The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.
“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.
“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.
The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.
In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.
In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.
Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”
While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.
The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.
China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.
Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Again, not where we normally go for violent advice, either.
Tips run the gamut from always knowing which way you’ll run in a crisis to remembering to keep razor blades hidden nearby and carrying a steel barrel pen that can withstand multiple stabs against an opponent.
Check out the video below. For a guide you can carry around with you, check out the book linked above.
As if Avengers: Endgame wasn’t dramatic enough, health officials in California are now warning moviegoers who attended the midnight screening of the flick at the AMC Movie Theater in Fullerton on April 25, 2019, that they may have been exposed to measles.
According to the Orange County Health Care agency, a 20-something woman, who did not know at the time that she had measles, was in the audience for the April 25, 2019 show. She was later diagnosed as the first confirmed case of measles in Orange County.
Since the highly contagious virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has left, the agency advises anyone who was at the theater between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to check their vaccination history and keep an eye out for common measles symptoms which include a runny nose, fever, and a red rash.
Officials are also reminding people who think they may have the measles to call their doctor before going to the physician’s office to prevent infecting others.
After learning about the possible exposure, one of the movie theater employees, Carlee Greer-McNeill, told NBC Los Angeles that he never thought to feel unsafe at his job or anywhere in Orange County. She said, “If you know you have the measles, please don’t come to a movie theater, let alone a public place.”
Currently, the U.S. is in the middle of the worst measles outbreak since 1994, with 704 cases reported so far this year across 22 states. California, in particular, has been hit hard by the infectious disease, with 38 confirmed cases. The Health Care Agency urges people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already. “The MMR vaccine is a simple, inexpensive, and very effective measure to prevent the spread of this serious virus,” Dr. Nichole Quick, Interim County Health Officer, said in a press release.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Nearly fourscore years have passed since the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that catapulted the United States into World War II.
But a new examination of the fight and the sailors who defended the harbor with their lives has revealed two unsung heroes deserving of prestigious valor awards.
Aloysius H. Schmitt, a Navy chaplain who served as a lieutenant junior grade during the battle, and Joseph L. George, a chief boatswain’s mate who was then a petty officer second class, will be posthumously honored on December 7th, the 76th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, according to a Navy announcement.
Schmitt, who died working to help other sailors reach safety when the Nevada-class battleship Oklahoma capsized and sank, will be honored with the Silver Star medal, the third-highest combat valor award.
George, who saved the lives of sailors aboard the Pennsylvania-class battleship Arizona, will be honored with the Bronze Star medal with combat valor device. George survived the battle and would go on to retire from the Navy in 1955. He died in 1996 at the age of 81.
That the Navy came to present medals to these men in 2017 illustrates the gradual, and often imperfect, process of recognizing military heroism. According to Navy officials, the bravery of both men and their merit of recognition was brought to the service’s attention by their surviving families.
In October 1942, Schmitt received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the Navy’s highest award for non-combat heroism. But while Schmitt was a chaplain and not actually fighting, a clearer definition of combat made clear that he was indeed part of the battle.
His family lobbied the Navy to ensure that he was properly recognized for his heroism, according to the Navy release.
Accounts of his actions made clear just how fitting that recognition was.
Schmitt had been hearing confessions when four torpedoes struck the Oklahoma on the port side, according to Navy historical documents used for training.
Amid the chaos as the ship tilted toward its injured side, Schmitt made his way to an open porthole and began helping sailors escape. When it came his turn to make his way out, he struggled to get through the opening. Rather than block the escape route as sailors waited behind him, he chose to sacrifice himself.
“Realizing that the water was rising rapidly and that even this one exit would soon be closed, Schmitt insisted on being pushed back to help others who could get through more easily, urging them on with a blessing,” according to the account.
Schmitt was one of 400 sailors aboard the Oklahoma who died when it sank, according to officials.
Schmitt’s great-nephew, Dr. Steve Sloan, said in a statement that the chaplain’s story is the stuff of family legend and his presentation with the medal has deep significance for his relatives.
