The 388th Fighter Wing set a speed record for bringing online a newly-delivered aircraft, flying a local sortie less than five hours after accepting delivery of its 68th F-35A Lightning II.
Aircraft 5261 left Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility a little after 8 a.m. Aug. 1, 2019, landed at Hill AFB at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had taken off on its first combat training mission.
“The F-35A program’s production and delivery plan was designed to allow rapid aircraft induction and quick use by the customers,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve shown the enterprise it’s possible.”
This isn’t just a “gee-whiz” record. In theory, it means that F-35As could be deployed directly from the factory into combat if a large-scale conflict ever drives that need, Miles said.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
When a new F-35A comes off the line at the production facility, it undergoes several contract and government check flights before the Air Force accepts final delivery. These flights generate data points that are collected in the Autonomic Logistics Information System and then passed on to the gaining unit, in this case the 388th FW.
The previous timeline for inducting new aircraft was measured in days and weeks, but process and system improvements in the data collection and transfer process bodes well for the future, said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Germany, July 23, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)
“We’ve been working toward this goal as the program has matured and this is great step, and a testament to the work of the folks at Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office, and the airmen in the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Munn said.
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35 units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. By the end of this year, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35s.
You don’t have to be a history buff to be familiar with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” photo — though its actual title is “V-J Day in Times Square.” It was taken hours before President Truman officially announced America’s victory in the Pacific War. The sailor in the photo happened to be on a date in New York City. He suddenly decided to celebrate by kissing the closest nurse — it’s just too bad his date wasn’t a nurse.
Authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria did an extensive background study on the photo in their 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor. Their extensive forensic analysis determined that sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman. Friedman was not prepared for the kiss. In later years, she admitted that she didn’t even see him coming and that the two were strangers.
Friedman was working in a dental office at nearby Lexington Avenue, and though the war hadn’t officially ended, the rumors around NYC were swirling that Imperial Japan was set to surrender. She went over to Time Square to read the latest news, and sure enough, the electronic tickers all read “V-J DAY, V-J DAY.” That’s when Mendonsa grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her in.
“It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she told a Veteran’s History Project Interview. “I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.”
He grabbed a nurse because he was so grateful to nurses who tended the wounded in the war. The good news was her bosses cancelled the rest of the appointments for the day. The bad news was she never knew the sailor’s name. She never even saw the photo until the 1960s. What she did know was that Mendonsa had been drinking (he was likely drunk).
Then-Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa was on 30 days leave from his ship, The Sullivans, at the time. He had been at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from the carrier Bunker Hill after it was hit by kamikaze attacks. It’s small wonder he was happy to not have to go back into combat.
He was on a date with his then-girlfriend, Rita Perry, a woman that would later become his wife, waiting for his train back to the West Coast and back to the war. That’s when he heard the news that the war was over.
Rita can be seen just over Mendonsa’s right shoulder.
Former Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa and his wife of 71 years, Rita, celebrate George’s 95th birthday.(Photo by Hal Burke)
By the time The Kissing Sailor hit bookshelves, Rita Perry (now Mendonsa) and George Mendonsa had been married for 66 years. When asked about her feelings being in the background of a famous photo of her husband, 95 years old as of 2018, kissing another woman, she said, “he’s never kissed me like that.”
For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.
Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”
The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.
Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.
(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”
Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”
Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.
Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”
Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”
Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer
A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.
“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.
“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.
Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.
“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
You’ve just proven yourself to the doubters and in your moment of triumph you turn and ask just one question: “How do you like them apples?” This phrase has been used for decades and has been made popular by films like Good Will Hunting and Rio Bravo, but where does it come from?
While many claim that the origin of this phrase is unknown, others claim that it comes straight from the trenches of World War I.
When developing the first armored fighting vehicles, the British didn’t want everyone to know what they were working on, so they called them ‘water tanks.’
World War I was, at the time, the largest international conflict ever. As such, troops came together from all kinds of backgrounds. As they intermingled, they picked up on dialects from other cities, countries, and continents and, as a result, a large number of new phrases were born from adapting elements of these different languages. It was during this same war that the first armored fighting vehicle was dubbed a ‘tank’ and anti-aircraft fire was called an ‘ack-ack.’
You can still find these on the internet because why not?
The origin behind “how do you like them apples” actually has nothing to do with apples and everything to do with mortars. Specifically, we’re talking about the British-made 2-inch medium mortar, better known as the “toffee apple.”
This mortar used a smoothbore muzzle loading (SBML) system that fit a 22-inch shaft with a spherical bomb on the end, which would be exposed from the tube. This mortar, like others, was designed specifically for dropping warheads on foreheads in enfilade, but found use in other areas of the war.
