Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Boeing Co. will make the wings on the remaining A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft that are slated to receive an upgrade, the Defense Department announced August 2019.

The company on Aug. 21, 2019, received an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract worth a maximum of $999 million for A-10 wing replacements.

“This contract provides for up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and up to 15 wing kits,” the award stipulates.

Boeing, which is teaming up with Korean Aerospace Industries for the effort, said the service has ordered an initial 27 wing sets and will manage the production of up to 112 sets and spare kits.


Only 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged, and the contract will include up to three spares, according to service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Three A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons fly in formation during a flight training session.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman)

“Our established supply base, experience with the A-10 structures, and our in-depth knowledge of the U.S. Air Force’s requirements will help us deliver high-quality wings to meet the customer’s critical need,” Pam Valdez, vice president of Air Force services for Boeing Global Services, said in a statement.

The wing replacement work will be performed at multiple U.S. subcontractor locations as well as one subcontractor location in South Korea; the work is scheduled to be completed in August 2030, according to the contract announcement.

The Air Force will allocate 9.6 million in procurement funds from past fiscal budgets for the effort, known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK” program, the DoD said.

The Air Force had initially set aside 7 million for the effort, but the DoD has re-evaluated that estimate, Stefanek told Military.com on Aug. 21, 2019.

The news comes after the recent completion of Boeing’s first re-winging contract, awarded to the aerospace company in 2007.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 74th Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, GA, returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

As part of the id=”listicle-2639994851″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, earlier this month completed work on the last A-10 slated to receive the upgrade. The project began in 2011.

The Air Force in 2018 said it had begun searching for a new company to rebuild wings for the A-10, affectionately known as the Warthog, after the service ended its arrangement with Boeing. Nevertheless, the company has received the second contract.

Officials have not committed to re-winging the entire fleet.

“We re-evaluate every year depending on how many aircraft we will need; the length of the contract goes through 2030 so it gives us options as we go forward,” Stefanek said.

The service has 281 Warthogs in its inventory. Two A-10s were destroyed in a collision in 2017. One of them had received the upgrade.

The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.

The A-10 has also been instrumental in air operations in Afghanistan.

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

Articles

The Marines want robotic boats with mortars for beach assaults

The Marine Corps’ top future warfare planners say the days of an Iwo Jima-style beach assault — with hours of shore bombardment, waves of amphibious vehicles lumbering through the surf and Leathernecks plodding to shore through hails of gunfire — are long gone.


But the mission to enter an adversary’s country through a ship-to-shore assault is not.

The problem, they say, is coming up with innovative ways to take that beach without exposing U.S. forces to a World War II-esque bloodbath.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment prepare a newly developed system, the Multi Utility Tactical Transport, for testing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 8, 2016. The MUTT is designed as a force multiplier to enhance expeditionary power enabling Marines to cover larger areas and provide superior firepower with the lightest tactical footprint possible. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

That’s why the Corps has teamed with the Navy’s top research and development office to come up with technologies that can help with its future warfare plan. Service officials are asking industry for solutions to spoof enemy radars and sensors, mask the U.S. forces going ashore from overhead surveillance and keep manned platforms well out of harms way until the enemy’s defenses are taken out.

Planners are increasingly looking to unmanned systems like drone subs, robots and autonomous ships to do much of the amphibious assault work for them.

“Why put men at risk when we can have autonomous systems do this for us?” said Marine Corps Combat Development Command chief Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh during an interview with defense reporters Oct. 19. “We’re looking for technologies that can help us do ship-to-shore maneuver differently.”

Walsh imagined robotic boats flowing inland with cannon or mortars on them helping suppress enemy defenses; drones and electronic jammers that tell enemy sensors Marines and Navy ships are in one location, when they’re actually in another; drone submarines that find and destroy enemy sea mines so SEALs and other manned systems don’t have to do the dangerous work of clearing beaches — all in an effort to keep the Corps’ primary mission of amphibious assault intact, but giving it a 21st Century twist.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Briefing slide courtesy of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command)

Engineers with the Navy’s research and development office alongside MCCDC are asking civilian companies and DoD labs to provide new systems and technologies that can be tested in a wide-ranging wargame set for next year.

