No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein thanked Congress for providing the resources necessary to restore the service’s readiness while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support Oct. 10, 2018.

During her testimony, Wilson praised Congress for passing an appropriations bill on time for the first time in nearly a decade.

“With your help, we have made great strides in a short period of time,” she said. “We are more ready today than we were two years ago.”

After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.


Today more than 75 percent of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready with their lead forces packages. The service’s goal is for 80 percent of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – 6 years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.

“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority.” Goldfein said. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard, and reserve components.”

To do this the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.

People

For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers. In September 2016, the service was short 4,000 active duty maintainers, but by December 2018 that number is expected to reach zero.

“Actions by Congress over the last few years has been tremendously helpful,” Wilson said. “Now we must get these airmen the experience needed to become craftsman at their work.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.

In addition to maintainers, the Air Force has placed an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage, first by addressing quality of service and quality of life issues, and also increasing financial incentives and providing more control over assignments and career paths.

The Air Force is increasing the number of pilots it trains from 1,160 a year in FY 2017 to 1,311 in FY 2019, building to 1,500 by FY 2022 and steady state, thereafter.

Training

As part of the readiness recovery, the Air Force is focused on providing relevant and realistic training to maintain an advantage over increasingly capable adversaries. To meet this need the service is investing in operational training infrastructure — ranges and airspace — and simulation.

The Air Force is also improving infrastructure, simulators, threat emulators and training ranges to enhance realism and enable airmen to train locally for a high-end, multi-domain fight.

Cost-effective maintenance and logistics 

The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply, and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.

“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”

The Air Force is already seeing improvements in its depots, increasing depot production by 20 percent, completing 75 aircraft per year.

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

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F-35 trains with A-10s, F-15s & Navy SEALs

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
We wanted to put Navy SEALs into this image too, but it looked weird since they can’t fly (yet). | USAF/WATM


Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.

“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.

“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.

During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.

The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.

A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
All three F-35 variants at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Left to right: F-35C carrier variant, F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. | Lockheed Martin

“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.

F-35A “Sensor Fusion”

The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.

Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.

“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane.  You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.

Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.

“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment

Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.

Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.

“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.

The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.


“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.

But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.

“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.

And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.

“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.

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

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These 74 dead sailors from the Vietnam War are not honored on the Wall

The most notable part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is “The Wall,” which features a list of 58,315 personnel killed during the Vietnam War. An effort to add the names of 74 sailors, though, has been rebuffed by the Navy.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the 74 sailors were killed when the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) was rammed by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R 21) during a South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise.

The destroyer was cut in half, with the bow sinking in a matter of minutes, taking 73 sailors with it. A single body was recovered from the South China Sea, bringing the total to 74 lives lost.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
The Wall, the most prominent part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Among the dead were the three Sage brothers from Niobrara, Nebraska – the worst loss any family had suffered since the Sullivan brothers were killed when the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign.

The portion of the Frank E. Evans that remained afloat was taken to Subic Bay, where it was decommissioned on July 1, 1969. On Oct. 10, 1969, the ship was sunk as a target.

The Navy’s initial refusal to place those 74 names on the Wall was due to the fact that the destroyer was outside the “Vietnam combat zone.”

According to U.S. Navy criteria, “Vietnam and contiguous waters” was defined as “an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21 N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence, southward to 18° N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence southeastward to 17° 30’N. Latitude, 111° E. Longitude; thence southward to 11° N. Latitude; 111° E. Longitude, thence southwestward to 7° N. Latitude, 105° E. Longitude; thence westward to 7° N. Latitude, 103° E. longitude, thence northward to 9° 30’N. Latitude, 103° E. Longitude, thence northeastward to 10° 15’N. Latitude, 104° 27’E. Longitude, thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
The aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21), which rammed US Frank E. Evans (DD 754). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the website of the Frank E. Evans Association, the accident occurred 110 miles from the Vietnam Combat Zone.

FoxNews.com reported that the Navy has offered to place an exhibit about the collision in a planned Vietnam Veterans Memorial educational center, but many families are skeptical due to lagging efforts at fundraising for the proposed $130 million project.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Naval Academy busted the largest student drug ring in years

The US Naval Academy has said it will charge a midshipman who’s been accused of allegedly dealing cocaine and other narcotics in what may be one of the biggest drug cases at the school in years.

