It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.
I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.
I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.
I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.
And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.
Adulting is hard AF, amiright?
Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.
There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.
1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.
This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.
Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.
Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.
This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.
6. H&R Block
These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”
Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.
Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.
Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate is consolidating territory in a major clash with a rival rebel group and could make the terror group a more formidable threat in the longer term than the Islamic State, US-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group warns.
The warning comes amid a major clash between al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and another Islamist rebel group in the province that the Syrian regime and its allies do not largely control. The US, by and large, is focused on defeating ISIS in other areas of Syria and has largely given over a leadership role for post-ISIS Syria to Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime.
“The prospect of a sustained de facto governing presence by al-Qaeda in Idlib is a grave national security concern,” The Soufan Group noted. “The prospect may lead to US airstrikes, though the air space over Idlib is far more complicated and crowded than over Raqqa. Idlib is just to the east of Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold with a sizable Russian military presence,” the group added.
US-backed, anti-ISIS fighters have retaken approximately 40 percent of ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, but continue to have a long and grueling fight ahead of them. The fight consumes the majority of US resources in Syria.
HTS and the Islamist rebel group have now struck a tenuous truce giving HTS control of the city of Idlib. The terrorist group has changed its name several times and falsely declared to cut ties with the global al-Qaeda network in order to court less extreme opposition groups on the ground in Syria.
Experts fear the terrorist group will deepen its roots in Syria and may able to launch external terror plots against the West using its new sanctuary.
“The battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa is not to be the most consequential ongoing fight in Syria,” The Soufan Group lamented.
The deceased include Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.
“Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, commander of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan’s family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”
“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, in an Army Special Operations Command press release.
The city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, has been heavily contested in the past year as Taliban militants have asserted themselves there. Earlier this year, militants managed to take the city, forcing Afghan security forces and U.S. allies to retake it.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan in support of that country’s security forces. While U.S. and Afghan leaders are quick to point out that Afghan forces are in the lead and are taking the brunt of the casualties in fighting, the country is still reliant on American partners for some capabilities and help in others.
While Afghanistan has set up its own air support, intelligence networks, and even contracted for air ambulance services last year, some of the Afghan-led services have shown shortcomings. District centers have fallen every few weeks or months, though they often are retaken soon after.
The U.S. Navy said it did not deploy the USS Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula as originally stated, but instead sent the aircraft carrier to participate in joint exercises with the Australian navy in the Indian Ocean.
During an appearance on Fox News last week, President Donald Trump said he was sending an “armada” to deter the regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier,” Trump said. “We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: [Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing.”
But White House officials on April 18 said the USS Carl Vinson and its three support ships were sailing in the opposite direction to train with the Australian navy about 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.
The White House said the error in the administration’s original statement about the aircraft carrier’s location occurred because it relied on guidance from the Defense Department.
Officials said a glitch-ridden sequence of events, such as an ill-timed announcement of the deployment by U.S. Pacific Command and a partially erroneous explanation by the Defense Secretary James Mattis, perpetuated a false narrative that the aircraft carrier was racing toward the waters off North Korea, The New York Times reported.
The USS Carl Vinson will arrive near the Korean Peninsula next week.
“At the end of the day it resulted in confused strategic communication that has made our allies nervous,” Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Wall Street Journal. “If you don’t have a consistency with your actual strategy and what you’re doing with your military, that doesn’t seem terribly convincing.”
Initially, U.S. Pacific Command said it “ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north [from Singapore] as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific.”
U.S. Pacific Command’s statement created some ambiguity, as it named North Korea but did not specifically say it deployed the ships to waters off North Korea.
“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific. The No. 1 threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” U.S. Pacific Command said.
The U.S. Navy released an image of the USS Carl Vinson traveling on the Sunda Strait near Indonesia on April 15, thousands of miles away from where the ship was widely expected to be.
The US and South Korean militaries carried out a training exercise focused on “infiltrating North Korea and removing weapons of mass destruction in case of conflict,” military sources told Yonhap News.
Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan, a spokesman for the US military in South Korea, told Business Insider that the US military doesn’t “discuss specific scenarios,” but that “exercises are vital to the readiness of the US and our allies, and ensure we are ready and trained for combined-joint operations.”
Online video of the exercise, called Warrior Strike, shows US troops training in protective gear and in urban environments, much as they might if they had to fight through a situation where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had been used.
If war broke out between the US, South Korea, and North Korea, a key task early in the conflictwould be seizing control of, or destroying, Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction.
Though its arsenal remains secretive, experts suspect North Korea possesses chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. North Korea has frequently threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and demonstrated nuclear devices six times.
At the moment, China and Russia accuse the US of escalating tensions with North Korea as it increases its military drills, while the US pushes the world to implement strict sanctions on Pyongyang and refuses to accept the nation’s illegally forged nuclear status.
The military exists by its own rules, both the stated ones like the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the cultural ones like “First sergeants have to use knife hands and the word ‘behoove’ as often as possible.” Some of these rules are frustrating, bone-grinding distractions. But some of them create openings for a little fun:
“We gotta run, man. Otherwise, these artillery simulators may start to bracket us.”
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Overson)
Reacting to outgoing fire in front of the new guy
For those who didn’t spend much time on forward operating bases or similar, there are two kinds of artillery, mortar, rocket, etc. fire. There is incoming fire, where the enemy is trying to kill you, or outgoing, where your guns are trying to kill the enemy.
After just a few days of casual listening, an attentive person can get a feeling for what outgoing sounds like, and they know not to jump or dive when the boom is just the guns firing. But, savvy customers can then scare the new guys by reacting like an attack is in progress whenever a boom goes off.
Hear a boom? Dive to the ground, into a bunker, or behind a barrier. (Bonus points if you can get your hands on artillery simulators and make your own incoming artillery fire.)
Do not drop classified poops into this toilet. This is not a classified medium.
Put classification stickers on someone’s device
The military has to label data storage and processing systems with stickers that say what level of classification it is. These stickers should only be placed appropriately on government equipment (usually electronics like computers and printers). But, with the right communications security guy to work with, you can stick those adhesive squares on anything, like, say, a buddy’s phone.
Then, the communications security guy can show up before the sticker is taken off and take possession of the phone, ordering that it must go through the full process of being turned from government property to civilian possession. But uh, a little warning here: don’t use the red stickers, and don’t do this near comms guys who aren’t in on the joke. Otherwise, that phone really might become government property.
Light assault right before a drill sergeant or officer enters
When certain noncommissioned officers or officers enter a room, personnel inside are required to call the room to “attention” or “at ease.” (This is usually the commander or the senior NCO of a unit, but is also often done in training units with cadre.)
So, if you really want to mess with a buddy and see one of those peeps coming, hurt ’em just a little right before the superior person enters. In my training time, this was often a “ball tap,” but be sure your buddy is cool with games like that before you flick their crotch. Otherwise, a quick kidney jab or Charlie horse will do the trick without generating a SHARP complaint.
“You don’t understand, man, the petty officer is going to look INSIDE your faucet.”
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)
Making up imminent inspections (and hiding stuff they need)
Speaking of inspections, at the barracks level you can also just make up inspections and then hide things that they’ll need. If you get new leadership, this gets especially fun. The platoon sergeant may hold off on inspections to bond with the team, but you can definitely convince some of the Joes that he’s coming to the barracks. In an hour. And everything should be perfect.
And, whoops, looks like the floor wax has gone missing. Sure Joe can figure out something in an hour. Maybe use the lube from your jerk stash.
Sealing off the shack they sleep in
Speaking of jerk stashes, there’s a tactic on deployment to help troops sleep and, ya know, do other things, by hanging sheets, blankets, or towels from their bunks for a little privacy and some shade if the lights in the barracks are kept on.
But with a couple of strips of tape, that Jack Shack can become a very confusing prison. Wait for them to pass out, preferably after a few cans of O’Doul’s and bottles of water. Then, quietly and carefully, stretch tape along the spots where sheets and towels meet, turning them into seams instead of openings. Then videotape them trying to get out.