The spherical shape and low velocity meant that the warhead wouldn’t penetrate the ground prior to detonation, leaving shrapnel to devastate enemy forces. Unfortunately for its operators, the system had a fairly short range. Oftentimes, in order to land an explosion in enemy trenches, this system would need to be used from no man’s land — an extreme risk.
In addition, to clearing out enemy infantry, these bombs could be used to cut barbed wire fences and destroy enemy machine gun emplacements.
Though some say this term was used during the first World War, many others will tell you it wasn’t used until the 1959 classic, Rio Bravo. In the film, after chucking some explosives, a character remarks, “How do you like them apples?” Since then, it’s appeared in (and was arguably popularized by) Good Will Hunting.
Spouses in place of the member (not Civil Service or Contractor). Note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.
Unremarried Widows are entitled to their departed spouse’s discounts (not Civil Service or Contractor).
Foreign partners/Coalition partners stationed at a US base are eligible. They must have a permanent US Military issued ID (CAC card with blue stripe).
The Disney Armed Forces Salutes also offer outstanding discounts on Disney Resort rooms.
The Disney Armed Forces Salute is offered at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California and may be used at both during the Salute offer.
Salute admission tickets for the Disney theme parks
The Disney Armed Forces Salute offers special military tickets. These tickets are for a specified number of days and come in several varieties.
Qualified individuals may purchase up to a maximum of 6* theme park tickets per military member during the 2019 Salute offer periods.
One ticket must be used by the member or spouse, the rest can be used by anyone else.
These tickets are non-refundable.
The tickets are valid for the entire length of the offer periods (with certain excluded dates):
2019 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019
2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute – Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 19, 2020
Days on the tickets do not need to be used consecutively. Any days left on the tickets will expire at the end of each offer period. Tickets from 2019 cannot be used in 2020!
Tickets purchased at all military resellers (except Shades of Green) and not directly from Disney must be activated prior to first use in person by the military member or spouse. See Salute Ticket Activation Procedures
Once the tickets are activated the party may split up. For example some go to one park and some to another, or even use the tickets on different days. The Military ID is checked only upon ticket activation.
Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida
Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets come and in two types at WDW:
The Theme Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day
Note These tickets need to be activated at WDW prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide
Linking your military tickets to your My Disney Experience account does not activate your tickets! You will still need to do so at Disney with a valid military ID!
FastPass Plus – All military discounted tickets including the Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are able to be linked to your My Disney Experience account. You can then make your advance FP+ reservations the correct number of days ahead based on where you are staying.
Disney Resorts (including Shades of Green, Swan and Dolphin, and Disney Springs Hotels) – 60 Days
Non Disney Resorts – 30 Days
Day Guests – 30 Days
Disneyland in Anaheim California
At Disneyland Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are Park Hoppers and come in 3-day and 4-day lengths.
Disneyland 2020 Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):
April 12, 2019
These tickets can be purchased at Your local Base Ticket Office, or Disneyland Ticket Booths and Resort Hotels (for registered guests).
If you do not have a base near you see this page for other options.
Note These tickets need to be activated at Disneyland prior to entering a theme park, see: Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Activation – MDT’s How To Guide.
At Disneyland Salute Tickets are not valid for Magic Morning early entry admission.
* For families larger than 6, Disney states “Exceptions should be made for immediate families larger than six people.” For example, if a family has five children, Disney will allow all members of the family to purchase Disney Military Promotion Tickets, for Mom, Dad, and the five kids.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The B-2 Spirit is one of the most clandestine and rare planes in the world. Only 21 were ever built, and they reportedly have a stealth profile similar to that of a large bird despite their 170-foot wingspan. And they’re invisible to many infrared seekers, despite four large engines.
Here’s how engineers made a massive plane with large engines nearly invisible to systems designed to detect threats exactly like the B-2.
The B-2’s stealth profile is the result of extensive computer testing that wasn’t possible before its design. While the F-117 and B-1 were stealth aircraft, they were designed by nerds with slide rules and minimal computer modeling because the technology and the computers necessary simply didn’t exist.
But when it was time to design the B-2, the all-powerful nerds had super computers and leveraged them to create a model that had no flat surfaces with which to reflect radar directly back to the sensor. While a machine with no flat surfaces is harder to manufacture, the increase in stealth was deemed worthy of extra costs.
If the B-2 were flying directly towards the radar, most of the waves would actually be reflected 90 degrees away from the receiver, giving the radar operators next to nothing to work with.
