A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane - We Are The Mighty
Articles

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
An underside view of a Soviet Su-27 Flanker aircraft carrying air-to-air missiles. (DOD photo)

It is not the first close encounter. Earlier this year, a Russian plane came within 20 feet of a Navy patrol plane. Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea in February, and a Russian “tattletale” operated off the East Coast earlier this year.

The BALTOPS exercise this year was notable in that all three American heavy bombers in service, the B-52H Stratofortress, the B-1B Lancer, and the B-2A Spirit, participated, an Air Force release noted. A B-52H was intercepted by Russian fighters earlier this month.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS, an RC-135, and KC-135s sit at the CURACAO/ARUBA Cooperative Security Location. | Photo via SOUTHCOM.

USNI News had reported that Russia threatened to target any U.S. aircraft in Syria west of the Euphrates River in response to the downing of a Syrian Su-22 Fitter by a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet. Russia has also deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, an enclave surrounded by Poland and Lithuania.

It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How ISIS is trying to make a comeback with assassinations

Roughly four years ago, ISIS shocked the world when it took over a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate in the process.

Fast forward to 2018 and the terrorist group is a shadow of what it was even a year ago. It has lost the vast majority of the territory it previously held and the number of fighters it counted among its ranks has dwindled exponentially to below 3,000.

Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the Middle East, and a new report from the Soufan Center warns it’s attempting to make a comeback by resorting to a tactic it employed back in 2013 when it was still known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security personnel.


“To get back to its heyday of 2014, the Islamic State first needs to get back to 2013, a year in which the terrorist group concluded one very successful campaign to free thousands of its detained members from Iraqi jails and started another campaign to assassinate and intimidate Iraqi security personnel, particularly local police officers,” the report stated.

In late June 2018, Iraq executed 12 ISIS members, which the Soufan Center says was in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.

‘A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past’

With fewer numbers, ISIS will be less inclined to focus on regaining territory and more likely to ramp up attacks on Iraqi police to sow the same brand of chaos it did back in 2013, according to the Soufan Center.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

A masked man in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014.

(FBI)

“A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past,” the report noted.”Targeted attacks on police and government officials have risen in several provinces as the group has stopped its military collapse and refocused on what is possible for the group now.”

The report added, “Assassinations require few people and are perfectly suited as a force multiplier for a group that has seen its forces decimated.”

‘The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed’

Peter Mandaville, a professor of international affairs at George Mason University who previously served as a top adviser to the State Department on ISIS, backed up the Soufan Center report.

“I think it would be difficult for ISIS to retake significant territory given the ongoing presence and vigilance of [US-led] coalition forces,” Mandaville told Business Insider, adding, “They certainly have the capacity to engage in an extended insurgency campaign using the kinds of tactics highlighted in the Soufan Center report.”

Mandaville said the situation on the ground in Iraq — that led to the rise of ISIS in the first place — has not changed significantly even though ISIS has more or less been defeated militarily.

“The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed, with high levels of political polarization,” Mandaville said. “Until the central government succeeds in advancing key political and security reforms, many areas of Iraq will continue to provide a permissive environment for low intensity ISIS operations.”

David Sterman of the New America Foundation, an expert on terrorism and violent extremism, expressed similar sentiments.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security Program; Co-Author, All Jihad is Local, Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula

Sterman told Business Insider that the threat of ISIS returning to the strategy of breeding chaos on the local level by targeting Iraq security personal is “very serious.”

“ISIS continues to show capability to conduct attacks in liberated areas, an issue seen also during the surge,” Sterman added. “Bombings in Baghdad in January 2018 illustrate this as well as the assassinations and smaller attacks discussed” in the Soufan Center report.

In short, ISIS is still in a position to create havoc, albeit in a more limited capacity, in an already troubled country that really hasn’t even begun to recover from years of conflict.

ISIS continues to operate underground across the world

From a broader standpoint, this does not necessarily mean ISIS poses a significant threat to the US.

“Even at its height, ISIS did not demonstrate a capability to direct a strike on the US homeland (as opposed to Europe),” Sterman said. “So the threat [in the US] predominantly remains homegrown and inspired. Of course that doesn’t mean the US should take its eye off of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s bursting onto the global scene is proof of that.”

