A United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance plane had a near-collision with a Chinese fighter in the East China Sea. The incident is the latest in a series of close calls between Chinese and American military assets.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighter armed with air-to-air missiles flew under the EP-3 and pulled up about 300 feet in front of the Navy plane, forcing it to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision.
The incident reportedly took place in international airspace, about 90 miles from Qingdao, headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the North Sea Fleet includes some of China’s most powerful assets, including a number of the nuclear-powered submarines in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The incident came days after Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with his Chinese counterpart about North Korea.
The United States and China have been involved in a number of incidents in recent months. This past May, another pair of J-10s had a close encounter with a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, coming within 200 yards of the plane, and making slow turns in front of the plane.
Also in May, the crew of an Air Force OC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane were on the receiving end of a “Top Gun” intercept that the Department of Defense characterized as “unprofessional.” In 2001, a J-8 “Finback” collided with an EP-3E, killing the Chinese pilot, and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield.
The United States has carried out a number of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, including a passage within six miles of Mischief Reef. China has threatened to fine ships that do not obey its maritime edicts in the South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.
While not as prominently in the news as the South China Sea, the East China Sea is also the location of territorial disputes, notably the Senkaku Islands, which both Japan and China claim.
India proudly claimed that one of its Russian-designed MiG-21 fighters shot down one of Pakistan’s US-made F-16s before being downed by a Pakistani missile in a dogfight in February 2019, but a US inventory of Pakistan’s fighters found nothing missing, Foreign Policy reported on April 4, 2019, citing two senior US defense officials.
In response, India conducted airstrikes on what it said was a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, which is said to have retaliated by sending fighter jets into Indian airspace, forcing India to scramble its own fighters and igniting an aerial battle.
An Indian MiG-21 Bison.
Pakistan shot down and captured Indian Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, who the Indian air force said had scored a critical hit on a Pakistani F-16 before his MiG-21 Bison was taken out by an enemy missile.
The air raid already appeared to be an embarrassing failure. India claimed that it killed about 300 terrorists with a surprise strike that saw 2,000-pound bombs devastate the training center, but satellite imagery indicated India’s aim was off.
“It does appear there was a strike in the vicinity of the camp, but it looks like it largely missed,” Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider in March 2019.
Now it looks as though India’s assertions that it shot down a Pakistani F-16 are also incorrect.
A Pakistan Air Force crew chief performs a post flight inspection on an F-16 Falcon.
The process took several weeks, but when it was completed, “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” the official said. Foreign Policy cited another senior US defense official as saying those findings were confirmed by the US.
“As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, told Foreign Policy.
Pakistan has consistently argued that India’s claims about the battle are inaccurate. On April 5, 2019, Pakistan demanded that India come forward with the truth about what happened in February 2019.
“This is what Pakistan has been saying all along, the truth,” said Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani military representative, according to Al Jazeera, adding that “it’s time for India to come up” with the truth.
India’s air force has rejected the conclusions in the Foreign Policy article. Dinakar Peri, a defense correspondent for The Hindu, said it had argued that Indian forces confirmed sighting ejections in two places, separated by 8 to 10 kilometers, on that day. It said, according to Peri, that one was its MiG-21 Bison and the other was a Pakistani F-16, indicated by electronic signatures.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nearly everyone has used a common glow stick to light up the night sky, or even as part of a highway emergency kit. But these handy devices are also useful on the battlefield, and Air Force Research Laboratory researchers have discovered a way to make this useful tool even better.
Materials Engineer Dr. Larry Brott of the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate recently led an effort to improve glow stick technology for use in military applications. More commonly referred to as “ChemLights” in military circles, these handy devices can be used for a variety of applications. They can be used as a wand for directing vehicles or providing emergency lighting, or the fluid inside can be splashed onto a surface to mark routes or positions.
These lights work through chemiluminescence, a reaction that produces light through the combining of chemical substances. In ChemLights, this reaction is typically triggered by breaking or snapping an inner chamber to allow two substances to mix together. Depending on the mixture ratio, these devices can provide light for anywhere from a few minutes up to several hours. ChemLights can be dyed various colors or even made with dyes invisible to the naked eye.
