Ever since the first UH-60 took off in 1974, America’s Black Hawk helicopter has done a lot for the United States military. But let’s face it, even with the upgrades it has received over the years, it’s still been 43 years, and technology hasn’t been standing still.
Sikorsky, though, has been teaming up with Boeing to develop a replacement, the SB1 Defiant. In some ways, this helicopter looks familiar. That’s because it is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, a technology demonstrator that’s been flying for a couple of years.
The S-97 has a top speed of at least 253 miles per hour and can carry six troops. It also has a number of options to haul a fair bit of firepower, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, 7.62mm machine guns, and .50-caliber machine guns. The S-97 uses X2 technology – in essence, a pair of contra-rotating rotors (much like the Kamov helicopters) with a push propeller. This allows it to hover 10,000 feet above the ground when the temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Defiant adds the X2 technology to an airframe roughly the size of the UH-60. The Defiant would be able to haul at least a dozen troops in its cabin, as well as a crew of four. It also features retractable landing gear (to reduce drag), fly-by-wire controls, a composite fuselage, and advanced rotor system.
The concept of a push propeller has been tested before by the United States military. The AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter also used a push propeller to achieve high speed — up to 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Army is reportedly going to ask for proposals from industry for a medium-lift aircraft in 2019. The SB1 Defiant will likely form the basis for one of the responses.
The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.
“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”
G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.
U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)
The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.
As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.
Yes, that President.
In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.
The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.
The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.
Yes, that USS Iowa.
Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.
The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.
The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.
The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.
The flawless Gal Gadot, a military veteran herself, returns as Diana of Themyscira, a warrior empowered by love. Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins (the woman who helmed the highly successful 2017 film), also brings back Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor (who has been presumed dead since 1918).
This trailer also introduces Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal as classic DC villains Cheetah and Maxwell Lord respectively.
Set to a remix of New Order’s Blue Monday, the trailer gives us mystery, 80s glam, and plenty of badass Diana.
“Nothing good is born from lies and greatness is not what you think,” declares Diana, probably to Lord, a power-hungry businessman known for tampering with questionable technologies and powers.
He should probably listen to her because that lasso doesn’t just force people to tell the truth — it can literally Spider-Man her across lightning.
Looks like she’s also upgraded her armor. I can already see the cosplayers gathering up their gold…
The long-awaited trailer premiered at Brazil’s Comic Con Experience and the film will hit theaters June 5, 2020.
Actor John Krasinski has been on a steady five-year come up. Even before acclaim was heaped onto both his acting and directorial performance in the 2017 horror movie A Quiet Place, Krasinski had successfully stepped out of the shadow of his more awkward and decidedly less muscular role as Jim Harper on The Office. Give him props, you can only count on one hand how many actors left The Office and convincingly did something that wasn’t comedic. Now Krasinski is doubling down on his newly badass vibes in the first trailer for his new show Jack Ryan where he plays the titular character.
Jack Ryan is set to debut on Amazon Prime and is yet another take on the character from author Tom Clancy’s classic spy novels. Though the character of Jack Ryan has been played by a bunch of actors— Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears; Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, and most notably Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games— no one but Ford has ever mustered a performance that was compelling enough to warrant more than one shot at playing Ryan. Krasinski though, he might have what it takes.
See, the cool thing about Krasinski as an actor sort of mirrors the cool thing about Jack Ryan as a character. Jack Ryan is an ex-soldier, yeah, but by profession, he’s an analyst— the guy who tries to dodge boring meetings, not bullets. But in the novels, Ryan is constantly thrust out of his comfort zone and forced to carry on like a spy, which, even for a soldier, is not remotely the same. HEll, in one of Clancy’s books Ryan even become president of the United States. The duality of Ryan as this brilliant desk jockey with a badass streak in him is what makes the character so good. Similarly, as an actor, Krasinski can be convincingly comical, normal-looking, and smart while also (per his performance in 13 Hours) having the ability to come off like he could kill you with a spork.
