Flying for more than 60 years, today's Dragon Lady is nothing like the past - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Since the mid-1950s, the US Air Force’s U-2 Dragon Lady has been cruising the upper reaches of the atmosphere, snooping almost totally unnoticed.

While the mission is pretty much the same, the aircraft doing it are much different.

“The ‘U’ in U-2 stands for ‘utility,’ so a lot of people are like, ‘OK, 1955, what are we doing in 2019, when we’re flying F-35s and F-22s … why are we flying the U-2 that was built in 1955?'” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said during an event hosted by the Air Force in May at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.

“Much like the Corvette, which has been around for a long time, there’s been a lot of different versions of [the U-2],” Patterson said. “The U-2s that we fly now, they were all built in about the mid-’80s.”

“The jets are actually pretty new,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at the event. “They’re a lot newer than people anticipate, even though it’s been flying for more than 60 years.”


Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

The last of the original batch of U-2A aircraft at the US Air Force Museum.

(US Air Force)

‘It’s just the name is old’

The U-2A was the first to fly, when its massive wings accidentally turned a high-speed taxi test into a flight test in August 1955. It was followed by the U-2C, which had a new engine.

To overcome range limitations, the Air Force and the CIA outfitted U-2As and U-2Cs for aerial refueling; they became U-2Es and U-2Fs, according to The Drive.

In the early 1960s, the desire for more range led to the development of carrier-capable variants. Landing on a carrier, proved challenging, though, and several U-2As were modified with stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers to decrease lift. These became the U-2G and U-2H.

The U-2R, which first flew in 1967, was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, allowing for high-altitude stand-off surveillance. (The U-2R was tested for carrier operations, but a naval variant of the U-2 never entered service.)

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.

(US Navy)

The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2638876726″.7 billion to modernize the airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were redesignated as U-2S, the current variant.

Between 2002 and 2007, Lockheed upgraded the U-2’s 1960s-era cockpit avionics with the Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program, or RAMP, replacing dials and gauges with multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and a secondary flight-display system, according to Military Aerospace Electronics.

The new displays were more user-friendly and offered a better view of the ground to the pilot, who previously had to look into a large tube in the center of the cockpit. RAMP also made the radio controls easier to reach.

The most recent cockpit upgrades were completed in 2013, Lockheed said last year. Other modifications have been floated in the years since, aimed at keeping the U-2’s sensors robust and resilient.

The Air Force currently has about 30 of the single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2, which is used for training, based at Beale Air Force Base.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Lt. Col. Lars Hoffman in a new Block 20 U-2S, with a redesigned cockpit, at Osan Air Base in South Korea, June 20, 2006.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Andrea Knudson)

Each U-2 gets a full overhaul every 4,800 flight hours, or about every six to eight years. Because the airframe doesn’t spend a lot of time under high stress, the current lifespan for a U-2 is into the 2040s and 2050s.

The Air Force still has a few of the U-2s built the late 1960s, but those have been converted, Patterson said.

“Everything’s modern — just the airframe itself came out in ’69. The engine, the cockpit’s all new,” he added. “But most of the aircraft that we have, they’re all built in the mid-’80s, about the same time as the B-2 stealth bomber.”

The newer models, Patterson said, “are about 40% larger [and] significantly more powerful than the original lot of U-2s that you saw when Gary Powers was flying over the Soviet Union, when the Cuban missile crisis is occurring, so it’s a totally different aircraft — modern glass cockpit, so we have screens. We have extremely advanced sensors.”

“So it’s not an old aircraft. It’s just the name is old.”

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

A U-2, with a satellite communications system on its back and antennas on its belly, over California, March 23, 2016.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

‘Mr. Potato Head’

By the mid-1960s, US officials were already talking about retiring the U-2, but it survived and has outlasted other reconnaissance aircraft, like the SR-71, which were more expensive to operate.

Unlike satellites, a U-2 can be sent to peer at an area of interest on relatively short notice. It also has advantages over unmanned aerial vehicles, like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Patterson said.

“When you think about some of the capabilities that our adversaries are able to put into the field pretty quickly and pretty cheaply — GPS jamming and things like that — it definitely pays dividends to have a human being that’s able to react real-time to developing situations.”

A human pilot is also better with unfamiliar surroundings, he said. “I can deploy anywhere in the world because I don’t need to program a new airfield. I can just take my airplane and land it … and I can take off within hours.”