An Article 32 hearing is scheduled for a military court at Washington Navy Yard to determine if the case should head to a court-martial, academy spokesman Cmdr. David McKinney told the Associated Press . An Article 32 hearing is similar to a grand-jury proceeding in a civilian court. The accused was not named.


The charges include failure to obey a general regulation, making a false official statement, possession of illegal substances, possession of illegal substances with intent to distribute, use of illegal substances, and distribution of illegal substances.

Some of the charges stem from an investigation started in November 2017 by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter, who was given the results of the investigation, decided to recommend the charges.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter.

Some of charges are related to a June 15, 2018 arrest at the Firefly music festival in Dover, Delaware. Police arrested two Ohio men after they allegedly sold ecstasy to undercover police officers. Upon searching the men’s car, police say they found 33 grams of ecstasy, 4.6 grams of cocaine, 1.1 grams of marijuana, and a digital scale.

The Navy investigation that started in November 2017 has led to the dismissal of six midshipmen for using illegal substances. Another five have been administratively disciplined for drug-related violations. The illicit substances involved were cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, and hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to the AP .

Carter, the academy superintendent, gave an update on the investigation during a Board of Visitors meeting in April 2018. He said at the time that the suspected distributor was a student and that the academy had made changes to its urinalysis drug-testing.

“Every midshipman will get tested at least three times a year, and they won’t know when it is,” Carter said at the time. Carter said that “some very responsible midshipmen” had reported the drug use to academy officials. Carter denied that there was a wider drug-use problem.

“I have full confidence that we don’t have a drug issue at the Naval Academy,” he said in April 2018, attributing the case to “some bad actors.”

Between December 2010 and August 2011, 16 students at the academy were dismissed for the use or the possession of “spice,” or synthetic marijuana.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 practical everyday chores you can finally teach your kids during quarantine

I’ve been waiting for this moment. To have a chunk of time set aside to give my kids some basic home upkeep and cooking training. Not the quick “get the butter for me” because we’re hustling between a Spanish lesson and bath time. I wanted to dedicate time to have fun with it. I didn’t expect this opportunity to be handed over at the cost of our social freedom because coronavirus is spreading! But here we are.


Teaching our kids these skills is important not only so they can help around the house, but so they’ll know how to survive as adults without expecting MOMMY to come over and fold their laundry.

Here’s some backstory. My mother folded my laundry. I’m not ashamed to be transparent about that. Not because she enjoyed it, she just wanted it done, and if I didn’t move fast enough for her, she got annoyed. Unfortunately, it crippled me a bit.

After getting married, I had an epiphany one day while staring at a laundry basket full of clean clothes. My husband barely had any free time because he was a Marine Corps Recruiter, and his position was extremely demanding. I realized that I was going to have to fold all those clothes. ME!

I won’t let my kids suffer the same fate of not being prepared. Daily home maintenance and cooking will be a part of their life, and now is the perfect time for us to dive in!

Here are six everyday chores your kids can start learning while we’re all quarantined.

Attack that LAUNDRY pile

Yes. Let’s start with the big one. Depending on their age, you can start by teaching them to sort and fold. When you’re ready, start showing them the proper amount of detergent to use based on the size of the load and what dryer setting to use.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Really CLEAN the kitchen

This doesn’t stop at washing dishes. It includes loading the dishwasher, cleaning counters, putting away dishes and cleaning the floors.

Make a cold meal

When your kids learn to make lunch, it will change your life! Bread, meat, cheese, chips and fruit then BAM! There are other options and combinations you can create, but just make sure they are easy. Most importantly, teach them to WASH THEIR HANDS first!

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Make the yard nice

Once your kids learn to push a mower and do it properly, this could actually lead to a nice side business for them. It doesn’t hurt to pull weeds and rake leaves too.

Take out the trash

This one can be a little tricky because it also requires remembering your trash pickup schedule. A chore sheet or checklist will help with that.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Use the stove for a simple meal

Safety first! Take time to talk about what NOT to do then proceed. An easy starter is having them cook a scrambled egg or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Teaching these tasks will take some time, which we have a lot of right now. With no known end to this national public emergency, try to focus on them getting better at their chores, so you don’t have to spend time doing it over. Also, resist the urge for perfection.