“We would talk about what happened, how many sailors he helped escape, and what went on — we would kind of relive it every holiday and it became a bit of a tradition. So we’re very excited about the medal,” he said. “I think for the older people in the family, it’s a form of closure but, for the rest of us, our hope is that this is just the beginning of the story; that with the return of his remains and the presentation of the medal, his story will become known to a whole new generation.”
George, the chief boatswain’s mate, received a commendation for his bravery in the battle, but was never recommended by his commanding officer for a valor award.
His family, too, fought to see him properly recognized. Lauren Bruner and Don Stratton, whose lives were saved thanks to George, also petitioned for him to be honored.
George’s story might not be fully known if not for an interview he gave to the University of North Texas on Aug. 5, 1978. In the interview, he described relaxing and reading a Sunday newspaper aboard the repair ship USS Vestal when General Quarters sounded, indicating an imminent crisis.
As the Arizona was hit with Japanese torpedoes, George sprang into action, putting out fires and preparing guns aboard the Vestal so that the crew could return fire on the Japanese. He ultimately threw a line from the Vestal to the Arizona, enabling sailors aboard the sinking ship to escape.
George’s daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, who will receive the medal on his behalf, said in a statement that her dad began talking about the war only after his retirement from the Navy.
“It was kind of surreal. You grow up with your dad thinking of him as dad; you’re not used to thinking of him as a hero,” she said. “But it’s a wonderful story, and I’m quite proud of him. Plus I’ve gotten to know the men he saved and have developed a real bond with the Stratton and Bruner families.”
George’s Bronze Star will be presented in a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor by Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Schmitt’s Silver Star will be presented by Navy Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben in a ceremony on the campus of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, following a Catholic mass at a chapel where his remains are buried.
LEGACY LIVES ON
While it took decades for Schmitt’s combat valor award to be approved, his legacy has lived on in the Navy in other ways. He was the namesake for the Buckley-class destroyer escort Schmitt, in service for the Navy from 1943 to 1949.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer called the presentation of the medals “not only appropriate, but simply the right thing to do.
“One of my highest priorities is to honor the service and sacrifice of our sailors, Marines, civilians, and family members,” he said. “And it is clear that Lt. Schmitt and Chief George are heroes whose service and sacrifice will stand as an example for current and future service members.”
Marine Corps Systems Command plans to implement a new form of technology that allows the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to identify enemy activity.
The technology employs a vehicle-borne tool that enables Marines to discern what happens inside the electromagnetic spectrum. It connects several independent electronic capabilities into a single unit and allows Marines to manage threats and reactions from a central location.
“Marines are going to be able to make decisions on what they are seeing,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Dono, a team lead in MCSC’s Command Elements Systems.
Marines currently use systems to counter IEDs that block signals used by adversaries to remotely detonate explosive devices. The new technology is a man-packable and vehicle-mounted system, which will be able to be deployed on any Marine vehicle.
“This emergent technology combines a number of current capabilities into one system, thereby reducing the need for additional training and logistic support to manage multiple systems,” said Col. Dave Burton, program manager for Intelligence Systems at MCSC.
Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5 train in searching for improvised explosive devices.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Once fielded, the system will enhance situational awareness on the battlefield.
“We will be able to do all of the functions of similar systems as well as sense and then display what is going on in the electronic spectrum,” said Dono. “Then we can communicate that to Marines for their decision-making process.”
MCSC is taking an evolutionary approach that allows the command to field the equipment faster and then gradually improve the capability as time progresses, Dono said. As the technology evolves, the Marine Corps can make incremental improvements as needed.
The Corps will work with Marines to test a variety of displays that track the electromagnetic spectrum, looking into each display’s user interface. The command can then determine if improvements must be made to ensure usability.
“It’s similar to what Apple does with the iPhone,” explained Dono. “They have many different displays and they want to make it natural and intuitive, so it’s not something that’s clunky, confusing and has to be learned.”
MCSC plans to field the vehicle-mounted system around the first quarter of 2020. When implemented, the equipment will continue to grow in capability to better prepare Marines to take on the digital battlefield.
