The truth about the Pentagon's 'shrimp fight club' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

With a $716 billion budget and the mission to be the best at everything, the Pentagon finds some pretty creative ways of going about it. No, they didn’t have an actual underground boxing club among the military’s highest-ranking chiefs at the Pentagon (that we know of), but they did have some experiments that could have proven fruitful in giving America’s enemies a black eye.

The only problem is that Congress found out about it. That’s why the first rule is not to talk about it.


The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

The Mantis Shrimp, club cocked (more on that later).

In 2015, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake decided he was going to take on wasteful spending, releasing a Wastebookthat detailed what he believed was government spending run amok.

Quoting the movie Fight Club, Flake says, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have,” in the Wastebook, which is titled The Farce Awakens. Flake is referring to a 6,800 research grant given to Duke University researchers, who allegedly used it to pit 68 Panamanian mantis shrimp against each other to see who would win and why.

“To see so much money so outlandishly wasted, it’s clear that Washington’s ballyhooing over budget austerity is a farce,” Flake said. “Hopefully, this report gives Congress – which only ever seems to agree when it comes to spending money – something to Chewie on before the taxpayers strike back.”

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

This is the cover of the wastebook, no joke.

But the study wasn’t really useless, as it turns out. In fact, there’s an entire field of science called biomimetics dedicated to the idea of solving human problems with abilities and designs from animals found in nature. Duke University was doing research in just that vein. So far, they’ve been able to harness the mantis shrimp’s weapons and armor for human needs. It turns out the mantis shrimp (neither mantis nor shrimp) is one of the ocean’s premier brawlers.

The study didn’t really spend 0,000 on a fight club of shrimp. The grant covered the entire span of research on the mantis shrimp. What they discovered is a roving tank on the ocean floor. Its two main appendages act as underwater clubs to knock its prey out in a single punch – and that punch is what had the researchers so fascinated.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Did you see that? I doubt it. Read on!

The mantis shrimp punch goes from an underwater standing start to 50mph in the blink of an eye. It generates 1,500 newtons of force, the equivalent of a 340-pound rock hitting you in the face. If a human could manage 1/10th of that force with its arms, we’d be chucking baseballs into low Earth orbit. To top it all off, those clubs pop out with the velocity of a .22-caliber bullet (one that isn’t underwater) and the sudden change in water pressure causes the water around them to boil at several thousand degrees Kelvin. If the punch doesn’t kill the prey, the punch’s shockwave still can.

But wait, there’s more.

The researchers also wanted to know how mantis shrimp defend against this kind of attack – how their natural armor protects them from other mantis shrimp super weapons. This punch goes right through the shells worn by crabs and clams as well as the natural protections of some species of fish (and aquarium glass, FYI. In case you’re thinking you want one). The clubs themselves are also intensely durable, maintaining their performance throughout the mantis shrimp’s lifespan.

Its primary weapon is a complex system of three main regions, all lightweight and durable, tougher than many engineered ceramics. Civilian applications could improve the performance of cars and airplanes while military applications include body armor and armor for vehicles and potentially aircraft.

“That’s the holy grail for materials engineers,” said University of California professor and researcher David Kisailus, who is pioneering such studies these days.

MIGHTY GAMING

6 video game features coming to real combat

Video games way oversold the military. Shooter after shooter and strategy game after strategy game promised a career filled with Firebats and thermonuclear grenades, but the actual military turned out to be a lot of hard work using basic tools. Where are the cybernetics and robots and zombie plants?

Turns out, “they’re” working on it. Here are 6 features of video games coming to real combat. Given, you know, the programs are successful


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Can’t wait until my future robot partner takes a human hostage and then gives me a creepy wink during the standoff.

Robot partners

What it is: In futuristic games like Titanfall, infantrymen go in with squads of robot soldiers that can carry their own weapons, drawing fire away from their human counterparts and slaying enemy forces like steel grim reapers.

Who’s making it real: DARPA (yeah, they’re going to come up a lot in this article) has the “Agile Teams” program which is tasked with creating mathematical models for assessing human-machine teams and looking for the best balance. Since programs to allow humans and machines work together on the battlefield already exist, DARPA is basically trying to build the measuring stick to assess those teams and improve them before they’re deployed.

In important note: Agile Teams isn’t only, or even mostly, about performance in ground combat. They’re also looking at how to pair robots and humans in analyzing intelligence, fighting a cyber battle, or conducting electronic warfare.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

A soldier practices firing with an AimLock system.