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan before a sortie in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

Nauman and Patterson both touted the U-2s versatility.

“The ability for this platform to adapt to the newest imaging technology is a key piece of” its continued relevance, Nauman said. “With the size, weight, and power … we’re talking about 5,000 pounds of payload.”

That’s 2,000 pounds more than the RQ-4’s payload. The U-2’s ceiling is also above 70,000 feet — more than 10,000 feet above the ceiling of the RQ-4.

The U-2 can also test technology at high altitudes before it makes the leap to space. “The ability to actually get the most modern technology before it gets to space is kind of what makes us relevant,” Nauman said.

Other technology and payloads can be swapped onto the U-2, helping “to keep the cost down, accelerate development timelines, get these things in the air, and make sure that we run through all the issues,” Patterson said. “Then we can proliferate those [things] throughout the Air Force.”

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loads test film into a camera in preparation for a U-2 mission in Southwest Asia, April 17, 2008.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)

“The U-2’s almost like Mr. Potato Head,” Patterson said, describing its adaptability.

“So you can take a pod off here and a nose off here and put a new thing on pretty quickly, just because it’s got big wings, it’s got a big engine, so we’ve got a lot of size, weight, and power advantage over a lot of other high-altitude aircraft.”

The most well-known U-2 sensor is probably its optical bar camera.

“It’s effectively a giant wet-film camera. … It fits up in the belly of the aircraft. It’s got about 10,500 feet of film” that used to be made by Kodak, Patterson said. “In about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California.”

The U-2 no longer does overflights of unfriendly territory, Nauman said. But its suite of cameras and sensors allow it to pick up details whether it’s looking straight down or looking hundreds of miles into the distance.

“Let’s say we don’t want to fly that camera in the belly. We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose,” Patterson said.

“With a big radar up in there in the front,” you can gather imagery out to the horizon, he added. “If you think about how far you can see if you’re parked off somebody’s coast with a 300-mile looking glass, it’s pretty phenomenal.”

The U-2 can also be outfitted with what Patterson described as “like a big digital camera” with a lens “about the size of a pizza platter.” With multiple spectral capabilities, “it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify” the composition of particular materials.

Signals payloads also allow the U-2 to pick up different radars and other communications.

“We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft that we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing,” Patterson said. “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world.”

“While we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe.”

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

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘Herky Bird’ is a favorite of Rangers and special operators

Special operations forces have long been fans of the C-130. Why not? It’s one of the most versatile platforms available. The basic transport has been a standby for airborne units over the years, but when it comes to carrying the precious cargo that is American special operations forces, no ordinary Hercules will do.


Over the course of several decades, the Air Force has developed advanced versions of the C-130 platform to be used specifically by special operations. One of the first was a variant of the old C-130E, dubbed the MC-130E “Combat Talon,” which entered service in 1966. The MC-130P “Combat Shadow,” derived from the HC-130P, entered service in 1986. The MC-130H was a special-operations version of the C-130H that entered service in 1991.

All of these planes, however, are pretty old by now.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

A MC-130J with the 413th Flight Test Squadron takes off. Note the winglets on the plane.

(USAF photo by Samuel King)

The C-130J version of the Hercules entered service in 1999, replacing aging C-130E models. Continuing the tradition of its predecessors, the C-130J was also modified for use by special operations forces. Older MC-130Es and MC-130Ps were first in line to be replaced by a total of 37 MC-130Js, according to a United States Air Force fact sheet.

The MC-130J first entered service in 2011. It was given the name “Commando II,” taking on the designation of the Curtiss-Wright C-46 “Commando,” a cargo plane that mostly saw action in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was retired in 1968.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

(USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

The MC-130J has a top speed of 415 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 3,000 miles. It’s capable of refueling up to four helicopters or tiltrotors at a time. It’s also equipped with advanced electro-optical and infra-red sensors.

Learn more about this impressive special-ops plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qun5hkYXkk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s new carrier strike group could look like

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.

China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.


Type 001 Liaoning

China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.

“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.

The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.

Type 001A and Type 002

The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.

It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.

Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups

The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.

“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.

Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”

The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.

“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.

Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most

There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.

In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.

Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”

But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.

“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”

China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.

Type and number of ships in a carrier task force

“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.

“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.

A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.

“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.

A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.

Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates

The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.

The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.

China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.

Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers

These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.

Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.

Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.

Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers

While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.

The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.

Type 056 Jingdao corvettes

Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.

