While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.
That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.
“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.
The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.
Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.
The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.
“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”
“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.
“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”
The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.
The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.
“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.
The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.
The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.
Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.
The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”
“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”
The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”
“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.
Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.
The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.
“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”
The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.
But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.
“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”
Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has taken steps to fully integrate women into all positions in its formations. Last month, the Army announced female infantry and armor Soldiers will integrate into the last nine brigade combat teams by the end of the year. In light of these initiatives and the open-mindedness of my leadership, I competed for and served as a light infantry brigade assistant S2 and, more importantly, an infantry battalion S2, a position open to women since 2014.
Gender integration has had its challenges but in my experience, leaders at all levels are trying to embrace this evolution. It is not unusual for a group of officers to experience awkward initial counseling sessions with their maneuver commander wherein the commander overemphasizes their support of female integration directly to the one female officer in the room. Although it may seem uncomfortable for all parties involved, these maneuver officers are still learning and while it may not be perfect, at least they’re trying..
However, even with the best of intentions, military leaders occasionally make decisions that inadvertently segregate women, leading to the unintended consequence of isolating them from their units.. This article addresses how a commander’s simple decision on troop billeting can have an adverse impact, and how commanders and leaders can more successfully lead gender-integrated teams.
The female tent: A flawed good intention
When a unit deploys to a Combat Training Center (CTC), Soldiers are housed in “tent city” while conducting Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI), Leaders are responsible for allocating tents, ensuring they account for all personnel on the ground. Sometimes as an afterthought, someone asks the question “Where is the female tent?”
The idea that women require their own tent is an antiquated tradition that many senior leaders (and often junior leaders) have yet to break from and likely causes more harm than good . This issue may initially seem benign within the context of integrating women into combat arms units. After all, it’s “just” a tent, it is only temporary, and you only go there to sleep and then show up to the next formation. This issue is about much more than a tent. The decisions leaders make can help or hinder their ability to build a cohesive team that sees beyond gender.
The female tent exists mainly as a safety precaution to protect the female Soldier population. Sexual assault and harassment continues to be a large issue in the military. However, as we look deeper into the effects of gender-segregated tents, we will start to identify how our separate treatment of genders only exacerbates the issue. Studies in the past decade, including one conducted on the Norwegian Army’s Unisex living spaces in 2014, concluded that integrating genders for training and in living quarters increased team cohesion between genders by breaking the “us versus them” mentality, decreased sexual harassment and assault claims, and made gender difference less significant. Instead of training separate teams of male and female Soldiers, the integrated training and living arrangements created teams of Soldiers comprised of men and women.
The segregation of women from their platoon, company, or battalion leads to them missing critical events, and team building and bonding built during times of uncertainty when leaders make decisions and plans change. The female tent creates an additional barrier to communication where a portion of the unit does not receive updates on the evolving operational conditions because men and women are hesitant to enter each other’s tent to get information. Women show up to meetings being caught off guard by changes in the plan that were made among the male officers at 2300 but failed to make it back to the female battalion staff lead because they forgot, they figured it could wait, or it was too inconvenient to send a runner to inform them of the change. This communication barrier creates an overall disadvantage to the commander who now has a population in the formation that is unable to inform the decision-making process and in the end hinders the unit in achieving mission success.
More importantly, the female tent denies female Soldiers equal access to the esprit de corps and cohesiveness building reality of shared accommodation, and often imposes a gender divide on teams. In the end, this causes women to miss the stories told in their team, invitations to the gym, and group meals. They miss the inside jokes and become an outsider in their own unit. They struggle to get to know their unit and their unit struggles to bring them into the fold. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of damaging isolation that most women do not want, but are forced to endure.
How do we fight the female tent?
1. Prioritize mission success over comfort. Key to mission success is enabling your commander’s ability to exercise command and control over the formation. The female tent takes women of different ranks across the formation and puts them in one tent geographically separated from their organic teams. We, in turn, hindered multiple leaders’ ability to lead effectively by complicating the flow of communication, reducing ability to receive feedback from a select population, and decreasing the flexibility of a unit to rapidly adapt and execute operations. The female tent becomes more unfeasible as we integrate more women into company commander, executive officer, and platoon leader positions in combat arms formations.
