QUANTICO, Va. — A Marine infantry squad with its own “Star Wars” drone. A combat unit in the field making its own spare parts with a 3-D printer. A truck that tells its operators when it needs maintenance.
These are a few of the innovative concepts a panel of senior Marine Corps leaders on Sept. 27 said were being developed or considered to help the Corps operate and, if necessary, fight in a future that could include a “great power war.”
The officers also discussed broader ideas such as the Marines finding ways to help the Navy achieve sea control in a heavily contested littoral environment and developing the capabilities to fight information warfare to match the newly threatening Russians.
Spot, a quadruped prototype robot, aids Marines in clearing a room during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2015.
The officials’ report to industry came on the opening day of the Modern Day Marine exposition at the historic “home of the Marine Corps.”
The focus of the report and the expo is innovation and a drive to move the Corps quickly into the future to respond to the rapid increase and global proliferation of advanced technology and an increasingly complex security environment.
Those themes will be highlighted by the unveiling of a new operating concept by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
The panel listed a number of efforts already underway, including a rapid capabilities office designed to reduce the prolonged acquisition process. That is tied into an innovation center that has a website eliciting revolutionary ideas from Marines at all levels. They also mentioned a 10-year experimental effort called Sea Dragon and a drive to change basic organization in the Marine Corps Force 2025 initiative.
“What we see is how technology is changing so rapidly. That excites us, but also scares us a bit,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.
To avoid falling behind potential adversaries, Walsh said, the Corps is changing, but “we have to go faster. The commandant is pushing us to go faster.”
Deputy Commandant for Programs, Plans and Operations Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey noted the Russian capabilities in information warfare and warned “we have to be able to operate in that environment to be successful.”
Highlighting the need for greater use of robotic system, Bailey envisioned “every infantry squad having an R2D2,” a reference to the Star Wars drone.
Director of Combat Development and Integration Brig. Gen. Roger Turner said he is moving into phase two of the Force 2025 study that is developing the kind of Marine Corps needed for future conflicts with peer competitors or against “non-state actors” that could use asymmetric guerrilla tactics or high technology weapons.
“It is sobering to think we could be engaged in great powers war. … That is a major driver in Force 2025, that we’re not prepared to fight great power war,” Turner said.
In the emerging combat environment, Turner said, naval force will “really have to fight for sea control,” and his office is looking for ways that the Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed with an amphibious force can contribute to sea control to enable power projection in a contested environment.
Assistant Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics Brig. Gen. Terry Williams described efforts under way to achieve “hybrid logistics” that would reduce the burden of pushing supplies and support into isolated combat units by improving their ability to provide their own water, recharge batteries and use less fuel.
He said use of 3-D printing could allow deployed units to produce their own spare parts and “sense and response” maintenance would allow vehicle maintenance to be conducted only when needed and would avoid unnecessary work.
Marine Corps Systems Command chief Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader described a number of ways to reduce the weight of combat forces, including shifting to “active protection” systems for tactical vehicles, instead of the “passive protection” of armor plating, and changing the combat gear carried by ground units. Active protection would use small munitions to intercept anti-armor missiles.
He said other efforts were ongoing that might provide different combat equipment for the different jobs performed by Marine infantry units, such as riflemen, machinegunners or mortar crews.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
There has been a lot of web chatter over the last few months about whether the F-35 Lightning II is an ace maker or a total grape. Most of the discussion has centered around a 1v1 test hop that pitted an F-35 against an F-16, and the outcome of that event varies by URL.
One thing is true: In spite of the fact the post-9/11 wars haven’t featured anything in the way of air-to-air engagements (Google “Aces of the Taliban” and see what you get), dogfights aren’t necessarily dead. If the F-35 ever goes up against an enemy with a real air force, eventually it will be forced into the visual arena. And regardless of how much stealth and other high-tech gee-wizzery the program hangs on the airframe, the airplane will always be subject to the laws of physics. (Okay, that’s two true things.)