While useful for a multitude of purposes, a problem with traditional ChemLights is that they are single-use, meaning that users in the field may have to carry hundreds of them to accomplish a singular task. It is also somewhat awkward to use the chemiluminescent fluid to write messages or draw complex figures.
The AFRL team sought to address these issues through an innovative solution: microencapsulate the chemical substances and encase those capsules in a medium that can be used for writing or applying the material, much like a crayon or a lip balm applicator. The pressure of writing easily breaks the tiny capsules, creating the glowing effect. By packaging the materials in this fashion, a single stick can be used precisely and accurately many times, resulting in numerous benefits for the military.
Brott was inspired to investigate microencapsulation of chemiluminescent materials through his previous work in the automotive adhesives industry, where he became an expert in the technique. After coming to AFRL, he began to research ways to use microencapsulation to benefit the warfighter.
“This is such an intuitive use for this technology,” Brott said. “By packaging these materials in this form, we’re saving three things for the warfighter: volume, weight, and cost.” Brott and his team were awarded a patent for their work in 2012.
After entering into a licensing agreement giving the company exclusive rights to use the AFRL technology for military and first responder use, Battle Sight Technologies, a Dayton, Ohio-based startup company founded by military veterans, began product development. With the help of project partners, they are currently producing a prototype infrared writing device called the MARC, which stands for Marking Appliance Reusable Chemiluminescent. Once the initial prototype production run is complete, the product will go directly into the hands of the warfighter for field test and evaluation, possibly as early as Spring 2018. If all goes well, their goal is to have a product to distribute by late summer 2018.
The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.
The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.
For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.
“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”
Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.
“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”
There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”
“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)
Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.
“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”
Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.
With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.
SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.
Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.
Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.
Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.
The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.
If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.
SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.
Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.
By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.
Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.
SpaceX is one giant grain-silo launch closer to reaching Mars.
The aerospace company, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, launched and landed an early prototype of a potentially revolutionary rocket system called Starship at 7:57 p.m. ET on Monday. The flight occured at SpaceX’s expanding rocket factory, development, and test site in Boca Chica, a relatively remote region at the southeastern tip of Texas.
“Mars is looking real,” Musk tweeted shortly after the flight of roughly 492 feet (150 meters) into the air, later adding: “Progress is accelerating.”
SPadre.com, which has a camera trained on SpaceX’s launch site from about 6 miles away on South Padre Island, captured the entire launch from start-to-finish with a 24-hour live feed on YouTube. In the background audio of a livestream hosted by NASASpaceFlight.com (which caught yet another view with a different camera and angle), audible cheers could be heard coming from on-site SpaceX employees and contractors.
The clip below shows a profile of the whole flight from SPadre‘s feed.
In the movie, the prototype takes off using a single Raptor rocket engine, translates across the launch site, deploys a set of short landing legs, and touches down on a concrete pad.
Musk later tweeted that Starship’s next set of landing legs “will be ~60% longer” and that a version farther down the line “will be much wider taller” like the legs of a Falcon 9 rocket booster, “but capable of landing on unimproved surfaces auto-leveling” — in other words, optimized to landing on the moon or Mars.
If Starship and its Super Heavy rocket booster end up being fully reusable, Musk has said, the system may reduce the cost of launching anything to space by about 1,000-fold and enable hypersonic travel around Earth.
But first, SpaceX has to see if its core designs for Starship work. To that end, the company is moving briskly to build, test, and launch prototypes.
Monday’s “hop” flight — Musk said ahead of the flight that SpaceX was targeting an altitude of 150 meters (492 feet) — represents the first flight of any full-scale Starship hardware. It’s also a crucial step toward informing future prototypes and, ultimately, launches that fly Starships into orbit around Earth.
SpaceX had hoped to attempt a flight of SN5 on July 27, but Hurricane Hanna damaged a component that had to be fixed, Musk said. A previous notice to airmen, or NOTAM, suggested the company would try to fly SN5 on Sunday — the same day as its attempt to land two NASA astronauts in the Gulf of Mexico — but the launch window came and went. (SpaceX’s Demo -2 was an historic test flight of the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship, a vehicle developed with about .7 billion in NASA funding.)
Prototyping toward Mars
The above photo shows the SN5 prototype from above during a test-firing of its engine on July 30.
