America's most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag - We Are The Mighty
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America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Lockheed Martin


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag.

The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.

Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.

In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Lockheed Martin

The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.

As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.

“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
US Air Force

One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.

Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”

According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
US Air Force

The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Lockheed Martin

Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.

The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.

IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.

Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.

The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.

Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Lockheed Martin

Here’s the full report from the Department of Defense

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s first black female three-star grew up an orphan

Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general in 2016, and she was later promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.


West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.

“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”

According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.

As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.

West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the full joint statement from the US-North Korea summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance and overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

June 12, 2018

Sentosa Island

Singapore

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

Articles

The Pentagon paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million to ‘salute troops’

 


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret/US Army

The NFL reportedly accepted millions of dollars from the defense department over the course of three years in exchange for honoring troops and veterans before games, the New Jersey Star Ledger reports.

The Pentagon reportedly signed contracts with 14 NFL teams — including the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens — between 2011-2012 stipulating that teams would be paid sums ranging from $60,000-$1 million each (in federal taxpayer money) to pause before the start of games and salute the city’s “hometown heroes,” according to nj.com. 

Agreements also include advertising on stadium screens and sideline ‘Coaches Club’ seats for soldiers.

Congress and the President recently imposed strict caps on military spending as part of an austere new budget.

The military has defended the funding it provides to the NFL, stating that it is an effective recruitment tool for soldiers.

“Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks,” National Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty told nj.com, referring to the $377,000 the Jets received from the Jersey Guard between 2011-2014.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/USN

Other teams that received taxpayer funds include the Cincinnati Bengals ($138,960) Cleveland Browns ($22,500), the Green Bay Packers ($600,000), Pittsburgh Steelers, ($36,000) Minnesota Vikings ($605,000), Atlanta Falcons ($1,049,500), Buffalo Bills ($679,000), Dallas Cowboys ($62,500), Miami Dolphins ($20,000), and St. Louis Rams ($60,000), according to a nj.com breakdown.

New Jersey senator Joe Pennachhio has since called for the teams to donate the money to charity.

“If these teams want to really honor our veterans and service members they should be making these patriotic overtures out of gratitude for free,” Pennachhio told nj.com. “And the millions of dollars that have already been billed to taxpayers should be donated to veterans’ organizations.”

The payments are being criticized by some who say that the practice is not only unethical, but also hypocritical — citing a renewed focus on integrity and transparency, the NFL fined the New England Patriots $1 million and suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the team’s alleged role in deflating footballs before games.

Many fans are aware that the NFL is a leading recruitment tool for the military — the National Guard advertisements displayed on stadium screens are clearly sponsored content.

But few fans know that the defense department is funneling taxpayer money into the NFL in exchange for veteran tributes.

“The public believes they’re doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told the Star Ledger. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

North Korea’s monstrous new ICBM is America’s latest nuclear headache

Seriously 2020, what next?

At a military parade on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Korean Workers Party, North Korea unveiled a new and massive intercontinental ballistic missile, which arms experts say may be capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the US homeland.


Experts say the new North Korean ICBM is probably called the Hwasong-16. Measuring some 82 to 85 feet in length, about 9 feet in diameter, and likely weighing between 220,000 and 330,000 pounds at launch, it’s the world’s largest mobile missile, according to an Oct. 10 assessment from 38 North, a North Korea-focused intelligence and analysis website.

The 38 North authors estimate the new ICBM, which is an upgrade of the existing Hwasong-15 missile, could “in principle” deliver a payload of 4,400 to 7,700 pounds “to any point in the continental United States.”

North Korea also reportedly unveiled a new solid-fuel, submarine-launched missile at Saturday’s parade. Yet, the massive, liquid-fueled, road-mobile ICBM is what caught the eye of US officials and nuclear arms experts, sparking concerns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might try to exploit this new weapon to extort diplomatic concessions from the US.

“It’s not clear why the North Koreans invested in huge missiles. All I can think of is that they are replicating those parts of the old Soviet ICBM force that worried us the most in the 1970s and 1980s, and hope to get some kind of favorable reaction from us, something that will make us trade something [North Korea] wants, such as international recognition and lifting of sanctions, in exchange for getting rid of the missiles,” Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, arms control expert, and former chief scientist of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo by Lokman Karadag via Twitter.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal comprises some 30 to 40 weapons and enough fissile material on hand for six or seven more, according to the Arms Control Association. A US government study in 2017 estimated that North Korea’s production of weapons-grade material may be enough to build some 12 nuclear weapons a year.