Officials are looking for new gear to help Marines get to shore quicker and from farther out to sea; fire support systems that will hit targets both at sea and on land; new mine and obstacle clearing systems; jam-proof communications systems; and “adaptive uses of proven electromagnetic warfare techniques and decoys that lengthen the enemy’s targeting cycle, forcing them to commit resources to the decoys and incite an enemy response.”

“This concept of prototyping and experimenting at the same time is something totally new,” said the Navy’s Assistant Sec. for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Dr. Richard Burrows. “Industry is doing a lot of good things out there and we want to take a look at them.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Thoughts on how to be a badass military spouse

Being in the military is hard. I served in the military for 13 long years, and I know how demanding and exhausting that job is. But, do you guys want to know what’s hard too?

Being a military spouse.

Being a military spouse comes without a title, without a rank, without the specialized training, and most of all, without the brotherhood that accompanies the life of an armed forces member and that, my friends, is not easy. Out of all the jobs that I have done in my life, and believe me when I say that I have had my share of challenging and insanely stressful jobs, being a military spouse has been, by far, the most difficult one.


I still remember when I became a military spouse 21 years ago. By the time I became Mrs. Morales, I was already a hard-core soldier. A soldier that had been trained to go to war, trained to kill, trained to survive in the most difficult situations, but also trained to save lives. Yes, I was trained to be a combat medic in the Army, a job that I enjoyed doing with all my heart, but one thing the Army never trained me for was becoming a military spouse, which I became when I was just a 20 year old kid.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

U.S. Army Spc. Leo Leroy gets a kiss from Regina Leroy and a bow-wow welcome from dogs Yoshi and Bruiser at a homecoming ceremony on Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 28, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)

My friend, the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, asked me once how it felt to be a military spouse, especially during war time. When she asked me that, I realized that, as much as I wanted to tell her how it felt, I didn’t have the words to express all I wanted to say, so I froze, and after a while, she changed the topic and I never got the chance to give her an answer to her difficult question. But, now that I think about it, I do have an answer.

Military spouses come from all backgrounds, and all of us characterize ourselves as strong individuals who are not only capable of running a household by ourselves, but who are also experts at making miracles out of nothing. I’m sure that most military spouses out there will agree with me. But, those of you who are not military spouses may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me tell you.

Have you ever been in a position where being strong is the only choice you have even when your entire world is collapsing on top of you? Well, that’s what military spouses do every single day, and the difference between our service members and us is that, we don’t get trained for such challenging job. We are just expected to perform the job and move on.

As a soldier, I had many great and challenging experiences, but nothing could ever compare to living at home as a military spouse. There were many times when my husband was overseas when I questioned my commitment to the military, and no, I don’t mean my commitment as a soldier, I questioned my commitment as a military spouse.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Capt. Lucas Frokjer, officer in charge of the flightline for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, reunites with his family after returning from a seven-month deployment with HMH-463.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)

I still remember the time when my husband was sent to West Africa for 18 months. Those 18 months were the longest 18 months of my life. At that time, I was not only serving in the military myself, but I immediately became the sole caregiver of three children, who needed my full attention and my full support, but three children who also used to go to bed, every single day, crying because they didn’t know when or if their father was going to come home again.

How did I survive those 18 months under those circumstances, you may ask? Well, let me tell you; I became a functional zombie. A zombie who was able to keep three children alive, keep a household running while serving in the military herself, but most important of all, able to stay strong amid all the challenges that came into her life during those 18 months. Challenges that I had zero control over them, but that I knew I had to overcome not only for the well-being of my children, but also for the sake of my marriage. And again, that’s a job I was never trained for.

The bottom-line is, Marielys the soldier was a very strong individual, but Marielys the military spouse had to be even stronger. I wasn’t trained for this job, but I did it proudly so that my husband could go and serve his country without having to worry about anything other than the mission he was assigned to do. And for that, I can proudly say that I am not only an Army veteran, but I was also A Badass Military Spouse.

Marielys Camacho-Reyes formerly served for 13 years in the US Army, first as a Combat Medic and later on as a Human Resources Manager. She also served in the US Army for 21 years as a Badass Army Wife. She is currently a stay home mom and a member of the Vet Voices Program in Central FL.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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

Articles

Here’s where the term ‘Bravo Zulu’ comes from

Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.


In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?

Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.

The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.

Related: Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.

When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.

A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.