Their chores are their responsibility and contribution to the home.

Your kids will one day be independent adults who are grateful for the skills they acquired during a pandemic. Who knows? They may still come mow the lawn for you when they are out of your house.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis just made a surprise visit to Kabul

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects of drawing some elements of the Taliban into peace talks with the Afghan government.


The March 13, 2018, visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns, comes as the United States is putting new resources into the more than 16-year-old war.

Before landing in the Afghan capital, Mattis told reporters that the United States was picking up signs of interest from groups of Taliban fighters in exploring the possibility of talks to end the violence, adding that the signs date back several months.

“There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Mattis said. “We’ve had some groups of Taliban — small groups — who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking.”

As part of its new regional strategy announced in August 2017, Washington has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military in a bid to break the stalemate and force the militants to the negotiating table.

Also read: The Taliban just fired missiles at Mattis

During a meeting with Mattis, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the new strategy allowed Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness.

“It has been a game changer because it has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions,” Ghani said.

Ghani offers incentives

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

On Feb. 28, 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.

In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.

But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government, which they say is illegitimate.

Related: How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

The group has insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a “foreign occupying force.” The Taliban also says that NATO forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.

Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the U.S. position that the talks should be led by Kabul.

“We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort,” he said.

The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down almost immediately.

‘Political reconciliation’

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

As part of its new strategy for Afghanistan, the United States has boosted the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000, and stepped up air strikes in the country.

Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they cannot win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.

More: Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

“We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” he said. “Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation.”

Taliban fighters control large parts of the country, and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year.

In a report published late on March 12, 2018, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that more than 30,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict in Afghanistan.

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Russia tells the Western world not to worry about its giant military exercise

In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.


The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.

Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”

“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”

Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.

Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin (center). Image from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.

Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (right) speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left). Photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.

The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.

Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.

“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.

“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.

Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.

But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.

Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.

“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.

“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.

The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Kim Jong Un should fear the Lancer

Recently, a B-1B Lancer took part in Vigilant Ace 18, a massive U.S.-South Korea joint air exercise. According to FoxNews.com, the Lancer simulated strikes in the eastern part of the country, which drew the expected condemnation from North Korea.


This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
A B-1B Lancer releases its payload. There’s a lot of bombs there. (USAF photo by Steve Zapka.)

Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
A North-Korean-built M-1978 KOKSAN displayed at the Al Anbar University campus in Ramadi, Iraq is to be removed by U.S. Forces. (USMC photo)

But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition cluster bomb equipped with the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser Kit. This is called the CBU-103. (US Air Force photo)

And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.

It makes sense that North Korea fears the Lancer. Especially since Secretary of Defense James Mattis just decided that the United States wasn’t going to give up cluster bombs after all.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

“Back in the days when I got injured while serving overseas, the program to recover wasn’t like the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) is now,” explained Capt. David Espinoza, a wounded warrior athlete who is competing at the 2019 Army Trials, March 5-16, 2019.

Espinoza is a light-hearted, Florida-native, and also a Purple Heart recipient who has spent over a decade serving his country. Currently assigned to WTB-Hawaii, he is recovering from a motorcycle accident and receiving care at Tripler Army Medical Center. There he completed seven surgeries and received 26 pins in his left hand.


“The WTB is a great program because the unit has given me time to recover and get ‘back into the fight,'” he said. “And being a part of the WTB has also helped me to recover from my previous deployments.”

Espinoza was first led down the road to recovery in 2007 when the signal officer, a sergeant at the time, was deployed to Iraq. During a night convoy mission, Espinoza’s squad was ambushed by insurgents when his Humvee got hit by an IED and he fractured his left arm and femur.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod, a wounded warrior athlete from Fort Benning gets ready to shoot a bow at archery practice during the 2019 Army Trials.

(Photo by Leanne Thomas)

“I saw a bright light and my life flashed right before me … it was like shuffling a deck of cards,” he said. “The first card was me as a kid … then I recalled my entire life, all the way to current time.”

That experience, he explained, “Was an eye-opener, and it makes me feel grateful for what I have now.”

While recovering from injuries sustained during combat, Espinoza entered the U.S. Army Reserves and said he made a full recovery but went through the experience alone. Now assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit and competing in adaptive sports, Espinoza has the opportunity to heal alongside soldiers who have faced or are going through similar situations.