(U.S. Army Angie Depuydt)

Aim assist

What it is: Most shooters, even ones that don’t advertise it, have some kind of “aim assist” built into gameplay. Through these systems, the computer makes the shooter just a little more accurate either by moving the targeting reticle slightly towards the enemy when the trigger is pulled or by curving bullets slightly towards targets, counting near-misses as hits.

Who’s making it real: Two groups are actually working on this. The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is working on AimLock, which basically takes the two major parts of the weapon (the upper and lower receivers), and separates the upper receiver from the rifleman’s direct control. The shooter pulls the trigger when they’re aimed at their target, the software and motors point the upper receiver at the target, and the round is fired.

Another program in development with the Army Research Lab re-purposes technology originally designed for stroke victims to reduce tremors. In the Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization program, new shooters are attached to a machine that stabilizes their arm while firing, dampening all the little tremors that make a big difference at hundreds of yards. Best of all, the program is shows results — even after the equipment is removed. Firers are becoming 15 percent more accurate after using and then removing MAXFAS.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Autonomous drones

What it is: In games like Warframe and Borderlands 2, players can work side by side with a murderous drone that kills enemy combatants, seeking out its own targets and watching the life slowly seep out of their human eyes.

Who’s making it real: To be fair, autonomous drones are already real, but they’re mostly good for vain athletes who want their drone to automatically take selfies. This NATO article summarizes a number of programs, mostly U.S. ones, for everything from autonomous wingmen for human pilots to drone swarms for the Air Force, Navy, and Army (yeah, it’s like KitKats — everyone wants a piece).

One fact that the military is generally quick to point out, though, is that all autonomous systems both in development and currently operational, have a “human-in-the-loop” system, meaning that the AI can only recommend targets, it cannot approve lethal action on its own. A human has to give the kill order.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Autonomous supply and medevac drops

What it is: In video games, you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for a requested resupply to come in. Turn on a lunar beacon in Borderlands 2? Your gear will slam into the ground within seconds. Just Cause 3 lets you select a customized supply loadout, from guns to helicopters, and have it delivered within seconds.

Who’s making it real: DARPA, but getting helicopters airdropped is still beyond the plan. The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System would result in remotely driven aircraft that could fly to and from battlefields with different pods useful for different purposes. The Marine Corps actually has an experimental supply drone helicopter built on a Bell UH-1H.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Graphic summarizing the Active Plant Technologies program.

(DARPA)

Bio-defense plants

What it is: From Final Fantasy‘s cactaurs to Plants vs. Zombies entire arsenal, video games have lots of examples of awesome plants. Plant 42 from Resident Evil can even eat humans and, potentially, turn them into zombies.

Who’s making it real: While DARPA is shamefully refusing to investigate the strengths of the T-virus in plant life, they are working with industry to propel the Advanced Plant Technologies program, where plants are modified to act as sensors, changing physical traits when in the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiations, or electromagnetic signals. So, if you want to know whether the Wizard of Oz is still making nukes, just check the poppy fields.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Tactical Augmented Reality System screenshot

(U.S. Army)

Heads-up displays

What it is: Nearly every first person shooter has a heads up display, a bit of information on the screen with everything from a minimap to an ammo count. See: Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, etc.

Who’s making it real: Lots of groups are working on different aspects of it, but the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center and the Army Research Lab have debuted a pretty impressive prototype called Tactical Augmented Reality that can display the locations of allies and known adversaries as well as comms info and navigation.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The reason LEGO cancelled its V-22 Osprey set

On July 21, 2020, LEGO announced that the upcoming LEGO Technic V-22 Osprey had been cancelled. Set number 42113 was an officially licensed model of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft used by the US Navy, Marines, Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces.


Despite being just 10 days away from its August 1 release date, LEGO pulled the Osprey from its website and announced that shipments of the new set would not go out to retailers. In their official statement, LEGO said:

The LEGO Technic Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey was designed to highlight the important role the aircraft plays in search and rescue efforts. While the set clearly depicts how a rescue version of the plane might look, the aircraft is only used by the military. We have a long-standing policy not to create sets which feature real military vehicles, so it has been decided not to proceed with the launch of this product. We appreciate that some fans who were looking forward to this set may be disappointed, but we believe it’s important to ensure that we uphold our brand values.