SN5 is the latest of several full-scale Starship prototypes that SpaceX has built in Texas. The previous versions have either crumpled during tests or, as was the case on May 29, catastrophically exploded.
Each failure has taught SpaceX valuable lessons to inform design and material changes — tweaks that Musk says are already being worked into SN6, SN7, and SN8 prototypes, which are in various stages of assembly within the company’s expanding and bustling work yards in South Texas.
The steel vehicles don’t have wing-like canards or nosecones attached, in case something goes wrong in their earliest phases of testing, so they look more like flying fuel tanks or grain silos than rocket ships.
However, as last year’s test launch of an early Starship prototype called Starhopper showed, the flights of even experimental vehicles (shown above) can impress: On August 27, Starhopper soared to a similar height as SN5, translated across a launch site, and landed on a nearby concrete pad.
SpaceX obtained a launch license from the FAA to send Starship prototypes on a “suborbital trajectory,” meaning the experimental rocket ships could reach dozens of miles above Earth before returning and landing. However, it’s uncertain if SpaceX eventually plans to launch SN5 on such an ambitious flight path after Monday’s “hop.”
The company couldn’t attempt more ambitious flights until late August at the soonest, though. On July 23, SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to communicate with prototypes flying as high as 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) within the next seven months. The earliest date noted on the request, which is still pending, is August 18.
Musk said after the flight of SN5 that the next phase of testing won’t fly prototypes very high, at least initially.
“We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
SpaceX is also pursuing a launch license for full-scale, orbital-class Starship-Super Heavy vehicles. Musk hopes Starship will launch a cargo mission to Mars in 2022, send a private crew around the moon in 2023, return NASA astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024, and even begin sending people to Mars the same year.
The Air Force is seeking more upgraded Maverick air-to-ground missiles, an air-launched weapon in service since the Vietnam era now receiving an upgraded laser-seeker along with new software configurations to better enable it to hit targets on the run, such as ISIS fighters.
The upgraded weapon is currently configured to fire from an Air Force F-16 and A-10 and Navy Harrier Jets and F/A-18s.
“The upgrades are not completed. Raytheon Missile Systems will deliver several hundred upgraded Guidance Control Sections from January-June 2018. In addition, the U.S. Air Force is currently in negotiations with Raytheon for additional upgraded GCS for delivery after 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Warrior.
US military weapons developers have explained that the Laser Maverick (LMAV) E2 seeker upgrade is capable of precisely targeting and destroying a wide variety of fixed, stationary and high speed moving land or sea targets.
The LMAV E2 upgrade program has been implemented as a seeker and sustainment upgrade, she added. The Air Force has been attacking ISIS with the upgraded Maverick through a prior deal to receive 256 missiles from its maker, Raytheon.
Also, there is an existing laser-guided version of the Maverick already in use; the new variant involves a substantial improvement in the weapon’s guidance and targeting systems.
The AGM-65E2, as it’s called, will continue to be used to attack ISIS as part of the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve, US military officials said. Such a technology is of particular relevance against ISIS because the ongoing U.S. Coalition air bombing has made it virtually impossible for ISIS to gather in large formations, use convoys of armored vehicles or mass large numbers of fighters.
As a result, their combat tactics are now largely restricted to movement in small groups such as pick-up trucks or groups of fighters deliberately blended in with civilians. This kind of tactical circumstance, without question, underscores the need for precision weaponry from the air – weapons which can destroy maneuvering and fast-moving targets.
As opposed to being a free-fall weapon, the Maverick has a rocket on it; it travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck, Raytheon developers told Warrior.
The Maverick uses Semi-Active Laser, or SAL, guidance to follow a laser “spot” or designation from an aircraft itself, a nearby aircraft or ground asset to paint the target.
For the upgrades, existing AGM-65A/B Guidance and Control Sections are modified with a state-of-the-art Semi-Active Laser E2 seeker target. The missiles with upgraded seekers add the capability to self-lase from the delivery platform, address numerous changes in response to parts obsolescence, and add Pulse repetition frequency (PRF) last code hold to ease pilot workload, US military weapons developers told Warrior last year.
The weapon can also use infrared and electro-optical or EO guidance to attack target. It can use a point detonation fuse designed to explode upon impact or a delayed fuse allowing the missile to penetrate a structure before detonating as a way to maximize its lethal impact. It uses a 300-pound “blast-frag” warhead engineered to explode shrapnel and metal fragments in all directions near or on a designated target.