“This system is important because it is going to allow Marines to operate inside the electromagnetic spectrum, make decisions and act upon that information,” said Dono. “That’s something they’ve never had to consider or think about in the past.”
A so-called “rocket expert” member of ISIS responsible for recently killing a Marine has been killed by a U.S. drone strike, officials told reporters.
U.S. Marines protecting Iraqi Security Forces at a firebase in Northern Iraq recently came under fire by an ISIS rocket attack, resulting in the death of Staff. Sgt. Louis Cardin and the wounding of eight other marines.
“Several hours ago we killed an ISIL (ISIS) member believed responsible for the rocket attack that resulted in the death of Staff. Sgt. Cardin,” Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, said.
Pentagon officials named the member of ISIS as Jasim Khadijah, an ISIS member and former Iraqi officer believed directly connected to the recent rocket attack.
Officials added that the strike killed at least ISIS fighters and destroyed one UAV and 2 vehicles.
Col. Warren also stressed that Jasim Khadijah was not a HVI (Highly Valued Individual) and expressed condolences to the family of Staff Sgt. Cardin for their loss.
Being in the military means keeping up with grooming standards. Being a woman in the military means keeping up with grooming standards of the military and society. While there is a lot of press around sexual harassment and assault in the military, and it is a real problem, there are plenty of other aspects to being a female in uniform. It also means plenty of trash talk, confusion, and humorous adventures dealing with men in the line of duty.
Throughout any career in the military, there are plenty of gripes that come from the lowest of privates to the highest of generals. Females, though, have a special set of complaints which develop over the course of their careers. Here are seven basic things women learn during their service.
1. Keeping your hair in regs is harder than it looks
While the buzzcuts and high-and-tights adorn the heads of many men in the military, attempting to keep long, thick hair in a perfect sockbun is hardly the equivalent. Gel, hairspray, bobby pins, socks, hair ties, and prayers go into each bun, which often has to be fixed throughout the day.
2. Morale items can end up sapping your morale
Many woman in the military own a ton of t-shirts and sweatshirts bearing branches and units, just like their male counterparts. Wearing these in public, women will often get asked if their boyfriend is in the military. The look on people’s faces when you politely correct them is always priceless.
3. Haters gonna hate
Snide comments come with being a woman in the military, but sometimes the questions leave you speechless. Things like “Aren’t women in the Army lesbians?” or “They let you fire a real gun?” or even “Green and tan aren’t really flattering on you.” The questions are rooted in discrimination against women who serve, but many women take the questions in stride and use it as a way to teach someone about what it’s really like to serve.
4. There are many, many more grooming standards
Makeup is accepted throughout the military, but regulations demand a “natural look.” Servicewomen across the branches become experts at the “no-makeup makeup,” with natural lips, eyes, and cheeks. Even if no one can tell, keeping a bit of your femininity in uniform is crucial to staying sane, especially on long duty weekends. Along with extreme makeup, nail color on the hands is not authorized, many relish in pedicures with beautiful colors. Even behind heavy combat boots, a rainbow of shades of nail polish can be found.
5. You never stop proving your value
Every new person has to prove themselves but now that combat roles are open to women, there is a new level of proving yourself as the first generation of women in jobs that have been exclusively for men over the last hundred years. Trying to prove yourself as a .50 cal gunner as a petite woman is hardly easy, but the women who do it will pave the way.
6. Nothing issued off the rack actually fits
Combat equipment, such as body armor, was developed and sized with men in mind. Many women have found themselves unable to fit in the smallest sizes of some flak jackets and bulletproof vests, not to mention the uncomfortable fits that were meant for more square body types.
7. “If the military wanted you to have kids . . .”
Women with children are often faced with criticism, accused of abandoning their children while deployed or being unfit parents for choosing work over families. One writer went so far as to say that women in the military were punished for being both mothers and serving in the military. The stigma of a woman not staying home with her husband and children is more visible in the military than anywhere else, with pressure from both civilians and from their own peers.