ISIS continues to wage an effective propaganda campaign online, which helps it maintain a global footprint even as its presence in Iraq and Syria has become more faint.

Moreover, ISIS is also turning to Bitcoin and encrypted communications as a means of rallying its followers worldwide.

“If you look across the globe, the cohesive nature of the enterprise for ISIS has been maintained,” Russell Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told The New York Times. “The message continues to resonate with way too many people.”

The Trump administration says there’s ‘still hard fighting ahead’ against ISIS

Speaking with reporters in late June 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the success the US-led coalition has had against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but added that “there’s still hard fighting ahead.”

“Bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead,” Mattis said. “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”

Meanwhile, US troops stationed near the Iraq-Syria border have been hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery in recent weeks.

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

Articles

F-35’s $400K helmet still blinds pilots on night flights

A software fix designed to make the state-of-the-art F-35 helmet easier to use for Navy and Marine Corps pilots landing on ships at night is still falling short of the mark, the program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter program said Monday.


One discovery made as the F-35C Navy carrier variant and F-35B Marine Corps “jump jet” variant wrapped up ship testing this year was that the symbology on the pricey helmet was still too bright and distracting for pilots landing on carriers or amphibious ships in the lowest light conditions, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

During the final developmental test phase for the F-35C aboard the carrier George Washington in August, officials told Military.com they were testing a new software load specifically designed to address the F-35 helmet’s “green glow” problem, which can make it difficult for pilots to detect outside light sources and the cues they need to land their aircraft safely.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
The F-35’s high tech helmet aims to provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness. | Lockheed Martin image

While testers were hopeful at the time the problem was solved, Bogdan said officials are not yet satisfied.

“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”

Bogdan said the military plans on pursuing a hardware fix for the helmet, which is designed to stream real-time information onto the visor and allow the pilots to “see through” the plane by projecting images from cameras mounted around the aircraft. But before that fix is finalized, he said, pilots of the F-35 B and C variants will make operational changes to mitigate the glare from the helmet. These may include adjusting the light scheme on the aircraft, altering how pilots communicate during night flights, and perhaps changing the way they use the helmet during these flights, he said.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

“We’re thinking in the short term we need to make some operational changes, and in the long term we’ll look for some hardware changes,” Bogdan said.

The window for making such adjustments is rapidly closing. The first F-35B squadron is expected to move forward to its new permanent base in Japan in January ahead of a 2018 shipboard deployment in the Pacific. The F-35C is also expected to deploy aboard a carrier for the first time in 2018.

Articles

A new PTSD treatment isn’t a miracle, but it’s working wonders for some

After three combat deployments to the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, something as simple as the smell of hay could trigger Rick Burth’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.


The smell of gunpowder and jet fuel put him on edge, too. He’d known he had PTSD for a long time, but he never talked about it.

“There was this stigma, so you didn’t want to say anything,” said Burth, 49, a Roseville resident and threat assessment specialist with the state Office of Emergency Services. “You just kept your head down and kept doing your job, but after awhile, it just got bad.”

Other treatments hadn’t worked, so Burth opted for a novel procedure that some say is a quick and effective way to quiet the anxiety and agitation that PTSD patients frequently experience. He traveled to the Chicago area, where a doctor injected a local anesthetic into his neck, targeting the nerves that regulate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
An image depicted the stellate ganglion block procedure. Screengrab from ViewMedica video.

The treatment, called stellate ganglion block, has typically been used for pain management, but Dr. Eugene Lipov, an anesthesiologist, said he discovered in 2005 that it has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms.

The 10-minute procedure halts the nerve impulses to the brain that trigger anxiety and jitters in trauma victims, Lipov contends.

Experts disagree on its effectiveness, but some doctors and patients say it seems to be a useful tool in combination with therapy and other medications, which may not always provide relief.

Burth said it helped calm his mind to the point where he could think more rationally about the traumatic events in his past.

The former Marine said he started noticing symptoms after returning from the Gulf War in 1991, and that his symptoms grew worse when he went to Iraq, where he was part of the anti-terrorism team for the California Army National Guard.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
California Army National Guard troops in training. Photo from California National Guard Flickr.

“The day-in, day-out fighting — getting shot at, shooting back, things blowing up around us — that compounded the issue,” he said.

