Air Force awards $9.2 billion for new fighter, bomber trainer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards $9.2 billion for new fighter, bomber trainer

The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.

The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.


“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”

The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.

The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.

(Boeing photo)

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”

The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.

The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.

“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China cries at launch of new Japanese destroyer

Japan recently launched a new class of destroyer with top-of-the line US missile-defense technology, and despite Japan’s mostly defensive posture, China portrayed the ship as a dangerous menace.

The seven decades since World War II, which concluded with the US dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, have seen the rise of a strong US-Japanese alliance and peace across the Pacific.


Japan, following its colonization of much of China during the war, renounced military aggression after surrendering to the US. Since then, Japan hasn’t kept a standing military but maintains what it calls a self-defense force. Japan’s constitution strictly limits defense spending and doesn’t allow the deployment of troops overseas.

But threats from North Korea, which several times has fired nuclear-capable missiles over Japan, have prompted a desire in Tokyo for missile defenses, which the US has obliged, manifesting itself in part in Japan’s new Maya destroyer class.

Japan’s Maya-class ballistic missile defense destroyer

(Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

“It’s not a big deal that they have this ship,” Veerle Nouwens, an Asia-Pacific expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider. “They’re using it for military exchanges or diplomacy. That’s effectively what it’s doing by going around to India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore.”

The new destroyer isn’t a radical departure from Japan’s old ones and will spend most of its time training with and visiting neighboring militaries. The destroyer isn’t exactly a rubber ducky, but it has one of the more peaceful missions imaginable for a warship.

One reason it may have drawn rebuke from Beijing is simple geography. This destroyer will have to pass through the South China Sea, and that is extremely sensitive for Beijing, which unilaterally claims almost the whole sea as its own in open defiance of international law.

China’s Global Times state-linked media outlet responded to the ship’s launch by saying it was “potentially targeting China and threatening other countries,” citing Chinese experts.

“Once absolute security is realized by Japan and the US, they could attack other countries without scruples,” one such expert said, “which will certainly destabilize other regions.”

The various territorial claims over the South China Sea

China’s real game

“China seeks full control over the South China Sea,” Nouwens said. “We can say that quite squarely. It seeks to displace the US from its traditional position from its regional dominance in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific more widely.”Since World War II, the US, particularly the US Navy, has enforced free and open seas and a rules-based world order. Imposed at a massive cost to the US, this order has enriched the world and specifically China, as safe shipping in open waters came as a given to businesses around the globe.

But now, Nouwens said, “China is threatening to lead to a situation where that may not be a given anymore.”

China has repeatedly threatened force against countries that seek to undertake simple activities, like fishing, within their own UN-designated maritime borders. But when a US Navy ship passes through the South China Sea, Beijing calls it provocative, unhelpful, or destabilizing.

“When other countries do it, it’s threatening,” Nouwens said. “When China does it to other countries, it’s fine.”

That the only two countries to ever engage in nuclear war can now work together as partners looking to protect the rights of all countries on the high seas might represent a welcome and peaceful development.

But for Beijing, which fundamentally seeks to undermine that world order to further its goals of dominating Asia, it’s cause for worry.

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

Articles

Mattis says US still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan

The Trump administration is still sorting out “the big ideas” for a new Afghanistan strategy, beyond troop levels and other military details, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said July 21.


“We’re close,” he said in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon one day after President Donald Trump met with him and his military chiefs for a broad discussion that aides said touched on Afghanistan and other issues.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and as recently as June, Mattis said, “we are not winning.”

Mattis told Sen. John McCain at a hearing last month that he would have the Afghanistan strategy ready by mid-July. On July 21 he was asked what is holding it up.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

“It just takes time,” he said. “It wasn’t that past presidents were dumb or anything else. This is hard work, so you’ve got to get it right. That’s all there is to it.”

He also said it is vitally important to “get the big ideas right,” meaning to establish a consensus within the government on what problem Afghanistan poses and what policy goal is being pursued by committing US troops there. He called this “orders of magnitude” more difficult than deciding military tactics.

