Believe it or not, folks, gun debates raged long before there was an Internet. Though in some cases, it was rather important to “diss” some guns. Like in World War II.
The Nazis had some pretty respectable designs. The MP40, a submachine gun chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge, with a 32-round magazine was pretty close to their standard submachine gun.
Compare that to the American M1928 Thompson submachine gun, which fired the .45 ACP round and could fire a 30-round magazine or drum holding 50 or 100 rounds, or the M3 “Grease Gun,” also firing the .45 ACP round and with a 30-round magazine.
Two of the major Nazi machine guns were the MG34 and the MG42. Both fired the 7.92x57mm round. They could fire very quickly – as much as 1,500 rounds per minute in the case of the MG42. The major machine guns the Americans used were the M1917 and M1919. Both fired the .30-06 round and could shoot about 500 rounds a minute.
That said, the primary Nazi rifle, the Mauser Karabiner 98k, was outclassed by the American M1 Garand. The Germans also didn’t have a weapon to match the M1 Carbine, a semi-auto rifle that had a 15 or 30-round magazine.
And the Walther P38 and Luger didn’t even come close to the M1911 when it came to sidearms. That much is indisputable.
But it isn’t all about the rate of fire in full-auto – although it probably is good for devout spray-and-pray shooters. It’s about how many rounds are on target – and which put the bad guys down. The German guns may not have been all that when it came to actually hitting their targets, at least according to the United States Army training film below.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.
The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)
Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.
Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.
Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.
James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.
“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.
But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.
Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”
Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”
Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.
Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”
He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.
“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.
“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Photo by Liz Kaszynski
Beaufort Code One Aerial Photo/Video Mission
Location: Beaufort, South Carolina
March 19, 2015
Aircraft 10 - Major "RJ" Corkill
Aircraft 11 - Major "Stiffler" Fearon
Aircraft - Major "Gravy" Rountree.
In recent months, a slew of bad press for Lockheed Martin’s long-troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has once again made calling the 5th generation jet a failure culturally en vogue. From overt statements about the aircraft’s financial woes to newly announced tech issues causing “strategic pauses” in development and even an apparent lack of confidence in the aircraft coming out of the Air Force’s top brass, the Joint Strike Fighter program hasn’t faced such an uphill battle since the Pentagon first decided it wanted a single aircraft that could hover like a Harrier, fly supersonic like an Eagle, sneak past defenses like a Nighthawk, and land on carriers like a Super Hornet.
With all of this bad press, the inclination for some is to simply dismiss the F-35 program as an egregious acquisition debacle and nothing else. After all, the aircraft still can’t go into full-rate production because of a laundry list of issues, hundreds of delivered airframes may never actually be combat-ready, and the Air Force isn’t even sure they can afford to operate an F-35-focused fleet… With all of that piled up in the “con” column, it’s easy to see why some people never make it past those cons to begin with.
Assessing the F-35’s worth: Concept vs. Reality
The truth is, the F-35 isn’t a concept–it’s an aircraft–and that’s an important distinction. Concepts can usually be neatly filed under right or wrong; good or bad. Real things, by and large, aren’t so easily organized, and often (when it comes to new technologies) are as much a product of their challenges as their original design. Every groundbreaking military aircraft program has faced setbacks, and while no aircraft program has ever cost as much as the F-35 promises to in its lifetime, that cost doesn’t negate the real capability the fighter brings to the table. Let me be clear–this isn’t an argument in favor of the F-35 program, or even necessarily for the jet to keep its lauded position atop the Air Force’s priority list. It’s just an objective observation about what this fighter can do.
Again, as a concept, we can neatly file the intent behind the F-35 in the “good idea” category and the execution behind paying for it in the “bad idea” one–but in terms of this specific aircraft made of nuts and bolts, those distinctions aren’t quite as important as they are to the broader discussion. We can either take the significant leap in capability the F-35 offers and find a way to shoehorn it into a pragmatic model for spending as we move forward… or not. Lessons learned from the F-35’s acquisition debacle should certainly inform how America sources its next fighters (or anything for that matter), but in terms of the F-35 itself, only time travel could solve most of these past headaches… and time travel is one of the things Lockheed Martin has yet to deliver.