You’re welcome, America.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A former Confederate general led cavalry in combat in Cuba

It’s easy to forget that most Confederate officers were pardoned after the war, either en masse for rebellion or individually if they were accused of other crimes, and returned to lives of business or started new careers in politics. Relatively few of them would see combat in the American-Indian Wars. But one famous general offered his skills to America during the Spanish-American War and led all cavalry units in Cuba, including Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers.


Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Confederate Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler during the Civil War.

(Library of Congress)

Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler got his start as a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1859 and was sent west to fight Native Americans. But the Civil War broke out in 1861, and then-2nd Lt. Wheeler resigned his U.S. commission and joined the Confederacy.

And the Confederacy was trying to stand up a national military, from scratch, to defend itself. So state militia officers and former U.S. Army officers with good training saw themselves quickly promoted. Wheeler became a colonel of infantry, then the head cavalry officer for the Army of Mississippi. By the end of the war, he was a lieutenant general.

During the conflict, Wheeler made a name for himself as a fighter. At one point in 1863, he conducted a stunning raid against Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosencrans. Rosencrans was under firm orders to hold Chattanooga, but all of his beans and bullets had to pass down 100 miles of rail and 60 miles of mountain paths. His force was nearly encircled and so low on vital supplies that soldiers were on half rations and had enough ammo for only one day of fighting.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Wheeler, front, stands with some of his subordinate cavalry officers including then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt at his left.

(U.S. National Archives)

Wheeler took advantage of this. Despite having his own shortage of battle-ready men and horses, he took on a mission to conduct a massive raid against Rosencrans. He hand-picked what men and horses were ready to fight and took them out from Oct. 1-9, 1863. They cut through the Union lines, destroyed hundreds of Union wagons, and choked off Rosencrans.

But battles like the Great Sequatchie Valley Raid made Wheeler a hero to the Confederacy and a villain to the Union, and the end of the war saw Wheeler out on his butt. But he embraced the reality post-war and ran for office in Alabama, serving for years in Congress as a leader of North-South reconciliation.

When the Spanish-American War started in 1898, Wheeler was 61-years-old, but he offered his services as a military leader to the Army and was accepted. He left the House of Representatives and shipped to Cuba.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Wheeler, at left, sits in consultation with other men during the Siege of Santiago in Cuba.

(William Dinwiddie)

While he wasn’t the only former Confederate to fight in Cuba, he does seem to be the only former Confederate general to serve as a general for the U.S. Army in combat after the war. In Cuba, he commanded all cavalry forces; even the famed Rough Riders put together by former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Theodore Roosevelt.

As a Maj. Gen. of Volunteers, Wheeler led his men against Spanish troops at Las Guasimas, participated in the Battle of San Juan Hill, and then fought at the siege of Santiago in Cuba. He was even placed over the 9th and 10th cavalry regiments, Buffalo Soldier units.

He performed well enough that, despite his age, he was offered a commission in the regular Army as a brigadier general and led troops in the Philippine-American War. While he wasn’t often fighting on the front lines, the brigadier general was still competent and valuable as a battlefield leader.

Articles

4 animal superpowers we want before our next deployment

So, the American warfighter is one of the most technologically advantaged warriors in history.


But we could still make it better, right? No one wants a fair fight in war, and nature is full of animal superpowers that would give the U.S. a greater advantage.

Here are four that might be on the way:

1. Snow fox rangefinder

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dave Smalls)

Snow foxes have achieved internet fame recently for their “built-in compass” that makes them more successful in hunting mice under the snow or dirt when they strike at a small range of compass directions to the northeast of their position.

But it’s not exactly a built-in compass, it’s more of a range finder. This Discovery Blog article does a good job of explaining it, but the snow fox can basically sense disturbances at a fixed distance from them along a fixed direction. This allows them to much more accurately sense the exact range of the mouse from their position and attack with precision.

Is it coming?

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Soza)

Troops currently can receive acoustic systems for identifying sniper locations and radar systems for artillery and mortar point of origins, both of which are always getting better.

As for targeting enemy forces that aren’t actively engaging them, soldiers still have to spot the enemy and either guess, hit them with a laser rangefinder, or compare the enemy positions to their position on a map and do the math. No magic hunting powers are on the table yet.

2. Grizzly bear time-defying nose

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Terry Tollefsbol)

Bloodhounds are famous for their sense of smell, and the reputation is well-earned. Their noses are so sensitive that they can detect minute differences in scent trails that are almost 13 days old.