“It’s easy only for the people who criticize it from the outside and who don’t carry the responsibility for integrating it altogether,” he said, referring to making diplomatic and economic elements a part of the overall strategy.

Although Mattis did not mention him July 21, McCain is among the more vocal critics of the administration’s lack of an Afghan strategy.

DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

On July 20, McCain mentioned his frustration on Afghanistan in a statement on the separate matter of the administration reportedly deciding to end a program to assist the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad.

“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan, either,” McCain said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mattis revealed no details of the ongoing administration debate.

He cast the Afghanistan problem in the context of past American wars, including those that did not end well — such as Vietnam — and those that still have not ended, such as Iraq. He said he wants to be sure there is administration agreement on the political goals as well as the military means.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“I realize this probably looks easy, but it is not easy,” he said.

Mattis said a decision disclosed by the Pentagon on July 21 to withhold $50 million in “coalition support funds” for Pakistan — money it receives each year as reimbursement for logistical support for US combat operations — was separate from deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy. Officials have said the US approach to Pakistan is an important part of the Afghan strategy debate, in part because a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. US officials called the Haqqani network the most lethal element of the Taliban opposition in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said in a statement July 21 that Mattis has informed congressional committees that he could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network to deserve full reimbursement this year. Of $900 million in proposed reimbursement, Pakistan earlier received $550 million and Congress a few months ago withheld $300 million.

Mattis’ certification decision means the remaining $50 million also will be withheld.

The Pentagon chief said this was not a reflection of a new, tougher US policy toward Pakistan.

A U.S. Army adviser from Task Force Forge conducts a room clearing drill with an Afghan trainee. (NATO photo by Kay M. Nissen)

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play” with regard to suppressing the Haqqani threat. “It’s not a policy. It is the reality.”

Pakistan is authorized to receive up to another $900 million in support funds this coming year, of which $400 million is subject to Pentagon certification of sufficient Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organizations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” a Pentagon spokesman, Adam Stump, said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter determined the Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network was insufficient, and as a result, $300 million in support funds was withheld.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Born and raised in New York, Roger Donlon enlisted the Air Force and served for nearly two years before earning admission into West Point.


After a change of heart, Donlon left the program and re-enlisted into the Army — eventually qualifying for a position in the Special Forces community.

In 1964, Donlon was shipped off to Vietnam as a combat advisor to the South Vietnamese troops.

Related: This is the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

Capt. Roger Donlon at base camp Nam Dong, Vietnam. (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

Days before the massive firefight that would earn him the Medal of Honor, SF troops believed a conflict was brewing after a shootout took place between the South Vietnamese and their advisors at their base camp.

After investigating the deadly event, the it appeared the shootout’s origin started with one of the South Vietnamese troops Donlon was training — a VC sympathizer.

But they only realized that after the dust settled.

On Jul. 6, 1964, Donlon was on guard duty when the first enemy rounds started ripping through the American defenses.

Encountering a massive force, Donlon coordinated countermeasures with his men while the enemy announced over a P.A. system instructing the South Vietnamese troops to lay down their weapons as they only wanted to kill the Americans.

At this point, many of the VC sympathizers did as the voice had commanded them.

(Source: Specialoperations.com)

Moments later, Donlon spotted a zapper — or an enemy infiltrator — attempting to breach the front gate. He dashed toward them for a closer shot, but as he engaged his rifle — he realized he was out of ammo. He quickly yelled to a mortar pit nearby for a resupply. They tossed him need rounds, but they were still in a cardboard box.

Without hesitation, Donlon loaded three rounds into his magazine and successfully engaged the enemy.

Facing a force of hundreds against the U.S. and ARVN dozens, Donlon and his men all agreed not to quit, and they would fight it out until the end.

That commitment drove Donlon to continue to coordinate defenses while running from position to position, resupplying his men. After five long hours and sustaining heavy losses, the allied forces managed to render a victory and hold their base camp.