When Burth came home, he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand being in crowds. He was abusing alcohol. And it was all wearing on his wife and two young sons, he said. He’d been on anti-anxiety medication for years but never noticed much difference, he said.

“I was just really short-tempered. Always go, go, go. Didn’t have time to stop and listen to folks because I was always so anxious,” he said.

There are nearly 8 million Americans like Burth suffering from PTSD, many of them military veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD is the third most common psychiatric diagnosis in the Veterans Health Administration.

People can develop PTSD months after they experience a life-threatening event or trauma such as a mugging, sexual assault, or the sudden death of a loved one. Its symptoms are broad because everyone’s PTSD manifests differently, said Dr. David Schafer, acting associate chief of staff for mental health at the Sacramento VA Medical Center.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
Rick Burth. Photo from Sacramento Bee via NewsEdge.

People can relive a traumatic event such as an ambush or bomb attack in nightmares or flashbacks. They might also avoid places and situations that remind them of the trauma. Feeling anxious, jumpy, and experiencing panic attacks are common symptoms.

Burth, for instance, would become agitated at the smell of hay because he’d been in gunbattles in fields and orchards.

“For many, the easiest and safest thing to do is stay home with the door locked, sleeping on the floor by the closet,” Schafer said. “The challenge with avoidance is that it works.”

Approved treatments of PTSD include reintroducing patients to the people, places, and things they might find distressing. To work through the trauma, they attend therapy sessions for 10 to 15 weeks as they try to understand their reactions to events. Medications may also be prescribed to help take the edge off, Schafer said.

Burth had gone through months of therapy, including a month-long stint in a Texas rehabilitative treatment center, but his PTSD symptoms always returned, he said.

“It was helpful,” he said, “but after you get back home and get back into the same old routine, things pop up again, and you try to remember how to work through it on your own.”

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

 

Burth learned of stellate ganglion block through his mother-in-law, who volunteers with the Global Post Traumatic Stress Injury Foundation, which pays for veterans to receive the $1,600 treatment because it isn’t recognized or covered by the VA. The foundation is having a fundraiser at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Sept. 11.

Chris Miller, a local developer and philanthropist, was moved by the testimonials he heard at a foundation event in Washington, DC, last year, where soldiers and veterans spoke of their symptom relief after receiving the anesthetic treatment. Because there is a large military population in the Sacramento area, he decided to host his own fundraiser for the foundation, he said.

In March, helped by the foundation, Burth went to Lipov’s clinic near Chicago. After the first injection, he said he didn’t feel much different.

If patients don’t feel relief after the first injection, Lipov said, he’ll give them another injection higher in the neck. The second injection has a 90 percent success rate, he said.

After the second injection, “I didn’t feel different physically, but I felt different mentally,” Burth said. “Things slowed down. I didn’t have a million thoughts. I didn’t have that anxious and paranoid feeling, always looking over my shoulder. All of that kind of dissipated.”

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Lipov said he’s performed stellate ganglion block procedures on 500 veterans with a 70 to 75 percent success rate.

So far, the anecdotal evidence about the procedure is mainly positive, but the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether stellate ganglion block is widely effective at treating PTSD, said Dr. Michael Alkire, an anesthesiologist at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, who is studying the treatment with Dr. Christopher Reist, a psychiatrist.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched studies into the procedure because the long-term side effects remain unknown. One study is being conducted at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System.

In February, the VA Portland Health Care System found there was insufficient evidence to say stellate ganglion block was an effective treatment for PTSD. In trials, at least 75 percent of the subjects reported improvement. But when the treatment was tested against a placebo, a shot of the local anesthetic fared no better than a saline injection.

“The pattern suggests that, while it is possible that some patients benefit, the response rates seen in case series will not hold up in actual practice,” the researchers said. “Substantial uncertainty remains about the potential harms of (stellate ganglion block) as well.”

At VA Long Beach, Reist and Alkire have been performing stellate ganglion blocks to collect better data and understand when it can be effective. Their research has included 17 patients who are selected according to whether they’ve tried medication or psychotherapy without improvement. Of the 17 subjects, 13 reported immediate or gradual relief from their symptoms, the doctors said.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
Anti-anxiety medications, like Prozac, are sometimes used to treat the symptoms of PTSD. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

While the sample size is small, Reist and Alkire have found the blocks are most successful for patients who have symptoms of hyperarousal, which is like being in a constant state of fight or flight. The stellate ganglion block eases the patients’ tension and anxiety so they can engage in traditional therapies for PTSD, Reist said.