As leaders in charge of planning training events, we need to focus on how to enable mission success. In 2018, my light infantry brigade had one battalion commander, one command sergeant major, two brigade staff primaries, five brigade staff senior NCOs, at least one battalion staff primary officer or NCO per battalion, and five company commanders or first sergeants who were women. That equaled 20 leaders at the company level and above that were integral to the brigade’s success at our CTC rotation. Since then, the number of female leaders in today’s brigade combat team continues to increase.
Focusing on mission success means all leaders are able to be with their Soldiers through all aspects of a training environment. Integrated tents allow leaders to better take care of their Soldiers because they are together in one place where they can monitor the well-being of each Soldier as the unit goes through stressful training exercises. It allows leaders to identify and address sexism issues in their ranks because they can monitor the interactions among all of their Soldiers.In a segregated environment, leaders may not be present when their female Soldiers are harassed while they are isolated in separate areas. Integrated tents build better teams that communicate more effectively, provide feedback to their commanders, and react quicker to rapid changes because they are a cohesive unit that treats everyone as a valued member of the team.
2. Use informal leadership. As described in ADP 6-22 Army Leadership, part of informal leadership is taking the initiative to advise formal leaders on decisions based on previous experience or expertise. Informal leadership takes initiative and some courage, because it usually involves an individual speaking up to leaders who outrank them. In one experience at a CTC exercise, my company leadership was trying to remove the female Soldiers from our unit’s tent because the brigade’s designated female tent did not have enough females in it. A female lieutenant I supervised looked at me with disappointment and asked me if there was anything I could do to stop it. I decided to work with another female captain located in our company to make it clear to our leadership that we did not want to leave our sections to live in a separate tent. The company leadership relented but not without some offhand remarks about how we were an inconvenience.
After that experience, the female officers made it a point to teach our staff sections how the separation of women into female tents affects women because our male peers honestly did not understand. How could they? In their military career, they never had to be separated from their team because of their gender. The effort we made to stay in the tent was worth it because our section became a more cohesive team and it was a leadership opportunity that enabled us to discuss a gender issue with our male counterparts that they will never experience firsthand. Informal leadership is a powerful tool that leaders can use to prevent segregation in their units, regardless of gender.
3. Be comfortable asking “What’s best for the team?” You may not know all the right answers when it comes to how best to integrate women and that’s okay. It is a learning process for everyone. What Soldiers do not want to hear is what one of my peers told me as he shrugged his shoulders, “We forgot to account for you guys (for bed space). Sorry, I’m infantry.” Instead, leaders should exercise humility and ask their female peers or subordinates for input. More often than not, they have been through these situations multiple times and they will appreciate your willingness to learn about how best you can assist your formation. It is as simple as something an infantry major once said to me, “I’m new to this. Do I need to make special accommodations for you or do you feel comfortable staying with the unit?” Yes, it can feel awkward to ask, but there is a certain amount of respect you gain when you open yourself up to learning how best to ensure everyone feels like a valued member of the team.
If a living situation is poorly planned or seems like it may be an issue, present the options. “We can let you stay in the open bay with the males and everyone will just use their sleeping bags or the latrines to change, or we can cordon off an area in the bay for privacy so that we can keep you with the team.”
4. Keep everyone in the loop. Sometimes it is inevitable to be forced to split your unit into gender-specific tents, especially while traveling through different locations with transient barracks or if the final decision is made above your level. When this happens, it is important to take steps prior to the unit splitting apart to make sure that the isolated personnel stay in the loop. Leaders should develop a clear communication plan and battle rhythm to distribute information. It is imperative to ensure inclusiveness of the isolated population for both work- and social-related events. If a squad goes to eat together, it is the responsibility of that squad and team leader to include the female squad members. If a platoon is tasked for a working party, the platoon sergeant needs to get everyone involved in helping. If the battalion staff needs to talk through some minor decisions, make the effort to get those female staff officers involved. It can be demoralizing to hear the stories of what someone missed because no one bothered to let her know what the unit was doing.
