A US Air Force F-16 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada crashed outside of Las Vegas on the morning of April 4, 2018, in the third aircraft crash in two days.
The pilot was killed in the crash, the Air Force confirmed in a statement. He was a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron.
The F-16 crashed around 10:30 a.m. during a “routine aerial demonstration training flight,” and the cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Air Force statement.
On the afternoon of April 3, 2018, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed around El Centro, California, during a routine training mission. Four crew members aboard the helicopter were killed.
Additionally, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during a training exercise in Djibouti, east Africa on April 3, 2018. The pilot ejected and was being treated at a hospital.
Congress and the military have come under scrutiny amid the spate of aircraft crashes. Military leaders have long argued for an increased budget to combat a “readiness crisis” as foreign adversaries have gained momentum in other areas of the world.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, said in November 2017, that although pilot and aircraft readiness was steadily improving, the Corps was still dealing with the effects of “the minimum requirement for tactical proficiency.”
“Newly winged aviators … [are] the foundation of the future of aviation,” a prepared statement from Rudder said, according to Military.com. “When I compare these 2017 ‘graduates’ of their first fleet tour to the 2007 ‘class,’ those pilots today have averaged 20% less flight hours over their three-year tour than the same group in 2007.”
The Department of Defense is conducting trials for a new general-purpose 6.8mm round, something that I think is long overdue. Anytime a new caliber comes up, we see much gnashing of teeth from two separate camps. On the one side is the “good enough for grandpappy at Khe San” crew, who will deride the waste of tax money and preach shot placement.
And on the other will be the “I knew 5.56 was an underpowered poodle shooter round, we should all have 300 Winchester Magnum carbines.” Often accompanied by stories of shooting a bad guy 50 times, but he still ran off with the guidon. But just for a moment, let’s get our underwear out of a bunch, and take a critical look at 5.56 as a caliber.
The first thing we need to understand is how we got here. Most people already know the story of how the M-16, and its new 5.56 bullet, were first adopted by the Air Force for security forces at airfields. Painful as it is to admit, the Air Force is often smarter than the rest of us. The Army and Marine Corps were having none of it, sticking to the traditional obsession with a .30 caliber bullet. The M1 Garand, chambered in 30.06, won WW2.
New technology in the 1950’s allowed the development of .308 Winchester (aka 7.62×51), which in layman’s terms is ballistically identical to 30.06, in a shorter case. Add to that the idea of a detachable magazine, and you get the M-14.
The resemblance of an M-14 to an M1 Garand isn’t coincidental. John Garand designed the M1, and actually started working on its perceived shortcomings in 1944. Eventually, the M-14 would emerge, which is essentially a .308 caliber, magazine-fed, M1 Garand.
It was everything the Army and Marine Corps ever wanted, while notably, allies such as NATO did not. (The British were pushing hard for a .280, which we will address further in a bit.) In 1957 it was announced the M-14 would replace the M1. And this is what set the stage for the great 7.62 vs. 5.56 showdown.
Though it is not the iconic weapon of the war, the M-14 was the standard service rifle when Vietnam started. The Air Force was fielding the M-16 in 1962, but everyone else had some good old wood and steel. But the jungle is an entirely different environment. Special Forces, with those abnormal acquisition channels and mustaches, saw the M-16 as solving multiple problems and became early adopters.
The M-16, fully loaded, was two pounds lighter than a loaded M14. Per hundred rounds, 5.56 also weighs around half as much as .308. This matters for a couple of reasons. First, in Special Forces terms, it made sense for our allies. One of the principle jobs of Special Forces in Vietnam was training and fighting with South Vietnamese and Montagnard soldiers. Both of whom, on average, are far smaller in stature than the average American. The Montagnard’s, in particular, would be nicknamed “the little people.” The M-16 was much easier for them to handle, and became very popular with these brothers in arms.
Second, the same weight per bullet made sense for everyone. While Vietnam has a wide variety of geography, a lot of it is jungle. Fighting in dense jungle vegetation presents unique problems. While I am much too young to have been in Vietnam, I have spent some time in other jungles. And I distinctly remember how claustrophobic it feels when you are new to it. You often can’t see ten feet in front of you, which may be the case when a firefight breaks out. Jungle foliage is also notoriously thin, which means bullets zip right through it.