Alkire said it’s important to note that the treatment doesn’t work for everyone. He recalled the case of one patient who wanted it to work so badly that, when it didn’t, he spiraled into a deeper depression.

No treatment erases the memory of trauma, Schafer said. “Part of trauma-focused work is walking through the trauma and putting it in context, expanding people’s understanding of what happened.”

Burth agreed. “This is not a be-all, cure-all,” he said. “This is something that calms your mind and allows you to deal with the memories that are always there.”

“Since the injection, I can look at things in a different light and deal with it. I had someone ask me if this is a miracle, and I said, I don’t know if it’s a miracle, but it’s working for me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., India sign deal that will allow them to better hunt subs

The US and India have grown closer over the past decade, and they took another major step forward in September 2018 with the signing of a communications agreement that will improve their ability to coordinate military operations — like hunting down submarines.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, respectively, on Sept. 6, 2018, for the long-delayed inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

The meeting produced a raft of agreements. Perhaps the most important was the Communications, Compatibility, and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms,” according to a joint statement.


The deal — one of several foundational agreements the US and India have been discussing for nearly two decades — took years to negotiate, delayed by political factors in India and concerns about opening Indian communications to the US.

The US wants to ensure sensitive equipment isn’t leaked to other countries — like Russia, with which India has longstanding defense ties — while India wants to ensure its classified information isn’t shared without consent.

But the lack of an agreement limited what the US could share.

“The case that the US has been making to India is that some of the more advanced military platforms that we’ve been selling them, we actually have to remove the advanced communications” systems on them because they can’t be sold to countries that haven’t signed a COMCASA agreement, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow for South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, in an interview in late August 2018.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meet at Modi’s residence, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. Mattis, along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and other top U.S. officials met with Modi following the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue, where Mattis and Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts.

“So that even when we’re doing joint exercises together, we have to use older, more outdated communications channels when our two militaries are communicating with one another, and it just makes things more difficult,” Smith added.

And it wasn’t just the US. A Japanese official said in 2017 that communications between that country’s navy and the Indian navy were limited to voice transmissions, and there was no satellite link that would allow them to share monitor displays in on-board command centers.

With COMCASA in place, India can now work toward greater interoperability with the US and other partners.

“COMCASA is a legal technology enabler that will facilitate our access to advanced defense systems and enable us to optimally utilize our existing US-origin platforms like C-130J Super Hercules and P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft,” an official told The Times of India.

Importantly for India, the agreement opens access to new technology and weapons that use secure military communications — like the armed Sea Guardian drone, which India will be the first non-NATO country to get. Sea Guardians come with advanced GPS, an Identification Friend or Foe system, and a VHF radio system, which can thwart jamming or spoofing.

The deal also facilitates information sharing via secure data links and Common Tactical Picture, which would allow Indian forces to share data with the US and other friendly countries during exercises and operations.

Expanding interoperability is particularly important for India in the Indian Ocean region, where increasing Chinese naval activity— especially that of submarines — has worried New Delhi.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” a source told The Times of India.

‘The bells and whistles … didn’t necessary come with it’

Signing COMCASA has been cast as part of a broader strategic advance by India, binding it closer to the US and facilitating more exchanges with other partner forces. (Some have suggested the deal lowers the likelihood the US will sanction India for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.)

The agreement itself will facilitate more secure communications and data exchanges and opens a path for future improvements, but there are other issues hanging over India’s ability to work with its partners.

Among the US-made hardware India has bought in recent years are variants of the P-8 Poseidon, one of the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian Navy photo)

India purchased the aircraft through direct commercial sales rather than through foreign military sales, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in an interview at the end of August 2018.

“As a result a lot of the bells and whistles, the extra stuff that goes with a new airplane — the mission systems, like the radio systems, and the radars and the sonobuoys and all the equipment that you’d get with an airplane like that — didn’t necessary come with it, and they’re going to have to buy that separately,” Clark said.

“Signing this agreement means there’s an opportunity to share the same data-transfer protocols or to use the same communications systems,” Clark said. But both sides would need to already have the systems in question in order to take advantage of the new access.