So let’s divorce ourselves from the emotion tied to dollar exchanges ranked in the trillions, forget about the frustration we’ve felt as the F-35 program has languished behind delays, and look at this fighter for what it was meant to be, what it is, and what it can be in the years ahead. Past failures in one column don’t necessarily mean future failures in another, after all.
The F-35 might be a horror story in accounting, but it’s also a massive success from the vantage point of its trigger pullers.
Asking for the impossible
The first studies that would lead to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program as we know it began in 1993, with America shopping for a short take-off, vertical-landing fighter that could operate in the modern era.
Soon, the Pentagon took notice of other fighter programs in development and posited a theory: If America could find one airplane that could replace a whole host of aging platforms, it would shrink acquisition cost, streamline maintenance and operation training, remove many of the logistical headaches tied to operating a large number of aircraft in far-flung theaters, and make everyone’s day that much easier and less expensive. In hindsight, of course, those goals weren’t just naive, they may have been the program’s first major problem.
Lockheed Martin, the same firm responsible for the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor, would ultimately beat out Boeing for the Joint Strike Fighter contract, thanks to their track record in the field of stealth and impressive technology demonstrators.
Today, meeting the broad requirements of three American military branches and at least two foreign partners is one of the F-35’s biggest selling points… but in the late 1990s, it was akin to Kennedy’s announcement that America would put a man on the moon within the following decade. It was a good idea on paper… but nobody really knew how to make it actually happen.
“If you were to go back to the year 2000 and somebody said, ‘I can build an airplane that is stealthy and has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and can go supersonic,’ most people in the industry would have said that’s impossible,” Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the program from 2000 to 2013 told The New York Times.
“The technology to bring all of that together into a single platform was beyond the reach of industry at that time.”
But money has a way of making the impossible start to look improbable… and then eventually, mundane. The Saturn V that kept Kennedy’s promise about the moon was the most complex and powerful machine ever devised by man, and by Apollo 13–just NASA’s third mission to the moon–the American people already thought the rocket’s trip through space was too boring to watch (at least until everything went wrong). Likewise, building a supersonic, stealth fighter that can hover over amphibious assault ships sounded downright crazy, that is, right up until it was boring.
Making the impossible mundane costs lots of money
In order to meet the disparate needs of a single aircraft that could replace at least five planes across multiple military forces, Lockheed Martin chose to devise three iterations of their new fighter.
The F-35A would be the closest to what might be considered a traditional multi-role fighter–intended to take off and land on well-manicured airstrips found on military installations the world over. The second, dubbed the F-35B, would incorporate a directional jet nozzle and hidden fan to provide the aircraft with enough lift to hover and land vertically for use aboard Marine Corps amphibious assault ships or on austere, hastily cleared airstrips. Finally, a carrier-capable variant dubbed the F-35C would boast the greater wingspan necessarily for lower speed carrier landings, along with a reinforced fuselage that could withstand the incredible forces tied to serving aboard an aircraft carrier.
The plan was to leave as much about all three iterations as identical as possible, so parts, production, training, and maintenance could be similar enough regardless of the operating theater. That plan would prove infeasible almost immediately.
“It turns out when you combine the requirements of the three services, what you end up with is the F-35, which is an aircraft that is in many ways suboptimal for what each of the services really want,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.
Lockheed Martin’s team of designers began with the simplest version: the landing-strip-friendly F-35A. Once they were happy with the design, they moved on to the F-35B, which needed to house its internal fan right in the middle of the aircraft’s fuselage. As soon as they began work on the F-35B, it became clear that simply copying and pasting the F-35A design wouldn’t cut it. In fact, they were so far off the mark that it would take an additional 18 months and $6.2 billion just to figure out how to make the F-35B work–something you’d think might have come up prior to securing the contract.
This was the first, but certainly not the last, time a problem like this would derail progress on the F-35. To some extent, these failures can largely be attributed to poor planning, but it’s also important to remember that the F-35 program was aiming to do things no other fighter program had ever done before. Discovery and efficiency don’t always walk hand in hand–and to be clear, Lockheed Martin had no real incentive to make the Joint Strike Fighter work on a budget.