In spite of the variety of opinions, several common themes have emerged that suggest the best way to fight the F-35 in the event stealth and BVR weapons don’t do the trick.
1. You’re going to be pulling Gs, so make sure your helmet fits
The F-35 is designed with a super-Gucci helmet (that costs $500,000) that’s supposed to do all kinds of cool stuff that basically makes a heads-up display old news. But it won’t work right if it doesn’t fit. Reports indicate that the F-35 pilot in the 1v1 with the F-16 was wearing a helmet that was so big that his head spun freely inside of it, which probably didn’t help with the accuracy of the symbology or, for that matter, just keeping sight.
Also remember the F-35 helmet works with cameras throughout the airframe to give the pilot the ability to see through the fuselage (like Space Ghost), although if you’re looking at your opponent through the bottom of your jet you’re probably getting your ass handed to you.
2. Drive your opponent ‘one-circle’ and get him slow
Web wisdom indicates that the F-35 is a ‘bleeder,’ which means it dissipates airspeed in a hurry when in a hard turn, so it would be a bad idea to try a two-circle power fight against an airplane that doesn’t have that problem — like a well-managed F-16. After the merge the F-35 pilot should mirror the direction the opponent turns and work hard to keep the ranges close. The ultimate goal is to get the opponent beat down so the fight turns into one where the guy who can maintain the highest alpha wins — because that guy on paper is the F-35.
Word on the streets is the F-35 has great pitch authority at low airspeed, and this makes sense when you consider the shape of the airplane and how much the horizontal stabs deflect at full throw.
3. Use your sensor and missile superiority to get the first shot
If you complete the previous steps well, you will be the first guy to get nose on. Don’t pass up a valid shot.
4. Be careful when you try to bug out
The F-35’s energy addition rate is average, and it’s top end speed is below average, so bugging out can’t be an afterthought. Remember: you only have one engine, and old fighter pilots have a saying about stealth technology — it doesn’t work against bullets.
The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.
The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.
“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”
The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.
Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.
The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.
The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.
The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.
According to reports released through Chinese media, a modified version of their Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, dubbed the J-20B, has just entered mass production. This new variant of their first fifth-generation fighter will continue to run dated Russian-built engines, but will utilize thrust vectoring control nozzles to grant the aircraft a significant boost in maneuverability.
“Mass production of the J-20B started on Wednesday. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria,” the South China Morning Post credited to an unnamed source within the Government.
Chengdu J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)
“The most significant change to the fighter jet is that it is now equipped with thrust vector control.”
Thrust vectoring nozzle for a Eurojet EJ200 turbofan (WikiMedia Commons)
Thrust Vector Control
Thrust vector control, sometimes abbreviated to TVC, is a means of controlling a jet or rocket engine’s outward thrust. Thrust vectoring nozzles are used to literally move the outflow of exhaust in different directions to give an aircraft the ability to conduct acrobatics that a straight-forward nozzled jet simply couldn’t do.
When paired with an aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, thrust vectoring control allows an aircraft to make sharper changes in direction, or even to continue traveling in one direction while pointing the nose, and weapons systems of the aircraft, down toward an enemy. Put simply, thrust vectoring nozzles let you point the engine one way, while the aircraft itself is pointed in another (to a certain extent).
In a jet like the F-22 (and soon in China’s J-20 stealth fighter), this technology gives fighter pilots a distinct advantage over non-thrust vectoring jets in a dogfight. You can see the thrust vector control surfaces on the F-22’s engine, which can direct the outflow of exhaust up to 20 degrees up or down, in this video clip:
Russia also employs thrust vector control technology in some of their more capable fighters, like the Sukhoi Su-35, which is widely considered to be among the most capable fourth generation fighters in service anywhere on the planet. While stealth and sensor fusion capabilities would give an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the long range advantage against the non-stealth Su-35, the Russian jet would technically be capable of flying circles around America’s premier stealth fighter if stealth weren’t in the picture (luckily, however, it is).