But of course, the flying wing would lose most of its stealth if the engines were mounted outside of its high-tech form. So the engines were mounted inside with special openings for intake and exhaust that, again, would not reflect radar waves back to the dish.
It has a few (mostly classified) systems to help with this. The exact shape of the exhaust helps a lot, but it also cools its exhaust and mixes it with the outside air to create a final exhaust that is at nearly the same temperature as the air flowing into the intake.
This greatly frustrates pursuing missiles and fighters, but obviously still leaves it vulnerable if someone spots the plane and talks fighters into the vicinity to hunt it.
Anyone who has worked with most other jets knows that you can typically hear them before you see them, often by a matter of hundreds of feet. It’s the sound that lets you know to look for the plane, but the B-2’s tiny acoustic signature means that most observers on the ground won’t know there’s anything in the sky to look for.
Combined, this makes the B-2 a plane with little radar observability, that’s too quiet for most people on the ground to notice it flying nearby, and it gives off little heat, frustrating missiles and fighters sent to down it.
All of this still requires good pilots and planning. Determined defenders could use low-frequency radar waves and skilled fighters to hunt down a B-2 following a too-populated or well-defended route. But the last element of B-2 stealth comes from good intelligence, allowing pilots and planners to send the bombers in through relatively undefended routes or through routes the B-2 can defeat.
Because that’s a big part of the B-2’s mission. It’s not supposed to act as the primary bomber in most circumstances. It’s a first-wave attacker, clearing the air defenses on the ground and opening “alleys” for less stealthy aircraft. Ideally, they get a picture of the air defenses they will attack from reconnaissance aircraft like the RC-135 and are then able to dismantle them piece by piece.
But the B-2 can and has been sent against other targets, including bunkers in Iraq housing command and control elements during the invasion of that country. This is particularly useful when planners need to eliminate a target too early in the timeline to dismantle the air network first.
After all, if an enemy commander shows himself at a rally in the capital during an air campaign, you aren’t going to wait for the B-2s to finish opening the air corridors, you’re just going to send in B-2s to the final target (or you send B-1s if the B-2s can’t get there in time). You can get the radars later.
And that’s what’s so great about the B-2. While the plane costs more dollars per hour of flight than many others and carries fewer bombs than planes like the B-52 and B-1, it can hit targets that few other platforms can, largely because of its amazing stealth.
In back, from left to right, Maj. Gen. Matthew P. Beevers, WO1 Ge Xiong, CW2 Irvin Hernandez, CW5 Kipp Goding, CW5 Joseph Rosamond, CW2 Brady Hlebain, Sgt. Cameron Powell, and Sgt. George Esquivel Jr. (White House)
Earlier this week, the Creek Fire had burned over 200,000 acres, prompted multiple evacuation orders, and trapped hundreds of people. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and activated the California National Guard to support efforts to combat the wildfires and conduct rescues. On September 5, two California National Guard aircrews braved the high winds, thick smoke, and scorching flames to rescue more than 200 people trapped in campgrounds by the fire. On September 14, Chief Warrant Officers Joseph Rosamond, Kipp Goding, Irvin Hernandez, Brady Hlebain, Ge Xiong; and Sergeants George Esquival Jr. and Cameron Powell were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions by President Trump.
President Trump presents the soldiers with their awards. (White House)
On September 5, helicopters of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade were flying in support of firefighting efforts against the Creek Fire. That evening, a UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook crew were tasked with rescuing families trapped by the fire at the Mammoth Pool Campground. En route to the rescue site, state, local, and headquarters officials notified the crews that the mission was too dangerous and instructed them to turn back. However, with selfless determination, both crews continued their mission of mercy into the smoke and flames.
Night set in and, coupled with the thick black smoke rising from the fire below, visibility was nearly zero. Using their night vision goggles, expert flying skill, and professional coordination and teamwork, the aircrews reached the campground. They loaded as many of the victims as they could, many of whom were injured and badly burned, onto the two helicopters and began the perilous flight back through the smoke.
Upon returning and unloading their passengers, they turned right around and made a second rescue flight. After their second return, they were told not to conduct further rescues that night. “You cannot do this,” a supervisor told them. “You cannot do it again.” They did. The third flight was made through even thicker smoke as the fire burned hard into the night. Despite this, both crews successfully completed a grueling 10-hour mission and rescued 242 people.
Dozens of evacuees aboard the Chinook on the night of September 5 (CA National Guard)
Less than 48 hours after the Mammoth Pool mission, both crews flew another treacherous aerial rescue mission. On the first two attempts, the fire forced them to turn back and they were again advised not to proceed. “You must abort the mission,” they were told by officials. They chose to make a third attempt and successfully rescued another 50 people. In the week following these rescues, both crews have continued to fly missions to save stranded individuals threatened by the fire. Their bravery and valor distinguished them and earned them the nation’s highest flying honor.