“So the Indians would still have to buy the systems that would enable them to be interoperable,” Clark said.

Smith said a “fundamental change” in the US-India defense-sales relationship was unlikely, but having COMCASA in place would make US-made systems more attractive and allow India to purchase a broader range of gear.

“At least now India can get the full suite of whatever platforms they’re looking at,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump optimistic about ‘good talks’ with North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism on Jan. 10 that a diplomatic opening with North Korea that emerged this week in talks with the South could lead to broader dialogue to quell tensions in the region.


Trump’s upbeat mood after months of escalating threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs came as the UN Security Council said it welcomes “possibilities for confidence-building and trust-building on the Korean peninsula” that emerged this week.

Also Read: Why the US is suddenly willing to talk to North Korea

“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference, but “a lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy… Hopefully, it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world.”

“Who knows where it leads?” he said.

The move toward dialogue began with an agreement between North and South Korea on Jan. 9 to reopen talks between their militaries and welcome a team from the North to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month at the first formal talks between the two sides in more than two years.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office on Jan. 10 said that Trump indicated in a phone conversation that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold talks.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
President Donald J. Trump (right) and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The White House said Moon and Trump agreed that, as long as the North refuses to discuss curbing its nuclear development, the global community should continue to exert “maximum pressure” through stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN council this year.

But, at the same time, the White House said, “Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

Trump has previously scoffed at what he said was the futility of talking with the North.

Articles

Enlisted airmen may begin flying drones this year, general says

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
Northrop Grumman


Enlisted airmen could be piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Air Force’s biggest drone aircraft, before the year is out, according to a senior Air Force official.

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lt. Gen. John Raymond told lawmakers on Tuesday that “starting in the end of FY ’16 or FY ’17 we’re going to begin the transition to enlisted RPA pilots for Global Hawk aircraft.”

That means the first enlisted airmen to pilot the high-altitude surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman Corp. could be in place before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Raymond offered his remarks during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, which is headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the move toward enlisted Global Hawk pilots just three months ago. They will fly the remotely piloted aircraft under the supervision of rated officers, she said.

Under questioning Tuesday by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Raymond confirmed that only the RQ-4 would be piloted by enlisted personnel — at least for now.

“I grew up in Space Operations,” Raymond said. “Years ago we started out with engineer officers who flew the satellites, then went to operator officers — you didn’t have to have an engineering degree — and then we transitioned to enlisted operators.

“We’re taking a very deliberate approach to this,” he added. “We’re going to start with the Global Hawk. We’re very comfortable our enlisted airmen are going to be able to do that [mission].”

The Air Force then will look at the possibility of having enlisted airmen fly the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, which carry out strike in addition to surveillance missions, Raymond said.

McCain, noting the Air Force has a shortage of rated officers, asked whether it would not have been better to start off using enlisted personnel.

“I wasn’t in this position or this job at the time, but it’s where we are,” Raymond said. “I think it was important that we have a capability. It was a technology demonstrator with significant growth and I think using the pilots we had to do that was a smart move at that time.”

Articles

How deployed soldiers celebrate Christmas

Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own. 

Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter. 

Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal. 

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. 

When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel. 

Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel! 

Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close. 

Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience. 

The people you share the season with might surprise you. 

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits. 

The holiday reminds you of your priorities. 

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian show of force fails to impress after U.S. sanctions

Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.

The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.

“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.


But while Iran has some credible naval capabilities that could shut down the waterway for a time, the assets it displayed don’t really seem up to the task.

Iran flew Mirage fighter jets, F-4s and Sukhoi-22s as part of the display. The F-4 and Sukhoi both first flew in the 1960s, and the Mirage first took flight in the 1970s.

Iran, under heavy sanction, hasn’t bought new fighter jets or components in a long time, but has shown considerable skill in keeping its stock flying for decades.

But the US maintains a presence in the Persian Gulf, most recently with an aircraft carrier full of F-35 stealth fighters.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

The US has considerable air power in the Middle East and closely monitors the Persian Gulf. Additionally, US allies like Saudi Arabia don’t exactly sail rubber duckies through the gulf either.

On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.