Grizzly bears, meanwhile, are seven times as sensitive as bloodhounds. And yeah, they can do the time-traveling nose trick as well.

Is it coming?

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has been backing mechanical smell breakthroughs for a while, and a major step forward came in 2013 when Honeywell created the miniature vacuum pumps necessary for mobile mass spectrometers. Basically, all the components are now there for mechanical sniffers that can detect any and all materials in the air near them, even pathogens.

There are still software limits, though. Someone will have to teach the mechanical noses what elements are present one, two, or eight days after an enemy infantry patrol passes a given point or a fuel point has been disbanded.

3. Snake thermal imaging

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Photo: Otavio Marques/Instituto Butantan)

Some snakes that hunt small animals can see in the dark through protein channels that pick up infrared energy that enters through the snake’s “pit organs,” those little opening near their eyes that look like nostrils.

Is it coming?

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
A former Navy SEAL fires an infrared round that is invisible to human sight. (YouTube: Discovery)

The short answer is maybe. Troops currently can see infrared energy through bulky optics, but there’s a possibility for contact lenses that sense infrared radiation. Because it’s tied to ultraviolet detection, it’s explained at the end of entry 4, below.

4. Jumping spider and bat eyes that see four primary colors

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(Photo: Opoterser/CC BY 3.0)

Yes. Four of them. We are told that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. But that’s not exactly true. Red, yellow, and blue correspond with specific wavelengths of light that stimulate humans’ three kinds of color receptors. Human corneas filter out light in another, otherwise visible band, ultraviolet. Some bats and spiders can see this band.

Soldiers who can see UV light would have much better night vision with none of the “tunneling” of most NV goggles. They would also be able to see insects better, helping troops avoid them, and fingerprints, helping with site exploitation.

Is it coming?

Maybe. The major technology breakthroughs have already come thanks to graphene, which can be used to make “ultra-broadband” photoreceptors. Basically, sensors that can detect infrared energy, visible light, and UV rays and combine them into one final image.

Best of all, graphene is thin enough that the possibility exists to make these receptors into contact lenses. But no one has currently commissioned graphene contact lenses for the troops. Still, fingers crossed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women join ranks of cavalry scouts

Every soldier in the Nebraska Army National Guard has a story: the reasons why they joined the military, picked their particular military occupational specialty (MOS) job, or serve in their military unit of choice.

For two soldiers serving in the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry, the stories are particularly different than those around them. That’s because Sgt. Nicole Havlovic and Sgt. Danielle Martin are two of only a very few women serving in the Nebraska cavalry squadron. In fact, the two Nebraskans are one of only a few women in the nation who have successfully graduated from the Army’s tough combat arms MOS school and earned the title of “cavalry scout.”

Havlovic originally joined the Nebraska Army National Guard as a water treatment specialist. However, after serving for six years, she decided to leave the Guard for a year. “I got out because I was bored,” Havlovic said. “I really didn’t have any guidance about what I could do or what the possibilities were. I wanted to do something different and fun and be out there training.”


It was that desire to do something different that drove Havlovic to join the Nebraska Army Guard cavalry squadron. “I felt like it would be a really good fit. I’m pretty outdoorsy and this — being out in the field — doesn’t bother me at all,” Havlovic said.

Sgt. Danielle Martin’s route to being a cavalry scout was not a direct one, either.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Sgt. Danielle Martin approaches the finish of a ruck march during the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron’s spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

“I’ve always wanted to go into combat arms,” Martin said. “It really was a year before joining the military that I knew combat arms was what I wanted to do. However, I was still junior enlisted and so I really couldn’t do much about it.”

The last restrictions against women serving in combat roles were lifted in 2013. However, Army regulations specified that units were first required to have two female cavalry scouts in leadership positions before other female soldiers would be allowed to join their ranks. This made integrating junior-ranking women into the units all that much more difficult.

So, Martin began her career in the Nebraska Army National Guard as an automated logistical specialist before joining a military police unit. After rising to the rank of sergeant, Martin said she finally saw a way to reach her combat arms goal.

“It was already on my radar that I had just gotten my E-5 [sergeant] and I wanted to go to 19-Delta [cavalry scout] school,” Martin said.