Concurrent Development: The dirtiest two words in aviation
The United States knew that what they were asking Lockheed Martin to deliver wouldn’t be easy. Stealth aircraft programs from the F-117 to today’s B-21 Raider have all faced a struggled balance between price tag and capability, but with so many eggs in the F-35 basket, the stakes quickly ballooned. With highly advanced 4th generation fighters like Russia’s Su-35 and China’s J-10 already flying, and their own stealth fighter programs in development by the 2000s, America was in trouble. The dogfighting dynamo F-22 was canceled in 2011 after just 186 jets were built, making the F-35 the nation’s only fighter program on the books. This new jet would have to be better than everything in the sky today and for decades to come… and it had to start doing it immediately.
To make this possible, the Pentagon believed the best approach would be “concurrent development,” or just “concurrency.” The premise behind concurrency is simple: You begin production of the new aircraft once the design is settled, and then you go back and make changes as testing highlights any issues that may need to be addressed. On paper, this looked like a way to begin fielding these new, highly capable fighters, training pilots and maintainers, developing tactics, and settling the fighter of the future into service as it matured. In reality, however, it meant building F-35s before they’d been fully tested and then spending billions to go back and fix the old jets after testing was complete.
Issue after issue bubbled to the surface. By 2017, they’d become so serious that the Air Force began to consider just abandoning the first 108 F-35A’s they’d received (and the $21.4 billion they’d spent on them) simply because fixing them would be too expensive. By the end of 2020, Lockheed Martin once again postponed full-rate production, with a long list of issues yet to be resolved.
And amid all of this spending rose yet another financial hurdle: the immense cost of operating the F-35. While a top-of-the-line but decidedly non-stealth F-15EX may cost as much as $28,000 an hour to fly, the F-35 costs at least $44,000 per hour… and each F-35 airframe is only rated to fly for less than a third of the total hours an F-15EX can. In other words, the F-35 has been egregiously expensive to develop and promises to stay egregiously expensive to operate. As a result, the Air Force is now considering adding another, cheaper fighter to the mix despite planning to order more than 2,000 total F-35s over its lifetime. The fact of the matter is, the jet is just too expensive to use for some jobs.
“I want to moderate how much we’re using those aircraft,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said of the F-35.
“You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays. This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight… We don’t want to burn up capability now and wish we had it later.”
So… the F-35 is a failure?
Not so fast. It’s easy to spiral down the acquisition rabbit hole until you start shaking your fist at the sky, and if you only read up until this point in this article or similar ones, it makes sense that you’d feel secure in lumping the F-35 in with flying aircraft carriers and pigeon-guided missiles as yet another mistake on Uncle Sam’s bar tab… but these vantage points are missing one incredibly important bit of context: The opinion of the warfighters who fly them.
In terms of responsible spending, you’ll probably only hear the F-35 program defended by Air Force officials and Lockheed Martin employees, but in terms of sheer capability, you can find lots of folks singing the F-35’s praises.
“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, said about flying with F-35s in the Air Force’s large scale Red Flag exercise. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft: ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.’”
According to Wood, that same “brand new” pilot would rack up three kills against those enemy pilots in just the next hour.
These stories tend not to get as much reach as the bad news for a few important reasons. The first is that bad news sells, and folks are more likely to click on an article highlighting an expensive American failure than they are a tactical success story. The second is a bit more nuanced: While we tend to think of fighter operations in terms of scenes we’ve seen in the movie, “Top Gun,” the F-35 doesn’t simply operate in those terms.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is slower than the F-15, can’t fly as high as the long-retired F-14, carries less ordnance than an F/A-18, and wouldn’t be a match for the F-16 in an acrobatic competition. In terms of just about all of the things that we think fighters have to do, the F-35 is worse than the old jets we watched our parents fly in the 1970s… But there’s a good reason behind that–and it isn’t just about stealth.
Data fusion, not stealth, is the F-35’s most potent weapon
Yes, the F-35 can fly faster than the speed of sound, deliver its payload to unsuspecting targets in highly defended airspace, and then land vertically on the deck of a helicopter carrier… but all of that is just part of what makes it special. The most important part, many would argue, isn’t its ability to avoid detection or even deliver ordnance: It’s the F-35’s ability to soak up information and process it into something our oversized monkey brains can actually use in a fight.