LEGO’s policy of not making sets based on military vehicles goes back to its very beginning. In fact, the original LEGO brick colors in the 1950s didn’t even include grey because LEGO feared that they could be used to make military vehicles like tanks.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Orange trim wasn’t enough to distance the V-22 from its military use (LEGO)

In recent years, LEGO has limited the scope of their military restriction to modern military vehicles. This allowed them to create sets based on historic military vehicles like the WWI-era Sopwith Camel biplane and Fokker Dr.1 triplane.

Licensed IPs like Indiana Jones and Star Wars have also allowed LEGO to make sets with military themes that weren’t modern or real. Indiana Jones set number 7198 included an armed Pilatus P-2 with Luftwaffe markings from The Last Crusade and set number 7683 featured the fictional Nazi flying wing bomber from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Under the Star Wars license, LEGO has created molds for fictional blasters that come from the galaxy far, far away.

However, while LEGO has not released a licensed modern military set, it has released some that bear striking resemblances to modern military vehicles. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets have featured vehicles that look remarkably like the AH-64 Apache (31023), F-14 Tomcat (4953), Rafale M (5892), F-35 Lightning II (31039) and even the V-22 (31020). LEGO City set number 60021 City Cargo Heliplane is a dedicated set that also bears a striking resemblance to the V-22. The main difference between the aforementioned sets and the cancelled V-22 seems to be the official licensing by Bell and Boeing, who make the real-life aircraft.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

It looks like a V-22, but it isn’t (LEGO)

In July, the German Peace Society issued a warning against LEGO releasing the licensed V-22. Despite rebranding of the aircraft in the set to make it a search and rescue aircraft, the German Peace Society released a statement saying:

On 1. August 2020 LEGO® plans to release its first ever military set while internal corporate value documents forbid the production of current military vehicles. The German DFG-VK also criticises the license placed on the set. With every buy, customers help to finance arms companies.

Despite the set being ready for release with advertisements and stock ready to go, LEGO has marked all packaged sets of the V-22 for return to circulation. While LEGO stores will never receive the set, some smaller retailers did receive their first orders early and buyers have been quick to scoop up the rare sets. New Zealand seems to have received the most shipments as Ebay listings for the V-22 all ship from New Zealand and are selling for well over id=”listicle-2646785825″,000. Some retailers are even returning their stock to LEGO rather than selling them.

While this turn of events has been a major disappointment for LEGO fans, the fact that the set got so close to release can be seen as a sign of things to come. While the V-22 is used exclusively by armed forces, it’s not unreasonable to think that military aircraft with civilian variants like the C-130 Hercules or the CH-47 Chinook might be turned into licensed LEGO sets in the future.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Commercials were filmed and ready. Note the “Rescue” markings. (LEGO)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Apparently Russia can’t even afford Putin’s problematic nuclear cruise missile

Russia can’t afford its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which still doesn’t work right and may not be combat ready for another decade, CNBC reports, citing US intelligence assessments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly boasted last year that the weapon could skirt enemy defenses and fly indefinitely, giving it unlimited range, but the farthest this missile has ever flown in testing is 22 miles.

The most recent test took place in late January 2019, The Diplomat reported in early February 2019, noting that Russia had decided to restart testing after a pause last summer.


The test was apparently only “partially successful,” The Diplomat explained, indicating that the weapon still doesn’t function as intended. No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea many years ago.

US intelligence currently assesses it might be another decade before the Burevestnik cruise missile is ready for combat, but even then, Russia is expected to only produce a few of these potentially powerful missiles because they are too expensive for the country to develop, CNBC reports.

This certainly isn’t the first superweapon Russia has hyped up that turned out to be unobtainable due to budget limitations.

Russia unveiled its hard-hitting T-14 Armata tank at the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade, where one embarrassingly broke down and had to be towed away during rehearsal.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Russian T-14 Armata tank.

Russia had initially planned to mass produce and field as many as 2,300 Armatas by 2025, but that number was reduced to 100, as the cost of this state-of-the-art tank, which includes an unmanned turret and other expensive features, was way over budget.

Instead of buying more Armatas, Russia opted to upgrade and improve its older T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks, capable armor units but definitely nothing like what Russia promised for the Armatas.

The country decided to do the same with its fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter.

Rather than mass produce the aircraft, which was built to take down the US F-35s, Russia instead chose to purchase only a limited number and focus on improving its fourth-generation fighters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.