Of course, that’s not what the F-35 was built for, and in a real conflict, an F-35 would likely shoot down a Su-35 before the Russian pilot was even aware of an American presence in his airspace. China’s J-20 stealth fighter, however, would very likely be extremely difficult to detect on radar or by infrared signature as it closed with an opponent from head on, and the J-20B’s thrust vector control abilities combined with that inherent sneakiness could make this new J-20 a serious adversary for the F-35, and even a worthy opponent for the F-22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter versus China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter
While the F-35 tends to garner the lion’s share of attention, it truly was not built to serve in an air superiority role against near-peer or peer level adversaries. The F-35’s strengths don’t come from its speed or maneuverability, but rather from the extremely effective one-two punch it can deliver via stealth technologies, sensor fusion, and communications.
Many F-35 pilots, including Sandboxx News’ own Justin “Hasard” Lee, will tell you that the F-35’s role in many dogfights isn’t that of an up-close dog fighter, but rather more like a quarterback in the sky, accumulating and processing data into an easy-to-manage interface, and relaying that information to aircraft and other weapons systems in the battle space.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)
When it is up to the F-35 to take down an airborne opponent, the F-35’s speed and maneuverability limitations are usually not a significant concern, as the jet is designed to engage enemy aircraft more like a sniper than a boxer. The F-35’s data fusion capabilities make it easy for the pilot to identify enemy aircraft in their heads up display, and the fighter can even engage multiple targets from distances too far to see with the naked eye.
J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)
However, the J-20 may be difficult to see for even the mighty F-35, which, when combined with the J-20B’s higher top end and superior mobility thanks to thrust vectoring nozzles, it could be a real threat to America’s top tier stealth fighter. The front canards on the J-20, however, are believed by some to compromise the aircraft’s stealth when approaching from angles other than head-on. Debate continues on this front, but it could give the F-35 the advantage it needs.
Of course, that is if the J-20B performs as China claims it will.
USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
The F-22 Raptor vs China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter
This match up is a bit more appropriate, as the F-35 was built to be a jack of all stealthy trades and the F-22 was built specifically to dominate a sky full of enemy fighters. Unlike the F-35, which is largely limited to subsonic speeds in both the Navy and Marine Corps’ iterations, the F-22 is fast, mean, and acrobatic in addition to its stealth capabilities.
China’s stealth fighter, the J-20, was designed using stolen plans for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, giving it a similar profile and potentially similar combat capabilities. However, it seems unlikely that China has managed to replicate the complex process of mass producing stealth aircraft to the same extent the United States has, as America’s stealth work dates back to the 1970s and the development of the “Hopeless Diamond” that would eventually become the F-117 Nighthawk.
As previously mentioned, the J-20’s front canards could potentially limit the aircraft’s stealth capabilities as well, making the plane difficult to detect from head on, but potentially easier from other angles.
Some content that these canards compromise some degree of the J-20’s stealth capabilities. (Chinese internet)
Although China has announced that their J-20B will come equipped with thrust vector controls, just how effective their system will be remains to be seen, meaning that, like China’s stealth capabilities, their execution may potentially fall behind their bluster.
Assuming, however, that the J-20B performs exactly as China says it will, the aircraft could likely be a worthy opponent for the F-22 in some circumstances, especially when flying in greater numbers than America’s top intercept fighter, which just may be a serious issue in the near future, as America simply can’t build any more F-22s.
Chinese J-20s flying in formation (Chinese internet)
While it remains to be seen if China’s J-20 stealth fighter and upgraded J-20B will be a real match for America’s F-35 or F-22 in a one-on-one fight, the truth is, very few fights actually shake out that way. Pilots spend tons of time planning their combat operations to limit their exposure to high risk situations and to maximize the effectiveness of their stealth profile.
Thus far, it’s believed that China has built fewer than 50 J-20s, though production may pick up as China now seems comfortable using dated Russian power plants in their new fighters, rather than waiting on their long troubled WS-15 engine that was designed specifically for this application. Using these engine platforms may limit the overall performance of the jet, but it will also allow for more rapid production–which may create China’s only actual advantage in an air-to-air conflict.