“An unexpected ‘super heavy’ ICBM would be a classically Khrushchevian statement of North Korea’s technical prowess, the robustness of its ability to threaten the US, and the permanence of its nuclear weapons status,” wrote the 38 North authors, referring to the former Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, whose decision to place nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 sparked the Cuban missile crisis.

“Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense nuclear deterrence, the word ‘war’ would no longer exist on this land, and the security and future of our state will be guaranteed forever,” North Korea’s Kim reportedly said during a July 28 speech.

Although North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017, a report by a panel of UN experts, released last month, determined that Pyongyang has likely developed the ability to manufacture miniaturized nuclear warheads. North Korea is also reportedly working to develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, also known as MIRVs, for its biggest ICBMs.

If those assessments are accurate, Pyongyang may already be capable of arming a single missile with multiple warheads, each of which can target a different location after release from the mother missile. Such a missile system would be much more difficult for America’s missile defense shield to destroy. However, its presence on North Korean territory also offers America’s strategic military forces a “lucrative” option for a nuclear counterstrike, Zimmerman said, adding that North Korea was “putting all their nuclear eggs under one shroud.”

“I don’t see an increase in the overall nuclear threat to the United States, because I think that deterrence is pretty robust. That said, very large ICBMs with multiple warheads increase the consequences should anything go wrong. That cannot be a good thing,” said Zimmerman, who is now emeritus professor of Science and Security at King’s College London.

The 38 North authors doubted whether Pyongyang has developed a “militarily useful” MIRV system, noting that North Korea’s military has not yet flight-tested an operational MIRV from the second stage of an ICBM. The massive new ICBM revealed over the weekend has also not been flight tested, raising questions about its operational utility.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to carry nuclear weapons, on display in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Thomas Moore, a former senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

“[North Korea] may need larger missiles for heavy payloads. They may also simply be faking it,” Moore said, adding that trying to derive useful intelligence from parade images is “useful speculation, but still just speculation.”

Pyongyang’s new missiles mark the latest in a series of incremental upticks in the overall global nuclear threat against the US.

US and Russian leaders appear to be at an impasse in negotiations to save the New START agreement — the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty between the two Cold War-era foes — before it expires in February. The US side says China is in the midst of a “crash nuclear program” and any future deal with Russia must impose limits on China’s nuclear arsenal, too.

“The antiquated Cold War construct of a bilateral, two-country-only solution does not work in a world where a third party — in this case China — is rapidly building up,” Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the US special presidential envoy for arms control, told reporters in June.

“So we think and what we seek to do is avoid a three-way arms race, and we believe the very best way to do that is to arrive and achieve a three-way nuclear deal,” Billingslea said.

China is expected to “at least double” the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade, US officials have said. China is also reportedly developing a so-called nuclear triad — comprising the ability to deliver nuclear weapons by ground-based ICBMs, by sea-launched missiles from submarines, and by aircraft.

In April, the US State Department published a report raising concerns that China had conducted low-yield nuclear tests in 2019 at a site called Lop Nur. And last year China test-fired more than 200 ballistic missiles, “far more than the rest of the world combined,” Billingslea said in August.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) off the coast of California. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/Released.

According to the Arms Control Association, the US possesses some 6,185 nuclear weapons, while Russia has 6,490 such weapons in its arsenal. The US-based Federation of American Scientists estimated China has about 320 warheads — roughly on par with France’s number of 300.

“While Beijing has long focused on maintaining a minimum deterrent, it is likely that its nuclear stockpile will increase in the next few decades,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in an April 2020 report.

The report’s authors added: “Additionally, if the United States continues to expand and strengthen its missile defense program, China may modify its nuclear posture to include a significantly larger nuclear force with the potential to strike the United States.”

Signed by former Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty limits Russia and the US each to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers. The original START I was signed in 1991, six months before the Soviet Union dissolved.

In addition to China’s inclusion, the US also wants New START to enact limits on Russia’s newest weapons, including hypersonic missiles and nuclear-powered cruise missiles, which were not included in the original deal. So far, Russia has balked at meeting America’s requirements, setting up a contentious final few months of negotiations in advance of New START’s expiration in February.