After going home on leave for Thanksgiving, the phone rang and Donlon was informed his presence was wanted at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor.

Also Read: This soldier showed up without an eye and was reprimanded…then given the MOH

Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor on Dec. 5, 1964 — making him the first recipient of the MoH during the Vietnam War.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to watch and hear Donlon’s heroic story for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Trump’s 2019 budget

President Donald Trump, on Feb. 12, 2018, released his budget request for fiscal 2019, marking the first step in a months-long process in which lawmakers from both chambers of Congress debate and, ultimately, decide on its funding levels and policy provisions.


Trump’s defense budget request for the fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, totals $716 billion, including $686 billion for the Defense Department alone. The Pentagon’s top line includes a base budget of $597.1 billion and an overseas contingency operations, or war, budget of $89 billion. It represents a nearly 12 percent increase over the current year’s level of nearly $612 billion.

Also read: The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

But defense spending as a share of the economy would remain relatively flat at roughly 3.1 percent, according to Pentagon budget documents, and the spending bump would be financed in part by deficit spending.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the President’s budget request:

2.6% pay raise

The Defense Department proposed a 2.6 percent military pay raise for 2019 that would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase this year. “In support of the department’s effort to continue to build a bigger, more lethal and ready force, the FY2019 budget proposes a 2.6 percent increase in military basic pay,” the Pentagon said in releasing its budget request. The proposed raise, which would have to be approved by Congress and the White House, would amount to the largest military pay raise in nine years, the department said in the supporting papers for the budget request. Check out Military.com’s pay charts to see what the change would mean for you.

16K more troops

The proposed spending plan would add 16,400 more troops, bringing the size of the total force, including the Guard and Reserve components, to 2.15 million members. That figure differs from those published in the Pentagon’s overview budget document because it takes into account 2018 levels recently authorized by Congress. The additional troops would include 15,600 for the active component, with 1.3 million service members; and 800 for the Guard and Reserve, with 817,700 service members, respectively. Here’s how those figures break down: 4,000 soldiers for the active Army, 7,500 sailors for the Navy, 100 Marines for the Marine Corps, and 4,000 airmen for the Air Force; 100 sailors for the Navy Reserve, 200 airmen for the Air Force Reserve, and 500 airmen for the Air National Guard.

Related: White House wants $30B defense budget increase this year to rebuild military, fight ISIS

More aircraft, ships, vehicles

The president’s budget would fund a number of weapons systems designed to give the U.S. armed forces a technological edge over adversaries, including new missile interceptors and cyber operations. It would also fund a higher number of existing aircraft, ships and combat vehicles, including adding 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 250 B61 nuclear bomb upgrades, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two fleet replenishment oilers, five satellite launches through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and 5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen.)

Army

The Army is requesting $182 billion, including war funding, a 15 percent increase from $158 billion, according to budget documents. The service wants to continue growing its headcount, with funding for 4,000 soldiers for the active component, largely to resource fires, air defense and logistics units. The service would also purchase large quantities of long-range missiles and artillery shells, and would buy a higher number of aircraft such as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by Boeing Co.; combat vehicles including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp., and missile systems such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile System.

Navy

The Navy is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 12 percent increase from $173 billion in fiscal 2018, according to budget documents. However, the much-hailed jump-start in Navy shipbuilding to reach the larger fleet officials say the service needs represents only a small portion of the service’s requested funding increase. By 2023, the Navy expects to add 54 new ships, but most of them had already been part of long-term production plans. For 2019, the plan includes only one more ship than was budgeted in 2018: an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, for a total purchase of three instead of two. The service is also set to add 7,600 sailors as its fleet grows, in part to man new Navy variant of the V-22 Osprey, the CMV-22.

Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

Air Force

The Air Force is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 14 percent increase. The proposal would increase the size of the service’s active-duty end strength to just over 329,100 airmen, an increase of 4,000 airmen over the current year, according to the documents. The Air National Guard is requesting another 500 airmen; the Air Force Reserve wants another 200 airmen. The spending plan also includes funding to train nearly 1,000 pilots to deal with a chronic shortage; buy more F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, KC-46 tankers; develop the future B-21 bomber; and replenish the stockpile of precision-guided munitions such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, and Hellfire missiles.

