Total Force crews delivered the first two KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to McConnell Air Force Base.
The 22nd Air Refueling Wing and 931st ARW marshalled in the newest addition to the Air Force’s strategic arsenal.
“This day will go down in history as a win for Team McConnell and the Air Force as a whole,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd ARW commander. “With this aircraft, McConnell will touch the entire planet.”
Since being selected as the first main operating base in 2014, McConnell airmen have been preparing to ensure their readiness to receive the Air Force’s newest aircraft.
Contractors constructed three new KC-46 maintenance hangars, technical training dormitories, an air traffic control tower, fuselage trainer and many other facilities specifically for the Pegasus’ arrival. These projects brought 7 million to the local economy by employing Kansas workers and using local resources.
Aircrew members simulated KC-46 flights, boom operators practiced cargo loading and the 22nd Maintenance Group created a training timeline for the enterprise.
A KC-46A Pegasus flies over the Keeper of the Plains Jan. 25, 2019, in Wichita, Kansas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Thompson)
Working with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, McConnell maintenance airmen have been developing new technical orders for three years. They streamlined processes and got hands-on exposure to the jet in Seattle.
“Some of us have been involved in this program for years and it has given us time to become experts as far as the technical data goes,” said Staff Sgt. Brannon Burch, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-46 flying crew chief. “Knowing it is one thing, but having hands-on experience on our flightline is what we all crave. We’re just happy the wait’s over and we finally get to get our hands dirty on the Pegasus — it’s almost surreal.”
The KC-46 team at McConnell AFB is comprised of Airmen with a variety of backgrounds from other aircraft who bring different aspects of expertise to the multifaceted new tanker.
“Every airman who was transferred to the KC-46 team was hand-selected specifically to bring this airplane to the fight,” said Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock, 344th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “They are versatile maintainers, pilots and boom operators who are prepared for any learning curve that comes with a new aircraft.”
The active duty 344th ARS and Air Force Reserve 924th ARS, will be the first units in the military to operationally fly the KC-46.
A KC-46A Pegasus
(Photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)
“This airplane has a wide variety of capabilities that we haven’t seen here before,” said Spurlock. “We’re going to get our hands on it, then expand on those abilities and see how we can employ them operationally.”
Once airmen in the Total Force squadrons have perfected their craft on the new aircraft, they will pave the way for the entire KC-46 enterprise and other bases receiving the aircraft in the future by developing tactics, techniques and procedures to share with those units.
“I have never been a part of a unit that is more excited about the mission before them and the legacy they’re going to leave,” said Spurlock.
Today, the waiting ends and integration begins for the next generation of air mobility that will be a linchpin of national defense, global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for decades to come.
“For those of us who have spent years watching this process happen, it’s enormously humbling to finally see it come to a close,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st ARW commander. “We are grateful to everyone who is joining us as we fulfill the potential of this amazing new aircraft.
“We are honoring the rich culture that we have been gifted by those who came before us,” said Heseltine. “That culture continues today. For example, the forward fuselage section of the KC-46 is built by Spirit AeroSystems right here in Wichita. This aircraft literally came home today.”
With the KC-46 on the ground at McConnell AFB, the Air Force will begin the next phases of familiarization and initial operations testing and evaluation.
The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.
In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”
Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.
In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”
Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.
“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.
“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.
International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.
That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.
In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.
Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.
Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.
Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”
“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.
He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.
Changing U.S. Policy?
Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.
However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.
More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.
“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.
“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.
“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.
In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”
Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”
“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.
“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.
Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.
New technology from engineers at the University of Utah is changing the lives of amputees. The robotic arm, which is being called Luke in honor of Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand in The Empire Strikes Back. The robotic arm enables recipients to touch and feel again. The device consists of a prosthetic hand and fingers that are controlled by electrodes implanted in the muscles.
A prototype has been given to Keven Walgamott, an estate agent from Utah who is one of seven test subjects. He lost his hand and part of his left arm in 2002 after an electrical accident. With the arm, Walgamott has been able to complete tasks that were previously very difficult, such as put a pillowcase on a pillow, peel a banana, and even send text messages. Study leader and University of Utah biomedical engineer Professor Gregory Clark told the Independentthat one of the first things Walgamott wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. “That’s hard to do with one hand,” Clark said. “It was very moving.”