Raytheon weapons developers told Warrior the Maverick uses a blast but not quite as large as a 500-pound bomb for lower collateral damage.
Also, In the event of a loss of LASER lock, the upgraded missiles are able to de-arm fly towards last seen laser spot; and will re-arm guide to target with laser reacquisition.
Fighter pilots describe the Maverick as a weapon of choice for fast-moving and rapidly maneuvering targets, according to developers.
In addition to its role against ground targets such as ISIS, the Maverick weapon able to hit maneuvering targets at sea such as small attack boats.
“It has a rocket on it versus being a free-fall weapon. It travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck,” McKenzie explained.
Go to an Army career counselor or recruiter and he has all sorts of cool jobs you can sign up for. Soldiers network satellites, engage in hacking wars, and shoot awesome weapons at targets and enemies.
It’s like your childhood video games, fireworks, and backyard games all got awesome upgrades and now you can get paid for it.
But some of the Army’s best jobs are actually in the past, like those that allowed people to get intimately acquainted with tactical nuclear weapons or fire awesome Gatling guns. So here are six of those badass jobs Pvt. Skippy can’t do in the Army anymore:
1. Nuclear weapons basic maintenance specialist
Yeah, the Army used to have a nuclear weapons program and it employed a group of men with a whole three weeks of training to disassemble and repair those weapons.
For obvious reasons, tank-delivery motorcycle riders were re-classed after the Army figured out how to use tanks to recover one another. (If it’s not obvious, it because repair personnel protected by literal tons of armor are safer than those riding motorcycles and protected by only their uniforms).
Full disclosure, there are a few different signal intelligence jobs that could have been included in this list. Most of them have been folded into other specialties or been quietly terminated as their own job because the march of technology has made them unnecessary. After all, how much Morse intelligence is there to collect anymore?
The reason that Morse interceptor was selected for the list is that it’s the only one of these lost signal intelligence jobs that was once held by Johnny Cash. Cash did the job in the Air Force, not the Army, but still.
6. Chapparal/Vulcan Crewmember
The Chapparal and Vulcan were M113 armored vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft weapons. The Vulcan packed a six-barrel Gatling gun that could be deployed separately from the M113 when necessary, while the Chapparal carried AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. While the Chapparal role was largely replaced with the Army Avenger program, no direct descendant of the Vulcan exists.
While the Vulcan was largely outdated for anti-aircraft operations, the Army gave up a great ground weapon when it lost the Gatling gun. Vulcan crew members could fire 20mm rounds at up to 6,600 rounds per minute, targeting low-flying aircraft or enemy infantry and vehicles.
South Korea said it detected an earthquake Oct. 13 near North Korea’s main nuclear test site, the fourth since the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test explosion last month. Some experts suggested the area is now too unstable to conduct more bomb tests.
The magnitude 2.7 quake occurred about 54 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Kilju, the town where the test site is located in northeastern North Korea, according to officials at South Korea’s Korea Meteorological Administration. They said it wasn’t man-made and didn’t appear to cause any damage in the area.
The officials, who requested anonymity citing department rules, said they believe the four quakes probably happened because the underground nuclear test on Sept. 3 weakened or affected the tectonic plate structures in the area. The region isn’t one where earthquakes naturally occur and no quakes were detected after the five smaller nuclear tests North Korea has conducted since 2006.
The officials declined to say how the recent quakes might have affected the area and the test site, where all of North Korea’s nuclear bomb tests have taken place. But some civilian experts said North Korea may stop using the site.
North Korea, which is accelerating its efforts to develop more powerful nuclear weapons and missiles, is unlikely to waste its limited nuclear materials by conducting tests that are weaker than its sixth. But a more powerful underground detonation at the current site could be “potentially suicidal,” not only because of the weakened ground, but also because of the threat of a volcanic eruption at Mount Paektu, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, according to Kune Yull Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University.
Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, previously expressed similar worries, saying he wondered whether North Korea would be able to carry out another nuclear test in the area. Other experts said the quakes might have been caused by landslides or the collapsing of test structures such as tunnels.
North Korea’s state media haven’t reported any of the four quakes detected by South Korea and other countries.