Both Sergeants attended a cavalry scout reclassification school, an Army school designed to train soldiers from other MOS in the skills needed to become operational cavalry scouts. Martin attended the November reclassification course in Boise, Idaho. After completing the course, she reported to the Mead, Nebraska-based Troop B this past January.

Martin said the reception she received from her new unit let her know that they respected her newly-earned skills. It wasn’t about changing who anyone was, she said, but having a mutual respect between soldiers.

“They don’t treat me any differently just because I’m female,” said Martin. “I’m one of the guys and I think it needs to be that way… I’m not coming in here to change them. I’m coming in here because I know I can physically and mentally handle it, and I want to do the job.”

Havlovic attended the cavalry scout transition course in Smyrna, Tennessee, and reported to Troop B in April 2019. She said her fellow soldiers don’t treat her differently than any other member of the unit.

“They really don’t treat me any differently,” Havlovic said. “I don’t expect them to…I expect them to believe that they can trust me with the mission and what we have to do and be able to keep up and be trustworthy and dependable…Everyone has actually been really welcoming to me.”

With Havlovic and Martin completing their transition courses, Nebraska National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron became the ninth Army National Guard unit, fourth Cavalry Troop and second Infantry Brigade Combat Team Cavalry Troop to be opened for junior enlisted female cavalry scouts.

1st Sgt. Andrew Filips, Troop B’s senior enlisted soldier, has spent 15 years in the squadron. He said the change of policy wasn’t an issue.

“What it really comes down to is that we’re a combat arms unit and there’s only one standard,” Filips said. “You either perform or you leave. You either make the cut or there are other units for you to go to.”

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Nebraska National Guard Soldiers with the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron receive certificates and silver spurs after successful completion of a spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 21, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

1st Sgt. Christopher Marcello of Grand Island’s Troop A, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, is a 22-year veteran of the cavalry squadron. He has also been a member of the Grand Island Police Department for six years. He echoed Filips’ thoughts.

“I work with women every day as a police officer and that’s a tough job where you can get punched in the face, or shot or beat up and you have women doing that every day. So combat arms isn’t any different,” Marcello said. “You have to have the right fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter. You have to be the right kind of person to be a scout.”

The Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron is part of the larger 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is headquartered in Arkansas. The brigade is responsible for providing training and readiness oversight of its subordinate units. According to Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory White, the 39th IBCT senior enlisted leader, the way the brigade finds the right soldiers for their difficult job has changed from looking at who can physically do it to those who want to do it.

White also said that women who hold a combat arms MOS are the best representatives to recruit other women into the field.

White spoke with Martin during a visit to B Troop’s recent annual training in the Republic of Korea. They both agreed the focus should be on reaching out to women who want the challenge of serving in combat arms positions, and once they do, give them the tools they need to become advocates.

“Having her [Martin] talk to them is going to be so much better than a guy who has been in for 30 years,” White said. “A 50-year-old man talking to these young women just is not going to reach them in the same way as when she talks to them.”

Filips says the physical demands are not the only aspect of combat arms that new recruits need to consider. The relatively demanding training pace also makes combat arms units different. Troop B regularly trains in the field and spends most drill weekends training throughout the night. That is often one of the bigger reasons why some soldiers eventually choose to transfer into the squadron.

“If you want to come into the Guard and feel like this is what I want to do; (that) I want to… be awesome and be the baddest dudes and wear the cool hats and do all that, then yes go for it,” said Filips. “But if you are ‘I want to try this because it would be neat’, there’s other places to be neat. Come here because this is what you always wanted to do in life. You have to want it.”

Marcello seconded those comments, adding that Troop A is willing to let soldiers — male or female — try being a cavalry scout for their drill weekend.

“We’re more than happy to let people come in, try it out and if it doesn’t work for you, we get it,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with gender, doesn’t have anything to do with sex; it has to do with can you do the job.”

Both Havlovic and Martin said they realize they are now mentors and role models for those around them. They are also quick to encourage other soldiers to give it a try.

“It’s definitely something I would sit down, explain to them and educate them on,” said Havlovic, who now works for the state recruiting office.

“It’s not for everybody. It really isn’t. I don’t believe that just because combat arms has been opened up to females mean that all females belong here. But if you can do it, then do it.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fighting intensifies between nuclear-capable India & Pakistan

India on Feb. 26, 2019, launched airstrikes across its border with Pakistan in a military escalation after a terror attack in Kashmir left 40 Indian troops dead, and Pakistan immediately convened a meeting of its nuclear commanders.