Similar to the Chris Pine and Ben Affleck entries into the Jack Ryan canon, the show for Amazon will be an origin story that shows Ryan make his first transition from behind his desk to behind enemy lines as a spy. Unlike other takes on the character though, this will be an episodic show which is good for Krasinski. Because it’s a show, he’ll have the space to come up short sometimes or not always hit the mark, but also to redeem himself episodes later. Movies are so much less forgiving in this regard, you just don’t get another chance at anything if it doesn’t work. Still, Krasinski has proven himself more versatile in the second act of his career, and Jack Ryan looks to be another exciting entry in it.
Jack Ryan debuts on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 31, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Let’s be honest, most movies don’t get the Marines right, but that doesn’t mean some characters don’t capture what the Corps is all about.
Even among the the incredible men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, Marines have a tendency to stand out. Whether it’s our cult-like affinity for adhering to regulations, our invariably over-the-top pride in our branch, our ability to hit targets from 500 yards out on iron sights, or the truck-load of ego we take with us into a fight, Marines are unquestionably a breed of their own.
In movies and television, Marines are often depicted as hellacious war fighters and disciplined professionals, but Marines themselves will be the first to tell you that, while we may work hard, we often party even harder. Marines aren’t war machines, but we are highly trained. Marines aren’t incapable of compassion, but we do often keep our emotions in check. Marines aren’t super human, but that won’t stop us from acting–and talking–like we are.
That swirling combination of bravado and humility, of violence and compassion, of action and introspection make Marines more complex than they’re often depicted on screens big and small. It’s just hard to cram the sort of paradox into a fictional character. Hell, it’s hard to cram that sort of paradox into a real person too–which is why, as any Marine Corps recruiter will tell you, the Corps isn’t for everyone.
So when it comes to fictional Marines, who does the best job of capturing the unique dynamic of Uncle Sam’s Devil Dogs? That’s just what we aim to find out.
Hicks, as we all know him, was technically a corporal in the United States Colonial Marine Corps, which may not exist now, but just may in the far-flung future of the Aliens movies. While Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson may have some of the more memorable lines (“Game over man! Game over!”) it’s Hicks that maintains his military bearing throughout most of the film. When their unit is decimated and Corporal Hicks finds himself as the senior Marine on station, he willingly assumes the responsibility of command, contradicts the unsafe orders given by the mission’s civilian liaison, and makes a command decision based on the evidence at hand.
If you ask me, that’s some pretty good Marine-ing right there.
Back in the 1990s, no one was cooler than the UFO-chasing FBI agents on the Fox series, The X-Files, but despite Mulder and Scully’s run ins with the supernatural, neither were particularly tough when it came time to fight. Fortunately, their boss was a Vietnam veteran U.S. Marine that had worked his way up to Assistant Director of the FBI.
Skinner didn’t only prove himself a capable fighter time and time again, he regularly put his life on the line to help the agents under his charge and frequently was stuck trying to insulate them from nefarious powers elsewhere in the U.S. government. Skinner was no pushover, and regularly dolled out disciplinary lectures, but when they needed him, Skinner was there with a solid right hook and a drive to protect his troops.
A good Marine isn’t just about the fight. A good Marine is a leader–and that’s just what Skinner is.
There are enough iterations of Jack Ryan for everyone to have a favorite. Whether you prefer Alec Baldwin’s Ryan squaring off with the best of the Soviet Navy in The Hunt for Red October or the John Krasinski’s TV version fighting modern day terrorism, there are some universal traits every character named Jack Ryan carries with them.
Ryan is the perpetual underdog, always starting his story arc as an unassuming CIA analyst and Marine veteran. Despite having all the usual Marine Corps training, a helicopter crash left Ryan with a long road to recovery and a new way of life–but that didn’t stop him from devoting himself to serving his country in any form he could.
Ryan is the perfect example of a Marine that could have done something else–with his smarts, capabilities, and drive, he could be successful in any industry. He chose service because his nation matters to the very fabric of his being. That’s what being a Marine is all about.
