The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.
According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.
“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.
If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.
The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.
In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.
The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.
The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.
He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”
But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.
A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.
The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.
“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.
The Army is interested in the possibility of leasing underutilized government facilities in an effort to help smaller companies start modernization projects, the Army’s acquisition chief said last week.
Through conversations with industry partners, Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said he often heard the challenges some companies face in winning government contracts due to their lack of available investment capital.
While a company may have the engineering capacity to turn advanced ideas into reality, it may not have sufficient investor backing necessary to win a contract.
The Army is not likely to award a contract to a company without the facilities to carry out their project.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem for the smaller yet innovative companies the Army wants to attract and work with,” Jette said, May 23, 2019, during the Land Forces Pacific Symposium, hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, gets a briefing on product improvements for cannon systems.
(US Army photo by John Snyder)
The idea of government-owned, contractor-leased operations could help non-traditional defense contractors bring innovative projects to fruition. It could also serve as a motivating factor for the larger defense contractors, he said.
There are government-owned properties at Army depots, arsenals and other installations that now sit idle, but still have lots of capability.
Under the concept, which started being developed a few weeks ago, vacant space could be leased to a company that can confidently show the Army it can complete a project using it.
“We’ll lease you the facility, which might be included in the price of your vehicle, and then I can employ unused space, generate income, upgrade the space, and you’ll be able to enter the market more easily,” he said.
While he does not see the potential construct focused on making money for the government, it will allow an equitable comparison between companies that intend to use their own facilities and those including the government resource in their bids. Additionally, it may allow the Army and a company to share labor expenses at a specific facility.
“I may be able to take people who are currently overhead expenses and put them in a billable form by then making them available for hiring by the offering company,” he said. “In one way, I can share excess labor with them.”
As the founder of a defense firm after he retired from the Army, Jette also realized it was “extremely difficult” to do business with the government.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, talks to soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Hohenfels, Germany, April 26, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)
“At a certain point, particularly for small companies, from which most innovation comes, they just give up and walk away,” he said. “So, one of the things I’ve done is made an extensive effort to try and lower that barrier.”
For instance, he could have put a team together to bid for a next-generation combat vehicle, he said, but could not afford the 0 million investment necessary to have access to facilities that would make him a viable bidder.
“That’s the issue. You can put an engineering team together that will make an offer that is really top notch… but they won’t have the facility,” he said. “I can’t accept an offer from somebody who has no ability to show me that they can actually achieve the outcome.”
His office has begun to speak with members of Congress to see if the Army now has the authorities to run the program, which he foresees to be in place in a year or so.
“We’re not sure if it’s going to require new authorities or if current authorities are sufficient,” he said. “We are talking to Congress to make sure that they have no specific objections to it.”
Some companies have already expressed interest in the program, but Jette said they won’t really know how many will take advantage of it until it goes live.
“It really does help us make it easier for companies that can bring competency to the table,” he said, “but don’t have the resources to compete in more capital-intensive areas.”
After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.
Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.
The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.
As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.
WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.
The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.
Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.
Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.
Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.
The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.
But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.
President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.
“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.
The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.
The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”
Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.
The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.
The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.
“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”
Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.
The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.
The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.
The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.
From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.
The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.
“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.
“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”
The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.
Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.
Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”
Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.
According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”
Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”
Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.
This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.
In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.
According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.
The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.
The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.
The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.
The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.
Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”
“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”
But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.
Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.
“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.
Roald Dahl is often considered to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Among his most popular publications are classic stories like James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even if you haven’t read the books or seen their film adaptations, the titles of these stories have achieved a mythical status in the world of children’s entertainment. Those that have read his second autobiographical publication, Going Solo, will know that Dahl served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during WWII. In the book, he details his service to King and Country and his combat experiences against Axis forces.
After finishing school and taking a hiking trip through Newfoundland in 1934, Dahl went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in Britain, he was assigned to Mombasa, Kenya and then Dar es-Salaam, Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania); the former German colony was still home to many Germans. In August 1939, as a second war with Germany loomed on the horizon, Britain made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar es-Salaam to prevent any sort of rebellion or uprising. Dahl joined the King’s African Rifles, receiving a commission as a lieutenant and command of a platoon of indigenous askari soldiers.