Despite all of the challenges, it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.
By 1972, American efforts in Vietnam were being drawn down. In Paris, North Vietnamese negotiators were unwilling to settle for peace as they felt victory was within their grasp. President Nixon had other ideas.
The Air Force was going to bring the communists to their knees.
This led to the development of a new plan, Operation Linebacker II. Linebacker II would not be limited in its objectives like its predecessor. The new objective was the strategic destruction of North Vietnamese infrastructure. Some 200 B-52s, along with numerous types of tactical aircraft, prepared to strike at the heartland of North Vietnam – Hanoi and Haiphong.
Arrayed against the Americans was one of the most formidable air defense networks ever conceived.
The North Vietnamese had over 100 MiG fighters ready to launch at a moment’s notice. They also had over 20 SAM sites in the vicinity of the target area, along with all manner of anti-aircraft artillery and a vast radar network.
Dec. 18, 1972, aircrews took to the skies, intent on destroying their enemy.
A veritable clash of the titans ensued. Massive SA-2 missiles, the size of telephone poles, soared into the sky after the intruding bombers — oftentimes in four-to-six missile salvos. At one point, bomber crews tracked 40 missiles in the air at one time.
Despite the frenetic fire from the North Vietnamese, only three B-52s were lost on the first night along with a single F-111 on a mission against Radio Hanoi.
The B-52 crews also got in on the action. Not only did they drop tens of thousands of pounds of bombs on enemy targets, but SSgt. Samuel Turner, a tail gunner on one of the B-52s, shot down an attacking MiG-21 — the first since the Korean War and the first for a B-52.
Just as the B-52s were entering the threat area, Turner’s radar screen lit up with two bogeys at 6 o’clock low. One MiG came in hot pursuit, closing fast on the bomber from behind. When his instruments indicated the bogey was in range Turner let loose a long burst from his quad .50s. A terrific explosion lit up the night and Turner’s radar now showed only one threat. After seeing his wingman obliterated, the second MiG disengaged.
After a successful second night of bombing, in which no American aircraft were lost, disaster struck on the third night.
Using the same tactics for the third night in a row, the bombers flew into a maelstrom. Six B-52s were sent earthward along with a Navy fighter. Reeling from the loss but intent to carry on the mission, the Air Force quickly revamped its tactics.
The fourth day of missions saw the loss of two B-52s and another Navy fighter, but the Americans were putting their experience to good use. For the next three days, the Air Force bombers pounded North Vietnamese targets without the loss of any B-52s. Each bomber demolished entire grid squares.
On the seventh night, Christmas Eve, the Americans got an early Christmas present and another morale boost. A1C Albert Moore became the second B-52 tail gunner to score a kill on an enemy fighter. He is also the last known aerial gunner in history to accomplish such a feat.
In similar fashion to the MiG that attacked Turner’s B-52, a lone bogey charged the bomber from 6 o’clock low. The eighteen-year-old Moore steadied himself, called out his target, and let loose a burst.
He fired another burst. This, too, failed to connect with the encroaching fighter.
Desperate to protect his crew and with scant few seconds remaining before the MiG began firing itself Moore unleashed a torrent of bullets from his guns. Unable to see the MiG directly, he watched as its radar signature grew to three times normal size and disappear.
A fellow tail gunner saw the action and confirmed that Moore had destroyed the enemy aircraft.
On Christmas Day, the Americans took a tactical pause to evaluate their efforts, give their weary crews some rest, and signal to the North Vietnamese that it was time to come back to the negotiating table.
The North Vietnamese instead restocked their supply of SAMs and prepared to do battle once again.
Undeterred, the bomber crews came back with a vengeance. Employing new tactics and hitting more targets, they wore the North Vietnamese down.
In the days after Christmas, four more B-52s were shot down, but the pressure on the North Vietnamese was intensifying. Their defenses were crumbling.
After the losses on Dec. 20, the Air Force had called for more attacks against SAM sites and radar stations. Both bombers and fighters struck with deadly precision, crippling the North’s ability to defend itself.