Walgamott can even feel sensations like touching his wife’s hand, as well as distinguish between different surfaces. This is not only a major scientific breakthrough, but an emotional moment for Walgamott, who’s been without his left hand for nearly 20 years. “It almost put me to tears,” he said of using Luke for the first time. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”
Now the next step is if this technology can incorporate what this real-life amputee did with her own lightsaber!
Real amputee Jedi?! YES! #cosplay LOVING my lightsaber attachment for my bionic arm while trying to safely keep my fingers crossed for an audition for @starwars one day. #BionicActress Spent my whole life wanting to be Luke AND Leia @HamillHimself #RepresentationMatterspic.twitter.com/eB0mZ3Xuyr
Bob Hope, legendary comedian and star of radio, stage, and screen — not to mention a man who once played third billing to Siamese twins and trained seals — had a really, really soft spot for U.S. troops, especially those who deployed to combat zones. It’s an amazing thing, especially considering that he was British.
For more than 50 years, the “One-Man Morale Machine” spent time away from his family and his comfortable Hollywood life to visit American troops during peacetime and at war. He performed on Navy ships and Army bases, often close enough to hear the sounds of combat. To him, that didn’t matter.
“Imagine those guys thanking me,” he once said. “Look what they’re doing for me. And for you.”
Today, Bob Hope’s legacy lives on in the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation, whose mission it is to support any organization that seeks to bring hope to anyone. For veterans, the foundation supports the EasterSeals of Southern California through the EasterSeals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which helps veterans gain meaningful employment after their service to our nation ends.
No joke: It’s not a handout for veterans, it’s a real hand up. Check it out: it may be just what you or a loved one needs. In the meantime, learn a little bit about the legend himself.
1. Bob Hope was British
Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 in Well Hall, Eltham, County of London, England. In 1908, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, passing through Ellis Island on the way.
2. He has a lot of medals. A whole lot.
Among them are the Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Air Force Order of the Sword, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great, and Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr.
There are more honors. A lot more, including Admiralty in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. It’s a thing.
4. He did the “Russian Reversal” joke 30 years before Yakov Smirnoff
You knew he was a visionary. So did Yakov Smirnoff, who pretty much made his whole career on the, “In Soviet Russia, TV watches YOU” series of jokes. This is now known as a “Russian Reversal” and was first used by Hope at the 30th Academy Awards in 1958.
5. You can thank Bob Hope for ‘The Brady Bunch’
A struggling biology student in Southern California got a part-time gig writing jokes for Hope to earn extra money. Sherwood Schwartz would later go on to create Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Schwartz described his rise in Hollywood as an accident his whole life.
6. He spent 48 Christmases with American troops overseas.
Dad was gone. Holidays for the Hope kids took on a new meaning. “I remember saying, ‘Why does Dad always have to be away? All these other families have their dads home for Christmas,” Linda said. But she is quick to add that Mom would put it in proper perspective for her. “She said, ‘No, not all have them are home for Christmas. Think of boys and girls who don’t have their dads for years and years because they are serving overseas. Remember the boys and girls whose fathers may never come back.'”
7. Bob Hope played golf with Tiger Woods.
When Tiger was two years old, he squared off against Hope on The Mike Douglas Show in a putting contest in 1978. Actor Jimmy Stewart was looking on.
“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.
In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.
The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.
AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.
Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.
Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.
“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”
The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.
The Navy is now launching the most technologically advanced attack submarine it has ever developed by christening the USS South Dakota – a Block III Virginia-Class attack submarine engineered with a number of never-before-seen undersea technical innovations.
While service officials say many of the details of this new “acoustic superiority” Navy research and development effort are, naturally, not available for pubic discussion, the USS South Dakota has been a “technology demonstrator to prove out advanced technologies,” Naval Sea Systems Command Spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior.
Many of these innovations, which have been underway and tested as prototypes for many years, are now operational as the USS South Dakota enters service; service technology developers have, in a general way, said the advances in undersea technologies built, integrated, tested and now operational on the South Dakota include quieting technologies for the engine room to make the submarine harder to detect, a new large vertical array and additional “quieting” coating materials for the hull, Navy officials explained.