President Donald Trump is trying to secure a deal with Moscow to extend the strategic arms treaty before the upcoming presidential election, Axios reported Sunday. Putin, too, has said he’s open to renegotiating the pact. However, in June the Russian president raised some eyebrows in Washington when he signed an executive order authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks that “threaten the existence” of Russia or its nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, in defiance of US and international sanctions, Iran has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program. In June the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated it would take Iran three to six months to manufacture enough weapons-grade material to produce a nuclear weapon.

“The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi told the German newspaper Die Presse in an interview published Saturday.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Geo-baching no more

A dual-military family is adjusting to life under the same roof after almost two years apart.

It’s not uncommon in the military community to have a unique story of how you and your spouse met. But for Army Sgt. Jared Jackson and his wife, Spc. Christina Jackson, their happily–ever after didn’t start with being pronounced husband and wife. They’ve spent their entire courtship and marriage living thousands of miles apart — until now.


When Christina and Jared were introduced by a mutual friend, they hit it off quickly. But the fireworks were strictly plutonic. For three years, they – along with a mutual friend — were inseparable, referring to themselves as “the three amigos.”

“We did everything together,” Christina said.

And becoming a couple wasn’t even a thought. It wasn’t until Jared moved to Hawaii that they entertained the idea of having a romantic relationship.

“We tested the waters and we decided to start dating,” she said.

Having established a strong friendship, the main challenges presented with dating for Jared was the distance and three–hour time difference.

“We communicated well, but trying to find the right time to call would be hard,” he said.

He couldn’t build the consistency he wanted with both Christina and her 8–year old daughter because all they had were phone calls and short visits.

“I wanted to make sure they know I’m here to stay,” Jared said.

The Jacksons both craved stability for their new family. Christina says her daughter, “wanted this father figure. And when she finally got him it was hard on her because he would come and go. He would come see us, then he would leave.”

After dating for a year, they married with the expectation of being stationed together.

“My mindset was thinking that the military was going to put us together and it wouldn’t be that long,” Jared said, but waiting for approval dragged on. “It’s bothering me because I’m married but yet I still feel like I’m kind of a bachelor because I’m here by myself.”

Christine was also losing hope and eventually wanted to get out of the military. She was told by her NCO that she’d get orders right after being married. That didn’t happen. And she was further stressed by all of the paperwork requirements and chasing after people for answers.

Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other, according to Military OneSource. Couples can look into joint assignments through offerings like the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program. But for the Jacksons, this wasn’t a smooth process.

After almost a year of not knowing when they could be together, they were finally given orders to the same duty station. Now they had new challenges to tackle.

For the first time in his life, Jared was a full–time parent. Christina’s daughter is adjusting to a two-parent home where they both share an equal role in raising and disciplining her.

“I’ve been trying to give him more of that responsibility in that role and just say whatever he says goes,” Christina said.

Jared wants to establish a good father/daughter relationship, with Christina’s support of his role helping to ease the adjustment.

“I appreciate that Christina always validates me and tells me ‘you’re doing a good job.’ It keeps me motivated,” he said.

One thing they did not do was leave their family cohesiveness to chance, so they attended premarital counseling.

“We went into this already knowing how we both wanted to parent. He knew what I expected and I knew what he expected,” Christina said.

And now the family will be adding a new member, a son, in July.

Throughout their time apart, they kept communication fluid and honest, sharing their hopes and frustrations without hesitation. This put the relationship in a healthy place during their entire transition.

Christina says for help and support if you’re are dealing with a similar situation, to find a military spouses club. Share your experiences and find others who have gone through the same thing.

Jared advises, above all, make sure that even when you get discouraged keep the communication strong. Also do your research so that you know what should be happening with job assignments.

When it comes to their parenting advice on blending a family, they simultaneously agree that the answer is patience.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bloody story behind the bells the US returned to the Philippines

It was Sept. 27, 1901, and C Company of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment was stationed in the area Samar in the Philippines, specifically the town of Balnagiga. It was during the evening watch that the unit sentries noticed an unusual number of irregularly clothed women heading into the local church with baby-sized coffins. After a search revealed the coffins were carrying children killed by cholera, he let them pass on.

They should have checked closer.


