America's top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete

Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.

America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?

And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.

The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.


Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”

And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):

“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”

As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.

Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:

“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”

From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:

“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Two F-22As in close trail formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)

RIP Stealth?

Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.

As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:

“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”

How Should America Respond?

So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?

First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)

However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,

“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”

Indeed, only time will tell.

(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brave Titanic officer somehow survived to rescue troops from Dunkirk

On Apr. 15, 1912, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After helping as many passengers and crew as he could into lifeboats, he refused an order to escape on one of the final boats to make it off the ship. As Titanic’s bridge began to sink, he attempted to dive into the water and to the safety of one of the crew’s collapsible boats.

Except the Titanic sucked him down with her.


America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912

(NARA)

Lightoller was no landsman. He had been at sea for decades and, as a result, he’d seen and heard everything. Titanic wasn’t even his first shipwreck, but it was the first time a sinking ship tried to take the officer down with it. As a grating pulled him to the bottom, the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean finally reached the ship’s hot boilers, and they exploded. The force propelled Lightoller to the surface and to the safety of his fellow crew’s boat.

He was the last Titanic survivor rescued by the RMS Carpathia the next day. He was also the most senior officer to survive the shipwreck. Later, during World War I, Lt. Lightoller would take command of many ships in the Royal Navy, leaving the service at the war’s end. By the time World War II rolled around, Lightoller was just a civilian raising chickens. His seaborne days confined to a personal yacht.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The Titanic’s officers. Lightoller is in the back row, second from the left.

While he did survey the German coast in 1939 for the Royal Navy while disguised as an elderly couple on vacation, his fighting days were long gone. But the very next year, the British Army in France was on the brink of ruin, as 400,000 Allied troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy could not reach them, and they were slowly being annihilated by the Nazi forces that surrounded them. Operation Dynamo was on.

The Royal Navy ordered Lightoller to take his ship to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take control and ship off to Dunkirk to rescue as many Tommies as possible. But Lightoller wasn’t having it. He would take his ship to Dunkirk himself. The 66-year-old and his son departed for France as soon as they could in a 52×12-foot ship with a carrying capacity of 21.

The Lightollers picked up 130 British soldiers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 90-year-old vet got an honorable discharge after 60 years

After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.


In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.

After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.

Also read: The first openly-gay service member fought the Air Force to a standstill

 

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Indicative of the changing times, a rainbow flag is placed in the ground for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month during the Picnic in the Park at Nussbaumer Park, June 27, 2015, in Fairbanks, Alaska. More than 200 flags were handed out to members of the 354th Fighter Wing and members of the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

She was discharged as “undesirable” and was denied any benefits, insurance, or severance.

Unable to face her family and without any assistance from the GI Bill, James moved to California and worked to pay for her own education, advancing her way through degrees in Physical Therapy.

Related: This Holocaust survivor recounts his daring escape from Auschwitz

In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.

And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
U.S. Air Force veteran Helen James with her military memorabilia. (Photo courtesy of Helen James)

For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.

“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”

Articles

Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen H. R. McMaster, has a reputation as a “warrior-scholar” and positions that make him appear an almost complete reversal from Michael Flynn.


Throughout his career, McMaster has established himself as a hawk against Russia’s leveraging of geopolitical power to further its influence and a defender of the integrity of Muslim civilians caught up in the US’s Middle Eastern campaign.

As the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, McMaster worked on envisioning the Army’s structure in 2025 and beyond, which means countering the growing, multifaceted threat from Russia.

In a 2016 speech to the Virginia Military Institute, McMaster stressed the need for the US to have “strategic vision” in its fight against “hostile revisionist powers” — such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — that “annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.”

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
US Army photo

McMaster’s speech framed the issue around geopolitics instead of military strategy or deployments.

“Geopolitics have returned as US rivals from Europe to the greater Middle East to East Asia attempt to collapse the post-WWII economic and security order,” McMaster said.

In McMaster’s view, the US needs to establish what a “win” means when it comes to threats, including nonmilitary sources of leverage.

“Establishing an objective other than winning is not only counterproductive but also irresponsible and wasteful. Under some circumstances, an objective other than winning is unethical,” McMaster said at the VMI, evoking his past criticisms of the Iraq and Vietnam wars.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

In 1997, McMaster published “Dereliction of Duty” on the strategic failures of the Vietnam War; the book was part of his Ph.D. thesis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said in a tweet that McMaster “wrote the book on importance of standing up” to the president.