More reading: Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Marine Corps

Part of the Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the Marine Corps is asking for $28.9 billion, a nearly 5 percent increase. As a second rotation of Marine advisers begins work in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and other units continue to fight ISIS in the Middle East, the budget request features a significant increase in big guns and artillery rockets — as well as a plus-up of some 1,100 Marines, including 2018 manning increases. There are significant procurement outlays as the Marine Corps makes big investments in its CH-53K King Stallion, slated to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter in coming years, and continues to pursue the amphibious combat vehicle 1.1. Among the most eye-catching planned buys, however, are in ground weapons systems, including 155mm towed howitzers and high mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard asked for about $11.7 billion in funding for fiscal 2019, an increase of $979 million, or 8.4 percent, over its previous request. The additional money would include $750 million for a new heavy icebreaker slated for delivery in 2023. The funding would go toward building “the Nation’s first new heavy Polar Icebreaker in over 40 years,” a budget document states. In other big-ticket equipment items, the service’s budget request also includes $400 million in funding for an offshore patrol cutter and $240 million in funding to buy four new fast response cutters (FRCs), designed to replace the 110-foot patrol boats and to enhance the service’s ability to conduct search-and-rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws and prevent terrorism.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Veterans Affairs

The Veterans Affairs Department requested $199 billion, an increase of $12 billion, or 6.5 percent, from the current request. The plan includes nearly $110 billion in mandatory funding for benefits programs and $89 billion in discretionary funding, with the goal of “expanding health-care services, improving quality and expanding choice to over 9 million enrolled Veterans,” the VA said. The budget includes money for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows vets to seek private-sector care. It also includes another $1.2 billion for a costly effort begun in 2011 to make health records electronic and reintroduces a controversial proposal to round-down cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to the nearest dollar for vets who receive disability compensation — a practice that was standard until 2013, Stars and Stripes reported.

Military Life

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.


Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.

Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard)

The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.

The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.

I get that it’s a typo on President Reagan’s name, but seriously… that was just worth five cents. (Screengrab via eBay)

MIGHTY SPORTS

See how huge this Army Ranger and Steelers lineman really is as he greets troops before a game

They used to call him “The Giant” – they being The Taliban. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is still a giant, he’s just not fighting in Afghanistan anymore. His new fight is the ten-yard fight and the erstwhile U.S. Army second lieutenant’s new job is protecting the back of Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And judging by the team’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2018, he must be pretty good at it.

Before the game kicked off, Fox Sports caught a glimpse of Villanueva jogging over to the sidelines to greet some active duty and reserve troops. That’s when you can really understand why the Taliban gave him that nickname.


Villanueva is a West Point graduate and played collegiate football on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights. When photographed with other NFL players — who are all large human beings — his size doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s when he goes to the sidelines to visit U.S. troops that you can see just how huge he is compared to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States – who are no strangers to working out themselves.

And that’s probably why the Steelers have him watching Big Ben’s back.

One of these two is nicknamed “Big,” the other one is Alejandro Villanueva.

On the field, Roethlisberger looks like he lives up to the nickname “Big Ben.” The Steelers QB is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, cutting a unique outline on the playing field. In comparison, Villanueva is 6’9″ and 320 pounds.

Villanueva is still dedicated to the traditions held dear by most military veterans. During the 2017-2018 season, he created a row by leaving the locker room for the national anthem, leaving the rest of his team inside, a decision he later regretted. When sales of his jersey spiked in response to that action, it became the most popular jersey in the league. The former Army Ranger donated the proceeds of jersey sales to the USO and veteran-related nonprofits in AFC North cities, as he always has.

That consistency defines Alejandro Villanueva. He wasn’t just visiting troops before the Steelers-Panthers game because of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month or any special event. He always goes to shake hands with visiting troops before every game, home or away.