A lot of people are shocked to find out US troops fired around 50,000 bullets per enemy killed during Vietnam. That, in my opinion, is not a reflection on “poor marksmanship” of U.S. forces at the time. Far from it. But it is likely a reflection of how the terrain influences how you fight.
Imagine, for a moment, you are in the middle of a patrol in that same jungle. (Some of you reading this may actually have been. Give us young bucks a minute to catch up.)
You know where your guys are, because you know the direction of march. You can likely see the man in front of you, and the one behind, but that is all. All of a sudden, automatic weapons fire is shredding the jungle around you. Leaves and vines are falling like rain, dirt is kicking up all around you, and you spot the tell-tale muzzle flash of an AK-47 through the veil of green. It isn’t steady, but it gives you a vague idea of where the enemy is.
Are you going to carefully line up your irons sights, and wait for a distinct helmet (actually camouflaged perfectly with foliage, and quite possibly dug in) to appear while you slowly squeeze the trigger like you learned on the range? Or are you going to dump a magazine and hope for the best? Me too. I’ve been in a couple of gunfights where I am absolutely positive I shot at nothing, and I don’t regret it a bit.
So while early M-16’s had some teething problems with reliability, Vietnam showed the value of having lots of lightweight bullets. The lethality out of a 20-inch barrel was fantastic, and 5.56 would gain popularity around the world as a military caliber.
While some diehards would still never accept 5.56 because it isn’t .30 caliber, it did do pretty well in the original design. But when we started chopping the barrel down to 14.5 inches for the M-4, and 10.5 inches for some Special Operations variants, we started running into trouble.
As far back as the Battle of Mogadishu, if you look carefully enough, you can find reports of 5.56 being unreliable in lethality terms from the short barrels. (SFC Randy Shughart, one of the men posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from that battle, was notably carrying an M-14.)
5.56 does most of its damage through spalling, kind of a happy accident of design. Above a certain velocity threshold, the bullet positively comes apart in tissue. Even the much maligned “green tip” M855 steel penetrator round shatters into three pieces. This is well known, and backed up by research from giants such as Dr. Martin Fackler, founder and head of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory. But, velocity threshold is the key point here. And 5.56 sheds velocity at every inch of barrel below 20.
Now, as a GWOT era soldier, don’t think I am completely negating the 5.56 round. In the last 20 years, ballistics have done a lot for improving the round. While it isn’t ideal out of something like a 10-inch barrel, it is still much improved over even the bullets used Oct 3, 1993. Since 9/11, it has put a lot of bad guys in the ground.
And even among troops that have options about what to carry, the debate still rages of 5.56 vs. 7.62. I’ve used both, and both have merits. But so do a monster truck and Prius. My point isn’t that one is better, or both aren’t good in certain roles. My point is that both are old, and maybe it is time to evolve.
6.8 as a caliber was first tried at the beginning of the GWOT. A special project between the Army and commercial manufactures yielded the 6.8 SPC round back in 2002. It wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but did catch on with the civilian market. Remember the British .280 caliber bullet from way back at the top of this article? 6.8 SPC is remarkably similar.
While we don’t know exactly the new bullet parameters the DOD has specified, we do know it has to be 6.8mm. And therefore, 6.8 SPC at least gives us a starting point for understanding. How would, in a hypothetical shoot off, commercial 6.8 SPC fair against 7.62×51 and 5.56×45?
Overall, it would seem to be a pretty good compromise. With barrel, bolt, and magazine changes, it fits in the standard M-4. While it does get crushed at long range compared to 7.62×51, it is also significantly lighter. While it does weigh slightly more than 5.56, it delivers more energy on target at 100-300 meters, and leaves a bigger hole, if we are counting on that.
While on paper, a specialized 5.56 round like Mk262 77 grain will outperform it at longer ranges, that 77 grain bullet is still behind in terms of energy. From shorter barrels designed for CQB, 6.8 SPC will absolutely stomp on 5.56, and at a minimally increased amount of recoil.