Gun fighting on the ground broke out along India and Pakistan’s de facto border after what Vipin Narang, an MIT professor and an expert on the two country’s conventional and nuclear forces, called “India’s most significant airstrike against Pak in half a century.”


The strikes happened after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unleashed the military to respond however it saw fit after the terror attack, which India blames on Islamic militants based in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, which have been engaged in a bitter rivalry for decades, have fought three wars over the disputed territory, and analysts are closely watching the crisis for clues about whether it could escalate from airstrikes to a heightened nuclear posture.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the terror attack but swiftly “took control” of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant camp in question.

India said its airstrikes killed as many as 300 Muslim separatist militants, but it is unclear whether the attack had any effect. Pakistan said its air force scrambled fighter jets and chased India off, forcing the jets to hastily drop their bombs in an unpopulated area, and Pakistan’s prime minister called India’s claims “fictitious.”

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Political map of the Kashmir region districts, showing the Pir Panjal Range and the Kashmir Valley.

For the mission, India flew its Mirage 2000 jets, which it uses as part of its nuclear deterrence. The jets dropped more than 2,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs, according to News18.com. As a branch of India’s nuclear forces, the Mirage 2000 fleet has some of the most ready aircraft and pilots, India Today reported.

The strike took place about 30 miles deep into Pakistan’s territory in a town called Balakot, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a press conference.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said. The US has similarly accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and backed India’s right to self-defense after the terror attack.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s military, said Pakistan successfully scrambled jets and scared off the incoming Indian Mirage 2000s. He also tweeted pictures of craters and parts of what could be Indian bombs.

“Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open,” Ghafoor said of the images. It’s unclear if India hit their targets, actually killed anyone, or simply dropped fuel tanks upon leaving Pakistan.

India’s airstrikes hit relatively close to Pakistan’s prominent military academies and the country’s capital, Islamabad, raising concern among the military that it’s under the threat of further Indian strikes.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Pakistan’s nuclear threat

At a press conference in response to the airstrikes, Ghafoor issued a veiled nuclear threat to India.

“We will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. I said that our response will be different. The response will come differently,” Ghafoor said at a press conference.

Ghafoor added that Pakistan had called a meeting of its National Command Authority, which controls the country’s nuclear arsenal.

“You all know what that means,” Ghafoor said of the nuclear commanders’ meeting in a press conference he posted to Twitter.

But India has nuclear weapons and means to deliver them, too. Additionally, both countries maintain large conventional militaries that have become increasingly hostile in their rhetoric toward each other.

Best case scenario? Conventional skirmishes

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the border and have nuclearized to counter each other’s forces. With China closely backing Pakistan and the US supporting India, Pakistan and India’s rivalry has long been seen as a potential flash point for a global nuclear conflict.

Reuters’ Idrees Ali reported after the strikes that gunfights had broken out along Pakistan and India’s border. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both countries claim but administer only in part.

Both India and Pakistan now appear out for blood after the fighting. Reuters reported that all around India people were celebrating, and Modi praised the military as “heroes.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s denial that the airstrikes hit anything may give them some deniability and wiggle room to not respond with escalation, but hardliners within Pakistan will likely call for action.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What makes for a good wingman? Here are 5 rules to follow

What does it mean to be a good wingman?

Fighter jets rarely fly by themselves. Most of the time — if not all of the time — they fly in a section (two aircraft) or sometimes a division (four aircraft). This is for multiple reasons but mainly because a fighter jet is not very effective on its own. A wingman can offer additional firepower and top cover on many different missions.


Safety is another reason. For example, when flying over large bodies of water for extended periods of time, fighter jets routinely fly in section. Having a minimum of two aircraft allows for a margin of safety when operating in remote locations. In case one of the aircraft has an emergency, the wingman can help out.

So this begs the question, what does it mean to be a good wingman?

1. Be a Good Follower

A wingman is there to back up the lead aircraft, not lead the section. This means a wingman cannot try and take over the flight, no matter how much he may want to. Wingmen are there to do as much as they can to help the lead aircraft with the mission. Notice that I used the word “help,” not “take over.”