Despite their bravado, fighter pilots are made out of the same guts and water as the rest of us–and that really makes their jobs a lot harder than most people realize. Not only does it take an incredible amount of physical resilience just to manage the rigors of flying in a combat environment, but it also takes a huge amount of mental bandwidth and focus.
Pilots managing even the best 4th generation fighters have to split their attention between as many as 20 dials and readouts in their cockpits, all while keeping their eyes on the horizon and skies around them, looking out for enemy aircraft or surface to air missiles, among other things.
Because each of those dials, sensors, and screens are fed by independent data streams, it’s up to the pilot to scan all of them, and the skies, and then combine all of that info in his or her head… even when two sensors offer contradictory information. And that’s assuming all those gauges can help in a dogfight.
“In my cockpit, what I had displayed for me was what I had on my own radar and what I could hear in my headset, and that was it,” Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in 2019. Goldfein flew the F-16 and F-117 as a pilot. “My job was to figure out mentally, in this 3-D, god’s-eye view, what was going on over hundreds of miles of battlespace.”
The F-35, with its incredibly expensive custom helmets and powerful onboard computers, takes all of that information and then adds more, gleaning data from other aircraft, ground assets, satellites, and even Navy vessels. The computers file and sort all of this information and then translate the deluge into a single, convenient trickle right in front of the pilot’s eyes. Instead of trying to manage a dozen gauges and your view of the enemy, F-35 pilots see all the pertinent info they need right in their line of sight, offering info on enemy targets, friendly assets, and mission objectives at a glance–but that’s not all this flying supercomputer can do.
“The mission commander now is taxiing out, hasn’t even taken off yet, and is already getting input from what’s happening in space and cyber,” Goldfien said. “As soon as you pilot that airplane up, it’s already starting to fuse and collect.”
The F-35’s data fusion does give its pilots better situational awareness than any tactical aircraft to come before it, but that value multiplies as the data is shared across other aircraft and assets. A single F-35 in a formation has proven to make its 4th generation wingmen more deadly thanks to relaying such a thorough understanding of the battlespace. As a result, many pilots have taken to calling the F-35 a “quarterback in the sky.” Sure, it’s on the field too, but its game-changing capabilities make it a leadership platform. F-35 pilots have even successfully engaged targets using weapons from ground vehicles by relaying target information in real-time.
The F-35’s data fusion capabilities may get less attention than its stealth, but the truth is, stealth is a 50-year-old concept (with plenty of ongoing application), and data fusion is the future.
What is the F-35’s future… and what should it be?
It seems entirely possible that the U.S. Air Force does pursue a “5th gen minus” fighter that’s cheaper and less stealthy than the F-35, but more capable in contested airspace than an F-16, but that doesn’t mean the F-35 will just be sent out to pasture.
While once seen as the future workhorse of American and allied air power, the F-35 program has been a victim of its own lofty aspirations, reaching into Lockheed Martin’s grab bag of capabilities and coming out with a few more than America’s already bulging defense budget could handle. We may not actually see 2,000 F-35s flying under America’s banner in the long run, but then, maybe we don’t have to for it to be a success yet.
Lockheed Martin drew some criticisms in 2019 when they told Japan that they could build a new stealth fighter that bridges the capabilities of the F-35 and F-22 while all coming in at a lower cost, seemingly acknowledging the fiscal irresponsibility of the F-35 program to date. There’s another way to look at that statement though: The first time you do something will always cost more than the second. As time goes on, that advanced technology becomes more commonplace and less expensive, and then a new expensive technology comes along to take its place. We should expect the next stealth fighter to either cost a whole bunch less or do a whole bunch more. That’s just the nature of warfare and technology.
That next fighter, as well as others like the NGAD, will benefit from expensive mistakes made in the F-35’s development, as well as the incredible lessons learned about avionics, secure networking, and operating in contested airspace. Do those valuable leaps offset the financial boondoggle that has been F-35 acquisition over the past 14 years? No. The F-35 may be jam-packed with game-changing technology, but capability is not, in itself, a measure of cost-effectiveness.