At a ceremony held at a CAL FIRE Hangar in McClellan Park, CA, all seven soldiers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Trump. Behind them were the aircraft that they skillfully crewed into the fire on their rescues. In attendance were distinguished guests including Major General Matthew Beevers, Representatives Doug LaMalfa, Tom McClintock, and Greg Walden, and Governor Gavin Newsom.
The aircraft crewed by the awardees (White House)
President Trump praised the soldiers for the selfless service and dedication to duty. “Our nation is strong because of remarkable individuals like these service members. In the midst of our greatest trials and biggest challenges, America prevails because of the brave and selfless patriots who risk everything so that they may save lives of people, in many cases, that they don’t know,” the President said. “Today, our country honors their courage, and we are inspired by their example, and we thank God for the blessing and all our blessings that you’re safe.”
Following the President’s remarks, the orders were posted awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross to CW5 Rosamond, CW5 Goding, CW2 Hlebain, CW2 Hernandez, WO1 Ge Xiong, Sgt. Esquivel Jr., and Sgt. Powell. The actions of these brave soldiers reflect the American spirit of strength and perseverance through adversity. President Trump recognized this when he told the soldiers, “Your unyielding determination lifts our nation. You’re what makes our nation great.”
It’s time to put your politics away for a moment and prepare yourselves for the most badass service secretary since Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. President Trump nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the Air Force’s new civilian leader. She already has close ties to the Air Force as a former administrator at the FAA and board member of the Aerospace Corporation.
Even though outgoing SecAF Heather Wilson was an Air Force officer and Barrett has never served in the Air Force, Barrett is still an accomplished aviator, scholar, and astronaut.
I wanted to make a joke about how much more accomplished and awesome she is than every previous SecAF, but have you seen the resumes of these people? Air Force Secretaries are the real Illuminati.
Except I guarantee Barbara Barrett can take all four of these guys in a fistfight.
Time will tell if Barrett will take the job. The lawyer turned Harvard-educated diplomat is probably busy heading the boards of some of the most influential and brilliant institutions of our time, including the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Smithsonian Institution, and the RAND Corporation. But the former Ambassador to Finland founded the Valley Bank of Arizona, partnered at a large law firm in her native Arizona, and worked at the top levels for Fortune 500 companies before age 30 – at a time when many women were relegated to getting coffee for middle management.
But let’s talk about feats of strength and athleticism that will win her the respect of all the troops, not just the ones under her command. An accomplished aviator, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, she’s an inductee in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and even trained with the Russians in Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a 2009 international spaces station mission.
Back on Earth, she’s just as impressive. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Barrett didn’t stop there. As Ambassador to Finland, she biked hundreds of kilometers all around the country.
That’s a service secretary you can get behind… which you’ll have to because most of us would have trouble keeping up.
In August 1944, the successes of D-Day were in the rear-view mirror and American troops were engaged in the long slog to Berlin. One group of American soldiers got a surprise when, while chasing German soldiers east, they captured a military train only to find that sections of it were filled with lingerie, perfume, and other treats.
(Chris Tingom, CC BY 2.0)
After Allied troops took the beachheads at D-Day, there were optimistic predictions that they could take Berlin by Christmas. But it wasn’t to be. It took weeks just to fight through the hedgerows of Normandy, and Germany stiffened its resistance everywhere possible.
Free French forces, resistance members, and British and American units maneuvered east, trying to keep as much pressure on German troops as they could.
As the line shifted east, German troops would burn supplies they were abandoning, but tried to keep vehicles, especially tanks, in good working order, so they could use them to kill American and other Allied soldiers. So the attackers quickly learned to seize as much as they could whenever possible.
German armored troops roll through Denmark in April 1940.
(Danish Ministry of Defence)
As June ground into July and then August, the push east accelerated. Paris was liberated and, on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a parade into the city.
About that time, the 3rd Armored Division was pushing to Soissons, a city 55 miles northeast of Paris. German soldiers pulling back were using railroads to quickly move equipment but, according to a story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers, one unit had overestimated how long it had to load onto the train and get going.
When U.S. troops arrived, they saw a train preparing to roll out with tanks and armored vehicles loaded onto it. Every armored vehicle that escaped would need to be killed in eastern France, Belgium, or Germany. The train had to be stopped.
U.S. troops fire their machine gun during battle in Aachen, Germany.