“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”

These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

Additional naval and support vessels

In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.

“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.

“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”

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

Intel

This forgotten Cold War-era technology is actually alive and well

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Image: YouTube


During the Cold War, the Soviets exploited the ground effect phenomenon by creating some of the largest and fastest vehicles of the time called “Ekranoplans.” They were not quite airplanes or hovercraft but something else in between known as Ground Effect Vehicles (GEVs).

Related: These Soviet airplanes were built to fly fast right over the surface of water

Although the technology already existed, they took it to the next level by scaling these vehicles to three-quarters of a football field, weighing more than 350 tons and traveling at speeds beyond 400 miles per hour.

The technology was reportedly used from 1987 to the late 1990s. There was a transport version, a battle version, and even a hospital version of the Ekranoplan. The last of its kind was 90 percent complete when funding ran out. It now sits unused at a naval station in Kaspiysk off the Caspian Sea.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Image: Google Maps, Orvelin Valle

Today, the ground effect technology is making a come back in small hobby vehicles and glorified water taxis. GEVs are fuel and power efficient and become even more economical as they get bigger, according to the video below. “In theory, wing in ground effect works better as the craft gets bigger, so a really big craft would be very, very efficient. That’s where the economics starts to make sense and you can start to build a business out of it.”

This video shows how ground effect technology is making a comeback decades since the Cold War.

Watch:

YouTube, Science Channel

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 10 worst Air Forces in the world

When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.


The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
#blessed.

But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.

We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Iran: 30+ years of Top Gun references. You know they love it.

But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
You magnificent, old bastard.

The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

10. Canada

It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.

Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.

Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.

9. China

Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.

That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.

More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.

It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.

8. Greece

There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.

Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.

Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.

(FARS News Agency)

7. Iran

The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.

Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.

In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.

(The Aviationist)

6. Ukraine

Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.

Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.

To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

PAF: Caveat emptor.

5. Pakistan

On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.

So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.

To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.

Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.

It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

4. Mexico

Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.

While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.

The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.

As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.

3. Saudi Arabia

Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.

Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.

That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.

Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.

(KCNA)

2. North Korea

Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.

But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.

The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.

I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.

1. Syria

It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.

It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.

Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5,200 troops sent to southwest border, Northcom says

The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.

“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.

The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.


“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.

“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”

The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.

The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”

The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.

Two caravans 

The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.

Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.

Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.

The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.


Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.

But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

(Stefan Grossman)

Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why wearing uniforms to a high school graduation is a boot move

It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.

Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.


This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
They went to infantry training the next day, which means they only came back to graduate high school and show off their new uniform.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.

Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.

The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
They just wanted uniformity. You know, like that thing the military is known for.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)

Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.

If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Be like this guy. He’s doing everything the right way
(Photo by Sgt. Dwight A. Henderson)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DoD releases new assessment on China’s growing power

China is not an enemy, but it is certainly an adversary of the United States, and the Defense Department’s 2018 report to Congress examines the trends in Chinese military developments.

Congress mandates the report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” While the report highlights military developments, it also addresses China’s whole-of-government approach to competition.


China’s economic development is fueling extraordinary changes in relationships it maintains around the world, according to the report. On the face of it, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative sounds benign – it looks to build infrastructure for developing countries and Chinese neighbors.

Chinese leaders have funded serious projects as far away as Africa under the initiative. They have built roads in Pakistan and made major inroads in Malaysia. China has a major stake in Sri Lanka. Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Laos and Djibouti also are involved.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

People’s Liberation Army troops demonstrate an attack during a visit by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to China, Aug. 16, 2017.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Chinese government seeks to overturn the established international order that has kept the peace in the region since World War II and allowed Asian countries to develop.

But “One Belt, One Road” money and projects come with strings. The “one road” leads to China, and nations are susceptible to Chinese influence on many levels – political, military, and especially, economic.

Economic clout

In 2017, China used its economic clout in South Korea as a bludgeon to get Seoul to not allow the United States to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in the country as a counterweight to North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The Chinese government informally lowered the boom on South Korea economically to influence the THAAD decision.

South Korean cars and other exports were embargoed. About a quarter of all goods South Korea exports goes to China, so this had an immediate effect on the economy. In addition, tourism suffered, as nearly half of all entries to South Korea are from China, and South Korean retail stores in China were crippled.

The South Korean government decided to allow the THAAD to deploy, but China’s economic muscle movement had to be noted in other global capitals.