The North has vowed to bolster its nuclear and missile programs despite increasing US-led pressure on the country. Worries about a potential military clash between the US and North Korea have also intensified in South Korea and elsewhere, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanging crude personal insults and warlike rhetoric.
At the height of the standoff between the countries last month, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters the country could conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Suh said Ri’s comments might indicate the North is unable to carry out new explosions at its test site.
“It’s likely that North Korea will conduct its next nuclear test in the stratosphere, or about 100 to 300 kilometers (60 to 185 miles) from the ground, where it will be able to conduct more powerful detonations,” Suh said.
B-1B bomber aircrews anticipate returning to the Middle East in coming months and have been training for the evolving battle spaces in Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan, according to officials at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
“We’re working real hard inside of our training network,” said Col. Karl Fischbach, commander of the 7th Operations Group. “The ranges that we have were set up really well to simulate the environment, and we’re going to attend the next Red Flag [in January] and Green Flag [exercises] in the [upcoming] year, and really focus on what we need to get ready for the CentCom operation.”
Military.com sat down with a variety of leaders from Air Force Global Strike Command’s 7th Bomb Wing — responsible for producing combat ready aircrews in the Air Force‘s only B-1B formal training unit — during a trip to the base, and took a ride Dec. 19 in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico.
“We’ve always had a pivotal role in what our Air Force is doing — Dyess Air Force Base has always been right there,” Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander, said during a roundtable interview.
The non-nuclear-capable aircraft, known as the “Bone,” left the Central Command area of responsibility in early 2016, and was replaced by B-52 Stratofortress bombers at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, that April.
Officials at the time said the B-1B’s return stateside was crucial to upgrade the fleet with the latest Integrated Battle Station, known as the IBS upgrade, which so far has been incorporated into more than half of the 62 total aircraft.
Specifically, the 9th Bomb Squadron here hasn’t been back to CentCom since February 2015, according to Lt. Col. Erick Lord, the squadron’s commander.
Rotations for the long-range, large payload bomber between the Pacific and Middle East could be fluid: Bomber units from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, (currently assigned to Pacific Command) may rotate into the Middle East, while crews from Dyess take over their mission in the Pacific, or vice versa.
It would also mark a significant shift in having a single platform in two theaters, spreading the Lancer fleet during a time when the Air Force finds itself busier than ever.
“Every one squadron, they live to go do what we’re going to do even if it means being away from home — they want to deploy. It’s what we do, especially if you’re in a fighter or bomber [unit],” Lord said. “We’re the smallest Air Force we’ve ever been, and the demand for airpower continues to increase, and the two don’t match.”
Even as the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria steadily winds down, it still requires “surgical strikes,” or precision-guided bombs on target as the battlespace continues to shrink, said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, chief of training for the 9th.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has increased airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Empowered with more independence and authority under the Trump administration, the U.S. military this year has turned to a number of technologies for the war in Afghanistan, from the largest conventional bomb to the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
It’s also given ground commanders more authority to execute missions beyond self-defense against Taliban fighters.
For B-1 crews, being involved in both Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel means they prepare for everything and anything, even the unexpected call of a bomb run.
“It’s always really difficult to get into the fog and friction of war,” Fischbach said. “But our instructors built some pretty varsity scenarios to get our experience level and prep ready to go.”
Lord added, “We’ll train to the most stringent [rules of engagement] and then we’ll develop training scenarios that walk people down the rabbit hole, that force them to make mistakes” so they can be identified before they’re made.
“Because busting ROE will get you sent home,” he said.
Kilchrist, also a B-1B pilot, said that aside from the experiences acquired at Red Flag — an integrated, multi-force training game within a simulated combat environment — and Green Flag — a coalition exercise consisting of close-air support and air-to-surface training — programs to get prepped and ready for combat have been upgraded and modified.
“We’re tailoring our training to accomplish those things … and we’re integrating more than ever with F-16 units out of Fort Worth … to do mission commander upgrades, with [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] from all around the country,” he said.
“We’re really bringing all these things into the fold to increase our aperture for training and give us the best possible simulation of what combat in different theaters are going to be like,” Kilchrist said.
That includes the Pacific, he noted, where B-1s took over for the B-52s in 2016, marking the first time the B-1B has been housed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, since 2006.