The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.

The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.

But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Behenna after his 2014 parole.

It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.

After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.

But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.

The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force installs 3-D printed metallic part on F-22 for the first time

In December 2018, 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers installed a metallic 3D printed part on an operational F-22 Raptor during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base.

“One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft,” said Robert Lewin, 574th AMXS director.


The use of 3D printing gives maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities. This not only saves taxpayer dollars, but reduces the time the aircraft is in maintenance.

The printed bracket will not corrode and is made using a powder bed fusion process that utilizes a laser to build the part layer by layer from a titanium powder. A new bracket can be ordered and delivered to the depot for installation as quickly as three days.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

A new metallic 3D printed part alongside the aluminum part it will replace on an F-22 Raptor during depot repair at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan 16, 2019. The new titanium part will not corrode and can be procured faster and at less cost than the conventionally manufactured part.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

The printed part replaces a corrosion-prone aluminum component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit that is replaced 80 percent of the time during maintenance.

“We had to go to engineering, get the prints modified, we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing — which isn’t that much, that is why we chose a secondary part,” said Robert Blind, Lockheed Martin modifications manager.

The part will be monitored while in service and inspected when the aircraft returns to Hill AFB for maintenance. If validated, the part will be installed on all F-22 aircraft during maintenance.

“We’re looking to go a little bit further as this part proves itself out,” said Blind.

The printed titanium bracket is only the first of many metallic additive manufactured parts planned through public-private partnerships. There are at least five more metallic 3D printed parts planned for validation on the F-22.

“Once we get to the more complicated parts, the result could be a 60-70 day reduction in flow time for aircraft to be here for maintenance,” said Lewin.

This will enable faster repair and reduce the turnaround, returning the aircraft back to the warfighter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

Articles

This is the history behind the Navy’s ‘dixie cup’

The Navy’s famous “dixie cup” is one of the most iconic symbols worn in the military today. You can spot a sailor from a mile away who’s wearing the traditional white cover.


Historically speaking, the familiar headgear wasn’t the first worn by the brave men and women who man their battle stations.

According to the Blue Jacket manual, so-called “flat hats” were first authorized in 1852 and became the standard cover for sailors throughout the American Civil War.

Related: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
These two sailors wearing the classic flat hats and enjoying cigars were assigned to the destroyer USS McDougal during the Great War in 1918. (Source: Robert F. Dorr Collection photo)

The flat hats were made from dark blue wool and commonly featured an embroidered headband of the ship name the sailor belonged to on the front of the brim. Reportedly, that feature ended in January 1941 to make it harder for adversaries to learn the what U.S. ships were in port. The ship’s names were replaced with a U.S. Navy embroidery instead.

In 1866, a white sennet straw hat was authorized to be worn during the summer months to help shield the hardworking sailors from the bright sunlight.

But it wasn’t until 1886 where a high-domed, low rolled brim made of wedge-shaped pieces of canvas was written into uniform regulation.

Also Read: This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Keith Oliver (left) evaluates his sailors during a service dress blues uniform inspection. (Source Wikipedia Commons)

Eventually, the canvas material was replaced by a cheaper, more comfortable cotton. This option became popular with the sailors who wore them as they could bend the cover to reflect their individual personality — and still be within regs.

It’s unclear exactly when the term “dixie cup” was coined, but since the popular paper product made its public debut in the early 1900s, it’s likely that’s when the term was coined.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Survivor Tree’ is the only living thing to come out of the 9/11 rubble

More than a month following the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center, rescue workers found a life under the rubble, still holding on. It was a pear tree, Its roots and branches were twisted and broken, but all hope was not lost. The rescue workers decided to save this life too.


The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

The small tree was removed from Ground Zero and sent to a nursery in the Bronx. Even though it was still alive and in the hands of caring professionals, there was little hope for its continued survival. For years, New York’s Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park took care of the Callery pear tree. By 2010, the staff thought the sturdy tree might survive being replanted once more – back at Ground Zero.

Now known as the “Survivor Tree,” it was replanted at the site of its near-demise once more as part of a 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in 2010. The tree is far from perfect, as one can clearly see the memory of the trauma the tree once suffered. Its new branches shoot off of a stump that reminds all of New York and the United States that wounds can heal, but memories remain.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

The tree, found at 911 Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan, still survives. In its new home, the tree grows more and more as time goes on, thriving in the same soil where it nearly died along with some 3,000 American civilians and first responders. What’s most unique about this memorial is that it shares the hope of survival with communities that experience devastating losses in their own way.