Lockheed Martin produced only 186 total F-22 Raptors before the program was shut down, and today, far fewer are actually operational. In other words, America may have the world’s most capable air intercept fighter in the F-22, but it also has an extremely limited supply of them. The supply chain established for F-22 production has been largely cannibalized for the F-35, so there’s no hope in building any more either.
USAF F-22 Raptor (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Westin Warburton)
China’s J-20 stealth fighter, on the other hand, is still under production, and while Russian-sourced engines may make their fighter’s less capable than America’s stealth fighters, China may more than offset that disadvantage through sheer volume. Even if a J-20 doesn’t stand a chance in a scrap with an F-22, adding four or five more J-20s into the mix places the odds squarely in China’s favor.
Today, the United States maintains the largest fleet of stealth aircraft in service to any nation, but over time, that advantage could be eroded thanks to China’s massive industrial capabilities.
Two F-22 Raptors and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, fly together during a 43rd Fighter Squadron Basic Course training mission Oct. 7, 2013 over Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. J. Wilcox)
America’s massive experience advantage in the skies
China’s J-20 stealth fighter may potentially end up a near competitor for America’s top stealth jets, and they may eventually overcome any advantage America’s fighters do have through volume, but there’s one integral place Chinese aviators still lag far behind American pilots: experience. America’s experience advantage manifests in two specific ways.
The first experiential advantage American pilots have on their side is practical flying time aboard their specific platforms. While the total number of required flight hours for pilots varies a bit from branch to branch, on average, a U.S. fighter pilot spends around 20 hours per month at the stick of their respective jets. That shakes out to around 240 flight hours per year devoted strictly to training for combat operations.
(U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)
Chinese fighter pilots, on the other hand, average less than half of that per year, with most pilots logging between 100 and 120 hours flying their particular airframes. With more than double the annual flying experience to pull from, American fighter pilots across the board will be better prepared for the rigors of combat.
The second facet of America’s experience-advantage is in real combat operations. The United States has been embroiled in the Global War on Terror for nearly two straight decades, and while most of the flying American fighter pilots have done throughout has been for the purposes of ground attack or close air support missions, there’s no denying that American aviators have more experience flying in a combat zone than their Chinese competition.
A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
Although there have been very few dog fights in recent years, it’s worth noting that one of the world’s more recent fighter-to-fighter shoot-downs took place over Syria and involved a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet engaging a Syrian military Su-22 Fitter. American pilots, and just as importantly, America’s military leadership, are no strangers to war, and that offers a unique insight into future conflicts.
China’s massive military has undergone a significant overhaul in recent years that still continues to this day, but their relative inexperience and likely inferior stealth technology keeps China at a disadvantage in a notional conflict with the United States, especially in the air.
Chengdu J-20 (Chinese internet)
So do the J-20B’s upgrades even matter?
While China may still have a ways to go before they can claim the sort of stealth dominance the United States enjoys, the upgraded systems placed in China’s J-20B certainly do matter. As former Defense Secretary and famed Marine General James Mattis once said, America has no pre-ordained right to victory on the battlefield.
It’s absolutely essential that we take an objective look at China’s growing military threat and remember that they don’t need to match America’s broad capabilities to gain an advantage–they need only to counter them. Working to devise creative solutions that offset tactical advantages has been an integral part of warfare ever since humans first started sharpening sticks, and it remains essential today.
The J-20B doesn’t need to be a match for the F-22 Raptor if its leveraged properly and in sufficient numbers, and that alone warrants consideration.
Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.
The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.
“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”
During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.
“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”
Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.
“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”
ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.
Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.
“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”
Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.
“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.
The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.
DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.
What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.
DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.
The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”
The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”
The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea bass is considered a culinary delicacy around the world. The Chilean sea bass, in fact, often turns up on five-star restaurant menus. But if you’ve been keeping up with the times, you know that there’s a new, American sea bass out in the ocean that has a very big bite. We’re talking something that can takes a chunk out of the metallic denizens of the ocean, both surface-dwelling warships and the subs that lurk beneath.