The USS South Dakota was christened by the Navy Oct. 14 at a General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Ct.
“As the 7th ship of Block III, the PCU South Dakota (SSN 790) will be the most advanced VIRGINIA class submarine on patrol,” O’Rourke said.
In recent years, the service has been making progress developing new acoustics, sensors and quieting technologies to ensure the U.S. retains its technological edge in the undersea domain – as countries like China and Russia continue rapid military modernization and construction of new submarines.
The impetus for the Navy’s “acoustic superiority,” is specifically grounded in the emerging reality that the U.S. undersea margin of technological superiority is rapidly diminishing in light of Russian and Chinse advances.
Described as a technology insertion, the improvements will eventually be integrated on board both Virginia-Class submarines and the now-in -development next-generation nuclear-armed boats called the Columbia-Class.
Some of these concepts, described as a fourth generation of undersea technology, are based upon a “domain” perspective as opposed to a platform approach – looking at and assessing advancements in the electro-magnetic and acoustic underwater technologies, Navy developers explained.
“Lessons learned from South Dakota will be incorporated into Block V and later Virginia Class submarines, increasing our undersea domain advantage and ensuring our dominance through the mid-century and beyond,” O’Rourke added.
The idea with “acoustic superiority,” is to engineer a circumstance wherein U.S. submarines can operate undetected in or near enemy waters or coastline, conduct reconnaissance or attack missions and sense any movement or enemy activities at farther ranges than adversaries can.
Acoustic sensor technology works by using underwater submarine sensors to detect sound “pings” in order to determine the contours, speed and range of an enemy ship, submarine or approaching weapon. Much like radar analyzes the return electromagnetic signal bounced off an object, acoustics works by using “sound” in a similar fashion. Most of the undersea acoustic technology is “passive,” meaning it is engineered to receive pings and “listen” without sending out a signal which might reveal their undersea presence or location to an enemy, Navy technology developers explained.
Some of these concepts, described as a fourth generation of undersea technology, are based upon a “domain” perspective as opposed to a platform approach – looking at and assessing advancements in the electro-magnetic and acoustic underwater technologies, Navy developers explained.
The new “acoustic superiority” effort is immersed in performing tactical assessments as well as due diligence from an academic standpoint to make sure the service looks at all the threat vectors – whether that be hydrodynamics, acoustics, lasers, among others.
The emerging technologies, however, are heavily focused upon sensitive, passive acoustic sensors able to detect movement and objects of potential adversary boats and ships at much further ranges and with a higher-degree of fidelity. While high-frequency, fast two-way communication is currently difficult to sustain from the undersea domain, submarines are able to use a Very Low Frequency radio to communicate while at various depths beneath the surface, Navy leaders told Warrior.
040730-N-1234E-002 Groton, Conn. (July 30, 2004) – The nationÕs newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia (SSN 774) returns to the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard following the successful completion of its first voyage in open seas called “alpha” sea trials. Virginia is the NavyÕs only major combatant ready to join the fleet that was designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind and embodies the war fighting and operational capabilities required to dominate the littorals while maintaining undersea dominance in the open ocean. Virginia and the rest of the ships of its class are designed specifically to incorporate emergent technologies that will provide new capabilities to meet new threats. Virginia will be delivered to the U.S. Navy this fall. U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat (RELEASED)
Building upon developments with the South Dakota, the Navy, DARPA and industry are continuing to explore a new-generation of undersea technologies including quieter, stronger, longer-range communications, sonar detection and undersea drone autonomy.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and BAE-Systems have begun a high-tech project to engineer undersea drones that can use active sonar to find enemy submarines and network back to a host submarine in real-time.
The project, called Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program, brings the prospect of a major breakthrough in undersea communications technology – allowing submarines to detect enemies from a much safer standoff distance. These days, in the dangerous and complication realm of undersea warfare, most undersea drones typically gather intelligence before returning to download data at the mother ship; this emerging technology would enable near real-time undersea connectivity between drones and larger submarines.