The 9/11 Memorial gives three seedlings from the Survivor Tree to communities coping with tragedy of all kinds. The seedlings are then planted as a sign of hope and the possibilities of renewal and recovery. Seedlings from the Survivor Tree have been sent all over the world.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

Boston’s 9/11 Survivor Tree Sapling was planted at the Boston Public Gardens.

Boston, Mass., in honor of the three people killed in the bombing at its marathon on
April 15, 2013.

Prescott, Ariz., in honor of the 19 firefighting members of the Granite Mountain
Hotshots who died on June 30, 2013. The fires in Arizona resulted in the highest
number of American firefighters killed in a single incident since 9/11.

Gulfport, Miss., to remember those who died in the region devastated by Hurricane
Katrina in August 2005.

Newtown, Conn., in memory of the 20 school children and six adults who were killed
on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Joplin, Mo., in memory of the more than 150 people killed and more than 1,000 injured by a tornado in Joplin on May 22, 2011. The seedling for Joplin will be planted at Mercy Hospital Joplin, which was in the direct path of the tornado.

Madrid, Spain, in memory of the 2004 coordinated terror bombings against the
Cercanías commuter train system of Madrid that killed 190 people and wounded 1,800.
The actual planting of the tree is expected to take place at Spain’s embassy in
Washington, D.C. Madrid is the first international recipient in the program.

Orlando, Fl., in memory of the 49 people killed and 58 injured at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. The seedling has been planted at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.

• The country of France, in memory of the 139 people killed and 368 people injured in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, and the 86 people killed and 434 injured in the Bastille Day attacks in Nice on July 14, 2016. The seedling has been planted in Paris, France.

Manchester, England, in memory of the 22 people, including young adults and children, who were killed by a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Charleston, S.C., in memory of the nine people killed in a shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

• The country of Haiti, which was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. will accept the Survivor Tree seedling on behalf of its country.

Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people in February 2018, including students and staff members, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

London, in memory of those who lost their lives, and on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and all those affected by the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

Puerto Rico, after the catastrophic Hurricane Maria, which left an estimated 2,975 people dead in its wake.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Employer support makes activation easier for soldiers

As the number of states impacted by the coronavirus pandemic increased, so did the number of soldiers activated to respond. Mobilizing personnel from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard meant civilian companies would have a deficit in its workforce, a known commitment attached to employers who hire talent from the reserve component. It can also lead to economic hardship for those who take a pay cut to fulfill military obligations — except for employees working in an environment with pro-military employment policies.


PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as an example, employs over 1,500 veterans — with several activated as part of the COVID-19 response. In addition to maintaining the jobs of those called to active duty, PwC compensates them with 100% of their pay. Within its ranks, soldiers received notification they would be serving in various capacities, such as:

  • Providing epidemiological intelligence
  • Deploying medical resources
  • Helping stage combat hospitals in communities around the country

Capt. Paul Spranger, a PwC Senior Associate, is a staff officer with the Indiana Army National Guard. At the onset of the COVID-19 response, he said several of his colleagues were called to service in one capacity or another, leading different project teams to adjust responsibilities to accommodate them getting pulled in. At the time, Spranger was preparing epidemiological threat intelligence reports to advise his team on secondary and tertiary effects on disease transmission models.

He heard portions of his unit were being activated, then got the call himself for an operations officer-in-charge role for a patient transport task force.

“We have a number of areas within the state of Indiana that have limited capacity in order to transport patients from one care facility to another and as a consequence, essentially they needed additional help to move some of those patients in the event that the hospital system couldn’t facilitate the additional surge in patients,” Spranger said. “So, what I’m doing day to day is planning to prepare all of our different elements and all the different districts in the state of Indiana that have this need, and pre-positioning ambulance assets around the state. And then managing their movements and ensuring those areas have the coverage they need.”

He says soldiers are “ready to respond” to this sort of event.

“I’ve always been in a staff officer type role, and so as a consequence this is very similar — one of the essential elements of an operation that really never really changes. It’s just a lot of administrative, logistical, lots of planning and things like that, so it’s just a matter of putting the right talent — just like the civilian sector — in the right places to do the job that they know how to do,” he said.

