Some parts of the world will see the sun turn into a “ring of fire” on Sunday.
The event, known as an annular solar eclipse, occurs when the moon is at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit and passes between our planet and the sun. The moon partially covers the sun, but its small size in the sky means the sun’s outer rim remains visible, making it look like a bright ring.
People in parts of China, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, India, and Pakistan will be able to watch the full annular solar eclipse. The event will begin for those in Central Africa — the first location to see the eclipse — on Sunday, June 21 at 4:47 a.m. local time. It will end for the last areas to see it — parts of China — at 8:32 a.m. local time. (That’s at 12:47 a.m. and 4:32 a.m. ET if you watch remotely from the US.)
A partial annular eclipse will also be visible in southern and eastern Europe and northern Australia.
If you are able to catch the solar eclipse in person, make sure to wear proper eye protection, since staring directly at the sun causes eye damage.
If, however, the eclipse won’t be visible in the sky where you live, you can catch it online. TimeandDate is presenting a livestream on Youtube that can watch below.
The name annular eclipse comes from the Latin word “annulus,” which means ring.
A “ring of fire” eclipse happens once a year. Solar eclipses generally take place about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. One lunar eclipse occurred on June 5, and another will happen on July 5.
During this annular eclipse, it will take the moon several minutes to pass in front of the sun, but the full eclipse will only last for about one second.
At the maximum point of the eclipse, the moon will cover about 99.4% of the sun, according to NASA.
When America entered World War I, it brought more radical changes than just fresh troops and a huge manufacturing base. It also introduced novel tactics in the fight against venereal disease — the war for infantrymen’s penises.
Specifically, “go and don’t bring back venereal diseases.”
(The Museum of New Zealand)
See, while World War I was a bone-crunching and horrible war, those who rotated off the front were still willing to stand at attention for a little morale improvement. Unfortunately, troops wouldn’t always report it if their li’l Joes encountered some biological warfare on the battlefield.
All euphemisms aside, lots of troops were sleeping with lots of women whenever they got the chance, leading to an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases. Because of social stigmas, many troops wouldn’t report it when they contracted one of the STDs, further propelling the problem.
As American troops and their physicians made their way to the front, leaders had to decide how to prevent the same issue among U.S. ranks. While the European powers had embraced a program of abstinence, the U.S. Army created a four-pronged attack on venereal disease.
Alcohol wasn’t popular in the U.S. before or after the war. Remember, America entered World War I just three years before it enacted Prohibition.
(United Committee on War Temperance)
The first two prongs were social: First, the U.S. cracked down on access to alcohol and prostitutes in the ranks. While this, obviously, eliminated American forces from most of the fun trenches of France, it would also serve to cut down on how often the soldiers were exposed to venereal disease. Then, authorities launched an education campaign, ostensibly to help men “Just Say No” to diseased genitals.
Oddly enough, this second prong, “education,” was actually controversial. Birth control education was actually illegal in America during World War I and had been since 1873. In fact, a high-profile arrest in 1916 occurred when a woman opened America’s first birth control clinic.
The next prong represented the biggest shift from Europe abstinence program. The U.S. distributed “prophylactics,” or condoms. Condoms help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia, which were big threats in France at the times. Condoms also cut down on the transmission of syphilis, another widespread disease.
It wasn’t just prostitutes that American G.I.s were able to attract, either. Remember that Britain and France had been at war for almost three years when America came along, and huge numbers of their military-age males were already dead. Plenty of women looking for boyfriends and husbands had few options beyond traveling soldiers.
(Imperial War Museum)
This was also illegal in World War I in some parts of the country and would remain so until 1965 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning birth control — but hey, troops get certain exemptions. When you bend the rules to ask a guy to kill for you, you should probably loosen the rules about teaching him how to get laid without contracting disease or conceiving a baby.
These three prongs helped but, of course, even if the troops never got drunk with a prostitute and used a new condom every time they had sex, some guys would still get unlucky and contract a disease or two. So, prong four of the plan was an emphasis on medical care. Report the disease when you’re sick, come to the clinic, and get diagnosed and treated.
All of these efforts were buffed by other programs advocated by Army doctors, like the “furnishing of healthy social conditions and of opportunities for diversion….” Basically, keep the troops too busy with the YMCA and and other social organizations that they wouldn’t get so bored they’d slip out of camp to look for prostitutes.