McMaster doesn’t fall in line with the hardline view of Muslims held by Flynn and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that led Trump to issue an executive order banning immigration and travel from seven majority-Muslim nations.

In an interview with NPR, Schiff said McMaster once began “dressing down” a subordinate who suggested that the Afghan military officials the US was working with had an “innate tendency” toward corruption.

At the 2016 VMI speech, McMaster blamed groups like ISIS for “cynically use a perverted version of religion,” to push their hardline beliefs.

This contrasts sharply with Flynn, who once tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” and included a link to a YouTube video that claims the religion of Islam wants “80% of people enslaved or exterminated.”

Ultimately, it was Flynn’s relationship with Russia that brought about his resignation, as he was accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador to the US in which Flynn had discussed easing of Obama-era sanctions against Moscow.

On the National Security Council, McMaster will have to contend with Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller, authors of Trump’s immigration ban.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The ‘crazy Swede’ was a paratrooper who rode his bike to summit Everest

Leave it to military veterans to make one of Earth’s last tests of human endurance that much more difficult. It’s a 6,000-mile bike ride from the town of Jonkoping, Sweden, to the base camp of Mount Everest. Former Swedish paratrooper Goran Kropp knew how far it was as he packed up his bicycle with 200-plus pounds of gear and departed on that trip in 1995.


His first summit of a major mountain came when he climbed the highest peak in Scandinavia with his dad – at just six years old. Although he indulged a rebellious streak as a young man, the experience of that first climb never left him, and he soon found himself in thin air once more.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Kropp grew up as a hard-partying punk rocker but soon joined the Swedish paratroopers. This was the event that would shape Kropp for the rest of his life. He met his climbing partner while in the army and moved from an apartment to a tent pitched in a gravel pit that was close to his barracks. While still in the Swedish military, he would test himself through different climbing endurance challenges. The two paratroopers even made a list of progressively higher mountains.

Until it was time to go climb them.

He soon earned the nickname “The Crazy Swede” and became known for his insane feats. The first major peak he summited was Tajikistan’s Lenin Peak, far below the 8,000-meter “Death Zone” of mountaineering, but still a great place to start. What made his summit of Lenin Peak special is that he set the record for it at the time.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The hits just kept coming. Kropp was the fourth climber ever to conquer Pakistan’s Muztagh Tower in 1990. He was the first Swede to summit K2, a much deadlier mountain to climb than Everest. One of every ten people who climb Everest will die there. On K2, the fatality rate is more than twice that. Climbers of K2 regularly face life-threatening situations that end their trip before it begins.

On Kropp’s first attempt at a K2 summit in 1993, he stopped to help rescue Slovenian climbers stranded at a high altitude. His ascent on K2 would happen a week after this aborted attempt, but danger didn’t always stop Kropp. That’s why it took him three attempts to summit Everest.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Kropp leaving Sweden for Nepal in 1995.

Kropp left Sweden on his 8,000-mile journey to Nepal in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He wanted to make the ascent without the use of oxygen tanks or assistance ropes. His first attempt saw him struggle to make it to the south summit in waist-deep snow, but his slow pace meant he would be descending in the dark, a risk he was not willing to take. So, he turned around to climb another day.

As Kropp recovered at base camp, a blizzard killed eight trekkers making a descent from the summit, in what became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. It was the deadliest climbing season on Everest to date. Kropp joined the relief efforts as he recovered, but it was during this deadly season that Kropp summited the mountain, without oxygen and without sherpas.

Then, he rode his bike 8,000 miles home to Sweden.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

From Paratrooper to Adventurer.

He climbed five of the world’s fourteen 8,000-plus meter mountains and was the only Swede to summit Everest twice.

In later years, Kropp and his wife skied across the North Pole ice sheet, attempting to reach the North Pole. He had to back out, however, due to a frostbitten thumb. It was on that trek that the press turned against him, claiming he was a poacher for shooting a Polar Bear that was stalking him and his wife during the expedition. As a result, Kropp left Sweden for Seattle.

It was in Washington State that 35-year-old Kropp died an ironic death. After making so many miraculous summits and life-threatening firsts, he died climbing a routine 70-foot rock wall near his home after two safety rigging failures.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 and F-35 test their ‘beast mode’ stealth technology

US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers in the western Pacific recently trained for high-end combat scenarios requiring the full might of the US military — exercises that came as Beijing reacts with fury to heavy-duty missile deployments.