South China Sea

“In its regional territorial and maritime disputes, China continued construction of outposts in the Spratly Islands, but also continued outreach to South China Sea claimants to further its goal of effectively controlling disputed areas,” the DoD reports says in its executive summary. In other words, China is using military power and diplomatic efforts in tandem to claim the South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army has come a long way from the human-wave attacks of the Korean War, and Chinese leaders want to build a military worthy of a global power. “Chinese military strategy documents highlight the requirement for a People’s Liberation Army able to secure Chinese national interests overseas, including a growing emphasis on the importance of the maritime and information domains, offensive air operations, long-distance mobility operations, and space and cyber operations,” the report says.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with China’s Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe at the People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi Building in Beijing, June 28, 2018.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Chinese military planners looked at what the United States accomplished in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 and charted their way forward. The PLA is fundamentally restructuring to challenge and beat any military in the world.

The PLA – still the largest force in the world – actually cut people to streamline command and control and modernize forces. The Chinese seek to win at all levels of conflict, from regional conflicts to wars with peer competitors. “Reforms seek to streamline command and control structures and improve jointness at all levels,” the report said. The PLA is using realistic training scenarios and exercising troops and equipment regularly.

New capabilities

China is investing billions in new capabilities including artificial intelligence, hypersonic technology, offensive cyber capabilities and more. China also has launched an aircraft carrier and added many new ships to the PLA Navy. The Chinese Navy is more active and making more port calls than in years past. Further, the PLA Marine Corps is expanding from 10,000 personnel to 30,000.

The PLA Air Force has been reassigned a nuclear mission, giving China a nuclear triad — along with missile and subs — for the first time.

Cyber operations play a significant role in the Chinese military. The PLA has a large corps of trained and ready personnel. Cyber espionage is common, and there are those who believe China was able to get plans of the F-35 Thunderbolt II joint strike fighter, which they incorporated into its J-20 stealth fighter.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Aug. 17, 2017.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy recognize that China and Russia are strategic competitors of the United States. Still, the United States must engage with China, and maintenance of cordial military-to-military relations is in both nations’ best interests.

“While the Department of Defense engages substantively with the People’s Liberation Army, DoD will also continue to monitor and adapt to China’s evolving military strategy, doctrine and force development, and encourage China to be more transparent about its military modernization,” the report says.

The United States military will adapt to counter and get ahead of moves by any competitor, DoD officials said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ — not brown, black or white

Recently, the Huffington Post article “Becoming A Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect Of Serving Your Country?” has been making its rounds across the veteran community.


Basically it’s a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author’s NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.

The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article’s defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.

However, it glosses over the U.S. military’s extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but “green.”

All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.

The Army’s diversity mission statement is: “To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity.” In every sense, we are.

The term “seeing green” refers to removing your view on another troop’s personal identity and welcoming them as a brother or sister in arms who also swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Of course, we still understand that they are of a different ethnicity. We’re not blind. We only place importance on their rank and position.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you’re a young private – you’re probably an idiot no matter what. And if you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably an idiot who’s also in the chain of command.

Troops come from all walks of life. I’ve served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.

I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you “see green” far more than the minute group of f*ckfaces that do radicalize.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
Still one of his coolest photos was when he was a Private First Class. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn’t the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn’t doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.

In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.

We quickly became friends. We’d talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.

Things shifted when the topic of “why we enlisted” came up. He told me it was his life’s goal to help teach others that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.

One of radical Islam’s recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
A little compassion goes a long way. (Photo via Military.com)

Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radical sh*theads. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.

My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past
I’ll never take it off, brother. I even argue with the TSA over taking it off.

It didn’t matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn’t have his in his time of need.

He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others’ ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.

Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same ‘green.’

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why fighting with a lightsaber would actually suck

In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.


While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.

4. Swords are useless against guns

Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.

We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.

But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers. (Image via GIPHY)

3. You can’t really practice with it

Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”

Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.

Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks… (Image via GIPHY)

2. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force

Everything works fine when a Jedi uses a lightsaber. Supposedly, they’ve had years of training to get to the proficiency they display in the films.

Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.

And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting… (Image via GIPHY)

1. There’s no safety

Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.

If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.

But they’re still cool… I guess… (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

28 free virtual field trips and activities for families in quarantine

While the world is sorting out the new normal of social distancing, parents everywhere are also trying to do it with full-time jobs, and in many cases, no child care. For the first time in most of our lifetimes, schools have been shut down for extended periods, and no one really knows when it will end. Moms and dads are suddenly finding themselves wearing far too many hats: parent, employee, caregiver and teacher are just naming a few.