Instead of using passive sonar technology which listens for acoustic “pings” picked up from undersea enemy movement, MOCCA plans to use active sonar technology able to proactively send active acoustic pings forward and analyze the return signal to discern the counters, speed, shape and distance of an enemy submarine – all while enabling the host submarine retain its stealth properties.
Using satellite integrated telemetry, some underwater drones can transmit information back to boats in near real time; this provides a substantial tactical advantage because smaller drones are less detectable to enemy sonar and therefore able to access areas that are more difficult for larger submarines to penetrate. Such a technology allows for closer-in reconnaissance missions when it comes to operating in enemy territory, close to the shoreline, or overcoming the anti-access/area-denial challenges posed by potential adversaries.
Such scenarios, envisioned for the not-too-distant future, provide the conceptual foundation of the Navy’s emerging drone strategy. The idea is to capitalize upon the fast increasing speed of computer processing and rapid improvements in the development of autonomy-increasing algorithms; this will allow unmanned systems to quickly operate with an improved level of autonomy, function together as part of an integrated network, and more quickly perform a wider range of functions without needing every individual task controlled by humans.
Groups of underwater drones will soon simultaneously use sonar and different sensors to identify and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, search for mines, collect oceanographic data and conduct reconnaissance missions – all while a single human performs command and control functions aboard a Navy ship or submarine, senior service officials explained.
The approach is designed as a mission multiplier to increase efficiency and perform a wider range of functions much more quickly. Armed with a small fleet of underwater drones, a submarine or destroyer will be able to perform higher-priority missions while allowing unmanned systems to quickly gather and transmit combat-relevant tactical and strategic information.
Study: US Undersea Technological Dominance in Jeopardy
Senior Navy officials have explained that the innovations contained in the USS South Dakota do, at least in part, help address an issue raised by a report several years ago by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The report, titled “The Emerging Era in Undersea Warfare,” says the technological margin of difference separating the U.S from potential rivals is expected to get much smaller. This is requiring the U.S. to re-think the role of manned submarines and prioritize innovation in the realm of undersea warfare, the study says.
060517-N-4014G-130 Newport News, Va. (May 17, 2006) Ð The Pre-Commissioning Unit Texas (SSN 775) sails past the Coast Guard cutter Sea Horse (WPB-87361). The fast-attack submarine returned to the Northrop Grumman Newport News, Va. shipyards after successfully completing alpha sea trials to test the boat’s capabilities. Texas is the second Virginia-class submarine, the first major U.S. Navy combatant vessel class designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Patrick Gearhiser (RELEASED)
“America’s superiority in undersea warfare results from decades of research and development, operations, and training. It is, however, far from assured. U.S. submarines are the world’s quietest, but new detection techniques are emerging that don’t rely on the noise a submarine makes, and may make traditional manned submarine operations far more risky in the future. America’s competitors are likely pursuing these technologies even while expanding their own undersea forces,” writes the report’s author Bryan Clark.
In the report, Clark details some increasingly available technologies expected to change the equation regarding U.S. undersea technological supremacy. They include increased use of lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods of detecting submarine wakes at short ranges. In particular, Clark cites a technique of bouncing laser light or light-emitting-diodes off of a submarine hull to detect its presence.
“The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data” processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques,” Clark writes.
Although the CSBA study was published several years ago now, the issues it raises have been of great relevance to developers of undersea technology working to sustain US dominance in an increasingly contested domain. In addition, Navy developers have specifically said that many newer innovations have been engineered to address the concerns mentioned in the study.
Chinese Submarine Threat
When asked about the pace of Chinese undersea military construction and modernization, Navy officials say that the Navy is focused on sustaining the research and development, or RD, sufficient to ensure the U.S. retains its technological superiority.
Maintaining an advanced submarine fleet, and strategic nuclear deterrence in particular, is all the more pressing and significant now that China has operational nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to hit part of the United States, Navy developers say.
Several Congressional reports in recent years have pointed out that Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, Congressional information says.
As most of you are aware, in the last several months the US Navy has suffered two collisions at sea. On 17 June the USS Fitzgerald lost 7 Sailors and on 21 August, the USS McCain lost 10 Sailors. The Surface Warfare community has not experienced such a loss in nearly 30 years since the explosion on the USS Iowa that killed 47 sailors.