It’s a learning process
Gender integration will continue to be a learning process for the military. To build better integrated teams, units need to train, eat, and sleep in harsh environments together. As leaders, we are responsible for making decisions that enable mission success, providing feedback on gender integration, and remaining open to new ways to improve integration. No part of ADP 6-0 Mission Command and ADP 6-22 Army Leadership suggests that any type of segregation is good for the Army. Segregation of any type creates resentment, isolation, and ultimately an unsafe environment for everyone. Instead, leaders need to focus on building cohesive teams based on mutual trust, and unit integrity through shared hardship is essential to that cohesion. We should be able to reach solutions that allow all Soldiers, regardless of gender, to feel like an equal member of the team and trust that they can depend on each other for anything.
Captain Ashley Barber is a military intelligence officer currently serving in the 10th Mountain Division G2. She has previously served in MI brigades and IBCTs (LI). She completed her KD time in 2/10 IBCT (LI) as the brigade AS2 and the 2-87 Infantry Battalion S2 through iterations of LTP, JRTC, and a deployment to Afghanistan.
As anti-ISIS forces retake Mosul and march on Raqqa, more and more of the terror group’s mystique is falling away. It’s hard to be the international bogeyman when your forces are suffering defeats across your caliphate.
But one of ISIS’s most prominent battlefield weapons is still deadly frightening, the armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. While VBIEDs were already common in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS upped the ante by creating especially effective armored versions and then employing them like artillery — softening their enemy’s lines and breaking up attacks.
For the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and other anti-ISIS forces, understanding these weapons is a matter of life or death. But typically, the weapons are destroyed before they can be captured, either because the soldiers hit it with a rocket, tank, or artillery round, or because the operator triggers his explosive cargo.
This makes it relatively rare that a suicide vehicle is captured intact. But there have been a few, and Sky News got the chance to tour one of these captured vehicles during the Iraqi military’s initial punch into Mosul.
The vehicle, captured by Kurdish Peshmerga, had been heavily modified with the removal of any unnecessary weight, the addition of thick, heavy armor, and the installation of a massive amount of explosives.
See the full tour of the vehicle in the video below:
The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.
Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.
ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.
ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.
Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”
As the United States continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government has passed legislation that will send stimulus checks to most tax paying Americans, including military families.
These stimulus checks are a part of a massive $2 trillion effort to not only assist Americans who are financially struggling amidst this time of layoffs, furloughs, and social isolation, but also to inject funding directly into businesses around America that are continuing to employ people throughout this chaotic time.
The payments heading directly to American families in the coming weeks are projected to reach nine out of 10 households in the country, which means military families can count on receiving these payments despite the military itself not suffering the same sorts of layoffs and reduced employment found elsewhere in the nation. This money can be used to help offset lost spouse income, the cost of buying essential cleaning materials, and the cost of being stuck in your homes on base or elsewhere.
Service members that are suffering financial hardship as a result of being caught between duty stations while executing orders at the time of the Pentagon’s stop-movement order are eligible for other financial assistance provided through the Defense Department. Those payment have nothing to do with the coronavirus stimulus checks the Treasury Department will soon be sending.
So who, exactly, is eligible for a stimulus payment and how much can they expect to receive? We break it all down below.
How much will I receive in my coronavirus stimulus check?
Stimulus payments are based on the recipient’s adjusted gross income, so the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to Americans that are most in need. It’s important to note that basic entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) are not included in your family’s adjusted gross income. Only taxable income (basic pay) is taken into account for tax purposes.
You can find up to date info on the IRS webpage here.
Coronavirus stimulus payments include:
A maximum id=”listicle-2645620124″,200 per adult
Up to ,400 for couples who make up to ,000
An additional 0 per each child that is 16 or younger
However, at a certain income level, the payments begin to reduce until a certain point, in which they stop completely.
Those who make over ,000 per year individually will see payments reduced by for each 0 in their Adjusted Gross Income over the ,000 cap.
Individuals who make over ,000 per year will not receive a payment
Couples filing jointly who make more than 8,00 per year will not receive a payment
Those who file as “head of household” will not receive a payment if their income is about 2,500 per year
Dependent adults are not eligible for a payment, including college aged children and adults with disabilities
How does the government know how much money I make or how many kids I have?