Stuck at home with canceled spring break plans, and summer vacations next on the chopping block, things might be looking pretty grim right now. No doubt, parents find themselves constantly looking for ways to entertain their kids 24/7, and with the quarantine well underway, many are at a loss for resources.

With everyone doing their part to curb the spread of Coronavirus, the usual haunts for children’s entertainment are now closed to the public. In their attempt to comply with social distancing directives, museums, zoos and amusement parks the world over have announced temporary closures; when they will reopen is anyone’s guess.

While these places have physically closed their doors, many have realized that the need for children’s entertainment is at an all-time high, and many have stepped up to offer just that. Parents can also find a wealth of resources for educational entertainment through Google Arts Culture, some of which are linked below as well.

While these resources are being shared all over the internet, finding the time to make heads or tails of them is another story.

We know parents, we know. Help is on the way.

Here’s a comprehensive list of some great virtual tours, zoo cams, and STEM activities (and we even threw in some doodling and celebrity readings), and it’s all free!

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Science & Exploration

NASA is offering a slew of STEM activities for grades K- 4. Activities range from building foam rockets to solving space station emoji puzzles. Parents can also download coloring sheets and books for younger kids.

https://www.nasa.gov/stem-at-home-for-students-k-4.html

Discovery Education offers free virtual field trips complete with companion guides and hands-on learning activities. For example, kids can explore Polar Bears And The Tundra or take a look behind the scenes of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

https://www.discoveryeducation.com/learn/tundra-connections/

Take a trip to Mars. Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover. The site is in the middle of an update, but the 360 mode offers a great digital view.

https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Zoo Cams

Cincinnati Zoo Botanical Garden Every weekday at 3 PM EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo will host a Home Safari Facebook Live that features a different animal each day. For those who don’t have social media, the zoo will post the safaris on both their website and YouTube.

https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/

Panda Cam Zoo Atlanta Pandas are always fun to watch, quarantine or not, and Zoo Atlanta offers this live stream of the only panda twins in the United States, Ya Lun and Xi Lun.

https://zooatlanta.org/panda-cam/

Monterey Bay Aquarium offers ten live cams where viewers can sneak a peek at the sharks, do a little birdwatching in the aviary, and they can even check the goings-on in the open sea.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-exhibits/live-web-cams

The San Diego Zoo has ten live cams to choose from, including penguins, tigers, koalas and giraffes. The zoo also has a website exclusively for kids that’s loaded with videos, stories, activities and games.

https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Historical Sites & Museums

The Smithsonian Museum offers virtual tours of their current and permanent exhibits, and viewers can even take a look at a few of the past exhibits. Users can easily navigate between adjoining rooms of the museum and click on the camera icons for a closer look.

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour

Virtual tours of other world-famous museums:

The Great Wall Of China This virtual tour offers a breathtaking view of the Great Wall Of China, and visitors can even read up a little on its history.

https://www.thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china

Virtual tours of other historical sites:

Flying for more than 60 years, today’s Dragon Lady is nothing like the past

Storytime & Doodling

Josh Gad is even doing his part to help parents deal with life in quarantine. Every night on Twitter, Josh Gad is doing ten-minute storytime. Josh has already read a few children’s classics like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein and Hooray for Diffendoofer Da by Dr. Seuss. And it looks like he plans to do so for the foreseeable future. This one is not to miss, as he puts a little Josh Gad into it with voices and everything!

https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vOxwoPrnYgxBhttps://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vOxwoPrnYgxB

How About a Lunch Doodle? Mo Willems, beloved author of Waiting Is Not Easy! and The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! is hosting a Livestream Lunch Doodle. Every day at 1 PM EST, new episodes will be posted on the Mo Willems page on the Kennedy Center’s Website. Additionally, Willem is encouraging kids to send him questions at LUNCHDOODLES@kennedy-center.org, and he will attempt to answer those questions in his videos.

https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/

Pete The Cat creator James Dean presents virtual storytime every day at 12 PM on Instagram Live.

https://www.instagram.com/petethecatofficial/

We all have to do our part to stem the outbreak of Coronavirus, but life in quarantine doesn’t have to be that bad. Every day, new resources are popping up to help us get through it. These virtual tours and online resources have a little something for kids of all ages. What a great opportunity to see the world from the comfort of your own couch!