This was the treatment for gonorrhea in those days, an injection into the urethra. We can’t understand why troops might’ve avoided seeing the doctor.
Yeah, get the drip-drop and don’t report to the docs, you’re going to the stocks.
And the policies worked, to an extent. Of course some guys got sick and passed the disease along before getting treatment, but disease levels were lower in the U.S. camps than in British and French ones.
Front and back cover on a War Department pamphlet advocating veterans engage in a war against venereal disease back in the U.S.
So the allies followed suit, distributing condoms and providing distractions. Again, no plan was perfect, and there were limits to what medicine was capable of at the time, so not all troops who got sick were guaranteed recovery with treatment.
The efforts to protect troops from STDs in World War I were repeated in World War II — and led to the slow expansion of birth control and disease prevention at home. Troops were sent home with books about venereal disease, but these typically advocated abstinence in place of the condoms and medical treatment provided in the trenches.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of George Hand’s story about his Special Forces team operating in Alaska. Read part one here.
I admit I got some pretty decent shuteye in that Patrol Base (PB). I ate cold food because I just don’t care, plus heating food is such a hassle in the field. I did heat up a canteen cup of coffee, and of course we had plenty of water thanks to the run to the babbling brook.
I took my shift on security which was sitting in a Listening Post/Observation Post (LPOP) a few hundred meters to the rear of our PB for a few hours being quiet, listening, and — you guessed it — observing. It was the usually tearful boredom save for the herd of Caribou that went meandering some 700 meters out. I had binos hanging around my neck tucked just inside my jacket which made for a closer pleasing eyeful of the herd.
When I was relived, I headed back to the PB and helped build the explosive cutting charges to take down the RF tower. We didn’t want to build those forward in the hide sight because it’s bad policy to plan on doing any work in a hide site other than shutting-up, being still, and freezing.
To cut the cylindrical steel at the base of the tower we built Diamond charges — shaped like an elongated diamond and duel-primed on both ends of the short axis with blasting caps:
(Diamond High-Explosive Steel Cutting Charge [photo courtesy of the author])
C-4, in simple block form, made up the two other charges that were to cut the support cables. Our plan was to tie all three charges in together so they would detonate as near simultaneous as possible. I caught a slight whiff of burning time fuse. Another team was calculating the burn time of the fuse. They cut a length of fuse, burned it, and timed the burn so they would know how long of time fuse they needed to give us three minutes to get away from the tower once the fuse was ignited.
Gosh, a breeze picked up and as God is my witness I saw a piece of paper blow by that looked like a page out of cryptography One-Time Pad (OTP)… and it was! I lunged to grab it. Our Commo Sergeant must have been in the process of encrypting his next message transmission to our Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Anchorage.
I moved to his location and sure enough he was shacking up a message:
“Hey, dick… think you’ll need this?”
“Wha… woah — where did you get that??”
“Oh… it just kinda came blowing by.”
“Bullshit! Gimme that!!”
He snatched it up, struck up a lighter under it, and burned it — a thing he was supposed to do before he ever laid it down.
“Here, sign this, dick!”
He passed his his burn log for my signature as a witness to the burning of the crypto page. He was the best commo man I ever knew, just had some housekeeping issues. He set to constructing his quarter-wave doublet antenna; in those days we used the High-Frequency bandwidth (3-30 MHz) and bounced our radio signal off of the ionosphere. He needed to cut his antenna length to match the frequency he was going to transmit on.
(An example of a crypto One-Time Pad [OTP] page [photo from the author])
I find it interesting that the Army has not used the HF band for such a long time, depending on satellites and Internet for most of its communication. Now days, satellites are being targeted for disruption, and the military is actually going back to the dependable HF band for backup communications. It was used during the Russian mercenary Wagner Group attack on U.S. troops in Syria; that battle ended in some 250 dead Russians.
Departing our patrol base, we slipped along tundra quietly to our hide sight. When we got close, we could occasionally spy the RF tower target through openings in the bush. Team Daddy halted us and laid us down while he moved forward with an Engineer Sergeant to have a reconnaissance of the terminal hide area.