“What my job is to show the new guys, ‘Hey, we can go to Afghanistan tomorrow, or we can go to PaCoM tomorrow, but you’ve got to be ready for both,’ ” he said.
Parker, speaking broadly to the Bone’s mission set, added, “At the end of the day, we got to be able to range targets, and do it in a way that’s very lethal. Variety of weapons, different sort of battlespaces … we’re making sure we’re ready.”
Look, not everyone can be a hardcore, red-blooded meat eater. Someone has to man the phones at the big bases and that’s just the job for you. You’re a vital part of the American war machine, and you should be proud of yourself.
But there are some things you’re doing that open you up to a bit of ridicule. Sure, not everyone is going to be a combat arms bubba, embracing the suck and praying they’ll get stomped on by the Army just one more time today. But some of us POGs are taking our personal comfort a little too far and failing to to properly embrace the Army lifestyle.
Here are seven signs that you’re not only a POG but a super POG:
1. You’re more likely to bring your “luggage” than a duffel bag and rucksack
There are some semi-famous photos of this phenomenon that show support soldiers laughing in frustration as they try to roll wheeled bags across the crushed gravel and thick mud of Kandahar and other major bases.
This is a uniquely POG problem, as any infantryman — and most support soldiers worth their salt — know that they’re going to be on unforgiving terrain and that they’ll need their hands free to use their weapon while carrying weight at some point. Both of those factors make rolling bags a ridiculous choice.
2. You actually enjoy collecting command coins
Seriously, what is it about these cheap pieces of unit “swag” that makes them so coveted. I mean, sure, back when those coins could get you free drinks, it made some sense. But now? It’s the military version of crappy tourist trinkets.
Anyone who wants to remember the unit instead of their squad mates was clearly doing the whole “deployment” thing wrong. And challenge coins don’t help you remember your squad; selfies while drunk in the barracks or photos of the whole platoon making stupid faces while pointing their weapons in the air do.
3. You don’t understand why everyone makes such a big deal about MREs (just go to TGI Fridays if you’re tired of them!)
More than once I’ve heard POGs say that MREs aren’t that bad and you can always go to the DFAC or Green Beans or, according to one POG on Kandahar Air Field, down to TGI Friday’s when you’re tired of MREs. And I’m going to need those people to check their POG privilege.
Look, not every base can get an American restaurant. Not every base has a DFAC. A few bases couldn’t even get regular mermite deliveries. Those soldiers, unfortunately, were restricted to MREs and their big brother, UGRs (Unitized Group Rations), both of which have limited, repetitive menus and are not great for one meal, let alone meals for a year.
So please, send care packages.
4. You think of jet engines as those things that interrupt your sleep
I know, it’s super annoying when you’re settling into a warm bed on one of the airfields and, just as you drift off, an ear-splitting roar announces that a jet is taking off, filling your belly with adrenaline and guaranteeing that you’ll be awake another hour.
But please remember that those jets are headed to help troops in contact who won’t be getting any sleep until their enemies retreat or are rooted out. A fast, low flyover by a loud jet sometimes gets the job done, and a JDAM strike usually does.
So let the jets fly and invest in a white noise machine. The multiple 120-volt outlets in your room aren’t just for show.
5. You’ve broken in more office chairs than combat boots
Pretty obvious. POGs spend hours per day in office chairs, protecting their boots from any serious work, while infantryman are more likely to be laying out equipment in the motor pool, marching, or conducting field problems, all of which get their boots covered in grease and mud while wearing out the soles and seams.
6. You still handle your rifle like it’s a dead fish or a live snake
While most troops work with their weapons a few times a year and combat arms soldiers are likely to carry it at least a few times a month on some kind of an exercise, true super POGs MIGHT see their M4 or M16 once a year. And many of them are too lazy to even name it. (I miss you, Rachel.)
Because of this, they still treat their weapon as some sort of foreign object, holding it at arms length like it’s a smelly fish that could get them dirty or a live snake that could bite them. Seriously, go cuddle up to the thing and get used to it. It’ll only kill the things you point it at, and only if you learn to actually use it.