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Company C, 9th US Infantry Regiment with Valeriano Abanador (standing, sixth from right) taken in Balangiga. Abanador would later lead the surprise attack against them.

The United States had occupied the Philippines since it was wrested from Spanish control during the 1898 Spanish-American War. The people of the Philippines at first welcomed the Americans as liberators. As soon as they realized U.S. colonial ambitions, however, they turned on the Americans, launching an almost four-year long insurgency they would lose, becoming a U.S. possession until 1946.

Even after rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo surrendered to the U.S. in April, 1901, the fight wore on in places like Samar. The Americans stationed there should have been ready for anything.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Filipino insurgency leader Emilio Aguinaldo reports aboard the USS Vicksburg as a prisoner of war.

(U.S. Army)

During that September night in 1901, the small coffins really were filled by children, presumably killed by a cholera epidemic that was sweeping the villages of the area. The inspecting sentry looked into one of the coffins, saw what was there, and even helped the woman nail the lid down again when he was finished. If he had looked underneath the corpse, he would have found cane-cutting blades hidden under the body.

All the coffins were filled with them.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

James Mattis and Philippines Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez shake hands in front of the Bells of Balangiga display at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Nov. 14, 2018. The ceremony in Wyoming signaled the start of an effort to return the bells to the Philippines.

(Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)

The next morning, the Americans went to breakfast as the local police chief sent his prisoners to work in the streets. As an American sentry, Adolph Gamlin walked by the Chief in the plaza, the Chief, Valeriano Abanador, grabbed Gamlin’s rifle, butt-stroked the private across the face and unloaded it into the men in the mess tent. The town church bells began to ring, signaling the attack on the surprised American company.

Two guards posted at the entrance to the local convent were killed by locals. The Filipinos then broke through, into the convent, and killed the unit’s officers. Simultaneously, the Bolo fighters began an assault on the local barracks. The locals had gotten the drop on the Americans, but the victims had one advantage — there weren’t enough attackers to get them all.

Some Americans in the mess tent and barracks escaped the initial surprise, regrouped, and retook the municipal hall where their arms were held. Now armed, the tide turned in favor of the Americans. Behind the Filipinos, Pvt. Adolph Gamlin (the sentry) regained consciousness as well as his rifle, and was wreaking havoc in the attackers’ rear. Gamlin had the whole plaza as a field of fire, and the attackers had no cover to hide behind.

Abanador was forced to pull his insurgents out.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

The bells arrived in Wyoming sometime in 1904.

Company C collected their dead, 48 of 74 men were killed in action. A further 26 were wounded and eight of those men would die later of those wounds. Not able to hold the town with their reduced numbers, they escaped by sea. The Filipinos could not hold the town either. They returned to bury an estimated 26-36 of their dead and then faded away before the Americans could come in and punish them.

The 11th infantry arrived in Balagiga on Oct. 25, 1901, and found the buried Filipinos. They burned the town and took the church bells, sending two of them to Fort Russell, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell ended up with the 9th Infantry at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

A solider poses with the third Bell of Balangiga at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, ca. 2004.

The bells were ordered to be returned to the government of the Philippines by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. On Dec. 11, 2018, a U.S. Air Force C-130 landed in Manila, carrying the bells back to the people of the Philippines 117 years after they were taken as war booty by the U.S. Army.

Articles

4 signs it’s time for your Staff NCO to get out

Staff non-commissioned officers (SNCOs), particularly staff sergeants, are known to have a bite worse than their bark. In the military, it is necessary to have someone who can be the hammer when it calls for it. The good ones bring balance by reward and punishment to incentivize mission accomplishment. However, there are some SNCOs who are all stick and no carrot. At a time when the military retention rate exceeds expectations, it is more important now than ever to keep leaders who want to lead and phase out those that don’t.

Here are four of the best signs that we can think of that your Staff NCO has drifted into the latter:

They’re always angry

Staff Sergeant is on the warpath, again. For some reason, SNCOs are always angry. Maybe it’s all the years of seeing preventable dumb sh*t. They tend to ease up when they’ve been promoted to gunny or higher. Maybe it’s the pay jump from E6 to E7 or the change of role to company gunnery sergeant, where it’s more logistical than tactical. If your E6 gets promoted to E7 and is still a grouch, it’s time for them to start thinking about retirement.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Unless they’ve got some recon Marines to whip into shape first… (Warner Bros.)