So will our troops soon be outfitted with some variant of 6.8 mm rifles? Only time will tell. We spent 12 years and three tests to decide on a new pistol. But at least we are looking. Currently, SIG SAUER, Textron Systems, and General Dynamics are still in the running. Little is known about how things are going, though clues do occasionally pop up.
And some of what we see is borderline science fiction. General Dynamics entry uses a proprietary polymer case design, that would be a huge weight savings. Textron Systems is said to be fielding a cased telescoped round, which wouldn’t look out of place in the HALO franchise. And SIG has won so many DOD contracts as of late that only a fool would count them out.
All in all, this is going to be exciting to watch. Weapons evolve, whether we like it or not. If we always settled for good enough, we would still be using musket balls and cannons. Our guys deserve the best option available, whatever the price. If we can afford F-22 Raptors, we can certainly afford new rifles for the ground pounders. Get out the popcorn; it is going to be an interesting year.
The Air Force is moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions as well as larger-impact 2,000-pound bomb attacks for a “high-end” fight.
The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address an emerging sphere of threats, to include rival major powers such as Russia and China.
Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects are needed to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air strikes as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power.
Dialable Effects Munitions
The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.
“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” a recent Mitchell Institute. study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.
The study, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.
To reinforce this point, Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.
An excerpt from the report:
Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force — the “boom” — is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options.
Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.
Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.
“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”
For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.
Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect and detonation.
This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.
“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.
Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.
A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.
Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.
“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.
The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.
A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.
“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself — which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.
Russian and Chinese threats
Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.
“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight — requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions — with bigger effects,”
While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.
“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study writes.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Florida Times-Union’s military reporter, Joe Daraskevich, posted a video on Sept. 5, 2018, on his Twitter showing just HMS Queen Elizabeth (280m long) next to the slightly smaller USS Iwo Jima (257m):
Despite it being the biggest military ship in Mayport, HMS Queen Elizabeth is still topped by the largest US Navy carriers. USS Gerald R. Ford and USS George H.W. Bush are 337m and 332m long respectively.
Unlike its US counterparts, which have flat flight decks, HMS Queen Elizabeth has a “ski jump” ramp at one end, which will give the planes a little extra height when taking off.
Here’s a video of F-35s practicing on a ground-based replica of the ski jump:
Local TV station WJXT News said the ship would be in Mayport for a couple of days before heading north to Maryland. That base is on the Chesapeake Bay — around 62 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Here’s the Twitter post from their arrival in Mayport:
As it was arriving the band played a rendition of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.”
The deployment to the US is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years, since the decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal.
The F-35B jets will be flown from Naval Air Station Patuxent River by four pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.
In a statement, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s captain, Jerry Kyd, said: “Crossing a major ocean with 1.500 sailors, aircrew and Marines embarked and the anticipation of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all… this deployment demonstrates the astonishing collaborative effort that will enable the new F-35B jets to fly routinely from our Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.
The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.
About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, 2019, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December 2018.
NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain.
Coverage of the Expedition 59 crew’s launch and docking activities are as follows (all times EDT):
The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.
McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, 2019, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29, 2019 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8, 2019 spacewalk.
Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, 2019, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December 2018. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.
Troops stationed around the world don’t have very many options when it comes time to grab a quick bite to eat. Either they’re entirely at the whim of the dining facility (if they live in the barracks), they’ll grab something from one of the handful of fast-food chains (which aren’t the healthiest options), or they’ll go off-post (which could take a while).
Since cooking from home is almost always out of the question during short lunch breaks, most troops opt for the less-than-healthy options to save on more-than-limited time.
Chick-fil-A already has a working relationship with the military community, so this petition could make it official.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
The petition is geared towards convincing AAFES, which is privately-owned and operated, to include the chicken sandwich chain in their list of Name-Brand Fast Food (NBFF) Direct partners. Troops are drawn to the restaurant’s customer-first attitude, healthy food options, and generally positive reviews.