Imagine that it’s your job to inventory all this property. Now imagine that some jerk has scrambled the placement of each item so you don’t know where any individual item is. But now imagine you’re the jerk. You could be that jerk!
(U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Stewart)
Swapping identical gear before property inventories
Every month, some officer gets tasked with inventorying property. At a minimum, they’re walking through the headquarters trying to ensure that 10 percent or more of the unit’s property is there, serial number and all.
And that’s what gives the prankster an opening for chaos. It’s not enough for the officer to see that the operations shop has eight monitors. The operations shop has to prove that it has eight specific monitors, by serial number. So, if you’re comfortable throwing a wrench in the works, start shifting monitors around.
Shifting within an office will confuse the people in that shop and get some chuckles, but shifting otherwise identical gear between shops is where it gets fun. As the officer and members of the shop run around confused, finding none of the serial numbers where they’re supposed to be, you can use the time to reflect on how service in the military is often a Kafka-esque nightmare.
Hide lost ID cards or weapons
This one’s pretty common. ID cards and personal weapons are supposed to never leave a soldier’s possession unless they’re being handed over for a specific reason like giving up the ID card for a urinalysis or turning in a weapon to the armorer.
So, when you find one that was left behind, there are a few options of what to do next. You could turn everything in to a responsible adult. Or, you could hide the weapons and freeze the ID card in a block of ice. You can also wrap the contraband in concertina wire, create a treasure hunt that ends with the location of the ID or weapon, or even “pass it up the chain.”
Passing it up the chain is where everyone gives the card or weapon to someone who outranks them, even slightly outranking like someone who made sergeant the month before the previous holder. Then, when the sergeant goes looking for the missing item, every person makes them do 10-50 pushups before saying, “I gave it to so-and-so.” Done right, this can guarantee the soldier will never lose the item again and will definitely pass their next PT test.
Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.
You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.
That’s a pretty crazy thought, right? Well, we think so. While everyone has their individual reasons for signing up for service, electing to serve in the infantry, the dangerous role, says a great deal about a person. These are the top 6 reasons that people sign up to join the ground-pounders.
A common reason for joining the military is a family connection to service. However, since joining the infantry can mean seeing some intense combat, it takes a bold person to follow in their father’s or grandfather’s war-hero footsteps. To those brave troops that serve to honor their family legacy, we salute you.
To be a part of something big
Signing up means you could help your unit rid an enemy-infested area of insurgents and free the innocent locals within — it’s a possibility. However, serving in the infantry doesn’t always mean you’re going to end up in a bloody war zone.
You will, however, likely end up deploying to another country where you’re going to work alongside a foreign Army and help them train. It’s how much of our nation’s foreign relationships are built and we think that’s badass.
Military recruiters are slick when it comes to talking a teenager into joining the infantry. That’s a pretty cut-and-dry way many end up going to the grunts.
Yes, that’s kind of messed up, but honorably completing your service contract is an outstanding feat nonetheless.
Using it as a segue
Serving in a grunt unit opens many, many doors for service members. That’s right; not all ground-pounders transition into law enforcement when they get out. You can write about your unique experiences for a living, become a military adviser for a Hollywood production, or go back to school and learn a new craft.
The choice is yours.
Sitting behind a desk isn’t the worst job you can have in the military. But serving in the infantry offers you tons of experiences that you otherwise would never see. Use the military like they’re going to use you. Take every opportunity you’re offered and you can make a career out of those experiences after you get out.
Look at all of us who work at We Are The Mighty — just sayin’.
In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.
On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.
It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.
At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.
Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.
In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)
By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”
Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.
The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.
The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.
“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.
The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.
The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.
“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.
Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.
“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.
In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.
Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.
As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.
Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.
“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.
On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.
“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.
If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq
Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.
F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
France’s special operators in Iraq are collecting intelligence on their own citizens and then distributing it to Iraqi forces, according to the Wall Street Journal. The intent appears to be ensuring that as few French citizens as possible learn to fight under ISIS tutelage and then conduct attacks at home.