PwC launched a Veteran’s Affinity Network in 2008 to support veterans in the workplace. The group, which is led by Lt. Col. Tim Stoner, has grown to more than 1,000 active members and 20 chapters. He said having such a resource makes transition easier on employees leaving active duty or returning to a civilian job after a combat deployment.

Stoner, a PwC Partner, is the commander of the 55th Medical Detachment in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through his civilian position at PwC he works with clients in cybersecurity, but it is aligned to the healthcare vertical. He sees crossover between his careers in and out of uniform.

“Both of those things have strong synergies with the military. From a cybersecurity perspective, everything we do in the military really revolves from a security perspective from three pillars: information security, operational security, and physical security. So, I think a lot of our military members have that in their DNA just based on service to the country and I think that plays well on my civilian career,” Stoner said.

Throughout the COVID-19 response, he had a dual–capacity role with evening calls and weekend duty to prepare the unit he commands for stateside support. He mobilized three teams to three different hot spots to stage Combat Support Hospitals on the east and west coasts. Logistically, he said, this mobilization “has been very easy” because FEMA had the lead on the national response.

Stoner has served in the Army for 32 years across all components, and says this pandemic is unlike anything he has seen.

“It’s unique. I’ve been called up and served many times — been overseas, been mobilized, been deployed. It’s usually with something that’s maybe known or seen, or is traumatic in result — that’s maybe more visible or palpable, if that makes sense,” he said. “We (the military) are great at emergency medicine and trauma medicine, and things like that, but this is obviously a different type of threat where it’s unlike anything I’ve done. It’s less traumatic and dramatic than maybe some of my combat tours, but this is equally as critical and life-taking, as we all know.”

Stoner adds the support from PwC has been “tremendous,” at every step from local levels up the chain to the CEO.

“We have a very supportive military lead policy as well as great things that support our folks, from flexible work arrangements, certainly to child care, emergency support and elder care support for families in need. Mental health resources and capabilities. I’ve never been in a consultancy that has this level of support for their people.”

Visit https://www.pwc.com/us/en/careers/why-pwc/military-veterans.html to learn about career opportunities at PwC for military and veterans.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the contenders flying off to replace the A-10

This past summer, four planes took to the air in a fly-off run by the United States Air Force. This flyoff was part of the OA-X program, intended to provide a replacement for the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support aircraft.


This program has a tall order. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the A-10 Thunderbolt packs a 30mm GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling gun with at least 1,174 rounds of ammo. The Warthog can also carry up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-65 Maverick missiles, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, dumb bombs, rocket pods, and even AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

So, what are these contenders? According to an August report by Popular Mechanics, they are the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, the Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano, the Textron Scorpion, and the Air Tractor AT-802U.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the AT-6 Wolverine is a variant of the T-6 Texan II used by the United States Air Force and United States Navy. The Wolverine can carry gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns or 20mm cannon, rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and 500-pound bombs, including JDAMs and Paveway laser-guided bombs.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
AT-6B Wolverine. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano is also based on a primary trainer. Globalsecurity.org notes that the Super Tucano has wing-mounted machine guns, and can also drop 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, fire rockets, and even tow targets.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

One late entry to the flyoff is the AT-802U Longsword. This is based not on a trainer, but a cropduster. According to MilitaryEdge.com, this cropduster carries just over 8,100 pounds of ordnance, and comes with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, so it can bring some BRRRRRT to the table.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
Air Tractor AT-802U Longsword. (Wikimedia Commons)

Last, but not least, there is the Textron Scorpion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this plane can carry 9,100 pounds of ordnance, and it is also capable of reaching a top speed of 518 miles per hour, and has a range of 2,761 miles. This plane is a bit more complex than its propeller-driven competitors, but it does offer performance.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

In any case, though, it seems that these planes still don’t do what the A-10 can. Perhaps the only replacement for the Warthog will be… another Warthog. In the meantime, check out a video on the OA-X program below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSho8SgE1r8
Jobs

Great pilot jobs: one more reason the Air Force has a pilot shortage

Becoming a commercial or airline pilot is a natural transition for any veteran who had experience flying aircraft during their time in service. Pilot jobs pay very well, and while technology is making aircraft more autonomous, the need for pilots is still going to continue to rise in the future.

Here’s what you need to know about becoming a pilot.