In November of that year, Dahl joined the RAF as an aircraftman and made the 600-mile drive from Dar es-Salaam to Nairobi where he was accepted for pilot training. Of the sixteen other men that joined with him, only three would live to see the end of the war. After just seven hours and forty minutes of instruction in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, Dahl made his first solo flight.
Following his initial flight training, Dahl received advanced flight training at RAF Habbaniya outside of Baghdad. He trained there for six months on Hawker Harts before he was commissioned as a pilot officer on August 24, 1940.
Dahl was assigned to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, with No. 80 Squadron RAF. Though he received no training on the Gladiator nor any specific instruction on aerial combat, Dahl received orders on September 19, 1940 to fly his Gladiator from Abu Seir to No. 80 Squadron’s forward airstrip near Mersa Matruh. On the last leg of his flight, Dahl could not locate the airstrip and was running low on fuel. With night approaching, he attempted an emergency landing in the desert. The undercarriage of his Gladiator hit a boulder and Dahl crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose, and emerged from his aircraft’s wreck temporarily blinded. He passed out and was rescued by friendly forces who took him to the aid station at Mersa Matruh before being transferred to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. An RAF inquiry later revealed that Dahl had been given an incorrect location and was mistakenly sent to the no man’s land between the British and Italian forces.
In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from the hospital and returned to flight status. By then, No. 80 Squadron had been transferred to Eleusina, near Athens, as part of the Greek campaign. The squadron had traded in their Gladiators for the new Hawker Hurricane and Dahl was ordered to fly one across the Mediterranean in April after just seven hours in the aircraft. Luckily, Dahl made it to Greece without incident and rejoined his squadron. At this point in the Greek campaign, the RAF combat aircraft in the operating area consisted of just 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers.
On April 15, Dahl got his first taste of action flying solo over the city of Chalcis. He intercepted a formation of six Junkers Ju 88 bombers that were attacking ships and managed to shoot one of them down. The next day, he scored another kill on a Ju 88.
On April 20, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens alongside his friend David Coke and Pat Pattle, the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of the war. The battle was an absolute furball which Dahl described as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side.” Five of the twelve Hurricanes involved in the battle were shot down and four of their pilots were killed including Pattle. Greek observers counted 22 German aircraft shot down, but because of the chaos of the aerial melee, none of the pilots were able to take credit for specific kills. Dahl received credit for one kill, though he likely shot down more.
In May, as the Germans closed on Athens, Dahl and No. 80 Squadron were evacuated to Egypt and reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew daily sorties over the course of four weeks. On June 8, he shot down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 heavy fighter, and on June 15, he shot down his third Ju 88.
Following this period, Dahl began to suffer from headaches that caused him to blackout and he was invalided home to Britain. He would serve the rest of the war as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, attaining the rank of wing commander by its end. In 1946, he was invalided out of service with the rank of squadron leader. His combat record of five aerial victories, confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced with Axis records, qualify him as a fighter ace.
Dahl would go on to write the aforementioned children’s stories and many more besides. His kindhearted books and their warm sentiment serve as the antithesis to his violent wartime experiences.
Roman gladiators were some of the most vicious and popular athletes of all time. The extremely violent sport of gladiatorial fighting was as popular back then as MMA is today. In ancient Rome, crowds would swarm to see their favorite warriors beat the sh*t out of each other until only one man was left standing in the center of the arena — or until the match ended in a draw.
Although multiple films and TV shows have covered the lives of these warriors, many details remain shrouded in mystery. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about these brave, sword-wielding warriors.
Scientists who study the gladiator’s role in the Roman Empire have discovered that many fighters once suffered from infant malnutrition. Upon examining preserved dental impressions, specialists recognized defects in the form of horizontal lines that ran across the tooth enamel. This supports theories that state many gladiators grew up very poor and may have been sold off as slaves at a young age.
After becoming property, those trained in combat were then fed well by their owners and encouraged to gain the much-needed muscle to fight in the arenas.
They formed their own trade unions
Although gladiators battled and killed one another, they commonly viewed each other as brothers. Many developed and organized themselves into unions, called “collegia.” They had their own leaders and would pay respects to warriors who fell in battle.
Commonly, a fund was collected from gladiators that would then go to a fallen’s family as compensation.
Commodus gives a thumbs down when dictating a gladiator’s bloody future.