An estimated 1,700 French citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and France has little reason to want any of them back. Gathering intelligence on the most dangerous of them and handing it over to the Iraqis is a convenient way to reduce the threat without violating French laws on extra-judicial killings.
The U.S. has killed Americans in drone strikes and firefights, but only one of them was specifically targeted. Anwar al-Awlaki was a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who preached a particularly anti-American and violent reading of Islam. He was targeted and killed in a drone strike in 2011.
France appears to be sidestepping the controversy that embroiled the Obama administration after the killing of al-Awlaki by outsourcing the dirty work.
A sailor assigned to Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Georgia was selected Dec. 7, 2018, as one of the Navy’s first warrant officer 1s since the rank was discontinued in 1975.
The Navy announced in NAVADMIN 293/18 the selection of Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 1st Class Nicholas T. Drenning and five other petty officers to the newly reestablished rank.
The warrant officer 1 rank was reinstated through the Cyber Warrant Officer In-Service Procurement Selection Board in order to retain cyber-talent and fill leadership roles. The Navy began accepting applications in June 2018 from CTNs in the paygrades of E-5 and E-6 who met Naval Enlisted Classification and time-in-service requirements.
Drenning, who was a second class petty officer when he submitted his package but promoted to petty officer first class in December 2018, applied for the warrant officer program to remain on a technical career path and shape the Navy’s cyber forces. He said he believes a strong technical background and dedication to training others directly contributed to his selection.
“After taking the enlisted advancement exam multiple times, I wanted to prove it to myself and the warrant officer selection board that they chose the right candidate” Drenning said. “Now I am excited to set a new precedent and build on the heritage and traditions that make the Navy unique.”
The Navy’s new W-1s will be worn on their covers instead of the traditional officer badge.
Drenning currently has nine years of enlisted service and is slated to be appointed to warrant officer 1 in September 2019. He said he looks forward to working with the other warrant officer selectees many of whom he has worked with previously in Maryland and Georgia.
“My personal focus will be fulfilling the intent of the program, which stresses technical expertise,” Drenning said. “Part of shaping our community is going to be building effective relationships with junior-enlisted, the chief’s mess and fellow officers.”
Upon appointment, Drenning said he looks forward to filling many different cyber work roles and mission sets as he helps to shape policy and build an effective cyber force.
NIOC Georgia conducts SIGINT, cyber and information operations for Fleet, Joint and National Commanders. The command supports operational requirements and deployment of Naval forces as directed by combatant and service component commanders.
Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy’s Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.
The Army expects its new Joint Effects Targeting System — a handheld, portable device for target observation, location, and designation — to start arriving with forward-observation teams by mid-2018, according to Army Times.
JETS consists of a hand-held target location module, a precision azimuth and vertical angle module, and a laser marker module, which are mounted on a tripod. The system offers Army forward observers better targeting capabilities than current systems and can be used day or night in all weather conditions.
“It’s brand-new cutting-edge technology that is a paradigm shift” in how field artillery could be employed on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. JETS, he added, could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon “into a giant sniper rifle.”
“I’m dropping that round, with first-round effects, on target,” he said.
The system will also speed the measurement process, Frank said. “We don’t have to take anywhere from 15 to 18 to 20 minutes. We can get that target data to the guns and rounds out of the tube faster with JETS than without.”
The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for these purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS. It weighs approximately 35 pounds and is considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.
The system underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop testing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August, when soldiers put the system through several combat-equipment jumps and door-bundle jumps, evaluating its ability to function after hitting the ground.
After each drop, the forward observers testing the system assembled the equipment and started identifying and designating enemy personnel and vehicle targets in day and night conditions. The targets were set up on rolling terrain at distances from 800 meters to more than 2,500 meters.
That was followed in October by weeks of tests at the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.
There, forward-observation teams put the system through its paces using “operationally realistic approach[es] to detect, recognize, and identify targets in a tactical environment,” the Army said in a release.
Soldiers conducted the tests in mountainous Alaskan terrain at elevations between 1,000 and 2,500 meters at several different observation posts, using the system’s own self-location methods to establish their location at each observation point.