What commercial and airline pilots do

Put simply, pilots are the men and women who fly aircraft and navigate the air space. But there are also other duties some pilots must perform. These might include:

  • Checking the condition of an aircraft before and after flights
  • Ensuring that the aircraft is within weight limits
  • Ensuring that the aircraft is properly fueled based on flight length and weight
  • Preparing flight plans
  • Communications with air traffic control
  • Monitoring engines, fuel consumption, and other aircraft systems during flight
  • Respond to changing conditions, such as weather events and emergencies (for example, a mechanical malfunction)

Pilots must be able to effectively communicate with their co-pilot and flight engineer, especially during takeoff and landing of the aircraft. Depending on what kind of pilot you become you may be responsible for any of the above duties. There are several different kinds of civilian pilots.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
(Photo by Kristopher Allison)

Airline pilots

Airline pilots work for airlines that transport both passengers and goods on fixed schedules. The pilot in command is typically the most experienced pilot working on the flight crew. They are responsible for the activities of the crew. The second pilot in command, or the co-pilot, will share in the in-flight duties with the captain. Some older aircraft require a flight engineer, who monitors equipment and flight instruments. Technology has reduced the need for flight engineers.


Commercial pilots

Commercial pilots may operate on a non-fixed schedule and perform activities in addition to hauling cargo and transporting passengers. They may work in aerial tours, aerial application and charter flights. Some commercial pilots may be in charge of scheduling flights, arranging for the maintenance of the aircraft and loading and unloading luggage.

There are also agricultural pilots who handle chemicals and pesticides, and are responsible for the spraying of these chemicals on crops.

Work environment of pilot jobs

The bulk of a pilots responsibilities will take place inside an aircraft or preparing flight plans. Pilots must have meticulous attention to detail and must be able to diagnose problems very quickly. They must be able take into account weather conditions and adjust altitudes based on turbulence and other factors.

Pilots must also be able to deal with fatigue and stress if they are operating a long flight. Because of the concentration required to be a pilot and the stress that results, the FAA mandates that pilots must retire at age 65.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
(Photo by Chris Leipelt)

Aerial applicators, sometimes known as crop dusters, are exposed to dangerous chemicals and pesticides. They also must be able to operate in less than ideal runway conditions and be aware of surround land and structures when spraying crops.

Typically airline pilots fly about 75 hours per month and spend an additional 150 hours per month performing other activities, like monitoring weather patterns and preparing flight plans. Airline pilots may also spend extended periods of time away from home staying in hotels.

How to become a pilot

Airline pilots will often times begin their careers as commercial pilots before they become certified to fly for an airline. Airline pilots must have a bachelor’s degree, while commercial pilots need a high school diploma or equivalent. The great news for military pilots is that they may transfer right from the military and apply to an airline.

Any pilot who is paid to fly must have an FAA commercial pilot’s license. Airline pilots are required to have their Airline Transportation Pilot Certificate, as well as thousands of hours of flight experience. The interview process to become an airline pilot is extremely rigorous and includes both physical and mental examinations, as well as a review of a person’s decision making process while under stress. New airline pilots also receive on-the-job training according to FAA regulations.

Outlook for pilot jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for airline pilots as of May 2017 was $137,330, while commercial pilots on average earned $78,740. Pilot jobs are expected to grow 4% by 2026, which is slightly slower than the average occupation is expected to grow over the same time period.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’
(Photo by Jeremy Buckingham)

As airlines create aircraft that can carry more passengers, there will be less flights, meaning less pilots. But with the required retirement age of 65, there will always be jobs opening. Pilot jobs are by no means declining, but jobs like flight engineers are due to new technology.

Companies hiring for pilot jobs

DynCorp: DynCorp International is a leading global services provider offering unique, tailored solutions for an ever-changing world.

View opportunities with DynCorp

Vinnell Arabia: Vinnell Arabia is the leader in U.S. military doctrine-based training, logistics, and support services inside Saudi Arabia.

View opportunities with Vinnell Arabia

AECOM: AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries.

View opportunities with AECOM

Companies listed in this article are paying advertisers

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.

“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.


He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.

The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.

The truth about the Pentagon’s ‘shrimp fight club’

In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.

Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.

Moscow and Minsk said the joint maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials have said the true number may have been around 100,000.

Featured image: Marshalls Nikolay Ogarkov, Dmitry Ustinov, and Alexey Yepishev pose with airborne troopers during exercise ZAPAD-81.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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