They forgot where they came from

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It always rubbed me the wrong way when a SNCO is committed to NJPing (Non-Judicial Punishment) a Marine for a mistake I well know they themselves have made. They took advantage of the ‘boys will be boys’ when they were young to get out of trouble but will crucify the lower enlisted at any chance. When a SNCO or officer gets in trouble, the whole command protects their own. It gets swept under the rug. Their platoons may not know the truth, but everyone at Battalion does.

When I was in operations, everyone’s records were at my fingertips. As the scheduling NCO, I had to know your record to decide what training to send you to next between major ops. I saw that they have plenty of dirt on them, too. So, when a SNCO is battling to destroy another troop’s career but that SNCO has no problem utilizing the ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ network to protect themselves, they need to GTFO.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

They stay late at work on purpose

They won’t dismiss their troops, even when their counterparts in other platoons have already gone home. Just because they do not want to spend time with their family, that doesn’t mean the corporal with a brand new baby doesn’t want to spend time with his. These types of SNCOs maxed out their leave days. For some reason, they believe it’s a good thing and brag. It’s not. Go fishing or kick rocks, go relax.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

It’s been over 25+ years

When your SNCO has been around since before Osama Bin Laden was on the run, it’s time to get out. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. Any SNCO that has been in longer than 25+ years that is angry all the time, exists only to punish and not train. They choose to be around the most amount of time possible to spread negativity, and anyone with that mentality has to go. The military is supposed to be a meritocracy, where leaders are supposed to inspire the troops and use their experience to lead the next generation of warfighters.

A SNCO exists to provide expertise and guidance to officers and facilitate training amongst the lower ranks. They’re the logistical side of the enlisted chevron to reduce bureaucracy and keep our military lethal. If a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer has lost sight of the mission over the course of 20+ years, it’s time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Feature image: U.S. Army

Articles

A brief history of North Korea’s nuclear programs

North Korea hasn’t always been a nuclear pariah. For most of its history, it was just a regular pariah. Even the Soviet Union wasn’t thrilled with Kim Il-Sung’s special brand of communism, but as time went on other communists became hard to come by, so they cut the North Koreans a break. 

Time definitely took its toll on communist countries. These days, there are very few communist countries left; Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and China all stand with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). But North Korea is the only one that still goes around threatening its neighbors. For most of the post-Cold War era, no one really cared much. Then they got nukes. 

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
North Korea before they hit puberty and started taking “supplements.”

But it wasn’t always that way. In 1985, the DPRK actually signed the worldwide Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), committing it to halting the spread of nuclear weapons and associated technologies. It also promoted the peaceful use of nuclear energy. North Korea even had a nuclear power plant. This might have been at the behest of its Soviet benefactors, but it was still a good step forward.

Just before the fall of the Soviet Union, the USSR and the United States signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which limited the deployment of nuclear weapons around the world. As part of this 1991 treaty, the United States removed its nuclear arsenal from the Korean Peninsula. The decision was celebrated in North Korea, where the two Koreas agreed not to produce or receive nuclear weapons or process uranium the very next year. 

But like most things in North Korea, it was short-lived. In 1993, the country was suspected of having an underground nuclear enrichment program and refused inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As tensions mounted, the DPRK threatened to withdraw from the NPT. Cooler heads prevailed after the U.S. intervened and talked it out. 

Tensions soon mounted yet again and it looked like North Korea and South Korea were on a collision course for war. In 1994, former President Jimmy Carter met with Korean leader Kim Il-Sung and defused the situation, paving the way for a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK. 

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Jimmy Carter and Kim Il-Sung, 1994 (Screen capture from YouTube)

During this time, the founder and President of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung died and his son, Kim Jong-Il took over amid a worsening famine there. That same year, the two countries agreed on a framework to halt North Korea’s illegal nuclear program in exchange for food aid, oil, food and two light-water reactors for energy.

Within five years, construction on the light-water reactors had begun and North Korea issued a moratorium on nuclear-capable missile testing. Its willingness to put its arsenal on hold led to the first Inter-Korean Summit in 2000. South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung visited Pyongyang after five decades of constant threats and conflict. The two left the summit with an agreement to begin multiple joint business ventures and cultural cooperation projects. Families separated by the Korean War were reunified and the U.S. eased economic sanctions on the DPRK. 