By the final day of bombings on Dec. 29, the communists were only able to muster 23 SA-2 attacks throughout the entire mission.
From Dec. 18 to Dec. 29, American aircraft flew over 1,500 sorties, dropped over 15,000 tons of bombs, and succeeded in bringing the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. The 11 Days War, as it came to be known, was just the success the United States had been looking for in the war in Vietnam. The only question on many veterans’ minds at that point, though, was why hadn’t they employed strategic air power sooner?
We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.
Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.
“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.
Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.
“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.
Major Ortiz tees off with focus
As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his seriesAdventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.
As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.
“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”
Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.
Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.
“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”
Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.
But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.
Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.
“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”
I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.
Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.
Sinking an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be quite a feat for any vessel or aggressor. Not only because they each carry an air force greater than the air forces of most countries, and pack a punch with more power than anything most countries could ever hope to bring to bear, but also because they’re really, really hard to sink. American carriers are the biggest warships ever built and move fast enough to outrun submarines.
But that didn’t stop one Soviet sub from trying.
In March 1984, the USS Kitty Hawk was part of Team Spirit 1984, a massive naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, along with the navy of South Korea. The carrier’s 80 aircraft and eight escorts were so engaged in the exercise that they didn’t detect a Soviet Submarine chase the Kitty Hawk into the area. The submarine, K-314, was noticed by the carrier much later than it should have been. The Kitty Hawk turned on its engines to outrun and outmaneuver the Soviets.
It was the height of the Cold War, and both ships were carrying an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Games like this could have ended with a spark that ignited World War III. Instead, it ended in one of the most unforgettable naval engagements of the entire Cold War.
The 5,200-ton Soviet Victor I-class attack submarine chased the American carrier for a week or so until the Yellow Sea began experiencing some pretty foul weather. K-314 would eventually lose sight and all contact with the Kitty Hawk and the other American ships. The skipper of the sub, Captain Vladimir Evseenko, decided to rise up to periscope depth and assess the situation from 10 meters below the surface. What he saw surprised him – the American carrier strike group was only four or five kilometers from his boat.
And the submarine and the Kitty Hawk were approaching one another very, very fast. At those speeds, it would be very difficult for any two ships to avoid a collision. Capt. Evseenko ordered an emergency dive as fast as he could, but it was all for naught. The 80,000-ton Kitty Hawk hit the sub at full speed.
“The first thought was that the conning tower had been destroyed and the submarine’s body was cut to pieces,” recalled Evseenko. “We checked the periscope and antennas – they were in order. No leaks were reported, and the mechanisms were ok. Then suddenly another strike! In the starboard side! We checked again – everything was in order…. We were trying to figure out what happened. It became clear that an aircraft carrier had rammed us. The second strike hit the propeller. The first one, most likely, bent the stabilator.”
“I was on the bridge at the time of the incident, monitoring one of the two radars,” Capt. David N. Rogers told reporters aboard the carrier. “We felt a sudden shudder, a fairly violent shudder. We immediately launched two helicopters to see if we could render any assistance to them but the Soviet sub appeared to have suffered no extensive damage.”
The carrier ran over the submarine’s stern, a point in the Victor I-class where the submarine’s sonar is blind due to the sounds of its own engines. The submarine, it turns out, failed to turn on its navigation lights. The Kitty Hawk suffered no damage when running over the sub. The Soviet Union had no response.
Navy officials were quick to point out that in a wartime setting, a Soviet submarine would never have gotten so close to a carrier strike group. In peacetime, losing a Soviet submarine’s location was fairly common. Ramming an adversary, during war or peace, has never been all that common.
The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.
“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”
“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”
“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.
The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.
While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.
Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.
Lasers, Railguns, Robotics
While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.
So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.
The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.
“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”
Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.
It must be so tempting, staring down an awesome piece of military hardware… just sitting there, waiting for someone to take it for a spin. The maintainers know everything about their plane, tank, or other vehicles, right down to the last detail.