Okay, it’s not exactly a “sea bass,” but rather a “CBASS,” or Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, and it’s a huge upgrade to the MK 48 Mod 7 torpedo currently in service.
You may be wondering why the United States Navy is looking to improve on the MK 48 — especially since a U.S. sub hasn’t fired a torpedo in anger since World War II.
MK 48 torpedo aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740).
(DOD photo by Lisa Daniel)
The fact is that technology doesn’t stand still, and the Navy learned the hard way during World War II that reliable torpedoes are essential. Learning from history is why the US is constantly pushing to improve its torpedoes. And it’s a good thing, too, because Russia and China have been pushing to upgrade their naval forces in recent years.
According to Lockheed, the newest Mod 7 will include a suite of new, wide-band sonar systems, advanced signal processing, and enhanced guidance systems. All of this is attached to a 650-pound, high-explosive warhead atop a 3,500-pound torpedo.
43 years after this test shot, the MK 48 Mod 7 CBASS ensures that the United States Navy’s subs can still kill anything afloat — or under the surface.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Official handouts credit the MK 48 with a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a maximum range of over five nautical miles, and an operating depth of at least 1,200 feet. However, the real specs are probably much better in terms of performance. Unofficial figures show the torpedo actually has a top speed of 55 knots and a maximum range of 35,000 yards (almost 20 miles).
The United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy have teamed up to produce this very deadly “fish.” In this case, the CBASS is the predator.
Watch the latest video at a href=”http://video.foxnews.com”video.foxnews.com/a
What happens when a terrorist hunting drone and a resupply helicopter drone join forces?
Fires get stopped.
Aircraft with human pilots have been supporting American firefighters for several decades. This is a new generation of machines helping to fight fires.
The Stalker Extended Endurance (XE) and K-MAX drones could reinforce firefighters and potentially reduce the risk to the lives of first responders.
Last year alone, there were a staggering 1,298,000 fires reported in the U.S., resulting in more than 3,275 civilian deaths and 15,775 injuries.
Both Stalker and K-MAX are designed to be cutting-edge military tech, but they also have great potential for civilians to help reduce the loss of life and life-changing injuries suffered every year.
How do the drone duo fight fires?
Basically, Stalker XE is the boss and K-MAX does the heavy lifting. Stalker XE is a small surveillance drone and K-MAX is a large resupply helicopter one. Together, they can fight fires all by themselves. Stalker finds the fire and directs K-MAX to drop water at exactly the right location to put it out.
They’re both unmanned systems, or drones. Stalker uses its state-of-the-art military tech to flag and precisely locate a fire. The drone then communicates with the much bigger K-MAX, which is loaded up with water.
In a recent demonstration, Stalker XE successfully directed K-MAX to drop water exactly at the necessary spots to put out the fire.
Heat can be a serious challenge in fighting fires. In spite of the immense heat fire can generate, K-MAX was designed to maintain performance in extremes and can still perform.
Conditions like smoke can also limit traditional missions due to visibility for human pilots, but K-MAX can carry on picking up water and delivering it by itself in low visibility conditions.
Stalker XE is an intelligence, surveillance and recon drone made by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, famous for innovative aircraft design.
Popular with special operations, Stalker XE is a small drone with a 12-foot wingspan. When flown at about 400 feet, it is silent to people on the ground.
Launched by just one operator and a bungee, it can stay aloft for more than eight hours, reach speeds of 45 mph and heights of up to 15,000 feet with its ruggedized solid oxide fuel cell.
It is designed to provide high-definition images in a range of the extreme environments. In both daylight and at night, the drone can provide images and data.
In addition to its high-def capabilities, Stalker XE’s image-tracking tech has the ability to pan, tilt and zoom using its electro-optical infrared camera, which can precisely locate and analyze fire intensity for K-MAX. The imagers and laser can also provide precise geo-referenced imagery products for human firefighting teams to review.