Already Iran has found itself abandoned by its former oil clients in anticipation of US sanctions. Iran frequently threatens military force against the US or its neighbors, but rarely follows through.

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

Articles

This is what makes the Mark 48 one of the deadliest torpedoes ever built

The US Navy’s submarine service is easily the most powerful ever fielded in the history of submarine warfare. Consisting of Los Angeles, Seawolf, Virginia and Ohio-class boats, this all-nuclear force is silent and deadly, prowling the world’s waterways without anybody the wiser.


While the unlimited range, the quiet and very stealthy nature of these combat vessels makes them incredibly dangerous, it’s their armament that plays the biggest part in making them the most lethal killing machines traversing the oceans today.

Every American submarine in service today is armed with the Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedo, the latest and greatest in underwater warfare technology. These “fish” are designed to give submarine commanders a flexible tool that can be used to destroy enemy vessels, or serve as remote sensors, extending the operational capabilities of submarines far beyond what they’re inherently able to do while on patrol.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
A Mark 48 being loaded onto the USS Annapolis, a Los Angeles-class submarine (Photo US Navy)

As you can probably tell, these next-level torpedoes have undergone a considerable evolution from their predecessors of decades past. Advanced on-board computers, propulsion systems and explosives combine within the frame of the Mark 48 to make it a highly lethal one-shot-one-kill solution for every American submarine commander serving today.

Like many weapons fielded on modern battlefields the Mark 48 ADCAP is “smart,” meaning that it can function autonomously with a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness, allowing for unparalleled accuracy. When fired in anger, the Mark 48 rushes to its target using a “pumpjet propulsor” that can push the torpedo to speeds estimated to be above 50 mph underwater, though the actual stats are classified.

The high speeds were originally a major requirement to allow American subs to chase down fast-moving Soviet attack submarines, which were also capable of diving deep and out of range, thanks to reinforced titanium pressure hulls.

The Mark 48 is initially guided by the submarine which deploys it through a thin trailing wire connected to the boat’s targeting computers and sensors. Upon acquiring its target, the wire is cut and the torpedo’s internal computers take over, guiding the underwater weapon home with precision.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
US Navy torpedo retrievers secure a Mark 48 to the deck of their boat (Photo US Navy)

In days past, when torpedoes missed their target, they would likely keep swimming on until exhausting their fuel supply, or until they detonated. That’s not the case with the Mark 48, however.

When the Mark 48 misses its target, it doesn’t stop hunting. Instead, it circles around using its onboard computers to reacquire a lock and attempt a second attack.

This time, it probably won’t miss.

When the Mark 48 reaches its target, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Though earlier torpedoes would be programmed to detonate upon impacting or nearing the hull of an enemy vessel, the Mark 48 takes a different path… literally.

When attacking surface vessels, it travels below the keel of the ship, which is generally unprotected, detonating directly underneath. The massive pressure bubble that results from the gigantic explosion doesn’t just slice through the bulk of the target boat – it also literally lifts the ship out of the water and snaps the keel, essentially breaking its back.

When attacking a submarine, it detonates in close proximity to the pressure hull of the enemy boat, corrupting it immediately with a massive shockwave. Once the Mark 48 strikes, it’s game over and the enemy ship’s crew, or at least whoever is left of them, will have just minutes to evacuate before their boat makes its way below the surface to Davy Jones’ locker.

The US Navy is in the process of exploring upgrades to the Mark 48, including diminishing the noise generated by its engine in order to make it nearly undetectable to its targets, and enhancing its in-built detection and targeting systems.

Currently, the Navy fields the Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System variant of the Mark 48 – the 7th major upgrade the torpedo has undergone over its service history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 6th

Whelp. According to August’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report submitted by the Pentagon, the Navy is officially the fattest branch of the Department of Defense at a whopping 22% of all sailors being obese. Not “doesn’t meet physical requirements” but obese. It’s still way below the 39.8% of the national average, according to the CDC, but still.

In case you were wondering, the Air Force is second at 18%, the Army (who usually takes this record) is at just 17%, and the Marines are at 8.3%. To be fair to every other branch, the Marines have the youngest average age of troops despite also taking the record for “most knee and back problems.”


But, I mean, the placement of your branch isn’t something to be proud of. If you compare the percentages to where they were at three years ago, and eight years ago, each branch nearly doubled their “big boy” percentage.