Imagine anyone’s surprise when one of these vehicles just up and leaves when its not supposed to. Sounds unlikely, but it’s happened a lot more than one might think.
1. Sergeant Paul Meyer gets sick of his wife, steals a C-130
On May 23, 1969, Meyer, a U.S. Air Force crew chief stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, took off in a C-130E, and very quickly crashed into the English Channel. His body was not found, but he was assumed to have died on impact.
The USAF investigation showed Sgt. Meyer was “under a considerable amount of stress” in the days leading up to the theft. He was married just eight weeks before his deployment to England and his wife constantly badgered him to come home – because she was being sued by her ex-husband.
On top of his marriage difficulties, he failed to pass for promotion despite allegedly being better qualified than his peers who did get promoted. Meyer was grounded and restricted to barracks for being arrested in an alcohol-related incident.
The same night he was arrested, he called the fuels unit on the base to fuel up his C-130. He then took an officer’s flight clothes and GOV, then drove to the flightline.
He did not crash on takeoff. He climbed, turned north, and made his way over the Channel. He called his wife over the radio until he lost control and crashed.
2. An Army PFC takes a Huey to the White House
Army Pfc. Robert K. Preston washed out of Army flight school in 1973. The 20-year-old was apparently determined to get under the rotors of an Army aircraft – by any means necessary. On Feb. 17, 1974, Preston stole a Bell UH-1 Huey Helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland, and flew it down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, stopping at a trailer park along the way.
Preston, who held a civilian pilot’s license for fixed wing aircraft, completed 24 weeks of Army aviation training before washing out for “deficiency in the instrument phase.” Yet, Maryland State Police pilots who chased Preston called him “one hell of a pilot.”
The helicopter buzzed the Washington Monument and the White House itself before touching down amid a hail of Secret Service buckshot. Preston was injured in the gunfire, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,400.
3. A USAF Mechanic steals an F-86 Sabre, regrets nothing
When the F-86 Sabre appeared in the Air Force fleet in the 1950s, pilots needed a year of training to fly it. Airman 1st Class George Johnson, however, took the initiative. On Sept. 20, 1956, he hopped in the cockpit of a Sabre and went for a ride.
Johnson was a mechanic with dreams of flying. Unfortunately, a burned retina from staring at an eclipse meant a plane like the F-86 was forever out of reach. As part of a routine functional check one day, he asked the tower to clear the runway for a high-speed taxi test, which was actually a thing.
Except when it reached the right speed, Johnson took off with the plane – literally. But he had no way down. No chute. No experience. The officers of the day had to talk Johnson down. Johnson was court-martialed and fined almost $200, sentenced to six months confinement and loss of rank to Airman Basic.
4. A Marine becomes a mechanic – then steals an A-4M Skyhawk
Lance Cpl. Howard Foote couldn’t become a Marine Corps pilot because he got the bends during a glider test. He had to settle for becoming a mechanic.
But the dream of flying a USMC fighter never left him. One day in 198 he gassed up a Skyhawk and took it for a joyride.
Foote landed his plane much easier than anyone else – he was an accomplished pilot already. But he still served time in the brig for his chicanery.
BONUS: U.S. Army soldier steals a tank, goes on a rampage
In 1990, a California veteran named Shawn Nelson lost a medical malpractice suit to a local hospital, who counter-sued for thousands. His wife filed for divorce in 1991. Both parents died of cancer in 1992. His brother became hooked on meth.
By 1995, his business went defunct and he lost everything and was facing homelessness. In April of that year, his live-in girlfriend died of a drug overdose.
On May 17, 1995, Nelson calmly drove to a California National Guard armory in San Diego and forced his way into a 57-ton M60A3 Patton tank. Though unarmed, Nelson still drove the tank off the base.
For 23 minutes, he led police on a slow-speed chase through local residential neighborhoods as he rampaged over utility poles, hydrants, and at least 25 cars. Eventually, the tank got caught on the median of State Route 163, where police ordered Nelson to leave the vehicle. When he instead tried to free the tank, the police shot him. Nelson died from his wounds, the only fatality.
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.