The Treasury Department will be using 2018 tax returns to assess income level and dependents, as well as the direct deposit information for those who have it in order to deposit the stimulus checks.
What if my income was above ,000 in 2018, but has since dropped?
These payments are really just an advanced tax credit, so even if you don’t receive a payment because your 2018 taxes showed you as ineligible, you can still receive it as part of your tax return when you file your 2020 taxes.
Do I have to sign up or fill out forms to receive my stimulus payment?
As long as the IRS already has your bank account information from your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, all you have to do is sit and wait for the check to hit your account. However, if you have not yet filed your 2018 taxes, the IRS encourages you to do so as soon as you can, otherwise your payment may be delayed.
The IRS said that they will be building a portal to change direct deposit information in the coming weeks.
As long as you meet the income requirements and have a social security number, you will still receive the payment regardless of where you are stationed.
Will I have to pay taxes on the stimulus payment?
No, these payments are technically considered a tax credit.
What if I don’t have direct deposit established for my taxes?
Your payment will come to you the same way a tax refund would, so if you don’t have a direct deposit account established with the IRS, the check will be mailed to you at the address listed on your tax return.
The new trailer for Godzilla: King of Monsters came out and, like other Godzilla movies of the last twenty years, it has one fundamental mistake: it has nothing to do with the extensive lore behind Godzilla and the large cast of supporting (and opposing) monsters.
On one hand, that’s exciting. A fresh take on giant monster fights might be exactly what the Godzilla series needs — and we’re sure it’ll be worth the popcorn money. But on the other hand, it’s a shame that the newer Godzilla films have all moved away from their original, more nuanced meanings.
If you go back and rewatch the original films by Ishiro Honda, in addition to a skyscraper-sized brawl, you’ll get a snapshot of Japan’s post-war foreign relations — if you can properly assemble the metaphors.
You can understand why a McCarthy-era America would tone down the Anti-American sentiment, even if it was delivered through the lens of a giant monster.
First, let’s take it all the way back to 1954’s Godzilla. To be clear, we’re not talking about the Americanized version, which was heavily censored. Instead, we’re talking about the Criterion Collection version, which keeps the original dialogue, strictly translated, and the metaphor very much intact.
For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a summary: Godzilla is a monster, created by American nuclear weapons, that destroys Japanese cities. The film was made just nine years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seven years after U.S. troops established dominance over the islands and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (the no-armed-forces clause) was enacted.
This context is dramatically underplayed in subsequent films, but the key to understanding the original, unaltered version. Still don’t get it? Godzilla is the American military.
Kinda puts the Godzilla Versus… films into a whole new light when you piece together the metaphors.
While Godzilla once reflected the horrors of nuclear weapons and their wielders, his character arc shifts vastly in the dozens of Godzilla films that followed.
Godzilla later started aiding the people of Japan against other Kaiju (Japanese for “strange beast”) and became a beloved icon. It’s no coincidence that these films cropped up as the Japanese public warmed up to the benefits of the Japan-America Security Alliance. During the Cold War, other nations like the Soviet Union, Communist China, and North Korea started muscling Japan, but America’s presence was enough to keep Japan safe.
Mothra, a giant, moth-like creature, was at first a villain, but became a good guy after the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea passed. Rodan, a giant pterodactyl beast, debuted around the time Soviet aggression over the Kuril Islands, when the Russians made liberal use of flybys. The arrival of King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, just so happened to coincide with China’s development of nuclear weapons and the other two communist countries in Asia, North Korea and North Vietnam, taking aggressive stances against Japan.
The secret metaphor behind the American 1994 reboot of Godzilla? That we don’t understand metaphors…
Godzilla, like the United States, was once a hostile, unstoppable force that became the protector of post-war Japan. This metaphor shines through all of the classic movies.
Unfortunately, this metaphor was lost after the Cold War and the subsequent films became simple cash-grabs. So, if you’re looking forward to a fun, explosive, high-stakes action flick, the newest Godzilla is right up your alley. If you’re looking for a little bit of social commentary with your giant monster, revisit the classics.