Manufactured by Kaman and equipped with Lockheed Martin’s advanced mission systems and sensors, K-MAX is used by the military to get massive amounts of supplies to forces quickly. It can lift and deliver a whopping 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level as well as travel at speeds of about 115 mph.
During a three-year period between 2011 and 2014, when it deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps, for example, K-MAX delivered more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo for the Corps while flying more than 1,900 missions.
Its design includes a four-hook carousel that helps to maximize the cargo it can deliver to different locations in just one flight.
With the drone’s advanced autonomy tech, K-MAX can deploy day and night on repeat missions – without the limiting factor of human fatigue and crew availability.
The helicopters twin-rotor design helps to maximize lift in extreme environments. Very robust, it has also been designed to fly in all sorts of challenging weather conditions.
Will they get the chance to fight fires in the U.S.?
Recently, both drones worked together to fight a fire successfully integrated into the National Airspace System. Using a prototype of unmanned Traffic Management tech, the robot team effectively communicated with Air Traffic Control in real time.
This is a key step forward to joining the fight against fires. Because for these drones to deploy in civilian space, they need to prove they can cooperate with, and within, the civilian airspace framework.
The Defense Department on Tuesday denied it tried to quash a 2015 study that found it could save $125 billion in noncombat administrative programs but admitted it has so far only found a small fraction of those savings.
The department hopes to save $7.9 billion during the next five years through recommendations in the study of back-office waste, which itself cost about $9 million to complete, the Defense Departments acting deputy chief management officer told a House panel.
The study’s original findings as well as a perceived lack of action from the Defense Department riled members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held the hearing on the fate of the report as President Donald Trumps administration plans a $54 billion boost in defense spending by cutting other federal programs such as foreign aid.
“I think the one thing I would take unequivocal issue with is that the report was in any way suppressed,” said David Tillotson III, who is acting as the Defense Department deputy chief management officer. “It was actively discussed within the department at the time and it has formed the basis of discussion since that time.”
The study found more than one million Defense Department employees perform noncombat related work, such as human resources, finances, health care management and property management, and $125 billion could be saved by making those operations more efficient. The study was conducted by the Defense Business Board, an advisory body to the Pentagon, and included work by two contracted groups.
The saved money could be enough to fund 50 additional Army brigades or 10 Navy carrier strike group deployments, the Defense Business Board found.
So far, most of the projected $7.9 billion in savings will come from information technology purchases and services contracts, according to Tillotson.
He said finding more savings might be difficult due to the Pentagons long-running resistance to efficiency and audit efforts, and that lawmakers could help with legislation such as a new round of base realignments and closures to help the department shed excess and costly real estate.
“There is an internal challenge, that is our job, we will go fight those battles and in some instances we are assisted by actions on The Hill,” he said.
The Washington Post reported in December that the Pentagon tried to shelve the findings because it feared Congress might use them to slash its budget.
At the time, the chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the report of $125 billion in potential waste was not surprising and both had been working for years to trim back the growth in headquarters staff, civilian workers and contractors.
Lawmakers on Tuesday wanted to know why the department has not used the report to find more savings.
“Did we waste $8-9 million dollars of the taxpayers money on a report on identifying waste in the Pentagon and if we didnt waste it, what have been the savings that came out of this report,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
The battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror group is a fight increasingly without front lines.
The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have breached the old city and control about a quarter of the terror group’s de facto capital, say American officials, but holding what has already been seized is proving a struggle.
Disputes between the SDF and some Free Syrian Army militias who have started to participate in the battle isn’t helping the advance, but the biggest obstacle remains the determined defense of IS fighters, who are using similar urban warfare tactics seen in the past nine months in the terror group’s fight to delay the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi security forces.
A month into the Raqqa assault, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and the use of an elaborate network of tunnels to mount ambushes — as well as exploiting civilians as human shields — are all being deployed by the militants. IS militants have also been using drones to drop explosives on SDF militiamen.