7. You’re offended by the word “POG”
Yes, it’s rude for the mean old infantry to call you names, but come on. All military service is important, and it’s perfectly honorable to be a POG (seriously, I wrote a column all about that), but the infantry is usually calling you a POG to tease you or to pat themselves on the back.
And why shouldn’t they? Yes, all service counts, but the burdens of service aren’t shared evenly. While the combat arms guys are likely to sleep in the dirt many nights and are almost assured that they’ll have to engage in combat at some point, the troops who network satellites will rarely experience a day without air conditioning.
Is it too much to let the grunts lob a cheap insult every once in a while?
For the second time in two decades, John “Russ” Orders was hopeful he would receive a Purple Heart for his sacrifice during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
A ceremony planned for last month, during which Orders would have been awarded the Purple Heart, has been postponed. Orders’ award status remains in limbo because of a missing document that details how and when Orders received his injuries.
“Obviously, the government takes a little longer than normal, but they sent us back a reply when we requested the Purple Heart and they said that they needed more information,” said Dave Bowen, a chaplain for Access Home Care and Hospice who has served as liaison between the US Army and Orders. “But all the information they requested was on the paperwork that I submitted, so I’m not sure what they are looking for.”
Currently, Orders is a resident at the Cottonwood Cove retirement home in Pocatello.
It was a freezing January night in 1945 and Orders — a member of the US Army’s 102nd “Ozark” Infantry Division — was driving a supply truck to the front lines when a German artillery round struck his truck, exploded on impact, and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed in France with severe injuries to his left hand.
Six months later, the US Army honorably discharged Orders, and in addition to the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, he received two Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and the American Theater Ribbon.
Despite his injures, Orders did not receive the Purple Heart.
For decades, he didn’t pursue the award because he thought that it was reserved for those who had been shot. Before her passing in 2012, Orders’ late wife, Jeanne Orders, interviewed and documented his service record during the war.
But the US Army cannot rely on Jeanne’s notes and must confirm the information through an action report that details how and when his injuries would have occurred.
The only problem is that the action report may not exist, according to Orders’ son-in-law, Kevin Haskell.
Haskell said any specific records for Orders’ were stored in St. Louis, Missouri, and were likely destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
“I haven’t got a clue what (the US Army) is looking for,” Haskell said. “Fifteen years ago, my wife (Jolynn Haskell) and my mother-in-law ( Jeanne Orders) went through this whole process. Before Dave brought it back up, we had totally forgotten about it.”
Haskell continued, “What’s disappointing is the US Army doesn’t want to act on the evidence we have provided — they want to go off the paperwork.”
The same technicality prevented Orders from receiving the Purple Heart several years before Jeanne died, so to reach the same point again has left Kevin and Jolynn wondering if Orders will ever get the recognition they think he deserves.
“Jolynn was quite disappointed because we thought that the process was all worked out,” Kevin Haskell said. “We were told that it was approved and thought that they had progressed it through, but now it’s postponed because there are more forms that (the US Army) needs.”
Haskell said that it’s not the fact that Orders hasn’t received the Purple Heart, but that the process reached a point where the retirement home scheduled a pinning ceremony that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo planned to attend, only to find out just days before that more information was necessary.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Haskell said. “We thought he was finally going to get it. We are getting asked by residents in the center why he’s not getting the award and we don’t know what to tell them. To go that far and then all of a sudden put a stop to it is pretty disappointing.”
Though there’s a chance that Orders will receive the Purple Heart, Bowen said he is uncertain how probable that outcome will be considering this isn’t the first scenario in which further documentation was missing.
But that hasn’t stopped him from trying.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this happens,” Bowen said. “We will push this until we get an absolute no from the Army.”
All across the nation everyone is dealing with the Polar Vortex. It’s colder than balls outside for everyone in the military. That is unless you’re one of the lucky bastards stationed in Hawaii.
No. I get it. “The grass is always greener” or whatever nonsense the retention NCO tried to peddle off to you before they sent you to Fort Bumpf*cknowhere. I don’t care if the cost of living is slightly higher in Hawaii.
At least the troops there aren’t dealing with hearing their salty platoon sergeant try to “well back in my day” every complaint about it being below negative twenty degrees. I’ll pay that extra dollar for a Big Mac if it gets me out of that.
Anyways, stay warm out there guys. Thankfully the Coast Guard has money to pay their heating bills.