Fighting to the death
Contrary to popular belief, gladiators didn’t typically fight to the death while in the arenas. A warrior’s death was a tremendous financial burden on their owner. However, historians believe that nearly 700,000 gladiators lost their lives in the Colosseum.
That’s a lot of debt.
They were split up into different sections and types
Gladiators were broken up into various classes based on their records, experience, and skill level. The thraeces and murmillones gladiators battled it out using swords and shields while the essedariis rode in combat on chariots.
Before their battles, they lived in privately-owned schools that doubled as both training and prison grounds.
As the U.S. starts to forward-deploy more of its F-35 Lightning, China and Russia have been putting the finishing touches on their own batches of fifth-generation aircraft — and they all express vastly different ideas about what the future of air combat will look like.
For the U.S., stealth and sophisticated networks define its vision for the future of air combat with the F-22 and F-35.
For China, the plan is to use range to take out high-value targets with the J-20.
For Russia, the PAK-FA shows that it seems to think dogfighting isn’t dead.
Here’s how the F-35 stacks up to the competition.
The F-35 Lightning II
An F-35B begins its short takeoff from the USS America with an external weapons load. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The U.S.’s F-35 isn’t an airplane — it’s three airplanes.
And it isn’t a fighter — it’s “flying sensor-shooters that have the ability to act as information nodes in a combat cloud universe made up of platforms, not just airborne, but also operating at sea and on land that can be networked together,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Defense Aerospace Report in November.
In a discussion with four F-35 pilots that was also produced by Defense Aerospace Report, a clear consensus emerged: The difference between an F-35 and an F-15 is like the difference between an iPhone and a corded wall phone. Phones of the past might have had crystal-clear call quality and the ability to conference call, but the iPhone brought with it unprecedented networking and computing capability that has changed life as we know it.
That said, the F-35 doesn’t offer any significant upgrades in range, weapons payload, or dogfighting ability over legacy aircraft, while its competition does.
The Chengdu J-20
China’s Chengdu J-20 has one thing in common with the F-35 — it’s not a fighter.
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the J-20 is “not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft” that doesn’t seek to contend with U.S. jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS” — airborne early-warning and control systems — “and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” Davis said. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
On the J-20’s stealth, a senior U.S. low-observable-aircraft design engineer working in the industry told Business Insider that “the J-20 has many features copied from U.S. fifth-gen aircraft; however, it’s apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don’t fully understand all the concepts of LO” — low-observable, or stealth — “design.”
The real danger of China’s J-20 lies not with its ability to fight against U.S. fighters, but with its laserlike focus on destroying the slower, unarmed planes that support U.S. fighters with its long range and long-range missiles, thereby keeping them out of fighting range.
Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
China’s J-31 looks a lot like the F-35, and one Chinese national has pleaded guilty to stealing confidential information about the F-35 program.
That said, the J-31 suffers from China’s inferior composite-materials technology and its inability to build planes in the precise way a stealth airplane needs to be built. Additionally, there’s reason to suspect the avionics in the Chinese programs significantly lag the F-35.
But the J-31, like the J-20, still poses a significant threat because China has developed long-range missiles, which combined with their ground-based radars and radar sites in the South China Sea could potentially pick off U.S. stealth aircraft before the F-35s and F-22s could fire back.
Davis told Business Insider that the J-31 doesn’t just seek to compete with the U.S. militarily, but that the J-31 “very clearly is an F-35 competitor in a commercial sense.” Nations that weren’t invited to participate in the F-35 program may seek to buy China’s cheaper and somewhat comparable J-31.
A fleet of J-31s in the hands of Iran, for example, could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests abroad.
The PAK-FA/T-50. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Russia’s PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, has been criticized as being fifth-generation “in name only,” but as Russia proves time and time again, it doesn’t need the best and most expensive technology to pose a real threat to U.S. aircraft.
The PAK-FA’s greatest failure is in the stealth arena. While the PAK-FA has some stealth from the front angle, “it’s a dirty aircraft,” said a person who helps build stealth aircraft, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the work.
But stealth represents just one aspect of air combat, and the Russians have considerable counterstealth technologies. So while the PAK-FA fails to deliver the stealth or total networking capacity of the F-35, it is a fighter — and a damn good one.
The U.S.’s F-22 has 2D thrust-vectoring nozzles at the engines and is the most agile plane the U.S. has ever built. The PAK-FA has 3D thrust-vectoring nozzles and is even more agile.