2. Keep your Comm Chatter to a Minimum

“Join up and shut up” is how the saying goes. No one wants to hear a Chatty Cathy on the radio. Most of the time, the wingman should respond to the lead aircraft’s communication on the radio with the tactical callsign or just “Two!” If you feel the need to say more than that, check the fifth rule below to see if you should say more.

Every fighter pilot knows that poor communication is probably one of the biggest contributors to a poor hop. Communication is always debriefed after a flight and poor comm is always recognized in the tape debrief. Make sure you don’t add to it!

3. Don’t Cause More Problems

We had a wingman one time that would not stay in position for the entire flight. The lead pilot was constantly reminding the wingman and always looking for him. The lead even had to shackle the flight in order to get the section pointed in the right direction. The unnecessary tactical administrative problems took away from the execution of the actual mission. The wingman became a burden and affected the overall performance of the section due to his lack of professionalism.

4. Execute the Mission

Exactly as it sounds. Brief the flight, fly the brief. Don’t make things up on your own. If you didn’t talk about it in the brief then it is probably not a good idea to try it out now.

Most importantly, make sure you are a team player and help the section along. For example, stay within visual sight of the lead; shoot and/or bomb the appropriate target (sounds obvious, right?); and provide top cover for the lead.

A successful wingman allows the lead aircraft to think about the larger tactical picture. This ultimately leads to success in the mission because the lead is not focused on the small things.

5. Be a Safety Observer

This one is probably the most important for obvious reasons. Safety is paramount and a good wingman can do some real good keeping the lead out of trouble. A safety advisor is there not only for emergencies but for tactical purposes as well, particularly in the visual arena.

If the wingman sees a bandit first, he or she must use directive over descriptive comm to maneuver the flight advantageously towards the threat.

For example, consider the following communication:

Viper 2: “Break right, bandit six o’clock!”

Notice that the wingman said “what” to do before describing where the threat was. It’s better to get the flight moving first and then paint the picture.

While being a wingman may not be the most glorious of roles, the position is critical for the overall mission’s success. Take pride in your ability to do the “blue-collar work” well. You’ll see a great outcome and you’ll learn a lot.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY FIT

ACFT Prep: How to build your 3-RM deadlift.

Has anxiety over the ACFT test set in because you’re not good at deadlifting? Maybe you’ve never even seen a trap bar in your life up until a year ago…


Don’t feel lonely, it’s definitely one of the more challenging aspects of the test that more than a handful of soldiers are struggling with. Getting that 100 point score isn’t too hard with the right training and concentrated effort..

If your plan is to just max out every training session and hope for the best, there’s a good chance you’re limiting your improvement. With a few modifications and techniques, improving your deadlift is possible for almost anyone.

The Deadlift is crushing your lower back.

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Work on form

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true that if you want a good deadlift: you have to focus on form.

Having good deadlift form not only helps limit the risk of injury but it also helps you develop maximum force and efficiency, which is what you need for this test.

While proper form requires experience, focusing on improving during your training should be a priority.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BsWjbOCF-6m/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “New Year. New Gym. . An easy set of 5 @ 160kg (352 lbs) . I was just reminded on my trip back home that roughly 82.56432% of people suffer…”

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Deadlift often

It should come as no surprise, but if you want to improve your deadlift, you should perform it as often as you can while still recovering.

Deadlifts are hard, and really, that’s a good thing. If you have to carry, well, just about anything when you’re in the field, you want to be prepared, and honestly, there are few exercises better than the deadlift.

If you’re close to being able to deadlift 340lbs for three reps (a 100 score), then a good rule of thumb is to deadlift heavy every other week to maintain and improve.

If you have a hard time with the deadlift and have a lot of work to do, then doing the deadlift more often will really help.

For the first week, go heavy in the rep range of two to five reps per set. Then on the following week, go a little lighter and allow yourself to work up to six to ten reps.

Even though it’s not as heavy, you’ll still be practicing the exercise and developing the muscle groups that help you perform the lift.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B06rhimDs93/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Of course these are deadlifts. I’m not trying to question your intelligence… • I’m starting to save money so that I can buy some TV time…”

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Use elevated and deficit deadlifts

If you struggle with the deadlift, there’s a good chance you either have trouble lifting the weight or locking out at the top. Depending on your weak point, deficit and elevated deadlifts can help.

Having a perfect deadlift set-up will help fix these issues before they even start.

If you have trouble getting the weight off the floor, try using deficit deadlifts by standing on a 45lb plate.