A watchdog rights organization says in the assault’s first month it has documented 650 deaths — 224 of them civilians.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that relies on a network of activists for its reporting, 311 IS fighters, including a handful of commanders, and 106 fighters of the American-backed “Euphrates Wrath” forces have died so far.
“In addition, airstrikes left hundreds of civilians injured, with various degrees of severity, some of whom had their limbs amputated, some were left with permanent disabilities and some are still in a critical condition, which means that the death toll is still likely to rise,” the observatory says.
Long battle ahead
Despite being only a tenth the size of Mosul, US officials say they expect the house-to-house fighting to last several weeks. Estimates on how many militants remain in the city range from between 2,000 to 3,000. Most of them are thought to be from eastern Syria or foreign fighters drawn mainly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
According to local activists, some Raqqa-born IS fighters have defected and are providing intelligence to the SDF. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, and co-author of the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” says local fighters have proven less than committed in the battle.
“The Islamic State will likely have to rely on the city’s still likely large population of foreign fighters as well as a new generation of young fighters brainwashed by the group’s ideology who typically fight viciously to the end,” Hassan argues in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the West Point military academy.
YPJ and YPG forces work together. (Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle (CC by 2.0)
Despite the participation of experienced, battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, private security advisers say the SDF doesn’t have the same capabilities and training as the elite Iraqi units who have been confronting IS militants in Mosul since August.
“They are spread much thinner,” one European security adviser told Voice of America. “They are also not as well equipped and lack the armor the Iraqis have been able to use,” he added.
Keeping the advance going, and trying to pin the militants into smaller and smaller pockets, is proving grueling, he said.
On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to declare his security forces had wrested the wrecked city from the Islamic State, despite some continued fighting in at least one west Mosul neighborhood. Some US officials are reckoning IS fighters may be able to hold out in Raqqa for up to three months.
In a bid to disrupt the SDF momentum, IS is now more regularly using suicide bombers driving reinforced vehicles packed with explosives — although not to the same degree as seen in the battle for Mosul. Last week, one suicide bomber managed to destroy a forward HQ used by the SDF.
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, braving mines and savage IS sniper fire. Local activists estimate the number of civilians remaining in the city at about 60,000. They fault the international coalition for failing to have prepared for the handling of large numbers of displaced families.
Civilians have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food,” says the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.
The group has accused the attacking forces of using a scorched-earth strategy, utilizing indiscriminate aerial bombardment in order to force militants to withdraw. US officials admit there have been civilian deaths but say they are doing all they can to minimize casualties among non-combatants.
The Civil War Trust, known for its great maps and historical accounts of the war, has branched into animated maps that show move-by-move accounts of important battles like Antietam, Vicksburg and Shiloh.
The trust’s still maps are known for their accuracy and detail, and these new animated maps continue that tradition. The big difference is the motion; it’s like watching the battle play out on a sand table during a ROC drill.
A narrator provides context for the action, telling viewers everything from how the crippling heat affected the repeated clashes at Little Round Top to why Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-advised deployment of artillery on the Union’s front.
Meanwhile, short video clips try to put the viewer on the ground with soldiers during the most fierce and important events, showing things like when Maj. Gen. John Reynolds was shot in the neck and killed.
The full videos for each battle are a little long, about 15-20 minutes each. But they let you get a better understanding of each battle that you can knock out in a lunch break. Check out Gettysburg below:
If you’ve ever watched a video or seen an ad from Black Rifle Coffee Company, you’ve seen the work and style of co-founder Jarred Taylor. “Everything is devoted to creation,” Taylor said, describing his overall philosophy. “So every piece of time, it might seem like I’m having fun, but everything is devoted to creating stuff for the audience base, on my part.”
Taylor grew up in Novato, California, north of San Francisco. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and they lived on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force base, Hamilton Army Airfield. In 1994, he and his family moved to Bangor, Washington.
“I was always fascinated with the military,” Taylor said. “I loved jets specifically.” But his other passion, from an early age, was film. “I would tell people when I was super young, ‘I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies.'”