Just for fun, watch Villanueva manhandle legendary Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is 6’3″ and 265 pounds and is number 19 on the all-time QB sack records. Villanueva chops him down like he’s made of balsa wood.

Rangers lead the way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jump alongside the 82nd Airborne with a paratrooper’s wild skydive video from Colombia

About 75 paratroopers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and 40 personnel from US Army South spent the final days of January in Colombia, working with Colombian troops for an airborne assault exercise.


The exercise, which took place between January 23 and January 29, saw US and Colombian troops conduct airborne insertion from US and Colombian C-130 Hercules aircraft and then carry out exercises simulating the capture of an airfield.

A video recorded by one paratrooper during a static-line jump allows you to go along for the ride.

The exercise allowed US and Colombian personnel to work together and exchange strategic and tactical expertise, US Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the region, said in a release announcing the exercise.

You can see some of what they got up to in the photos below.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c75c358d363%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=198&h=e229712a90057d55517476cb9fa349b29254c36ed14d0a8ac37dd3e692f088d1&size=980x&c=62894462 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c75c358d363%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D198%26h%3De229712a90057d55517476cb9fa349b29254c36ed14d0a8ac37dd3e692f088d1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D62894462%22%7D” expand=1]

US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers Colombian soldiers from 2nd Special Forces Battalion during a dynamic force exercise in Tolemaida, Colombia, January 24, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

Colombia is one of the US’s closest partners in the region, and the two countries’ militaries have worked together closely for decades. The US has also provided billions in aid to Colombia under Plan Colombia and, later, the so-called Peace Colombia.

Colombia has made achieved significant reductions in violence, but Plan Colombia has been criticized for leading to abuses by the military and human-rights violations and for being ineffective against drug production and trafficking. Peace Colombia has been criticized as too focused on military aid.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c134b1b10f3%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=156&h=119d6e5cfa54b7e7e74b42398189a81efd1f508324758f53cee1af6542f77a96&size=980x&c=1001832737 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c134b1b10f3%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D156%26h%3D119d6e5cfa54b7e7e74b42398189a81efd1f508324758f53cee1af6542f77a96%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1001832737%22%7D” expand=1]

US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombian soldiers conduct airborne assault training at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 26, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c75c14f0e73%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=636&h=f3350593092f2aa1b877aa9febf1d20d83ecbd1b3fd9c2ceb88ab64e8330a4bc&size=980x&c=675822206 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c75c14f0e73%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D636%26h%3Df3350593092f2aa1b877aa9febf1d20d83ecbd1b3fd9c2ceb88ab64e8330a4bc%26size%3D980x%26c%3D675822206%22%7D” expand=1]

US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombia soldiers during airborne assault training at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 26, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c135641b062%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=649&h=f4b9fd4d5b179c3766270b9247679438c9d273cd2bcf727856ebb08552ebdefe&size=980x&c=3856517493 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c135641b062%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D649%26h%3Df4b9fd4d5b179c3766270b9247679438c9d273cd2bcf727856ebb08552ebdefe%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3856517493%22%7D” expand=1]

US Army 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers conduct an airborne exercise with Colombian soldiers at Tolemaida Air Base in Colombia, January 23, 2020.

US Army/Spc. Edward Randolph

The US has increased pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, while Colombia has been grappling with the brunt of the millions of Venezuelans who’ve fled their country due to political violence, widespread shortages, and eroding law and order.