After the collisions, I have quietly tried to make sense of what happened. I have just recently returned to the Surface Warfare community after spending the majority of my career working in the world of Naval Special Warfare. At this point, I am an outsider looking in and trying to learn about my new environment, and to make sure I am pulling more than my weight of the work load.
While trying to understand what happened, I have made the mistake of reading comments posted on Social Media of what people think happened. Comments from people from all walks of life and most who seem to have never served a day in their life in the Navy or on a Warship. One comment has particularly bothered me. After the Navy announced the firing of several Admirals, including a Command Master Chief, one podcaster stated the collisions happened because the “Navy has gone soft.”
I want to assure anyone reading this: The United States Navy has never been stronger than it is today.
I know it’s hard for most of us to remember a time that the US has not been engaged in war. We have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and Iraq for 13 years. No one knows that better than pre 9/11 service members, especially given there are very few of us still on Active Duty. But before Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom, during the time that most Army units were running training evolutions, the Navy was steadily deploying around the world to carry the Big Stick. Before Bosnia, before the Gulf War, before Panama, before Vietnam, before the Korean War….The Navy has quietly and steadily deployed during War Time and during Peace time since its inception 241 years ago.
No one does it better than we do.
As I have stepped back into the Surface Navy, I have done so with very little experience and official Surface Warfare qualifications. So I have started at the bottom of the training pipeline with 18 and 19 year old Seaman and brand new Junior Officers.
Classes are typically taught by senior 1st Class Petty Officers and Chiefs, and some are taught by trusted 2nd Class Petty Officers. Most of the training has been done “in house” and the instructors still have a day job. Some of the Instructors are Gunners Mates and are responsible for any and all aspects of ammunition on board the ship, whether its 9mm rounds, 5 inch rounds, or highly precise, multimillion dollar missiles.
In addition to teaching, managing their daily tasks and subordinates, most of the instructors are also balancing Duty. Duty is not their day job. It’s the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job of ensuring proper security is being maintained on the ship and making sure the ship is ready to start to get underway if needed. Duty is broken down into sections and each Sailor essentially works for 24 hours a day once or twice a week. A sailor may work a normal work day and then stand watch in the middle of the night, and is expected to work a full day the next work day, only running on a few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine.
The overwhelming amount of hours spent working on the ship each week is more than anything I have seen during my time in NSW. Like most jobs in the military, it’s a thankless job that most Sailors never truly see the results of their labors. And to my astonishment over the last few months, the Sailors don’t complain about the work on the ship. They complain about the food. They complain when the coffee grounds run low. The Junior Enlisted complain about the Junior Officers. The Junior Officers quietly complain about the Senior Officers, And the Chiefs complain about everyone.
But when the bells ring, everyone is beside each other backing up the other one so the ship can get the attention it needs. They are a family. And like any family, there are of course some dysfunctional members, but as a whole, it’s an amazing thing watching these crews breathing life into Warships.
I can’t speak to high level policy decisions that happen in the beltway, or even administrative orders from Millington, but I can speak to the level of dedication at the lower levels. Sailors are hardworking. They are unruly at times, but will back each other up when its time. They are professional, and know their jobs because that’s what Sailors do. They work long hours, more than most will ever know, and they do it when Wars end and people forget ships are still required at Sea. At times, they work in terrible conditions covered in grease and smelling of Jet fuel and only a few hours of sleep, and often for weeks or months with no days off.
They are the hardest Sailors in the world.
While recent events are heartbreaking, I want to assure everyone that the United States Navy is still the strongest Naval force this earth has ever seen. Horrendous mistakes were made on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain, but these ships were good ships and had good crews. These were also extremely hard worked ships ported in foreign piers.
And as of right now, the Navy has acknowledged that training in specific areas fell short. With that in mind, remember the Navy has kept ships out to Sea for 241 years. Even as you read this, there are 10’s of thousands of Sailors somewhere in the world, fiercely carrying the Navy’s Honor wherever they go. The Navy will correct the course and continue to provide diplomacy wherever is needed.
The latest “X-Men” movie shows Jean Grey get taken over by a mysterious cosmic force, pitting her against the X-Men for most of the movie.