Additionally, the PAK-FA can be armed to the teeth with infrared missiles that focus on heat and ignore the U.S.’s stealth. So while the U.S.’s fifth generation hinges on controlling the battle from range and at the jump-off point, Russia’s PAK-FA seems to focus on close-up fights, which the designers of the F-35 didn’t concentrate on.
The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
China and Russia have both shown the world something new in their fifth-generation aircraft. No longer will these rising powers look to advance the capabilities they currently have — they will actively seek to enter new areas of aerial combat.
Both Russian and Chinese entries seem to focus on key weak points in the U.S.’s force structure by using specialized aircraft.
But the U.S. doesn’t specialize. The F-35 does everything well and seeks the informational high ground with massive computing power, all-aspect stealth, and the ability to network with almost every set of eyes and ears in the U.S. military.
The F-35 has limited range and ability for close combat, but unlike the Chinese and Russian fifth-gens that try to score kills on their own, the F-35 plays like a quarterback, sending targeting information to any platform available.
As the F-35 software develops, pilots will be free to take on more demanding missions, but China’s and Russia’s fifth-gens will still be confined to relatively narrow ones.
Over many centuries, various armies have created and deployed all sorts of weapons to be used against their enemies on the battlefield. Some of these inventive weapons go under modifications and come out the other end even bigger and more bad ass than before.
On the flip side, some old school engineers and scientists get froggy and develop a liquid mixture that they don’t fully understand before they let it loose into enemy territory.
Once such infamous mixture that is still affecting troops today, years after exposure: Agent Orange.
1. It’s full of deadly ingredients
When you combine 2,4,5-T (Trichlorophenoxyacetic) acid with 2,4-D (Dichlorophenoxyacetic) acid, you produce one of the worst herbicides mixture known to man — Agent Orange. The idea of destroying the enemy’s landscape is a historic military tactic, but using an herbicide was considered new and clever development.
However, the chemical compound that could achieve the damaging goal was considered a new type of weaponry. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. stored the Agent Orange liquid in 55-gallon drums that were waiting to be picked up and sprayed.
2. It’s use was codenamed ‘Operation Ranch Hand’
The idea was to use the chemical to burn up the enemies’ vegetation and decrease the number of locations they had available to hide.
During a nine-year period, it’s estimated that 20-million gallons of the toxic liquid were sprayed over the jungles of south-east Vietnam. This mission to deploy the herbicide was known as Operation Ranch Hand.
During World War 2, England and the U.S. came up with the idea of using these herbicides but didn’t deploy the liquid compounds on the battlefield. Although Agent Orange is the most infamous type, there were also Agents Blue, Pink, Green, Purple, and White. Each different type varied in mixtures and strength.
It’s estimated nearly two and a half million troops were exposed to Agent Orange during their time in Vietnam.
4. It contains TCCD
In addition too Trichlorophenoxyacetic and Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Agent Orange also contains Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. TCCD is known for being extremely dangerous, even in small amounts. When troops serving in Vietnam came home, many reported side defects of cancer, congenital disabilities (in their children), miscarriages, and skin diseases among others.
According to the History channel, evidence of Agent Orange can still be found in many areas where the chemical was dropped — nearly 50-years ago.
Check out the HISTORY‘s channel below to watch the interesting breakdown on such a controversy chemical.
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.
Fire up the BBQ, get your multi-pack of fireworks ready to light and put some beers on ice because the 4th of July is right around the corner. The 4th is an awesome holiday. No one fights over who you should thank or appreciate (clearly, the Founding Fathers…and Lin Manuel Miranda for teaching a large chunk of Americans who the founding fathers were) and the biggest disagreement is whether it should be called “Independence Day” or “4th of July.” Let’s be honest: Either one is fine and everyone wins.