He was gone long enough for us to get to freezing again. He lead us into the area where we laid down and established our hides: we stretched camouflage nets out low to the ground. We spread foliage on the top and sides were also covered up. Once inside, there was only enough room for two men to lay prone.
To our front was an open field of some 100 meters by 75 meters. We were just back off of the edge of the field where the men on watch could see the tower and the support corollary building. It was concrete with a pickup truck parked near the door — someone, likely a technician or maintenance person, was in there.
It was time to be cold for the next 24 hours. I went out with our commo man to help him construct an antenna and make his commo shot. He couldn’t do it from our hide site; we had to push back to the rear a thousand meters and sneak that transmission back to the FOB. It was great to be up out of the hide and moving around.
Twenty-four hours later we tore down our hides and packed up our rucks. Leaving the rucks behind, we took six pipe-hitters — half of our Green Beret detachment — and crept through the field ahead toward the tower. The other six pipe-hitters surrounded the target tactically establishing security for the demolitions teams. One of the security teams was blocking the access road incase the pickup returned, upon which they were to pull him out of the vehicle and detain him until the target was destroyed.
Our diamond charge went on smoothly and I paid out lengths of explosive det cord to the cable teams. All went together without a blunder. We collapsed back to our hide site leaving one man to tie in and fire the charges. Security remained in place. Team Daddy was glancing at his watch often, then finally lifted his hand-held radio:
“Bergie, this is Tango Lima, over…”
“Tango Lima, this is Bergie, ready to fire, over…”
“Bergie, stand by to fire in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one — fire!”
Even from our distance we heard the faint *pop* of the two M-60 fuse igniters fire. After about a nervous minute we witnessed brother Bergie, the trigger man, approaching quietly. He had stayed a little while to make sure he had a good fuse burn. I admired his dedication in that instance. He went to his ruck and laid to wait with the rest of us.
Team Daddy in typical fashion was observing his watch and called over his hand-held to the security teams:
“Standby for detonation in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one…”
And there came an ear-splitting *CCCRRRRAAAACCCCCKKKKK* of high-order C-4 expanding at 24,000 feet per second followed seconds later by a ground-shaking cacophony of steel slamming onto the ground with sheiks and groans of twisting steel.
“Security, collapse to hide site,” Team Daddy called out, followed seconds later by the panting pipe-hitters from the security perimeter. We threw on our rucks and stepped out smartly some 90 degrees from our original target approach azimuth.
(Destroyed tower [photo courtesy of the author])
Approximately 20-minutes into the walk, our Senior Medic pulled Team Daddy aside for some bad news; he had left his hand-held radio back at the hide — major blunder. How could we possibly return to the target so soon after destruction? We simply had to, that was is just the way it was.
Team Daddy had the men form a PB while he, the medic, and I went back for the radio. The sun had been steadily dropping lower to the horizon. Dark would be to our advantage as we swung around to make our approach to the hide site from the bush rather than the open field.
Doc found his radio immediately once we got there. There were a number of first responder vehicles scattered around the ruined target site with men milling around. We scampered like rabbits back in the direction of the patrol base. With Team Daddy up front and me walking in back, Doc from the middle kept turning around looking with awe on his face.
“What’s the deal, Doc?” I finally had to ask him.
“It’s going back up! The sun is… it’s going back up! It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
“Well, yee-haw, Daktari… so you saw it too, yeah? You saw the sun not set — was that cool or what??”
(“It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.
Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.
After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.
Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.
“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.
The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.
When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.
Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.
The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.
“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.
Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.
“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.
For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.
“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of troops and veterans today have seen the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. It’s an expertly crafted film and its tasteful use of special effects (for late 90s, anyway) was beyond astounding.
The film is terrific in its own right, but Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, upon which the movie is (loosely) based, elevated the science fiction genre and has a place on nearly every single required reading list created by the United States military. If you’re a young private in the Marines or a battalion commander in the Army, you will be asked to read this classic — and this is why.
In case you were wondering, these were the Skinnies. 10,000 of them were killed with only one human death.
Technically speaking, the film was originally based off an unrelated script for a film called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine until the production team realized that it only had a passing resemblance to the novel. This lead to many of the significant differences between the two and a drastic change of tone.
The adaptation of the original script to film lead to more of a statement on how propaganda affects the troops fighting in a war in a satirical manner. The novel, however, uses the Bugs as a stand-in character for some nameless enemy to focus in on the novel’s theme of the mindset of a soldier fighting a seemingly unstoppable force.
