in the skies. Both of these aircraft are capable of either role, but at a fundamental level, these jets simply aren’t built to do the same jobs. It might help to think of them as NASCAR and Formula 1 racers: Both are extremely capable platforms, but they’re each highly specialized for their specific use. The new F-15EXs the Air Force buys won’t fill F-35 spots, but will instead replace aging F-15s in America’s existing arsenal.
What makes this new F-15 better than our old ones?
The United States currently maintains a fleet of around 230 F-15s in various trims (C/D). These jets represent the crux of America’s fourth generation air intercept fighters. The F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement for the F-15, but the program was canceled after just 186 Raptors were delivered.
The new F-15EXs boast updated cockpit systems, an enhanced sensor suite and data fusion capabilities, and the ability to carry up to 29,500 pounds of ordnance split into 12 air-to-air hard points or 15 air-to-ground hard points. Its new twin engines aren’t just more efficient, they’re also more powerful, making the fastest fighter in America’s inventory even faster.
The F-15EX isn’t stealthy, but it does boast an electronic warfare suite that will help make it more survivable in contested airspace. Its streamlined pilot interface borrows from some 5th generation technology, integrating information into easier to manage displays that allow the pilot to focus more on the battle space than the gauge cluster. This not only improves pilot performance, it also reduces fatigue on long missions.
In order to keep pace with new weapons as they emerge, the F-15EX leverages what Boeing calls an Open Mission System architecture designed specifically to be able to absorb new tech as it reaches the field. Importantly, however, the new F-15s retain around 80% of the old F-15 design, making them easy for maintainers to adapt to. Instead of having to train for an entirely new platform, they need only to train for the more modern additions to a jet they’re already intimately familiar with.
How does the F-15EX stack up against the top fighters from other countries?
Despite its upgrades, the new F-15EX remains squarely within the 4th generation of fighters. There are currently four operational 5th generation fighters on the planet: America’s F-35 and F-22, Russia’s Su-57, and China’s J-20. If the F-15EX were to square off against these platforms, it would be at a huge disadvantage–and platforms like the F-35 or F-22 would likely be able to engage and destroy the F-15 before its pilot was even aware of their presence. Questions remain about the stealth and avionics found in the J-20 or Su-57, but even if their stealth isn’t quite as advanced, they’d still have a real leg up on the F-15EX.
But to be honest, the chances of such an engagement are incredibly small. Russia’s troubled Su-57 program has seen setback after setback, and to date, there are only around 13 of the fighters in existence. Production is expected to pick up, but Russia lacks the funds to really field a large scale fleet of these stealthy fighters. China’s J-20 has also faced woes in its engine compartment, though China has managed to field more than 50 of these jets already. The new J-20B will incorporate thrust vector control (like America’s F-22) and is expected to be an even more capable aircraft… but again, it exists in extremely limited numbers.
Their rarity notwithstanding, if American jets were to square off against Chinese or Russian ones, America would leverage its fleet of hundreds of F-35s and F-22s. There would be no reason to send the F-15 into such a fight. However, F-15EXs could see a great deal of use in the uncontested airspace of trouble spots like Syria and Iraq, where stealth is as unnecessary as it is expensive.
But what about the 4th generation fighters that make up the backbone of Chinese and Russian air forces? The Su-35, operated by both Russia and China, as well as the J-10 operated by China are both considered to be highly capable platforms, and the MiG-29 operated by a number of nations is also considered rather formidable (among others). However, the F-15 has already squared up against a number of capable fighters and emerged on top. In fact, of the 104 air-to-air duels the F-15 has entered, it has lost exactly zero of them. Not too shabby.
With the addition of 21st century avionics and more capable engines, it seems likely that the F-15 will maintain its advantage of the competition.