In nature, scorpions are deadly creatures that wield a fearsome sting. So, it makes sense that they’ve lent their name to many a weapon, like the F-89 Scorpion and the Textron Scorpion, just to name two of the most prominent. One of the lesser-known weapons to hold this arachnid moniker is the the M56 Scorpion.
The M56 was a contemporary of the M50 Ontos, an anti-tank six-shooter that served with the Marine Corps for 13 years, giving them a lightweight vehicle with a potent punch. The Army took a different approach in fielding a similar vehicle.
Instead of the six 106mm recoilless rifles the Marines selected for the Ontos, the Army opted for a single M54 90mm gun as the primary armament for the M56. The Scorpion had 29 rounds for the main gun — which was its only weapon.
The Scorpion was intended to give the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions some serious anti-tank firepower. They needed something lightweight — and the Scorpion was only 15,750 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com, less than a third of the weight of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. That weight combined with a 90mm gun and you’ve got yourself a winning vehicle, right?
This M56 at the American Armored Foundation Museum shows how small the M56 Scorpion was, despite its powerful 90mm M54 gun.
(Photo by Ryan Crierie)
Well, not quite. It turns out that when you’ve a powerful gun on a light vehicle, the recoil can be vicious. In this case, it was real bad – firing the Scorpion’s gun could send it flying three feet into the air. As you can imagine, this was an extremely uncomfortable experience for the crew in two ways. Not only did it jolt them about, risking serious injury, it also exposed their position to enemy forces — which is last thing you want on a battlefield.
The M56 Scorpion, like the M50 Ontos, saw action in Vietnam.
Unlike the Ontos, the Scorpion did see some export sales. The Spanish Marines bought some, and so did Morocco and South Korea. The M56 saw action in the Vietnam War, primarily serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The M56 was eventually replaced by the M551 Sheridan, which not only saw action in Vietnam, but served into the 1990s.
Learn more about this lightweight Scorpion in the video below!
The penultimate episode of season one brings us Chapter 7: The Reckoning, wherein director Deborah Chow returns — and brings along some familiar faces.
Here’s your spoiler warning:
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian-of-honor receives a transmission from Greef Carga, who has a proposition that is clearly a trap. Navarro is now overrun with Imperial troopers and Carga wants them off his back, so he’s willing to team up with Mando to kill The Client.
Our Mandalorian seems to decide that this is the best deal he can get so he decides to take Carga up on his deal — but not without reinforcement. He returns to Sorgan to recruit Cara Dune, who’s brawling for credits in a bar (fun to see Gina Carano showing off some of her moves).
To my surprise, they leave Omera behind (I’m still waiting to find out why she’s such a good marksman) and head off to Arvala-7 to grab Kuiil instead.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Here we learn that the Ugnaught has spent the time since we last saw him repairing and reprogramming IG-11. For some reason that hasn’t yet paid off, this episode spends a lot of time on the montage of IG-11’s journey back to functioning droid. I feel like I got the gist the first time Kuiil said he reprogrammed the killing out of IG-11?
Kuill finally agrees to accompany Mando but insists on bringing IG-11 and three blurrg with him.
(Side note: I basically just ignore space and time in Star Wars otherwise I’ll get too distracted wondering how those blurrg fit in the ship? And how much time has actually passed? It only feels like a few days or weeks but I guess it’s longer?)
Silly billy! No Force-choking friends without their consent!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
During their flight back to Navarro, Mando and Cara arm-wrestle. Seeing this, the Yoda Baby misinterprets Cara’s actions as an attack against Mando so he decides to Force-choke her.
“That’s not cool!” Haha but it is hilarious. Little baby Force-choke! That’s impressive!
What’s most interesting is the reaction — no one in the ship talks about the Force after the incident. Kuiil is theoretically old enough to remember the time of the Jedi Order (he mentions to Cara that he’s lived three human lifespans), but none of the group seem to know firsthand about the Force.
Beware the intelligent adversary.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
On Navarro, the group meets up with Carga and his back-up. They decide to walk until sundown, camp for the night, then head into the city at first light. Unfortunately, they are attacked by some sort of pack of flying dragons or mynocks or wyverns. The creatures carry off two blurrgs (which was deeply unsettling — why do the innocents always have to die?) and rake Carga’s arm with poisonous claws.