This is immediately made clear in the first paragraph of the novel.
“I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and
it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and
asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important —
it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.
I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is: I’m scared silly, every time.”
Contrary to what you’d expect if you’ve only watched the film, they’re actually fighting a different alien than the Arachnids (at first.) The first enemies were called “skinnies” and were essentially just tall, lanky, human-like aliens that didn’t really cause a threat to the humans. Their entire Army is easily wiped out by just a single platoon but the prospect of war still frightened Johnny Rico, the stories protagonist.
Hate to break it to anyone expecting giant bug battles in the novel…but it’s fairly light on the fight scenes.
After the battle, the story flashes back to Rico’s time as a civilian before the Mobile Infantry. The idea of “service equals citizenship” had a different meaning in the novel. Despite the world being under the unified “Terran Federation,” the military and its veterans were treated as a higher caste than non-military people. You literally had to join the military to become a citizen.
This hyperbole was just as relevant in 1950’s society (as it is today in the military community). Despite the fact that signing up is a fantastic way to get benefits in our world, and definitely in the novel’s world, military service is often discouraged and looked down on — as demonstrated through Rico’s father.
The novel spends a lot of time in boot camp for the Mobile Infantry. It shows the deeper motivations about what it takes to be in the military — mainly the forced brotherhood, the “one team, one fight” mentality, and the loss of personal identity that comes with service. Which eventually leads to the “Bug War” when the Arachnids destroy Rico’s home city of Buenos Aires.
The novel also misattributes the quote “Come on, you ape, do you want to live forever” to an unknown platoon sergeant in 1918 — as if it wasn’t the greatest thing ever spoken by the greatest enlisted Marine of all time, Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly.
The troops are overzealous and believe they can handle it. Despite Rico being the only one personally affected by the attack, he’s also one of the only ones not to refer to the Arachnids as “bugs,” which was highly implied to have racial undertones. He instead keeps a level facade while remaining terrified. The first chapter happens around here. This is the exact mindset of many troops right before they’re sent to deploy.
When the Mobile Infantry arrives on Klendathu, it’s a complete disaster — the exact opposite of the battle with the skinnies. The Arachnids were massive and though the humans had the firepower, it was no match for the unstoppable numbers of their enemy.
Rico finally gets his chance to fight the Arachnids with the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. He and his men capture a Brain Bug and begin learning more about the “bug” society. It mirrored their own except the Warriors were the lowest caste fighting for an apathetic queen. Rico learns that aimlessly tossing troops at the problem would only result in more and more deaths.
The novel ends with a coda of the first chapter as Rico is about to make his drop onto Klendathu with confidence. He does this because he learned the value of military strategy — the one thing the Arachnids lacked.
Starship Troopers makes heavy parallels between the Mobile Infantry and Arachnids. It’s often incorrectly believed by casual readers, or those without knowledge of the military, that the novel promotes fascism and militarism — it doesn’t.
If anything, the novel explores the psyche of the troops as they head off into combat — it just utilizes an extreme science fiction setting to do it.
Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah announced during a visit to Washington, DC on Jan. 28 that his country will expand the American Al Udeid Air Base.
The expansion will add more than 200 new housing units for officers and their families.
“It will very soon become a family-oriented place for our American friends there. We want more of the families to be stable and feel more comfortable in their stay,” al-Attiyah said at an event at the Heritage Foundation.
Al-Attiyah praised the U.S.-Qatar relationship, saying that the Qatari Military has learned much from their American partners. He also said that Qatar is interested in making the Al Udeid base permanent.
“Colleagues in the U.S. Department of Defense are reluctant to mention the word permanent, but we are working from our side to make it permanent,” Al-Attiyah said.
The Qatari defense minister repeated the plans to make Al Udeid a permanent U.S. base during a meeting on Jan. 30 with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
The base currently houses around 10,000 US military personnel and has been essential for air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Qatar and the U.S. signed a military cooperation agreement after Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The Al Udeid Air Base was built in 1996, and the U.S. military moved its operations there in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq.
The base is now the home of the U.S. Air Force Central Command and has proven essential for American air operations in the region.