However, it’s revealed early on that Jean isn’t the only threat the X-Men need to worry about.
This is your last chance to head back before spoilers.
Early in the movie, a group of shapeshifting aliens crash on Earth to take over the planet after their home is destroyed. One of them, who we later learn is named Vuk, takes over the body of a nameless woman played by Jessica Chastain.
Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner star in “Dark Phoenix.”
(20th Century Fox)
From there, we learn Vuk is the leader of an alien race called the D’Bari. Their planet was destroyed by a cosmic force — the Phoenix — that had demolished everything in its path until it was absorbed by Jean. Once landing on Earth, the group makes a quick decision that they’re taking over Earth, ridding it of every human, and rebuilding it from scratch for themselves.
They just need to acquire the cosmic force from Jean. (Apparently, that’s a thing they can do even though it destroyed their planet and many of their people.)
Both Vuk and the D’Bari’s names are said once in all of “Dark Phoenix” and it’s easy to miss either name-drop in a quick moment. Strangely, the film doesn’t spend much time on them other than to say they’re aliens, they’re bad, and they’re coming to kill us all.
If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that the characters are a part of the “Dark Phoenix” story line at one point. However, they’re not a group who has appeared that much in the Marvel comics. Even if you did catch their name during the movie, you may find yourself doing a quick search for more info on them after the movie because they’re a bit different from the D’Bari you may remember in the comics.
Unlike the aliens we see in “Dark Phoenix,” the D’Bari look like vegetables in the comics.
Who are the D’Bari? They’re not bad guys in the comics.
The group first debuted in the comics in a 1964 issue of “Avengers,” and is labeled as antagonists. But their most significant appearance was in 1980’s “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135 and they definitely weren’t obsessed with taking over the Earth.
Just like the “Dark Phoenix” movie explains, they’re an alien race who are best known for having their planet destroyed. However, they can’t shapeshift and the circumstances of them losing their planet is much different in the comics. Jean Grey is responsible for killing most of the D’Bari and destroying their planet.
The D’Bari lived on a planet in the D’Bari star system, which was very similar to our own Earth. At this point, Jean Grey already had the power of the Phoenix and had just gone on a rampage against her fellow X-Men.
Power hungry, Jean Grey soars far into space out of our galaxy and into the D’Bari star system where she fuels up by depleting a star of its power. That star, very similar to our sun, gave life to the D’Bari’s home planet and quickly destroyed it. “The Uncanny X-Men” describes the D’Bari as an “ancient, peace-loving civilization.” Jean Grey wiped out five billion of them.
On Earth, Vuk went by the alias Starhammer.
And who’s Vuk?
Vux doesn’t appear in “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135. In the comics, Vux is actually a male and he wasn’t on his home planet when it was destroyed. As a result, Vuk heads to Earth to, understandably, seek vengeance. He also cannot shape-shift.
Wait. These characters don’t look or sound anything like the ones in “Dark Phoenix.”
Yeah, we know. Other than a similar background story, the D’Bari in the comics and movie only appear to share the same name.
You know who they do sound and look a lot like? The shapeshifting D’Bari in “Dark Phoenix” remind us a lot of the shape-shifting Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.” In the Disney/Marvel movie, which was released in March, the alien race comes to Earth and transforms themselves into any one they come into contact with. Unlike the D’Bari of “Dark Phoenix,” they don’t wish to take over the planet. But their powers and design are somewhat similar.
Here’s how the Skrulls look in “Captain Marvel”:
Here are two of the Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.”
Fox hasn’t released any images of the D’Bari, yet. Chastain, who plays the D’Bari leader, told Yahoo UK at the end of May that her character changed a lot during the making of the movie, suggesting that she may not have been a D’Bari alien to begin with.
“My character changed a lot, which is an interesting thing because I’m not playing someone from the comics,” Chastain said of Vuk. “So it was always everyday trying to figure out ‘Who am I? Who is the mystery that is this character?’ And then understanding with the reshoots ‘Oh, it’s changing again.’ It was a constant evolution…. So yeah, my character changed.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?
Here are a few options:
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: M50 Ontos
New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun
The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.
But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.
The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.
But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.
That counts as a win-win.
Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle
New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.
So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).
Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: A-1 Skyraider
New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.
The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.
So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?
The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)
(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer
USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.
It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun
New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer
Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.
Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile
New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems
With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.
The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.
Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.
Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.
The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.
Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.
The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.
Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.
Army Futures Command on Sept. 25, 2019, began equipping the first of two combat brigades, selected so far, to receive the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), a capability that modernization officials promise will improve marksmanship, day and night.
The ENVG-B is a wireless, dual-tubed technology with a built-in thermal imager that is part of a capability set modernization officials started fielding to soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.
The Army has also selected 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the next unit to receive the new capability in March 2020, Bridgett Siter, spokeswoman for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told Military.com. The service plans to buy as many as 108,251 ENVG-Bs to issue to infantry and other close-combat units.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and senior modernization officials celebrated the fielding as the first major achievement of Army Futures Command.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B).
(US Army photo)
“This is a historic event; I am really proud to be here,” Grinston said during a discussion with reporters at Riley. “So, we can say we stood up the Army’s Futures Command, and then today we are delivering a product in two years.”
The service announced its plan to create the command in 2017, but didn’t activate it until August 2018.
During the process, the Army has conducted 11 user evaluations, known as Soldier Touchpoints, in which soldiers and Marines have field-tested the prototypes of ENVG-B and “helped us get this right,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and chief of infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In addition to the creation of Army Futures Command, officials credited the work of the cross-functional teams — made up of requirements experts, materiel developers and test officials — that make it possible to field equipment much faster than in the past.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, Technical Advisor, Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, gets ready to step off for an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire using the Enhanced Night Vision Google- Binocular during a Soldier Touchpoint on the system July 10-12, 2019.
(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The structure “really enables us to move faster as an enterprise than we have ever been able to move before, in being able to derive and deliver capabilities for our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier.
The binocular function of the ENVG-B gives soldiers more depth perception, and the thermal image intensifier allows soldiers to see enemy heat signatures at night and in the daylight through smoke, fog and other battlefield obscurants, Army officials say.
But when the system is teamed with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I), which is being fielded with the ENVG-B, soldiers can view their sight reticle as it’s transmitted wirelessly into the goggle.
Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, 237th Military Police Company, New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take before embarking on an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular Soldier Touchpoint, July 10-12, 2019.
(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
“Now we are able to move that targeting data straight from that weapon, without wires, up in front of a soldier’s eyes,” Potts said, adding that the process is much faster and “makes a soldier far more lethal.”
“What you are seeing today is the first iteration of a capability fielding … and we are going to continue to grow this capability out so that we really treat the soldier as an integrated weapon platform,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Since retiring from the US military as a four-star general eight years ago, Stanley McChrystal has reflected on one of his favorite subjects — leadership — and he’s had some significant revelations.
McChrystal had a 34-year military career, taking out al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, and spent a year leading America and its allies in the War in Afghanistan. Since retiring, he’s overseen the leadership consulting firm the McChrystal Group, translating what he’s learned to a business audience.
The Formulaic Myth: If someone follows a checklist of behaviors, they’ll be a great leader
McChrystal said that it’s tempting to believe that if you make a checklist of traits and behaviors collected from leadership books and mentors, and check off every box, you will be a great leader. “But the reality is, when you look at history, there’s a number of people who followed that perfectly and failed, some over and over,” he said.
He’s not disputing the fact that there are certain truths about what’s effective, and that a sterling résumé can prove helpful. But life is messy and taking the best advice or following a well-worn path to success is not sufficient for being an effective leader.
McChrystal pointed to the example of opposing generals in the American Civil War, the Confederacy’s Robert E. Lee and the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant. Up until the war, Lee was seen as the exemplary soldier, with a sterling track record and a way of carrying himself that even his enemies admired; in comparison, Grant’s accomplishments were less exceptional and he was rougher around the edges. But it was Grant, of course, who emerged victorious. It’s why, McChrystal said, that situational context and leaders’ relationship to their followers are more important than a “correct” way to lead.
Ulysses S. Grant did not rise to the head of the Union forces in the Civil War by accident, of course, but by many traditional measures of leadership and background, he did not match up to his opponent, Robert E. Lee. It was Grant, however, who was the victor.