At age 13, Taylor started making short skateboarding films using his parents’ 8mm camera and a VCR. When he was in high school, technology improved and he began using iMovie to edit. He took all the classes he could about digital media.
Taylor completed high school a year early and joined the Air Force in 2002. As the war in Iraq started, he was eager to get in on the action. “I was kicking and screaming during basic training, trying to find any way to get to that,” he said. When he had the chance to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) — the person responsible for coordinating air strikes on the ground for the Army — he passed selection on his first try.
His role as a TACP meshed nicely with his continuing desire to create movies. “I was in this cool job now where we drop bombs right in front of our face. And I was like, ‘Well shit, no one’s ever really recorded this so I’m gonna do that,'” Taylor said. During two deployments to Iraq, he made films that were eventually used to help with military recruiting.
Jarred Taylor while in the U.S. Air Force.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor re-enlisted — with a hefty ,000 bonus — and became an instructor at the TACP schoolhouse. “It was one of the biggest signing bonuses they ever had,” Taylor said. “I got it and spent pretty much all of it on camera gear and editing stuff. I was gonna go full force on this.”
He began moonlighting in marketing and design work for a variety of companies in the tactical industry as early as 2005. “I had only been in the military for two years before I was searching for something more, wanting to come home from work and continue to work,” Taylor said. “I went to my first trade show with a shitty photo album from Walgreens with a bunch of 4×6 pictures. Everything was always a stepping stone.”
At the same time, Taylor began studying social media, especially YouTube and Facebook. “I’m face deep in how do you get traffic, how do you get the maximum number of people to see this stuff?”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
That was when he saw a YouTube video made by a former U.S. Army Ranger named Mat Best. “I took one look at him and his videos he was making and said, ‘You’re it, man. You’re gonna be it,'” Taylor recalled. “This is what the tactical industry was looking for, this is what I’ve been looking for as a partner, somebody who’s perfect for in front of the camera while I’m doing all the things behind it.”
While Taylor was still active duty in the Air Force and Best was deploying as a CIA contractor, they formed Article 15 Clothing and began posting video content on Best’s YouTube channel. By the time they teamed up with another veteran-owned apparel company, Ranger Up, to crowdfund and produce the feature film “Range 15,” they had already created a wide-reaching community that was passionate about their work.
“The script was so ridiculous that no agents could understand how this movie got funded,” Taylor said with a laugh. They managed to pull in well-known actors Keith David, William Shatner, and Danny Trejo to participate in the film, which brought Article 15 even more notoriety within the veteran community.
Through the Article 15 Facebook page, Taylor met Evan Hafer, a former CIA contractor and entrepreneur. The first time they spoke, “We ended up staying on the phone pretty much from 11 to 1 o’clock — two hours,” Taylor said. “We just went down this rabbit hole.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor, Best, and Hafer began collaborating on multiple projects, and when Hafer suggested starting a coffee company, Taylor and Best were very interested. “Mat and I went chips in on Black Rifle with Evan,” Taylor recalled, “and said, ‘Okay, this is the future. This is going to be the big one that we’re always talking about, so let’s roll with it.'”
“I’m our business development guy,” said Taylor, who’s official BRCC title is Executive Vice President, Partnerships. “Evan points at things that he wants in different markets, anything that’s out there in the realm of where coffee drinkers that generally think like us, and then I go out and find the people and the influencers and the partnerships that can benefit us. I get them to jump on the Black Rifle train.”
But things weren’t always that clear cut. Taylor said he, Best, and Hafer started by running the entire operation by themselves — including “standing there with Evan while he’s roasting coffee, grinding it, and putting it in a bag, putting it in a box, putting a label on it, shipping it.”
Taylor credits much of the company’s success to the relationship he has with Hafer and Best. “We’ve spent more time with the three of us than any of us have spent with anybody else in our entire lives,” he said. “And we still are the focal point of all the big ideas for the company. It’s still coming from the three of us, in a room together making fun of each other until we find something that’s the next thing.”