If your opinion of the F-35 is derived on paper, as a measure of carried ones and zeros split with commas, its probably safe to say you think it’s a failure… but the F-35 wasn’t built to operate on paper. This fighter was meant to give America’s warfighters an edge over the competition, and if you ask the guys and gals flying it, that’s exactly what it’s done.
So, is the F-35 an acquisition failure or is it a tactical success? The complicated truth is… it’s both.
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations
Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.
But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?
And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?
The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.
That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.
I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.
From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.
The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.
Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.
So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.
Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.
And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.
I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.
It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.
Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.
After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.
“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.
When in Rome…
And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”
We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.
So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.
On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:
“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”
Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.
We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.
One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]
Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.
While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.
But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.
But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.
And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.
And, again, it was another eye-opener.
SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.
There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.
BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.
Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.
At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…
…but you did it at depth.
Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!
Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.
The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.
Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.
And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.
Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.
Rangers, can I get a Hooah!
And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!
And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!
God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.
On Tuesday, the lone pilot out of Naval Air Station Lemoore flew over the University of California campus at at an altitude of roughly 2,500 to 3,000 feet during a training flight, according to a spokesman. On local news site Berkeleyside however, Caleb Linden told the site the jet looked like it “was flying about 300-500 feet off the ground.”
One observer reported the jet as low as 300-500 feet. While radar indicated the plane only dipped to 2500 feet, it should be noted that the Berkeley Hills rise 1754 feet –which could put the pilot closer to the ground than first reported depending on when he began his ascent out of Berkeley’s airspace. UC Berkeley’s campus is mostly below 500 feet, with some buildings higher up on the hill.
While the altitude of the plane was a point of debate, the Navy told CBS the pilot was on a “familiarization flight” that required looking outside the plane, rather than relying on instruments. That didn’t stop some witnesses from losing their minds on social media and elsewhere.
What in the heck was that roaring jet noise over Berkeley just now? Did Dick Cheney just do a flyover? @berkeleyside
On February 28, 1993, a standoff between federal agents and an offshoot branch of Seventh-Day Adventists escalated into armed conflict on American soil. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in an effort to execute a legal search warrant.
Once the shooting started, four agents and six Davidians were dead. The ensuing standoff would last 51 days. The conspiracy theories would live forever.
By March 11, there was a new sheriff in town – that is to say, a new top law enforcement officer was at the desk of Attorney General.
For Janet Reno — the first female to hold top cop job — one of the first tasks was a literal trial by fire: how to handle the ultimate hand of “Texas Hold ‘Em” happening down Waco way.
There are two segments to the Waco standoff, sadly bookended by violence. The first was the ATF raid for the initial search warrant. President Clinton was inaugurated the previous January, creating a transition period for many departments of the federal government. The Department of Justice was in what it called “caretaker mode” before a new AG could be appointed. For much of the time after the February raid, it was assumed by many that the FBI would negotiate a resolution with the Davidians, so that’s what the caretakers – senior justice department officials – did.
The second major event came when the Attorney General’s office ordered a full-on storming of the compound by the FBI on April 19th. For the 51 days in between, FBI negotiators tried to end the siege peacefully — and came close a few times. It was when Davidian leader David Koresh proclaimed that God told him to remain inside the compound that factions within the FBI began to advocate for an assault. The Davidians made a number of demands, to a mixed reception by the FBI.
Though some children inside the compound were released to the care of the FBI, there were still children inside the Davidian compound. Allegations of child sexual assault prompted many to wonder why the government forces allowed the standoff to continue. Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, a holdover from the Bush Administration, requested military firepower from nearby Fort Hood. When President Clinton was informed, he demanded that Gerson not use the requested military vehicles for a “more aggressive” tactical push.
Federal forces used Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles and M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles to destroy perimeter fences and structures and to destroy the cars of people on the compound. Troops around the area also had 2 M1A1 Abrams Tanks. The feds used loud music, pre-recorded aircraft noise, and even the sounds of slaughtered rabbits to deprive the Davidians of sleep while cutting water, power, and communications to the compound. Koresh reportedly began to believe he was the second coming of Christ.
As incoming Attorney General, Reno was briefed about the Waco Siege situation on March 12. By April 18, she was informing President Clinton that she authorized the FBI’s use of tear gas on the compound. With the assurance that the children in the compound were protected, he left it to Reno to decide the next steps. The FBI planned the assault for 0700.