A Name-Brand Fast Food Direct partnership would allow Chick-fil-A to open franchises on military installations at no cost to the installation itself while allowing the franchise access to an entirely new demographic. Chick-fil-A’s just off-base tend to be packed during rush hour, so adding one on-base would mean wasting less time for troops. Additionally, the healthier options provided by Chick-fil-A would be an excellent alternative to fried foods. Gone would be the days of waiting thirty minutes for a greasy burger.
There’s no doubt that the demand is there. In just 5 days, the petition has reached 19,885 supporters, the poll on Military Times is at a whopping 98%, and comment sections throughout the veteran sphere have been overflowing with support.
Petitions are nice, but it’s all up to the all-mighty dollar to really make things like this move.
(Photo by Mike Mozart)
In all reality, there are countless other things that could (and probably should) be addressed before adding another fast-food restaurant to a military installation, as Military Times half-sarcastically pointed out. Any new restaurant on an installation would be swarmed by chicken-hungry troops, leaving everyone unwilling to wait to go to other on-base fast-food chains, like Subway, Burger King, or Popeyes (direct competitors of Chick-fil-A).
Also, as awesome as it is that almost 20,000 people have signed an online petition for something that they’re passionate about, that’s just not how government contracts work. Change.org is nice for getting a rough headcount, but the website’s track record for enacting actual change has been iffy.
It would be phenomenal if, by some miracle, Chick-fil-A does start opening up shops on military installations — just don’t get your hopes up too high.
For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.
Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”
The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.
Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.
(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”
Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”
Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.
Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”
Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”
Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer
A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.
“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.
“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.
Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.
“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.
And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.
And that has some analysts worried.
Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”
What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.
Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.
When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”
“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”
As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.
“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”
But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.
“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”
Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.
“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
The last of the Marine Corps‘ remaining EA-6B Prowlers have wrapped up their final mission in the Middle East, where they supported troops taking on the Islamic State group. Now, the electronic-warfare aircraft will soon be headed to the boneyard.
More than 250 members of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are returning to North Carolina after spending seven months operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The squadron — the last to fly the service’s decades-old electronic-warfare aircraft — is only about four months away from being deactivated.
But that didn’t slow the Death Jesters downrange, where they were tapped with supporting two campaigns simultaneously: Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
“The mission of the Prowler is and always has been to deny, degrade and disrupt the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Robert Ryland, an electronic-countermeasures officer with VMAQ-2. Being based in Qatar, he added, allowed them to respond to missions for both operations.
Ryland declined to specify how many flight hours the crews flew throughout the deployment, due to operational security concerns. But the operational tempo remained high throughout the deployment, he said.
A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
“The presence of electronic warfare is extremely important to the supported unit,” he said. “Though this is the final EA-6B deployment, the need for electronic warfare will remain high worldwide in the future.”
The Marines were called on to support not only U.S. ground troops, but coalition forces as well. From planning missions to executing them, the squadron worked with troops from several countries.
“There were a lot of people on this deployment who’ve dedicated their entire lives to this aircraft, its community and most importantly, the electronic-warfare mission,” Ryland said.
The end of an era
The Prowler has been a part of the Marine Corps’ aviation arsenal since the Vietnam era. The aircraft has been vital on the battlefield, since, including during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in the fight against ISIS terrorists.
Seeing the Prowler used all the way up until its sundown says a lot about its capabilities, said 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the aircraft’s age, Ryland said the Marines with VMAQ-2 were able to maintain high readiness throughout this final deployment.
“There’s sometimes a bit of a misconception that old equals having a hard time getting jets airborne, but that’s actually not the case with the Prowler,” he said.
Ryland credits their skilled maintainers, who’ve worked on Prowlers for a long time. Some joined VMAQ-2 when other Prowler squadrons deactivated.
Now as VMAQ-2 prepares to deactivate, too, the Marines with this squadron are on the lookout for new opportunities. Some will transition to other Marine Corps aircraft, join a different branch, or leave the military when their service time is up, Ryland said.
“Everybody has their own personal plan for what they’ll do next,” Ryland said.