The Attribution Myth: The successes and failures of a team are all the results of its leader
McChrystal retired from the US Army in 2010, after handing in his resignation to President Barack Obama in the wake of a Rolling Stone article that showed McChrystal’s team criticizing the administration. McChrystal soon set to work on his memoirs as a way to analyze his own successes and failures. He recruited a team to help him with research and fact checking.
“I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened,” he said. “And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me.”
After doing their research on key decisions in McChrystal’s career, “we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.” The “Great Man Theory” of history, which places single people front and center, fell apart for him.
He said that, “leaders matter, just not like we think they do.” The best leaders are able to make the most of their team members’ potential through skilled management and an ability to inspire, but ignoring the complex web of interactions among leaders and every person they interact with, as well as the circumstances out of their control, is something McChrystal considers a toxic approach. Followers should respect great leaders without putting them on a pedestal, he said, and leaders should not place themselves on that pedestal, either.
The Results Myth: Delivering results is all that’s required for positions of power and accolades
Related to the first myth, the third one concerns the common presumption that people in positions of power got there because they delivered results.
“In reality, we don’t actually follow that very well,” McChrystal said. “We promote people, we move them into new jobs, et cetera, who have been failures over and over again. And we have other people who are very successful, but because they don’t quite fill some other need we have, we reject them.”
That’s why it’s a mistake to think that good speaking skills or a magnetic personality are trivial, because they’re as important to leadership as anything else — for better or worse. “You can have one person who’s producing or likely to produce a great outcome, but somebody else who can make us feel good or make us feel scared or make us something that inspires us to action, we often will go that way, much more than we will direct results,” McChrystal said.
As the smoke is still settling down over the charred ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound details about the operation are already emerging.
SOFREP has learned that the assault force was comprised of approximately 70 operators from Delta Force’s A Squadron and Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The air package included eight helicopters, a combination of MH-60 Blackhawks and MH-47 Chinooks, from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). Supporting the operation were two MC-130J Commando II tankers, which provided mid-air refueling, and an unspecified number of F-15Es, which ensured air-superiority and bombed the compounded after the assault force had left.
The assault force received fire on its way in, its flight route overflew enemy-held territory, but it was quickly suppressed by the supporting air assets. The Russian government had received notification that an operation against ISIS would be taking place in the area. This ensured that the Russian forces didn’t engage the assault force inadvertently.
Upon reaching the target, the assault force immediately came under fire. Fearing a booby trapped main door, the assault force’s breachers penetrated the compound’s walls. Thereafter, training and experience kicked in and the assault force quickly secured the compound.
Former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Al-Baghdadi tried to flee through one of the many tunnels but picked a wrong one that was a dead-end. He detonated a suicided vest that killed three of his children. Two of his wives, also wearing suicide vests, were killed during the operation. Numerous other ISIS fighters were also killed and a number captured.
The assault team remained on the ground for about two hours conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), which most probably produced actionable intelligence on additional ISIS targets.
Using facial recognition technology, the operators managed to get a positive identification on al-Baghdadi on the spot – after the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, his head separated almost intact. But to be 100 percent sure about his identity, the assault force had to get more biological evidence that was sent for DNA testing.
No operators were injured during the operation but a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) was wounded.
In a televised address to the nation, President Donald Trump said that “This raid was impeccable. [Al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a safer place. . .Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them.”
Donald Trump: Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘died like a dog’
U.S. intelligence suspected that al-Baghdadi was located in the area since mid-summer. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proved to be key in the operations by furnishing critical and time-sensitive intelligence that pinpointed the location of the ISIS leader. They verified his position almost a month ago. The compound was under continuous surveillance for the past two weeks. The Turkish invasion in northern Syria forced U.S. officials to cancel the operation three times.
Another interesting note about the operation is that the assault force launched from Erbil, Iraq, and not from U.S. Base in Incirlik, Turkey. The former is almost 450 miles from the village the terrorist leader was hiding in; the latter a scant 65 miles.
The mission was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the American humanitarian aid worker caught, raped, and killed by ISIS.
Delta’s A Squadron was very close to killing Osama bin Laden back in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001.