On April 19th, agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as troops from the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard, were authorized by Clinton to assault the compound. Reno told the president the risk of abused children inside was high while the siege was costing the government upward of $1 million per week.
Federal forces used the CEVs, .50 cal machine guns, and explosives to punch holes in the walls of the compound. The area was then saturated with tear gas in an attempt to flush the Davidians out. The people inside the complex responded by firing on the CEVs. The federal forces maintained they never returned a shot. For six hours the Davidians held out.
But fire is what ultimately ended the Waco siege.
Three fires began at separate locations within the building at about noon local time. Nine people escaped the blaze, but 76 died inside the walls. The government forces maintain the fires were started by the Davidians in the compound while those who escape claim the fires were a result of the assault. According to an official Justice Department report, poor construction, high winds, and the holes created by the government attack helped vent the fire and contribute to its fast spread.
After all was said and done, the original ATF warrant was founded in fact. The Justice Department reported they recovered a number of illegal weapons from the compound, including 1.9 million rounds of spent ammunition, 20 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, 12 fully automatic AR-15 assault rifles, at least two .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, and anti-tank armor-piercing ammunition.
China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.
“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”
“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.
China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
Here’s what China is bringing:
1. H-6K bombers
The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.
“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.
Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.
“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.
That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.
“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”
Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)
An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.
“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.
For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.
“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.
Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.
“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.
Robinson echoed his sentiments.
“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.
Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”
That capability means filling a variety of roles.
“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”
Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.
“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.
“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”
Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.
“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”
The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.
Those partnerships are important.
“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”
For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.
Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.
That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.
“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.
The result was a total redo of network systems.
“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”
It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.
“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.
“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.
The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.
“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”
Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.
“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.
“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”
When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.
So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.
Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.
That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.
Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.
The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.
While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.
But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.
Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.
That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.
This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.
The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.
In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In a statement marking the 5th anniversary of the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today’s military is stronger than ever since the repeal.
“I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” Carter said. “The American people can take pride in how the Department of Defense and the men and women of the United States military have implemented this change with the dignity, respect, and excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
Carter expressed optimism as the military continues to become more inclusive.
“As the memory of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ fades further into the past, and we move forward together to face new challenges,” he added, “we recognize that openness to diversity and reaching out in a spirit of renewed inclusiveness will strengthen our military and enhance our nation’s security.”
Also today, the Pentagon’s personnel chief released a letter to service members, families and veterans, encouraging people who received less-than-honorable discharges from the military based solely on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its precursor laws and policies to seek a correction of their records.
“If there is something in your record of service that you believe unjust, we have proven and effective policies and procedures to by which to consider and correct such errors,” acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Peter Levine wrote. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a vestige of our past and I encourage you to honor the 5th anniversary of the Department’s implementation of its repeal by coming forward and requesting a correction.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Airman 1st Class Ian Wilkerson, a 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communication navigation specialist, checks the radio systems of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a preflight inspection April 26, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Maintenance and inspections are conducted before and after every mission to ensure aircraft safety and longevity.
Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron use the Jaws of Life to tear apart a vehicle’s roof to remove a mock victim during a combat search and rescue demonstration at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 21, 2016. Pararescuemen and members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron demonstrated the rescue during a Chief of Staff of the Air Force Civic Leader Program visit.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the US Army.
A helicopter crew, assigned to 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Wainwright, transport supplies and equipment with a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during high-altitude mountain operations at Denali base camp, Alaska, April 24, 2016.
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 22, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, Solo pilots perform at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base Air Power Expo 2016. The Blue Angels are currently celebrating their 70th show season and are schedules to perform 66 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2016.
GULF OF ADEN (April 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion is staged during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Robson, water purification specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24 practice drills during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston helicopter aircrewman looks out from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter while conducting an overflight assessment and search for anyone in distress after recent flooding in southeast Texas, April 19, 2016.
Good Samaritans and U.S. Coast Guard Heartland crews rescued nine mariners after their boat rapidly began taking on water.
The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.
The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.
If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.
At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.
Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.
Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.
The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.
In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.
Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.