After creating successful inventions like the mouse trap and the curling iron, inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim would construct a device so lethal, every country couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
In 1883, Maxim was enjoying an afternoon of shooting his rifle with his friends in Savannah, Georgia, when an idea literally hit him. As Maxim was firing, the recoil was continuously jabbing into his shoulder causing him discomfort and fatigue.
Then it suddenly occurred to him, use one problem to fix the another.
Maxim went to his workshop and drew up plans that would allow the force of the rifle’s recoil to reload the weapon automatically. He discovered that when the round his fired, the bolt can be pushed backward by the recoil. When the barrel is then pushed forward by a spring, it will discharge the spent shell and chambering another round without assistance.
Thus the Maxim machine gun was born.
With his latest creation in hand, Maxim found himself in the machine gun business and on his way to London to released his newest invention.
After his arrival and a few widespread publicity stunts, his machine gun made a serious impact around the world with countries preparing to enter World War I.
Although many men were training with bolt action rifles and fixed bayonets, those who were in the company of the Maxim machine gun without a doubt had the upper hand.
With 2020 finally in the rearview, we can take a moment to reflect on some of the notable public figures we lost. The year saw a lot of famous people pass away, some to COVID-19, some to natural causes, and others to tragedy. While their fame came from careers in music, sports, arts, and entertainment, here are 10 celebrities you probably never knew were veterans.
Known lovingly as “the hardest-working man in show business,” Regis Philbin gained international fame as the host of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Known for his friendly demeanor and natural gift of banter, Philbin — Regis to his fans — led a long television career. Before his start in television, he earned a degree in sociology from Notre Dame. Upon graduating, he accepted a commission in the United States Navy and served as a supply officer on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado from 1953 to 1955. Philbin, who still holds the Guinness World Record for the most hours on US television, died of heart disease in July 2020.
Considered the Mark Twain of songwriting, John Prine is heralded as one of the greatest American singer-songwriters of all time. His lengthy career as a musician was preceded by a stint in the US Army. Prine was drafted during the Vietnam War but spent his service in Germany “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.” Following his service Prine began his musical career, earning the respect of musical giants such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Prine holds the unique honor of being the first singer to be invited to perform at the Library of Congress. He is the winner of two Grammys as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award, and is currently up for two more Grammys. Prine died from COVID-19 in April 2020.
Sean Connery was the first actor to portray the fictional spy James Bond, and many would argue he has yet to be surpassed in that role. Before he starred as 007 and in notable movies like The Untouchables, The Rock, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Hunt for Red October, Connery was a sailor. Born in Scotland, he enlisted in the Royal Navy at the age of 16. He served aboard the HMS Formidable from 1946 to 1949. At the time of his death in October 2020, Connery was an Oscar winner, a Golden Globe winner, and a knight.
Science fiction and fantasy fans will recognize Ian Holm for his roles in Alien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Holm was born in England in 1931 and began his acting career early. His career in the arts was briefly suspended following World War II when he was called upon for National Service. Holm served in Austria where he attained the rank of lance corporal. After several years in the British Army, Holm picked up his acting career, eventually starring in movies such as Chariots of Fire, Hamlet, The Fifth Element, and The Aviator. Holm died in June 2020 of Parkinson’s disease.
The man known the world over for pronouncing diabetes as “diabeetus” had a long acting career before the infamous health commercials. Brimley was a character actor remembered for roles in The China Syndrome, The Thing, Cocoon, and The Natural. Before his giant mustache ever graced the silver screen, Brimley served in the US Marine Corps. He dropped out of high school in order to enlist during the Korean War. Brimley spent his entire enlistment in the Aleutian Islands and attained the rank of sergeant before being honorably discharged.
The voice behind hits like “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” was plagued with a stutter early in life. Bill Withers, the three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, enlisted in the US Navy at age 17. It was during his nine years of service as a sailor that Withers was able to overcome his speech impediment and begin singing publicly. Following his death in March 2020, Withers was awarded the Lone Sailor Award for naval veterans who have used their time in service to lead successful post-military careers.
Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver holds a record shared with only one other pitcher for having 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and an earned run average under 3. One of the greatest players to ever play the game of baseball, Seaver also served eight years in the US Marine Corps Reserve. Seaver spent his active time aboard Marine Corps base Twentynine Palms as a basic supply man. Following his military service, Seaver played on four Major League Baseball teams.