The Army is looking to finish its testing and evaluation, including inclement weather and airdrop tests, early this year and have the JETS in the hands of every forward-observation team starting in July 2018, according to Army Times.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent another signal that the U.S. is increasingly attentive to the Arctic and looking to catch up with other countries that are active in the region.
Melting ice has raised interest in shipping, mining, energy exploration, and other enterprises in the Arctic — not only among countries that border it, but also in countries farther afield, like China.
The Arctic “is important today,” Tillerson said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Nov. 28. “It’s going to be increasingly important in the future, particularly as those waterways have opened up.”
“The whole Arctic region — because of what’s happened with the opening of the Arctic passageways from an economic and trade standpoint, but certainly from a national-security standpoint — is vitally important to our interest,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is behind countries in the region that have responded more quickly.
“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Tillerson said. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”
While China isn’t an Arctic country, the secretary of state said, “they see the value of these passages. So, we’re late to the game.”
Other countries build up in the Arctic
China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, made its first voyage through the Northwest Passage in October, and it is now the first Chinese polar-research vessel to navigate all three major Arctic shipping routes. China has three light icebreakers, with another under construction, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
“I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”
At present, the U.S. Coast Guard has three icebreakers, and the National Science Foundation operates another. Only two of those Coast Guard vessels are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.
The Polar Star entered service in 1976, and while it was refurbished in 2012, it is beyond its 30-year service life. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said earlier this year that the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”
Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational heavy ones. Finland has seven, though they’re privately owned medium or light icebreakers. Sweden and Canada each have six, none of which are heavy.
During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Nov. 29, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the service’s 17th district, outlined a number of challenges facing his command, but he emphasized that the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the Arctic.
Relations with Moscow on issues like waterway management in the Bering Strait — which separates Alaska from Russia — are positive, said McAllister, whose command encompasses more than 3.8 million square miles throughout Alaska and the Arctic.
“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” he added.
China, too, is seen by the Coast Guard as a “good partner” that cooperates on a number of issues.
“We have great operational-level relationships with the Chinese coast guard,” McAllister told an audience at CSIS. Chinese and U.S. ships do joint patrols and U.S. ships have welcomed aboard Chinese personnel, he said, which allows both countries to extend their presence at sea.
“I don’t think we fear the movement of the Chinese into the Arctic. I think we pay attention to what’s going on,” he said, describing efforts to monitor maritime activity in and around his area of responsibility, as well as the U.S. exclusive economic zone, which extends some 230 miles from U.S. shores.
‘That’s what keeps me up at night’
McAllister pointed to mismatches between his resources and responsibilities as his main causes of worry.
Two of his biggest concerns are responding to oil spills and mass rescues. “The distances are so great, and the difficulty in staging assets is so significant, that that’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.
While he said the Coast Guard was doing well tracking ship movements, other issues, like monitoring ice data and marine wildlife movement, were still challenges.
Even though satellites have made communications with commercial ships easier, McAllister said he still lacked a local network that allowed him to readily contact small vessels. Military and secure communications are also still limited, he said.
Maintaining a sovereign presence also presented an ongoing challenge.
“At any given time, I will only have one or two ships in the Arctic during the open-water seasons, and a few helicopters in addition to that,” he said.
“If you know Alaska, if you know the [exclusive economic zone], it’s just too big an area to try to cover with such a small number of assets.”
But, he said, the replacement of decades-old cutters with new offshore-patrol cutters and national-security cutters, as well as discussions about icebreakers, were both encouraging developments.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard released a joint draft request for proposal in October, looking for the detail, design, and construction of one heavy icebreaker with an option for two more. The two service branches have already set up an integrated program office for the project.
The Coast Guard’s 2018 budget request asked for $19 million toward a new icebreaker it wants to start building in late 2019. The service wants to build at least three heavy icebreakers, which can cost up to $1 billion each (though officials have said they can come in below that price). The first heavy icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023.
Some of the money for the icebreaker has been appropriated and “acquisition is already off and running,” McAllister said. “But even with that capability, there’s still a lack of presence there, and that’s something that we, the Coast Guard, aspire to provide more of.”