So yes. In case you were wondering… The military HAS gone soft since you left a few years ago.

Anyways, here are some memes.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Call for Fire)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Not CID)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

The time a fishing boat helped capture a North Korean submarine

Since the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, a tenuous ceasefire has existed between South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Although gunfire has been exchanged across the demilitarized zone on the 38th parallel, the conflict is largely marked by espionage. In 1998, the extraction of North Korean spies from South Korea was foiled by an unlikely and unintentional defense mechanism.

On June 22, a North Korean Yugo-class became disabled in South Korean waters. About 11 miles east of Sokcho and 21 miles south of the inter-Korean border, the submarine became tangled in a fishing drift net. The North Korean sailors attempted to free the submarine to no avail.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
U.S. Air Force graphic by Billy Smallwood, edited to show location of Sokcho

The surfaced and disabled submarine was observed by South Korean fishermen who notified the South Korean Navy of their sighting. A corvette was promptly dispatched to intercept the North Koreans. The submarine was towed by the corvette back to the navy base at Donghae with its crew still inside. However, the submarine sank on its way into port. It is still unclear if the submarine sunk due to damage sustained or if it was scuttled. The next day, the North Korean state-run Korean Central News Agency announced that a submarine had been lost in a “training accident.”

On June 25, the submarine was salvaged by South Korea. It had sunk to a depth of approximately 30 meters. The bodies of nine North Koreans were recovered from the submarine. The five sailors who crewed the submarine were apparently executed. Four of them had been shot in the head. “It appears that four men, including the commander, shot the five men to death, then committed suicide,” said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. Gen. Chung Young Jin.

The North Korean submarine is now in Unification Park in South Korea

Also discovered in the submarine were two automatic rifles, two machine guns, a shoulder-fired rocket launcher, diving equipment, oxygen tanks, military boots and hand grenades. While this equipment was not exceptional to find on a military submarine, the presence of South Korean drinks suggested that the agents had completed an espionage mission. The submarine’s logbook noted multiple incursions into South Korean waters on previous voyages. The bodies of the submarine crew were buried in the Cemetery for North Korean and Chinese Soldiers.

1998 was a year of high tension on the Korean peninsula. Following the 1998 Sokcho submarine incident, a dead North Korean commando and an infiltration craft were discovered near Donghae in July. In December, a semi-submersible vessel exchanged fire with South Korean ships near Yeosu and later sunk with all hands aboard in what became known as the 1998 Yeosu submersible incident. However, the involvement of a fishing net and a fishing boat in the Sokcho submarine incident makes it stand out from the others.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
A North Korean Sang-O submarine that ran aground in South Korean waters near Gangneung (Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Idobi)

Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

Articles

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

In one fell swoop, a series of aerial strafing and bombing runs destroyed 83 oil tankers belonging to ISIS forces in Syria.


USA TODAY reports that after a pilot witnessed a gaggle of vehicles in the oil-rich, ISIS-held region of Deir ez-Zor province, US-led coalition forces sent a surveillance aircraft to provide intelligence on the area. After confirming the targets, A-10s and F-16s were scrambled to dispense more than 80 munitions against the vehicles.

After the dust settled, an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks were destroyed in the largest single airstrike against ISIS forces in Syria this year.

A Russian fighter just buzzed a US reconnaissance plane
A convoy of ISIS-owned fuel tankers burn after being targeted by a Russian airstrike. | Screenshot via Guerrilla TV/YouTube

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” said Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.

The vehicles, which were reported to have been out in the open, may be indicative of the declining state of ISIS’ leadership and control. After a series of devastating airstrikes from both coalition and Russian forces, ISIS militants have grown accustomed to evade aerial threats by avoiding traveling in large convoys; however, this latest lapse in judgment could be a sign of worse things to come for the militants.

“This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Harrigian explained to USA TODAY.

The bombing campaign, otherwise known as Tidal Wave II, was enacted to wipe out ISIS’ oil market that was generating more than $1 million a day during its peak.

At the beginning of this operation, coalition aircraft would drop leaflets on the oil tankers prior to their bombing runs to provide the option for drivers to escape. However, after new military rules were implemented, leaflets are no longer required to be dropped.

Instead, pilots are now firing warning shots to indicate their arrival.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information