Here we get to learn a pretty fun new fact about the Force — it can be used for healing. The Yoda Baby walks up to Carga, places his tiny little hand on Carga’s wounded arm, and closes the wound and eliminates the poison. Cool!
Carga thought so, too, because the next day he shoots his men and confesses that they were just going to turn on Mando. Now Carga is committed to saving the baby and killing The Client.
He suggests there will only be about four Stormtroopers guarding The Client and not to worry…
Only now, Kuiil will take the baby back to the Razor Crest and they’ll pull the ol’ fake-prisoner bit, bringing in Mando in handcuffs, and just pretend the baby is in the carrier.
Insert a “we’ve got company” quote here.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Of course, the plan goes awry. Though The Client apparently believes the baby is “sleeping,” his boss doesn’t. Moff Gideon (played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) calls via hologram right before ordering an attack on everyone in the room. He shows up in a fancy TIE fighter to join his Death Troopers and trap Mando and Cara behind enemy lines.
Mando then decides to, for some reason, communicate with Kuiil over comms that are easily intercepted by Scout Troopers, who take off to capture Kuiil.
A very stressful race begins, with Kuiil and the Yoda Baby on a fleeing blurrg, racing toward the ship while the Scout Troopers speed off toward them. (I mean, how did the Scout Troopers know which way to go? Why didn’t Mando use clean comms — or at least some code?? Questions for another day…)
Honestly, I was waiting for IG-11 to burst out of the ship and save the day…but instead we cut abruptly to the Yoda Baby on the ground, scooped up by a Scout Trooper, leaving the dead blurrg and Kuiil in their wake.
With that, we’re left on an Empire-like cliffhanger waiting for the finale on Dec. 27.
You’ve heard of Elf On The Shelf but are you ready forpic.twitter.com/0dyFHkbkCR
Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.
Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.
Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.
What Do We Know About The Agreement?
The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.
The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”
The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.
RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.
Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.
According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.
Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.
Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.
Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.
“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”
“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.
Why Is The Treaty Controversial?
The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.
The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.
A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.
A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.
Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.
“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”
She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”
What Are The Critics Saying?
Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”
Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.
Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.
The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.
Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.
The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”
What Are Iranian Officials Saying?
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.
Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.
President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.
Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.
The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.
Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.
“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.
An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.
“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.
By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.
And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.
The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.
New vs. old
In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.
The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.
F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.
If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.
“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.
“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.
By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.
The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.
Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.
“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.
“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.
Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.
Running the numbers
Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.
The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.
“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”
Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.
Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.
For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.
A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.
“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”
“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”
The way forward
Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.
So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.
Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.
“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”
For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.
The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.
“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.
There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.
“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deployments — F-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”
It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.
“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.
For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.
Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.
Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.
“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.
“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”
According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)
In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.
The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.
The black box of a Ukrainian passenger airliner shot down by Iranian forces in Tehran in January is damaged and Iran will not hand it over to another country, despite pressure for access, state media quoted top Iranian ministers as saying on February 1.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that he had “impressed upon” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that a complete and independent investigation into the shooting down of the airliner had to be carried out.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was brought down by Iranian air defenses after it took off from Tehran on January 8, killing everyone on board. Iran says the shoot-down was a mistake. The 176 victims included 82 Iranian citizens and 63 Canadians, many of them of Iranian origin.
The crash occurred with Iran’s air-defense forces on high alert following an Iranian ballistic-missile attack a few hours earlier against U.S. forces in Iraq. The strikes came days after Iran’s most prominent military commander, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
“We have a right to read the black box ourselves. We have a right to be present at any examination of the black box,” Zarif said.
“If we are supposed to give the black box to others for them to read it in our place then this is something we will definitely not do,” he said.
However, Iran is in discussions with other countries, particularly Ukraine, about the investigation, Zarif said. Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the flight data recording box had “sustained noticeable damage and the defense industry has been requested to help in reconstructing (it).”
“The reconstruction of the black box is supposed to take place first and then the reading,” Hatami said.
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.