U.S. tanks and half-tracks opened fire as machine gunners and mortarmen rushed into position. Most of their rounds were bouncing off the German armor, but the sheer volume of fire was keeping German drivers and crew out of their vehicles, allowing American troops to keep the upper hand.
Most of the Germans who stayed to fight were killed or captured, and those who escaped into the woods were rounded up by the French resistance. The Germans had dallied too long, and now the train belonged to the U.S. troops.
When they began assessing their find, they were surprised to find little ammunition, medical supplies, or food, all materiel that they needed. Instead, the Germans had loaded the train with candy, women’s lingerie, and lipstick.
It appeared that the German soldiers had raided French shops and, when it came time to run, had prioritized gifts for girlfriends and family over packing or destroying their own supplies, getting a faster exit to save the vehicles, or even just absconding with their lives and arms.
A woman writes a message on a U.S. tank in Belgium
Their mistake was U.S. gain. The 3rd Armored took the vehicles, other U.S. troops seized millions of pounds of beef, grain, flour, coal, and more. Many items were given to the French public to alleviate shortages caused by Nazi occupation, but other items were pressed into the war effort to keep American troops moving.
Ambrose doesn’t reveal what happened to the love train’s more romantic contents, but it’s likely that some of it made it back to the states in reverse care packages, but most of it probably stayed right there in France, consumed by the people lucky enough to get their hands on it.
The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Sept. 16, 2019.
Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, “ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail!” A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.
“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.”
The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.
“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. “The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities.”
Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.
Two Boeing T-X trainers.
The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.
“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”
A .2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.
The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A central tenet of Iran’s Persian Gulf naval defenses is the use of speedboats — lots and lots of speedboats. The tactic is so widespread that retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, in command of the fictional Iranian navy, used explosives-laden speedboats to take on the U.S. Navy in a massive war game in 2002. He won that war game and managed to sink an entire carrier battle group.
One of those Iranian speedboats — run by the very real Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — recently encountered the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, and filmed the entire episode.
The crew of the IRGC naval vessel filmed the massive American aircraft carrier as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz. The whole of the video was aired on Iranian state television.
The waterway is the passage for nearly a third of all the world’s oil shipping and the United States maintains a naval presence there as a means of keeping the way open for use by everyone. Meanwhile, the Islamic republic has recently been the target of economic sanctions from the Trump Administration.
The video also shows Iranian sailors taking high-resolution photos of the ship with a very, very long lens as American helicopters hover overhead. Sailors can be seen walking on the flight deck next to American fighter and intelligence aircraft. With a fleet of other speedboats in tow, the video shows the reality of serving in the Persian Gulf, as two ideological adversaries share the same body of water during a tense international standoff.
Iran had a similar encounter with the Theodore Roosevelt in the past, using a drone to shadow the carrier in 2017 and came close to threatening the lives of American F-18 pilots. The most egregious encounter came when Iran captured 10 American sailors in 2016 that they said drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
Photos of that capture were also broadcast on state television.
The video aired on Iranian state television as part of a documentary about the situation in the Persian Gulf. It’s thought by many to be a show of strength in the face of tough American sanctions as the Trump Administration slashes at Iranian oil exports.
In the days leading up to the latest NATO summit, President Donald Trump was harshly critical of the contributions made by other NATO members, especially in comparison to the United States. But when called on to start a new mission in post-ISIS Iraq focused on civil-military planning, vehicle maintenance, and explosives disposal, NATO stood up.
Whether this development comes because of meetings among North American and European leaders at recent G7 and NATO summits is unclear. Coming away from June 2018’s G7 summit, President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as both “dishonest” and “weak.” At the most recent NATO meeting, Trump claimed Germany was a Russian client state due, primarily, to energy partnerships with Russian gas providers.
The 2018 NATO summit was focused primarily on how the alliance would foot the bills for its actions everywhere in the world. The United States demands the members of the alliance increase their contributions to an agreed-upon two percent of GDP, while the U.S. maintains its 3.5-percent contribution.
“Because of me, they’ve raised billion over the last year, so I think the Secretary General [of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg,] likes Trump,” the President of the United States said after the summit. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”
Another result of the summit was a British pledge to double the number of UK troops in Afghanistan. Canada will also contribute helicopters to the NATO mission in Iraq.
Kandahar, Afghanistan. 12 February, 2002. For the first time since the end of the Korean War, Canadians relieve Americans in a combat zone.
(Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera)
“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada currently spends 1.23 percent of its output on the alliance, but its commitment requires it to move up to two percent by 2024, an agreement signed by Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper. Canada’s special forces are also training and assisting Kurdish fighters still battling the Islamic State.