The warming relations between the two countries lead to a state visit in Pyongyang from U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The two countries talked about an end to North Korea’s missile program but were unable to seal a deal before the end of President Bill Clinton’s time in office. 

Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, listed North Korea as part of an “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address and his administration refused to certify North Korea’s compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and disregarding all agreements with South Korea. It expelled all IAEA inspectors and reactivated its nuclear plant in Yongbyon.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center (Wikimedia Commons)

To ease tensions, leaders from North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States and China agreed to meet in Beijing in 2003. The Six-Party Talks (as they became known) succeeded in getting everyone together but no agreements were made. Two years later, the Six-Party Talks bore fruit, resulting in a North Korean agreement to end its nuclear program. It didn’t rejoin the NPT, but agreed to its terms. 

Until 2006, that is, when North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test, along with seven ballistic missile tests. North Korea had officially joined the nuclear club. Since then, the effort to get North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs has been a mess of quick starts and stops. Every time progress is made in negotiations, the DPRK finds a way to destroy it and advance the programs. 

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Musudan Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) seen in military parades in Pyongyang (Korean Central news Agency)

Kim Jong-Il died in 2011, and his successor (and son) Kim Jong-Un briefly halted the nuclear program. The new leader briefly raised hopes of a nuclear-free Korea, but even those were soon dashed. Today, no one knows how many nuclear weapons the North has, or even how many missiles, but it is known that it is capable of striking the west coast of the United States – and everywhere in between. 

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY CULTURE

Facing appointments or giving birth alone? You’ve got this.

Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.

In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.


America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Courtesy of Jenny Byers

“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.

PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.

“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”

The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.

“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”

Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Courtesy of Sophie Pappas

“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”

While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.

Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:

“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte

“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella

“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons

“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste

“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers

“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci

“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe

“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Courtesy of Kelly Callahan

“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan

A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:

“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Iowa’s turret two on fire immediately following the explosion. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.

The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.

In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.

On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.

The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.” D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.

Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.

Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Moosally presenting Hartwig with a duty award during the summer of 1988. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.

Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.

Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”

Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”

Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”

Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!” Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”

At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.

The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.

When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.

Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns. Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.

Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowas crew.

During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”

The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.

At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.

On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Navy brass briefing press on the release of the first investigation. (Photo: DoD)

When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.

In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.

A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.

Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.

Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.

Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.

Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.

From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.

Articles

Inside the Army’s secret Cold War ice base

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag


No, this picture doesn’t show a black and white image of the rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. It’s part of a semi-secret, nuclear-powered U.S. Army base that was built under the Greenland ice cap only 800 miles from the North Pole. The base was officially built to conduct scientific research but the real reason was apparently to test out the feasibility of burying nuclear missiles below the ice under an effort known as Project Iceworm. Remember, Greenland is way closer to Russia than the ICBM fields located in the continental U.S. Rumor has it that the Danish government had no idea that the U.S. was considering installing nuclear missiles on Greenland.

The 200-man base was massive , described by some as an underground city, and consisted of 21 steel-arch covered trenches; the longest of which was 1,100-feet long, 26-feet wide and 26-feet high. These tunnels contained numerous prefabricated buildings that were up to 76-feet long. The base was powered by a portable PM-2A nuclear reactor that produced two megawatts of power for the facility.

In all, the base featured:

Living quarters, a kitchen and mess hall, latrines and showers, a recreation hall and theater, a library and hobby shops, a dispensary, operating room and a ten bed infirmary, a laundry facility, a post exchange, scientific labs, a cold storage warehouse, storage tanks, a communications center, equipment and maintenance shops, supply rooms and storage areas, a nuclear power plant, a standby diesel-electric power plant, administrative buildings, utility buildings, a chapel and a barbershop.

The base operated from 1959 to 1966 when shifting icecap made living there impossible. Today, it’s buried and crushed beneath the Arctic snows.

Click through the jump to see more pictures of the base and to watch a great video on its construction. The last photo shows a map of the base’s location in Greenland.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
One of the base’s 16 escape hatches onto the surface of Hoth, I mean Greenland.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Under construction

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

 

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
The base water well, dug 150-feet into the ice where a heating coil then melted ice for fresh drinking water.

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
The nuclear reactor

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The reactor controls

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
Camp Century in 1969, three years after it was abandoned

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
The base’s layout

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag
The location of Camp Century

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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