“Qatar is strategically placed. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — these are all hotspots in the region. I am not exaggerating when I say 80% of aerial refueling in the region is from Udeid,” al-Attiyah said. “We’re the ones that keep your birds flying.”
Military personnel from the U.K. and other allies are also stationed at Al Udeid.
The expansion comes at a diplomatically tough time for Qatar. Last June, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia instituted an economic and political embargo on Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic relations. The countries claim that Qatar supports terrorism and is destabilizing the region.
The embargo has not had the desired effect so far. Qatar has managed to deepen ties with the U.S. as well as other countries like Turkey, Oman, and Iran, allowing it to circumvent the blockade in certain ways.
While Russia likes to point to the “successes” of its state re-armament program, the fact is that many of the weapons have fallen well short of their touted potential. The T-14 is underfunded and probably overhyped. The Su-57 can’t be stealthy and fast at the same time. The nuclear-powered cruise missile might be what killed Russian scientists last month.
The RSM-56 Bulava missile has some problems that we’ll get into in a minute, but on paper, it’s one of the most impressive weapons in the world today.
These nuclear-armed missiles are able to fly over 5,000 miles from the Borei-class submarine that launched them. That’s far enough for the sub to fire from the southern coast of Brazil and hit anywhere on the U.S. East Coast. And when it hits, it hits hard. Estimates of its punching power vary, but it’s thought to carry between 6 and 10 independently targeted warheads. And each warhead has a 100-150 kiloton yield.
While it’s hard to get good numbers for how far the different warheads can spread, each one can essentially take out a city, and those cities can likely be spread 100 miles or more apart. Oh, and each sub carries 12-16 missiles.
Add to all of that the warhead follows a lower arc, foiling many missile defenses, and can deploy decoy warheads. It’s a recipe for absolute destruction. Each submarine can take out, conservatively, 72 city-sized targets. Well, they can do so if each missile works properly.
Russia overhyped the Su-57, failed to field the T-14 in significant numbers, and then claimed its nuclear-powered cruise missile was ready to go about a year before that missile blew up in testing and killed top scientists. So, yeah, there’s always the possibility that the Bulava doesn’t work as advertised.
But since the missiles have had successful tests and can take out entire regions of America, it could legitimately be the last thing millions of Americans ever see if there’s a nuclear shooting match between the U.S. and Russia. But hey, at least the suspense won’t last long.
A U.S. Navy officer charged with hazing and maltreatment of sailors is facing a general court martial.
The Virginian-Pilot reported April 18 that the unnamed lieutenant commander is accused of verbal abuse and retaliating against a sailor who asked to stop being called Charlie Brown. Court documents say the officer told the sailor to carry a Charlie Brown cartoon figurine at all times.
The officer also allegedly punched a chair next to a sailor and yelled at someone for more than an hour. The officer is also accused of lying about his actions.
The Air Force is launching a next-generation airborne surveillance and command and control technology intended to successfully synchronize air, ground, drone, and satellite assets onto a single, seamless network, service officials said.
The emerging system, planned to reach full maturity in the 2040s, is called Advanced Battle Management and Surveillance (ABMS). It was introduced in the recently released Air Force 2019 budget.
“The budget proposes to change the way we execute battlefield management command and control in the multi-domain environment,” an Air Force official explained to Warrior Maven.
This initiative, carving out a new innovation-based short and long-term plan, articulates a much-deliberated Air Force path forward regarding the future of its Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) platform. The emerging plan represents the manifestation of lengthy Air Force considerations about whether the large and “not-so-stealthy” JSTARS platform would remain functionally useful in a high-threat, high-tech, modern environment.
ABMS seeks to harvest the latest ISR-oriented technologies from current and emerging systems as a way to take a very large step forward — and connect satellites, drones, ground sensors, and manned surveillance aircraft seamlessly, in real time, across a fast-changing, dispersed combat area of operations. ABMS is described by Air Force officials as more of a “system” than platform-specific application. This technical approach is of great significance amid anticipated future threat scenarios wherein electronic attacks, cyber intrusions, and GPS “jamming” weapons are both emerging and proliferating.
Over the longer term, the advanced ABMS suite of sensors and ISR technologies could integrate on a number of current and future air platforms, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.