Lt. Col. Greg Sand, EA-6B requirements officer with Marine Corps headquarters, told Military.com in 2017 that the Prowler’s sunset wouldn’t force anyone out of the Marine Corps.
Three EA-6B Prowlers.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
If Marines weren’t selected to transfer to work on another aircraft, he said they could always serve in B-billets or support their headquarters. And some with EA-6B aircrews were also transitioning to work with drone squadrons, he said.
Despite the end of the Prowlers’ era, the need for electronic-warfare capabilities on the battlefield isn’t going away. Throughout the aircraft’s sundown process, Stephenson said the Marine Corps has been building up a suite of new electronic-warfare capabilities across the Marine air-ground task force.
According to Marine Corps planning documents, that includes pods or sensors that can be affixed to other aircraft and new signals intelligence and cyber capabilities.
“This will be the new way the Marine Corps plans to transition from utilizing the Prowlers to a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes and functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer and [includes] an EW node,” Stephenson said.
Marine units heading to sea or combat are already carrying some of those capabilities, Sand said. They offer commanders a great deal of flexibility, since they can be added to fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“A MAGTF commander can just walk out onto a flightline now, see the asset, and he or she owns that asset and can task that asset,” Sand said.
And Marine ground troops will still be able to call on joint forces when they need airborne electronic attack capabilities, he added.
“The Prowler in practical terms has been replaced in additional capacities by the Navy [EA-18G] Growler,” Sand said. “That’s a Super Hornet … with a pretty fierce EW capability. The Growler really is the follow-on to the Prowler.”
For now, VMAQ-2 still has a few months of work left before the Prowlers’ final flights. When the squadron does get ready to say goodbye to its beloved aircraft in March 2019, Ryland says they’ll hold a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Any Marine who worked with the Prowler, whether a year or decades ago, is invited to attend.
“The Prowler has been a really incredible workhorse for the Marine Corps, the United States and allied forces for many, many decades,” Ryland said. “I know the people who fly and fix these aircraft have a lot of respect for them and certainly for those who came before us.
“There is a tremendous amount of hard work and training that goes into performing the Prowler mission,” he added. “It’s a great honor, every time I get to fly in one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.
Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.
That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.
What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.
Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.
How did the new coronavirus get into people?
The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.
Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.
Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.
A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.
Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.
For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.
New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.
Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.
Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.
What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?
Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.
The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.
A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.
Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.
Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.
What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?
First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.
The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.
Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.
Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.
What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?
Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.
Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.
One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.
Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.
Why do young people face the least risk of dying?
On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.
Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.
It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.
Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”
One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.
Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.
Can you get reinfected?
The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”
There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.
Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.
Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.
A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.
Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.
How seasonal is the coronavirus?
Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.
An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.
But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.
Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.
Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?
There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.
Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.
Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?
Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.
Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.
The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.
Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.
What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?
It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.
Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.
While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.
“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.
“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”
Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.
According to the capabilities of a Finnish fire-suppression system, maybe so.
That system is called HI-FOG, developed by the Marioff Corporation. According to official handouts, the system doesn’t use halon gas, but instead uses water in a unique fashion to suppress fires. The system creates a fine mist of water, with droplets as small as 50 microns across.
The HI-FOG fire-suppression system creates a mist of water where the particles are as small as 50 microns.
This changes the game in a few important ways. Halon gas knocks out fires, but has been out of production since 1994. You see, halon is a chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, and CFCs were banned to protect the ozone layer. That’s great news for the environment, but when people desperately need a non-toxic way to quickly snuff out a fire in a confined area (like a submarine), they’re mostly out of luck.
The fine water mist is designed to do the same thing as halon used to: knock out fires quickly. Using a mist of water brings about other benefits, namely the ability to replenish supply with seawater when necessary. The system also allows crews to stay in the compartment as the mist is dispensed to carry out damage control measures.
The system’s pumps can be operated by either a gas generator or electrical power. While we will never be able to know for sure whether this system could have saved the crew of ARA San Juan, it is safe to say it would have given them a fighting chance.
Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.
The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.
Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.
(Fars News Agency Photo)
President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.
In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.
The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.
Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.
Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.
And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.
James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.