“It’s an honor to experience this event with other fellow warriors,” Espinoza explained.

The 2018 Pacific Regional Trials was Espinoza’s first adaptive sports competition. There he established a baseline to see where he stands as a competitor.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement … mind, body, and soul,” he said. “This experience has made a big impact on me, and also for my family.”

Now a rookie athlete at the 2019 Army Trials, Espinoza is competing in seven of the 14 sports offered: cycling, powerlifting, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and swimming.

“I’m really looking forward to competing in wheelchair basketball, but one thing I didn’t know is that I’m actually good at cycling,” the athlete explained. “It’s like a mind game and you’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’ve got this,’ because it’s seven laps, and those seven laps take a long time to finish.”

During the Trials, Espinoza, along with nearly 100 other wounded, ill, or injured soldiers and veterans are competing for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, coming June 2019 to Tampa, Florida.

“Hopefully this experience keeps going so I can continue to learn and grow as I take this journey to the next level,” he said.

Articles

Photographer Michael Stokes brings sexy vets back with ‘Invictus’ photo book

The photographer behind the ultra-sexy “Always Loyal” coffee table book has created a sequel project featuring wounded and amputee veterans, and it’s even steamier than the original.


Michael Stokes’ newest work, “Invictus,” showcases 15 recent veterans baring (almost) all — flaunting prosthetics and rock-hard abs in a bold celebration of their post-war bodies.

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The photo book includes five British veterans and American vet-turned-comedian Bobby Henline, who was severely burned during a tour in Iraq.

Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”

“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”

Check out Henline’s pose below:

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”

Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns. 

This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”

“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.

Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.

“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”

Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.

The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.

“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”

Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Should the Navy rename two buildings named for Confederate leaders?

A panel on memorials at the US Naval Academy will discuss whether two buildings on the campus grounds should remain named after two American naval officers who fought for the Confederacy, the academy’s superintendent said Sept. 11.


Vice Adm. Ted Carter, who briefed the academy’s Board of Visitors about the building names at a meeting at the Library of Congress, said the academy’s Memorial Oversight Committee will be looking into the issue, which has been raised in the aftermath of a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted into deadly violence.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Virginia National Guard Soldiers support Virginia State Police security operations Aug. 12, 2107, in Charlottesville, Virginia. US National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear.

“Where we are right now, there is not a move to make an immediate change, but there is ongoing dialogue,” Carter told The Associated Press in an interview during a break at the meeting.

The superintendent’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland, is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the Civil War. A road by the house, which hosts thousands of visitors every year, also is named after him. Maury Hall is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor, and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.

Carter told the Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress, that the buildings were named after the two men because of their links to Navy history and their accomplishments, separate from their service in the Confederacy. He also noted that Maury was opposed to slavery. Buchanan, Carter said, turned in his commission when he believed his home state of Maryland would secede from the union. When it didn’t, he sought to return, but the secretary of the Navy at the time rejected the request.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Franklin Buchanan (left) and Matthew Fontaine Maury. Images from Library of Congress.

Carter said he has not been getting encouragement to change the names.

“The other thing is, there’s nobody clamoring within the campus nor our alumni, or anyone else, to effect a change, so I listen to those voices as well,” Carter said. “And nor are the midshipmen looking for a change, so these are all parts of the conversation that we are now being open to listen to.”

Carter also noted that the decision in changing building names rests with the Chief of Naval Operations. Carter brought up the issue during a public portion of the board meeting.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat who is on the board, said the issue also was discussed during a portion of the meeting that was closed to the public. He declined to elaborate on what was said in the closed portion, but he said the committee will produce a report.

“It’s something that we’re looking at,” Ruppersberger said. “We’re evaluating.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Vice Adm. Ted Carter (right) and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Jones.

Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican who chairs the board, said he believes there should be extensive discussion before any names are changed.

“I think you really need to think long and hard about the person in the context in which they existed in that period of time,” Wittman said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he believes the Defense Department will end up making a military-wide policy on the issue. He said he didn’t see an urgent need to change the two names at the academy.

“But I do think it’s a matter of what do we want to have as a reflection of our values today, and that’s something that we should be looking at,” Cardin said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

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This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.