In a first, the F-35B, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the world’s most expensive weapons system, took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship capable of launching aircraft, and dropped externally mounted bombs.


The F-35 is a stealth aircraft designed to store most of its weapons internally to preserve its streamlined, radar-evading shape, but the F-35Bs on the Wasp ditched that tactic to carry more bombs and air-to-air missiles.

An executive from Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, previously told Business Insider that an F-35 with external bomb stores represented a kind of “beast mode,” or an alternative to the normal stealth mode, and was something F-35s would do on the third day of a war, after enemy defenses had been knocked out and stealth became less of a priority.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii during a training exercise in January 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

“We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision-guided munitions,” and then landing aboard the Wasp, Lt. Col. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge on the Wasp, said in a statement.

While F-35s trained for Day Three of an all-out war in the Pacific, stealthier jets — the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber — trained for Day One.

B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri flew to Hawaii, where they met up with F-22 stealth jets, the top air-to-air fighters in the US fleet.

The B-2s spent their time near Hawaii “going out to an airspace and practicing realistic threats,” with an F-22 on either wing, said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

(South China Sea)

The Pacific area of responsibility “is of high importance as of late,” Schoeneberg said, adding that “it will continue to be of high importance.”

F-22s and B-2 bombers represent the US’s most high-end platforms, designed to work as “door kickers,” or the opening punch in a war.

B-2s carry “massive ordnance penetrators” — the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US inventory — and nuclear gravity bombs. Both could play a role in opening a conflict.

F-22s also serve an air-to-ground role and are frequently discussed as a first-strike weapon that could take out enemy air defenses and clear the way for less stealthy fighters.

(South China Sea)

China is getting mad and trying to get even

Washington’s focus on air power in the Pacific comes as Beijing’s military installations in the South China Sea are becoming formidable.

China has landed nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets and deployed surface-to-air missiles and an extensive network of radars at those installations.

This, coupled with “carrier killer” long-range anti-ship missiles deployed on China’s mainland, indicates China is determined to lock the US out of international waters in the western Pacific.

China’s military is also speaking openly about fighting the US and even about sinking aircraft carriers.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

(Defence.Pk Frorums)

Chinese state media said in early February 2019 that Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, “required the officers and soldiers to be well-prepared for different cases, encouraging them to staunchly safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests.”

Days earlier, US Navy ships had sailed through the tense Taiwan Strait. Days later, Navy destroyers challenged China’s extrajudicial claims in the South China Sea with a freedom-of-navigation exercise.

China responded to the US Navy’s sailing in international waters near its artificial islands with its usual fury, saying the US had threatened its sovereignty.

Beijing knows Washington is training, and it wants anti-stealth

China has been pioneering anti-stealth technology in an attempt to blunt the advantage of F-22s and F-35s.

“China is fielding networked air-defense systems that can coordinate the radar pictures from multiple sites in an area like the South China Sea,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who was formerly a special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“This could enable the radars to see F-35Bs or other low-observable aircraft from the side or back aspect, where they have higher radar signatures, and share that information with [surface-to-air missile] launchers elsewhere in the region to engage the F-35Bs,” he added.

But the US knows no aircraft is truly invisible, especially in an area with a dense network of radars, like the South China Sea.

Instead of focusing solely on stealth, the US has shifted to employing decoys and electronic warfare to fight in highly contested areas, Clark said.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, conducted a successful test drop of an unpowered LauncherOne rocket on July 10, 2019, over California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air & Space Port. The test is the latest step in Virgin Orbit’s goal to offer an affordable, small payload orbital launch capability to both commercial and government contract customers.

The unpowered air-launch drop test was the last major step toward the next phase of testing for LauncherOne, a future powered flight following a drop from the Boeing 747-400 named “cosmic Girl”. July 10, 2019’s test drop was initiated from an altitude of 35,000 feet using an unpowered LauncherOne vehicle filled with antifreeze and water as ballast to simulate a payload. Following the test drop the LauncherOne test vehicle fell seven miles to earth and its destruction following impact with the desert.


America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The LauncherOne test vehicle under the wing of the drop aircraft moments before July 10, 2019’s successful test drop.