Starring in films like Anchorman and Best in Show, Fred Willard was a comedic actor best known for his off-color jokes. Prior to a career in comedy, Willard attended the Kentucky Military Institute. Upon graduating, Willard served in the US Army and was stationed in Germany. He went on to have a successful career in both film and television.
Jerry Stiller is best known for his roles on sitcoms Seinfeld and The King of Queens as well as being half of the comedy duo Stiller and Meara with his wife of 60 years, Anne Meara. His successful acting career often depicted him in fatherly roles, but he is also known for being the actual father of comedy legend Ben Stiller. Before hitting it big in comedy, he served in the US Army during World War II, stationed primarily in Italy, where he claimed to have spent most of his time playing football. Stiller left the service and used the GI Bill to become one of the first people to earn a degree in speech and drama from Syracuse University. He died in May 2020 and will be remembered for a career that covered the stage, film, and television.
Whitey Ford, aka “The Chairman of the Board,” spent 16 years playing for the New York Yankees. By the time he retired from baseball he was a 10-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. In 1951, after two years as a promising rookie for the Yankees, Ford left the Major League to serve in the US Army during the Korean War. Following his enlistment, Ford returned to the Yankees and went on to make baseball history. Ford pitched 45 shutouts and holds the record of fourth-best winning percentage in all of baseball.
While 2020 saw a long list of celebrities pass away, these are a few who chose to serve their country before, or even after, they were famous. A more complete record includes Kirk Douglas, Carl Reiner, Brian Dennehy, Don Shula, Joe Louis Clark, and Billy Joe Shaver. The seemingly endless list just goes to show how many Americans still value service to the nation, and more importantly how time spent serving others can help prepare for a life pursuing other ventures. You never know how many people standing on stage, taking the pitcher’s mound, or wielding a paintbrush once donned a uniform. Each of the celebrities on this list made history in their own right but remained humble about their military careers, leaving many fans unaware they ever served.
The awards that decorate a troop’s dress uniform have meaning. If a troop does something extraordinary, there are plenty of awards they might earn, depending on the specific heroics. There are medals for more mundane actions, as well. If they serve at a specific location, like going overseas or even to Antarctica, in support of a military campaign, they’re likely to earn a medal. Enlisting at a certain time during conflict adds the National Defense Service Medal to your ribbons rack. However, there’s one award that sticks out as ridiculous — the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM).
All that’s required by this medal is that a troop (active duty, reserve, or national guard) performs a substantial volunteer service to the local community. The idea behind establishing the award in 1993 was to incentivize troops to do great deeds that would reflect highly on military service. In reality, it’s often seen as just another box to check.
We’re not disparaging charitable action, especially when it shines a good light on military service, but here’s why the award itself is silly.
5. The Humanitarian Service Medal already exists
The Humanitarian Service Medal is given to troops who participate in acts like disaster relief or the evacuation of refugees from a hostile area. The difference between this medal and the MOVSM is that this one is earned while on duty.
The HSM goes to the troops who were sent, let’s say, to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The MOVSM, however, might go to the troop who helped put together a few potluck dinners. Both are the reward for doing a good deed but, according to the military, both nearly as prestigious as the other…
…which leads troops to not care about helping. (Image via GIPHY)
4. The criteria for earning one is vague
Every other award has clean-cut requirements. Have you been to this location or not? How does this act of heroism compare to other selfless acts? Were you able to be a good troop for three years or at least not get caught? This medal is an exception.
If a troop spends every weekend for a decade helping train the Boy Scouts, that’s a Volunteer Service Medal. If a troop says, “yeah, I got time. I can help you with that.” That act might be just as worthy, according to the nebulous criteria.
3. Standards range from impossible to non-existent
Many units see this award as ridiculous and put unreasonable restrictions on it. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, to earn the MOVSM, one must exceed 3 years and/or 500 hours of service. Many times, a unit will ask for a proof-of-hours sheet that highlights how each of those hours was spent.