Read more about the Venezuelan exodus and Colombia’s effort to deal with it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c1349794a14%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=47&h=1ee7f1925f38adfbcea4d93071684e65258112b82792ea77ae612003d53d0991&size=980x&c=3661069266 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c1349794a14%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D47%26h%3D1ee7f1925f38adfbcea4d93071684e65258112b82792ea77ae612003d53d0991%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3661069266%22%7D” expand=1]

US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers watch Colombian paratroopers descend in Tolemaida, January 23, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c5c85bc79c0725342c43%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=27&h=4568e3db628cbd6661d68621cba90b637a97a8f6c17145e9f669b72c5387221e&size=980x&c=2704272819 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c5c85bc79c0725342c43%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D27%26h%3D4568e3db628cbd6661d68621cba90b637a97a8f6c17145e9f669b72c5387221e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2704272819%22%7D” expand=1]

US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and Colombian soldiers conduct an exercise simulating the securing of an airfield at Tolemaida Air Base, January 25, 2020.

US Army/Sgt. Andrea Salgado-Rivera

At a press briefing in Florida on January 23, Faller pointed to Venezuela as a “safe haven” and “base of opportunity” for dissident members of the demobilized FARC rebel group, as well as guerrillas from the ELN rebel group and “terrorists groups” involved in narco-trafficking.

Source: US Defense Department

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e39c4825bc79c0571691f03%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=555&h=34830e8fc98724f3d8fb78d19bc26e93e5161cc291275ca2e013035c83939d3c&size=980x&c=3712396553 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e39c4825bc79c0571691f03%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D555%26h%3D34830e8fc98724f3d8fb78d19bc26e93e5161cc291275ca2e013035c83939d3c%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3712396553%22%7D” expand=1]

An 82nd Airborne Division Artillery medic and a Colombian army medic treat a simulated casualty during an exercise in Colombia, January 25, 2020.

US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

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

Articles

The United Nations seeks to head off rise of killer robots

U.S. Army


Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.

Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.

Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.

“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”

But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.

Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.

“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”

When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”

The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.

“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”

During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.

Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models

Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.

“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things to keep in mind when trying to skate duty

We get it. No one likes to do manual labor. Unfortunately, you’re one of a handful of people assigned to a crappy detail and you realize that, for some reason, a certain someone else is “too busy” to help out. You work your ass off and they take it easy. If they’re the same rank as you (and same time in service), they’ll get the exact same amount of money from Uncle Sam as you — and worked half as hard for it.

So, you want to take the easy route, too? Alright. Gotcha. We can’t stop you — but we suggest you read the following points before you try to wiggle your way out of the working party.


F*cking your buddies is one of the only sins that can get you banished from the E-4 Mafia.

1. You could be blue falconing your guys

First and foremost, things need to get done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bullsh*t detail made up to keep you guys busy until close-out formation. If the task came from up higher, someone will have to do it before everyone can go home.

If it’s something stupid that everyone — including the chain of command — agrees is exclusively for the purpose of killing time, alright. But if it’s something that obviously needs to be taken care of, like police calling the smoke pit, someone else will have to cover down for your laziness.

Yep. You’re totally “helping” with that clipboard in your hand.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. You’re being watched by everyone

The military may be big, but your unit isn’t. Word gets around. If you sham out of something, people will know that you weren’t there. If you show up and just do the bare minimum amount of work so you can still claim “you were helping,” people will know you really weren’t.

Things like this get remembered down the road. When you need a favor, people will bring up that time you screwed them that one time on a working party.

Dental is always a good excuse, but they give you appointment slips and your NCOs know this.

(U.S. Army)

3. Your excuse may not be that valid

There’s a huge difference between having a reason and having an excuse. A reason can be backed up with physical proof; an excuse is made up on the spot. If you’re going to try to use an excuse, at least have something to back it up.

If you’re going to try to pretend that you’re going to be “at dental” at 1600 right before a four-day weekend, you’d do well to actually look up when the dental office is open that day. You’ll look like a complete idiot when someone looks at the printed-out schedule and points out that it closed at 1300.

Then again, being commo opens up a whole new world of skating. You’re not often lying when you say you have “S-6 business to handle.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. You shouldn’t ever skate out of what is your job

There’s a general consensus that police calls, cleaning connexes, and mopping the rain off the sidewalk are all menial tasks that anyone could do. But units are only assigned so many people of your specific MOS or rating. If they came to you for a task and that is literally what you told Uncle Sam you’d do, you’re going to get in trouble under the UCMJ for not doing it.