In addition to the aforementioned beers and bottle rockets, the 4th of July is a fantastic time to watch some super-charged ‘Merica!” movies in appreciation for the independence we all enjoy today. But who wants to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy or 1776? Patriotic they may be, but they’re also kind of a yawn fest. So while they may be unconventional, here are the four (see what we did there?) movies you should be watching over the holiday:
Sometimes we need guys in a dysfunctional buddy-cop partnership to protect our FREEDOM! (Fox)
Well that is sort of a given, because…well…it’s named for the holiday. But great naming conventions aside, this movie has Bill Pullman being a non-nerd for once AND Will Smith beating up an alien. If you don’t shed even a tiny little tear when President Pullman makes his “this is our Independence Day!” speech before hopping in a fighter jet and trying to blow up some aliens…you are made of stone. Special bonus in the movie is the brilliant Jeff Goldblum as a perfect comic partner to Will Smith, especially when they’re trying to do something as serious as set off a nuclear bomb on an alien mothership while simultaneously piloting a spaceship neither has ever flown before. It’s good stuff, man.
Sometimes one man is all that stands between oppression and FREEDOM! (Fox)
Every holiday is a reason to watch “Die Hard.” That is all. It’s a testament to the brilliant and plucky little guy (or girl) who, with their American spirit and street smarts, take down the foreign villain who is stealing from them, oppressing them and threatening their freedom (*cough* revolutionary war undertones *cough*). See? I just made “Die Hard” into a 4th of July movie. You’re welcome.
True FREEDOM requires that its heroes to pay attention in classes (“Top Gun”/Paramount Pictures)
Nothing says “celebrate American freedom” like shirtless aviators playing volleyball in the sand….oh and super cool jets, and call signs like “Iceman” and “Maverick” all fueled by a guitar-heavy Kenny Loggins soundtrack. One of the most quotable of all military movies, this one stands the test of time and revs your inner patriot as you try and figure out why all the aviators are wearing polo shirts under their flight suits. Or if cocky flybys really do earn you the honor of flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog sh*t out of Hong Kong. Goose dies, Mav reengages and the world is ultimately right again after our heroes chase off those pesky MiG-28s.
What could be more patriotic than some of that old Razzle Dazzle? (Paramount Pictures)
I cannot do justice to this amazing piece of American cinematic perfection so I won’t really try. I’ll just point out that it might be the greatest celebration of American ingenuity and good old-fashioned Army fun. When I retire, I’m having an EM-50 custom made so I can travel the country like a boss. The humor is timeless. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy are a trifecta of laughs and the graduation scene alone is worth watching on an endless loop. Who among those who have served hasn’t wanted to blurt out “razzle, dazzle!” during formation? I don’t know about you, but this 4th of July will include a viewing of “Stripes” and a HulkaBurger on the grill.
We can’t let a theoretical shark attack ruin our FREEDOM! (Universal Pictures)
BONUS MOVIE PICK: Jaws
Yes, “Jaws.” The movie is a tribute to summer, picnics, and the commercialization of the 4th of July…wait, what? Seriously, the whole movie centers on the Mayor’s reluctance to close the beach (despite body parts washing ashore and clear evidence there is a shark with a big appetite nearby) because 4th of July is a huge business weekend. Enter the hero and some friends who take matters into their own hands and save the day by doing the right thing. Kinda patriotic, don’t you think?
Over years of watching war films, hearing grandpa’s stories, poring over documentaries, and hanging on the every word of your local veteran bullsh**ters, you built up an expectation of military service that couldn’t possibly be met.
So, by the end your enlistment comes to a close, it’s safe to say that the time spent in uniform did not go as expected. Honorable service? Yes. High standards of professionalism? Absolutely. Reaching a physical apex never before thought reasonable or possible? Check marks the box. But was it anything like the Space Marines in Aliens? Not even close. Did you single-handedly hold off an entire battalion of enemy soldiers? Probably not.
So, now you want out — but be careful what you wish for, because if you thought life on the inside wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, then you’re in for a real surprise once you get out.
These are the seven stages of separation that all veterans go through after getting that DD-214. It’s the response to the physical, mental, and emotional letdown endured when civilian life doesn’t match our high expectations. It’s the process of realizing that maybe — just maybe — leaving the finest fighting force this planet has ever known wasn’t the best idea. At least not yet.
They are as follows:
“You mean I can just… go? Just like that?!”
Terminal leave is approved, you’ve had your final physicals, so it’s time to pack up your sh*t and run! Armed with a DD-214 and a dream, you flee from the nurturing embrace of your second parental institution to pursue all the things you shoulda, woulda, coulda done if it weren’t for that pesky contract.
Growth patterns, colors, and thickness may vary.