On the other side of the coin, the only definitive requirement — as outlined by the DoD — is that the good deed has tangible results and is not a single act. Many troops can tell you that they’ve earned this act simply by preparing and then attending a charity event. Boom. Instant award. Meanwhile, the Soldier who became his son’s Scout Leader has two years, 11 months, and three weeks to go to earn the same accolade.
Chances are that it’ll still get denied. (Image via GIPHY)
2. There’s no citation
The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is still a service medal. The award gets put in and, if it’s approved, the troop receives it. A commendation medal, on the other hand, is reflective of a specific, heroic action.
Technically speaking, there doesn’t need to be a formation and award ceremony for a MOVSM. The troop should just add it to their record and move on.
No need to waste everyone’s time with a BS award. (Image via GIPHY)
1. You can do the paperwork yourself and not need proof
By now, you’re probably already thinking about this point. If all that’s required is an hours sheet, how can you make sure a troop actually did what they claim? You can’t, really.
Troops who make a habit of volunteering, time and time again, over the course of three years are clearly not doing it for a single award worth five promotion points. They genuinely care. The guy who put on a couple of community potlucks doesn’t care about the volunteer service — they’re in it for the pat on the back.
Without a uniform standard on how to earn one, the award means almost nothing.
You don’t need to confess. Just know if you lied to get one, you suck. (Image via GIPHY)
U.S. Army units have reported about 3,000 M4 carbines have failed a safety inspection because of a potential glitch in the selector switch that could lead to unintended discharges, Military.com has learned.
The Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch was stuck in-between the semi and auto detents. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.
As of June 1, 2018, TACOM has received reports on about 50,000 weapons put through the updated functions check. Of that number, “about six percent,” or 3,000 weapons, failed, R. Slade Walters, a spokesman for TACOM, told Military.com.
Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.
In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.
In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.
When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.
He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.
Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?
The German scarface.
British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)
Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.
Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.
Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.
On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”
In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.
Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.
During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”
Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.
Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.
The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)
Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.
Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)
Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.
The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.
On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.
Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria Wiener–Neustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.
Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.
What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.
On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.
That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”
Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.
In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.
There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.
The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.
However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.
The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.
General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.
The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.
To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.
He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.
A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.
Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.
Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.
But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.
Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”
“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.
“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.
Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.
“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.
“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.
Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.
Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.
Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.
But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.
More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.
The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.
Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.
But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.
More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.
It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.
When the Stryker family of combat vehicles was developed and produced in the 1990s and 2000s, it was very diverse. There were many variants of the original M1128 made to fulfill a swath of roles, including command and control, medical evacuation, anti-tank, reconnaissance, and more. However, due to warfighting requirements of the time, one variant was never developed: an anti-air Stryker.
The Stryker performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much so that the Army chose to equip the 2nd Cavalry Regiment with this vehicle. The problem, of course, is that looming, near-peer threats — primarily Russia — are not al-Qaeda or the Taliban. So, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment has been getting better Stryker-based vehicles to address a potentially more sophisticated threat. One such variant is the rapidly-fielded M1296 Stryker Dragoon, which gives the infantry fighting vehicle a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. Now, yet another new vehicle will join the force.
A soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, looks into the distance at a drone, the target of crews for their annual two-week training, while a stinger missile is fired from the Avenger weapon system, at Onslow Beach March 15, 2013. (US Army photo)
According to a report by Defense News, the Stryker will be the basis for an interim short-range air-defense (SHORAD) solution for the Army. We took a look at one version of this vehicle last year, developed by Boeing and General Dynamics. This version was armed with AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun.
Currently, the Army’s short-range air-defense needs are filled by M1097 Avengers, which are high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles equipped with a turret that holds eight FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and an M3 .50-caliber machine gun. The Army had also deployed the M6 Bradley Linebacker, a version of the Bradley that replaced the standard launcher that holds two BGM-71 TOW missiles with one that holds four FIM-92 Stingers. The Linebackers, however, were converted to regular infantry fighting vehicles in 2006, according to Army-Technology.com.
The first of the Stryker-based air-defense vehicles are slated to enter service in 2020, but they may not be alone. The Army is also rushing to field more Avengers in Europe, refurbishing several dozens that were previously awaiting disposal in Pennsylvania.