Side note: if you really want a perfect way to get out of a detail, be a master at your job. If you’re a commo guy, be the best damn commo guy the military has ever seen. There may not be any computer or radio problems right when you’d otherwise be filling sandbags, but if you’re so valuable, they won’t even risk sending you out.

You do you, man — but never blue falcon your guys.

5. If you do it too often, you’ll lose all trust

Taking it easy everyone once in a while is fine. It’s the military, sure, but everyone is human. Skate out of something once in a blue moon, no one may even notice. If you bolt for the door every time the first sergeant says, “I need three bodies,” your career could be dead in the water.

Outside of the obvious UCMJ action that could easily be dropped on you, no one in your chain of command will believe you’re ready for the next rank. Your name will never be brought up when a school slot comes up. Even your peers will give you the cold shoulder — after all, it’s them you’re really f*cking, not the chain of command.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Western powers condemn ‘election’ plans in eastern Ukraine

The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region.

“The United States condemns the announcement of a plan to conduct ‘elections’ in the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,'” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Sept. 12, 2018.

“Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict.


She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”

On Sept. 8, 2018, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini also criticized the plan and called on Moscow to use its influence to stop the planned Nov. 11, 2018 vote from taking place.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also decried the announcement by the separatist officials in the Donbas region.

Ukrainians protest against elections planned by Russia-backed Donbas separatists in 2014.

“If fake ‘early elections’ are conducted, their outcome will be legally void, they will not create any legal consequences, and will not be recognized by Ukraine or the global community,” the ministry said in a statement on Sept. 7, 2018.

The separatists have vowed to hold elections to choose the region’s parliament and a new leader.

Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko was assassinated by a bomb blast in a city cafe on Aug. 31, 2018. Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the “people’s council” was selected as the acting head until the Nov. 11, 2018 vote to select a new leader.

More than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 in the conflict, which erupted as Russia fomented separatism after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by huge pro-European protests in Kyiv.

Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and its seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula led the United States and EU to impose sanctions against Moscow and has heightened tensions between Russia and the West.

Featured image: Political rally in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Dec. 20, 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just launched a mission to explore how Mars was made

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”


First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Seventy-nine minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory towards the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later – 93 minutes after launch – and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 8:41 a.m. EDT (5:41 PDT).

“The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

InSight is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

“Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

“InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet.

Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

“InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.


For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/insight

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

Chinese pilot does ‘Top Gun’ intercept on US plane

A Chinese pilot apparently watched too much “Top Gun” because he decided recently to pull one of Maverick’s classic stunts.


According to a report by CNN, the Chinese Su-30 Flanker jockey flew inverted while directly over a United States Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft in international airspace over the East China Sea.

The WC-135W is designed to monitor the atmosphere for radiation from nuclear tests and other radiological incidents. Notable operations have included monitoring the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

The WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft collects particulate and gaseous debris from the accessible regions of the atmosphere in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The BBC reported that the Chinese plane came within 150 feet of the U.S. jet. It marks the second time there has been a close encounter. The incident was viewed as “unprofessional” by the crew of the Air Force plane, primarily due to the “Top Gun” maneuver. In February, a Chinese KJ-200 radar plane came close to a United States Navy P-3, which had to change course to avoid a collision. Other close encounters have occurred with Russian and Iranian forces in recent months.

While not as well-known – or complicated – as the South China Sea, the East China Sea has a number of maritime territorial disputes, notably over the Senkaku Islands. China lost an international arbitration ruling over its actions in the South China Sea in July, due to boycotting the process.

A Su-30 makes a low-level pass at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Su-30 is a two-seat multi-role version of the Flanker. MilitaryFactory.com notes that it has a range of over 1,800 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.73, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons. GlobalSecurity.org reports that China bought 76 from Russia, and has been building more of these planes as the J-11B “Flanker.” The Su-30 has also been purchased by a number of other countries, including Algeria, Angola, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Malaysia.