(Virgin Orbit)

The Boeing 747-400 drop-test mothership aircraft was flown by noted test pilot and Air Force Academy graduate Kelly Latimer, a combat pilot and also a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School. Latimer is a veteran of the Virgin Galactic program and has also flown the WhiteKnightTwo specialty built aerial launch vehicle.

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Drop Test

www.youtube.com

In a blog post on VirginOrbit.com published July 9, 2019, the company said, “We’ll be monitoring and rehearsing a million things, but this test is really all about those few seconds just after release, as we ensure the rocket and aircraft separate cleanly and observe how the rocket free-falls through the air.”

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

The course flown by the Boeing 747-400 drop aircraft for July 10, 2019’s successful test drop. The aircraft could be tracked on Flightradar24.com.

(Flightradar24.com via Virgin Orbit Twitter)

The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne project is one of many recent commercial space launch projects, not all of which have succeeded. Following the dramatic first flight of late billionaire Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch aircraft on April 19, 2019, the Reuters News agency ran a story on May 31, 2019, saying the Stratolaunch flight program would be shut down until a buyer for the ambitious project came forward. A June 14, 2019 report on CNBC.com by reporter Michael Sheetz said, “Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch at 0 million, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.”
Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne may be a more practical approach to short lead-time, low cost orbital launches. LauncherOne is claimed to have a payload capacity of 300 kilograms (660 lbs.), although Space.com reports the payloads can be up to “1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms)”. Extremely short launch lead times can be only 24 hours from mission preparation to orbit, a feature that may make this launch technology attractive to military customers.

Branson’s greatest achievement with LauncherOne may be even more practical; cost. Boosting a payload into orbit using Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne may cost as little as M USD per mission. This compares to M USD to launch a larger 50,000 lb. payload into orbit using Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. On a pound-per-dollar basis, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is less expensive, but LauncherOne can specialize in smaller, shorter lead-time orbital payloads.

Virgin Orbit has not said when the next phase of testing, to include launching a powered LauncherOne into orbit from the 747-400 launch plane, will take place, but reports suggest it will happen soon. Virgin Orbit has confirmed the operational rocket for the first powered air launch has “already undergone extensive testing”.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the US in the South China Sea

China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.


The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”

“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.

The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress. | Chinese state media

In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.

But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.

China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.

China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:

“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.

China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.

But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.

Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.

Articles

These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.


With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.

1. Maria Mandl

Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Maria Mandl after her arrest in 1945.

Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.

After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

2. Irma Grese

Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.

She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Irma Grese in 1945.

Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.

During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.

3. Hermine Braunsteiner

Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.

Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Hermine Braunsteiner in 1946.

As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.

No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.

4. Margot Dreschel

Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Margot Dreschel in 1945.

She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.

5. Ilse Koch

Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.

She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
Ilse Koch, taken after her capture.

The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.

She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s why your feet hurt all the damn time!

I’m on a foot fetish these days. Don’t tell my family.

Today’s foot based installment is about perception vs. reality. It’s about how your mind is constantly playing tricks on you even when you’re doing your best to be truthful. It’s about how your brain is letting your feet lie to you, and your boots are in on the whole conspiracy.

I have a pretty astounding study that I want to talk about.

Let’s start with runners way back in the 1980s.


America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

You might want to throw those things in the trash

Mo’ padding mo’ problems

Remember that rickshaw driver I was talking about here?

Well, that dude had no feet problems, and he was slapping his feet onto hard and hot concrete and rocks every day of his life.

It seems according to two researchers back in 1991:

“The increased injury incidence with modern running shoes can be attributed to greater impact when runners use footwear more of the current design when compared with footwear in use a decade earlier. Furthermore, when runners unaccustomed to barefoot running run barefoot, mean impact is no higher than when shod and in some cases is lower.”

In normal people terms:

Comfy shoes = foot problems.

No shoes = Highly profitable career as a rickshaw driver.

Why?

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

These feet look all too familiar.

Padding makes you treat your feet like sh!t

Comfy shoe padding makes us blissfully unaware of the damage we are causing. Kind of like how we thought trans fats were a great idea. It turns out they are causally linked to heart disease.

We aren’t always right. Our prior assumptions need to be evaluated, not blindly accepted for millennia.

Robbins and Gouw, those two guys from the above quote, came to the conclusion that: “…a perceptual illusion is created whereby perceived impact is lower than actual impact, which results in inadequate impact moderating behavior and consequent injury.”

Let’s get into a pretty eye-opening study they did that proves the above point.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Yeah, gymnasts know how to stick a landing.

(Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash)

Comfort based decisions

When was the last time you made a comfort-based decision? Hit that snooze button this morning? Had a hot shower? Chose to drive to work rather than walk/run/bike?

Those are some decisions you can control. What about this trippy one you aren’t even aware of?

Robbins and Gouw took some force plates and had well-trained gymnasts jump onto them from a platform about 2 feet off the ground.

The plates measured the impact force of the athletes landing.

The gymnasts, who are great at sticking landings, were told to just land however they would naturally land after a jump from that height.

There were two surfaces they jumped onto for the force plates to measure; a hard surface, and a comfy padded surface.

In ALL 15 athletes, the landing force on the padded surface was higher than the landing force on the hard surface. The athletes clearly choose a safer and more appropriate landing strategy for the hard surface than the padded surface.

The real kicker is that that they all assumed that they were landing with more force on the hard surface than the padded surface.

Yep…the padding of the padded surface completely tricked all the athletes into being more careless with their bodies.

The perception of comfort and its damaging effects were studied using experienced athletes and force plate technology.

The difference in impacts was upwards of 25%. That the difference between you jumping by yourself and then jumping with your overweight nephew strapped to your chest in a papoose. Go ahead and give that experiment a try to see the real difference between the two.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Even a 5% increase in weight makes some people crumble, 25% is nothing to shrug at.

(Photo by Steven Cleghorn on Unsplash)

What we should tolerate VS what we tolerate

We are able to handle nearly twice our body weight in running impact. That seems like a lot. So we should have zero problem running right?

Nope.

When we run with standard running shoes or boots on, impacts of well past eight times our body weight have been measured. Combine this high level of impact with the design of the modern combat boot like we talked about here, and you get a whole host of foot and other structural issues that are commonly seen in service members, veterans, and high mileage athletes. I’m talking about hip, knee, ankle, and back issues, not to even mention that fact that your feet are taking the brunt of the abuse.
America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

Is this the future military boot or should we just go barefoot?

Take ’em off and walk around

Lucky for Marines, it seems that the Generals in charge are making strides (pun intended) to remedy this issue to save the Marine Corps money and you a life of constant chronic pain.

The solution seems to be minimalist footwear. The less padding your footwear has, the easier it will be for you to regulate the impact you are causing on your feet.

Over time, your issues should disappear just like the rickshaw driver disappeared into antiquity after Henry Ford created the modern assembly-line built automobile to subvert his father-in-law, a world-famous rickshaw driver. (Everyone has family issues)…

Looking for a solution to your family issues? How about your training issues? Here’s how to train super effectively three times a week in less than an hour.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Greyhound packed some serious firepower

The Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles is an essential tool in the the United States Army’s arsenal — but it isn’t the first wheeled armored vehicle that saw widespread service with GIs. In World War II, there was another — and it was fast, effective, and packed a powerful punch.


That vehicle was the M8 Greyhound. It was a 6×6 vehicle that entered service in 1941, and drew upon lessons learned from German successes in 1939 and 1940. It was intended to serve as a reconnaissance vehicle and saw action with the British, Australians, and Canadians before American troops took it into battle.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

A M8 Greyhound in Paris.

(National Archives)

The M8 had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. This might not sound so speedy but, by comparison, the iconic M4 Sherman tank had a top speed of just 24 miles per hour. This seemingly small difference in speed made a huge impact when the effective range of tank guns was much shorter — and not just because the guns were smaller. In World War II, fire-control was also less advanced. Unlike today’s M1 Abrams, which can fire on the move and take out a target 3,000 yards away, a tank had to come to a complete stop before firing back then.

The M8 also packed a 37mm gun that could fire armor-piercing or high-explosive rounds and had a coaxial .30-caliber machine gun to defend against infantry. This light armored car could also add an M2 .50-caliber machine gun to defend against aircraft.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

After World War II, the Greyhound was widely passed on, including to private sellers. This M8 was captured by Swedish troops in the Congo.

(Swedish Army)

That said, the M8 had its weaknesses. It was lightly armored and particularly vulnerable to land mines and improvised anti-tank weapons. That didn’t stop American from producing almost 12,000 of these vehicles. After World War II, many of these went on to see action in Korea — and after that, they found homes with law enforcement and in private collections.

Learn more about the Greyhound in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUxpyl3WO0U

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

America’s top weapons might be obsolete in coming decades

U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information