Standing on a plate increases the distance the weight needs to travel, which makes it a bit harder. As a result, you’ll improve your ability to move the weight off the ground when the distance shortens during a standard deadlift.

If you have trouble with the lockout, try using elevated deadlifts (AKA rack pulls) by placing a platform under the weight plates on each side. Doing this allows you to overload the top portion of the lift, making you stronger during that part of the lift.

How to train for the TRAP BAR DEADLIFT

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Work on grip strength

There’s a good chance that your grip is partially to blame for your weak deadlift and there’s a simple test to find out. Try deadlifting with wrist straps and then deadlift without them. If you can lift more with the straps, your grip is lacking.

If that’s the case, direct grip work is a good idea since, during the ACFT test, you won’t have straps.

If your grip needs work, try a few of the following:

  • Weighted dead hangs on a pull-up bar for as long as possible
  • Farmer’s walks with the heaviest dumbbells or kettlebells you can
  • Heavy barbell holds
  • Barbell wrist curls

Over time, your grip will improve, making the deadlift a bit easier to manage.

Deadlift 101

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Use dead stop deadlifts

When you perform many deadlifts without pausing, your muscles rely on a stretch reflex to develop force. That’s why you might notice that your second and third rep feel a little easier than the first.

Even though you can use the stretch reflex during the test, practicing the lift without this reflex in training can help you learn to develop as much force as possible from a dead stop.

When you deadlift, get set up and perform your first rep. Once the bar touches the ground, let go of the bar and completely reset. Then, continue the set.


For a full deadlift tutorial check out my Mighty Fit Plan Deadlift Tutorial.[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjM4H6snBSe/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “New Deadlift 1 Rep Max! . I learned not to let failure cloud my vision today. I failed, couldn’t move the weight on my first attempt at…”

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Lift with your legs

Most people with weak deadlifts pull with their arms and upper back, and you can tell because they’re the ones that look like the St. Louis Gateway Arch during the lift.

Instead, you want to initiate the lift through your feet instead of pulling with your arms.

It’s one of the main reasons your back hurts when you deadlift.

To do this, get set up by gripping the bar as you normally would. Then, pull hard on the bar, but just before the bar leaves the ground, change your focus towards pressing through your feet while maintaining tension on the bar.

While doing this will take some practice, repeated practice will help you initiate the lift with your legs, which isn’t only a safer practice, but one that will make you stronger in the deadlift as well.

Lit – My Own Worst Enemy (Official Music Video)

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In closing

The deadlift isn’t dangerous if you know what you’re doing. Don’t put yourself in the scenario that involves you attempting 340lbs on the ACFT even though you’ve never done that weight in training.

If you do, you’re your own worst enemy (Just like that song from 1999.)

This article, the one you just read has links to 7 different pieces of content I wrote for you about deadlifting. You don’t have to look anywhere else! Just absorb this content and get in the gym.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 photos of the US military’s most powerful and most expensive helicopter

The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.

“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”


But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.

Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.

Here’s what it can do:

Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, one of the largest defense contractors and political donors in the US.

Source: Defense News

It’s about 28 feet high and 99 feet in length.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

It’s powered by three T408-GE-400 turboshaft engines, which can bring the King Stallion to a maximum speed of about 230 mph.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command, The Drive

And has a maximum altitude of about 9,520 feet.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

It also has a maximum takeoff weight of about 88,000 pounds, and can externally haul more than 27,000 pounds — three times what the CH-53E can.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

Here’s a shot inside the cabin, which can fit two Humvees or a light armored vehicle.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

The Marine Corps hopes to receive about 200 King Stallions.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Source: US Naval Air Systems Command

Lastly, here’s a short video of the King Stallion in action.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how GPS actually works – and why some devices might stop working

Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?


On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.

As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

A replica of Sputnik 1.

(NASA)

Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.

This got the wheels turning.

Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.

Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.

By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.

Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.

What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?

On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.

Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.

Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”

Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.

A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.

The attacking pilot described what happened next:

“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.

Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.

As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.

This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.

To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”

You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.

The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.

Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.

Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.

You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?

It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.

By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.

Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?

Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.

The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.

So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?

Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.

Boeing wins contract to keep the A-10 flying

Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.

So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.

Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.

For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.

If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.

At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.

Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.

The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.

Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.

However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.

That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.

Bonus Facts:

  • Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
  • Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
  • The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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