(“You Were Never Really Here” / Amazon Studios)
When one is held to a military standard for so long, it is only natural to act out. Separation is furry-faced freedom at its finest. This is a time of discovery for any former service member. Personally, I never knew I could grow a blood-red war beard that doesn’t quite flourish in specific spots. Now, after having experienced this second stage of separation, I know much more about myself, which is what it’s really all about.
(“Captain America” / Marvel)
Delusions of grandeur
Time makes the heart grow fonder — and it also makes you exaggerate the impact you had during your time in. Yes, your service is appreciated and you were definitely an essential cog in the machine, but don’t worry, the military will do fine in your absence. Most of the branches have been around for well over two-hundred years.
That’ll do, warrior. Let the next generation take it from here.
Add some cargo pants/shorts, flip flops, way more tattoos and BOOM!
We know, we know. Everything sucks. Civilians are all lazy and have no concept of discipline. Hollywood movies won’t stop messing up uniforms and military terms and Brad Pitt’s combat tactics are all wrong!
And don’t get us started on these crazy posts on Facebook. It’s up to you to correct the world and set things right.
We call this one, “gettin’ back into it.”
There’s no way around this one: you’ll gain weight. You might lose it later, but you’ll sure as hell gain it first. You will no longer be forced to PT, but you will swallow the same trash calories you did when you were a teenage warrior. The results may upset you.
Have some fun, my brothers and sisters. Life’s too short for your best years to be behind you. Sure, the military was an amazing experience and you earned your memories through by sharing suffering with some of the best friends you could ever have, but now is your time to make an impact on your own terms. Cultivate a strong sense of humor, try not to sweat the small stuff, and remember, it’s all small stuff.
Mashal Saad al-Bostani of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, who was named by pro-government Turkish media as one of 15 suspects in the alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, has reportedly died in a car accident on return to the kingdom.
An article titled “Riyadh Silenced Someone” on Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper that strongly supports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cited anonymous sources as saying Bostani died in a car crash, without giving a specific time or location.
Yeni Safak has proven a major voice in coverage of Khashoggi’s disappearance, with daily scoops from unnamed Turkish officials giving gory details to what they allege was a murder within the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018.
Saudi Arabia flatly denies any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts or disappearance, but US intelligence officials have started to echo the view that the prominent Saudi critic, who recently took residence in the US, was murdered.
In particular, Yeni Safak has reported having a audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder, but Turkish intelligence has not turned over the tape to the US. The US and Turkey are NATO allies with extensive intelligence-sharing agreements.
“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said of the tape on Oct. 17, 2018. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”
Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
“Let’s be honest,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Business Insider on Oct. 17, 2018, “the Turks have leaked some pretty serious allegations through the press that they have not been willing to make public. There are not a lot of clean hands.”
“We should acknowledge that most of what we know is through leaks from the Turkish government,” he continued. “At some point the Turks have to give us exactly what they have instead of leaking all of this to the press.”
The Daily Beast on Oct. 16, 2018, cited “sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington” as saying Saudi Arabia would try to pin the murder of Khashoggi on “a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”
This holds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “rogue killers” took out Khashoggi, and not the Saudi monarchy itself.
CNN and The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2018, also reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing an alibi that would acknowledge Khashoggi was killed.
The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.
Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.
Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.
During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II
In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.
Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.
Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really badhits.
A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.
Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.
More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.
The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.
The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.
The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.
However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.
In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.
Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.
Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.
In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.
There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.
The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.
The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.
Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.
Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.
In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.
In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.
The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.
Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.
Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?
While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.
First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.
Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.
Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A 19-year-old Arkansas native faces charges of maliciously attempting to destroy a vehicle in a Pentagon parking lot at the Pentagon on Monday morning.
The Justice Department said in a statement that a Pentagon police officer witnessed Matthew D. Richardson using a cigarette lighter to ignite a “a piece of fabric” that was inserted into the gas tank of a vehicle.
The vehicle belonged to an active-duty service member who did not know Richardson.
The Pentagon officer approached Richardson, who then told him he was trying to “blow this vehicle up” with himself. The officer attempted to detain Richardson, who fled and jumped over a fence into Arlington National Cemetery.
He was eventually detained by an emergency response team from the Pentagon near the Arlington House, a memorial dedicated to the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Officers searched Richardson and found a cigarette lighter, gloves, and court documents related to a previous felony assault arrest made two days prior.
If convicted, Richardson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.