At the same time, the service is also identifying a near-term “bridge” or “interim” solution to meet combat commands while ABMS develops. This plan includes an immediate effort to modernize E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and upgrade the current JSTARS fleet through the mid-2020s.
“We propose to modernize 7 E-3 Airborne Warning Command and Control aircraft and keep the current E-8C JSTARS operational through the mid-2020s, as we develop and transition to an advanced battle management system,” the Air Force official said.
Air Force developers further specified to Warrior Maven that integrating advanced communications, networking, and sensor capabilities onto an E-3G aircraft will “mitigate operational risk prior to the arrival of ABMS in the early 2040s.”
The JSTARS mission
The Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with service command and control.
Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.
JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations.
The current Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.
JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise, Air Force officials explain.
Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.
Air Force officials say the current ongoing competition to recapitalize JSTARS will continue alongside a commensurate or greater focus upon ABMS. The plan sheds some light on recent lingering questions about whether the service would continue its recap effort or replace it with something designed to operate more successfully in a high-tech modern threat environment.
Service developers have emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.
JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape, and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.
JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.
Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the Pacific theater, Southcom (U.S. Southern Command), and Central Command areas of responsibility.
The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.
Air Force plan adjusts to advanced threats
While Air Force officials did not elaborate much on the various future threat conditions currently informing the calculus of decision-making, there has been much discussion of a broader need for air surveillance assets to operate in a more contested, high-threat, near-peer type warfare environment. Given these dynamics, broadly speaking, it makes sense that a larger, and therefore more detectable platform, like JSTARS, could be a more vulnerable target against adversaries with sophisticated weapons and sensors.
Accordingly, while JSTARS functions with great effect in lower threat combat circumstances, such as Afghanistan, where the US maintains air supremacy, its size, configuration, and radar signature are such that it could potentially be more vulnerable to advanced enemy air defenses.
At the same time, the platform is known to add tremendous value in combat scenarios — and advances in aircraft defenses, countermeasures, electronic warfare, and newer sensor technology, it seems, could potentially enable JSTARS to operate successfully against sophisticated enemy air-to-air weapons and ground-based air defense systems. Clearly, the aircraft is not intended to fly at the edge of combat, unprotected, against enemy fighter jets and air defenses — the question is what kinds of assets, emerging systems or supplemental technologies might be leveraged to expand its mission functionality in more contested areas?
An ability to address a high-threat electromagnetic warfare environment, by any estimation, is a likely focal point of the calculus regarding how best to equip large sensor platforms — such as JSTARS —for future combat environments. While many details regarding these kinds of technologies are, naturally, not available, engineering and upgrading an aircraft such as JSTARS with EW countermeasures or systems designed to minimize its electronic “signature” could indeed be fundamental to an ability to operate in sophisticated near-peer types of warfare scenarios.
It may be that other kinds of advanced countermeasures and aircraft protections, including the use of nearby unmanned drones as protection, could prove useful with respect to upgrading JSTARS to operate against advanced enemies.
There are other potential considerations or likely reasons why an upgraded current JSTARS aircraft might be positioned to operate with some success against sophisticated modern enemies; attack aircraft or stealth bombers could eliminate air defenses before a JSTARS enters a high-threat area of operation, thus enabling it to operate with great effect — electronic jamming aircraft such as the EA-18 Growler equipped with a high-tech Next-Generation Jammer, also, could potentially detect and jam radar signals from enemy air defenses — and semi-autonomous drones operated from a JSTARS cockpit in the future might test enemy air defenses or assess the threat environment while the surveillance aircraft operates at a safer distance.
Moving into the future, there may be emerging assets able to perform these missions more effectively against extremely advanced enemies; newer EW and sensor technology, for instance, are rapidly evolving such that smaller, better-protected platforms might have occasion to track wider areas at increasingly longer ranges — all while maintaining a lower radar signature. Faster computer processing speeds, enabling a smaller hardware footprint — coupled with more “hardened” networks and data links — might enable smaller, new platforms to gather, organize, analyze, and disseminate crucial, combat-relevant information in near-real time.
In short, command and control technology is evolving so quickly, that the Air Force might wish to ensure it can consistently identify and leverage the best emerging technical solutions able to perform the requisite surveillance and command and control functions currently executed by legacy JSTARS planes.
Would emerging drone surveillance technology, historically thought of as providing a “soda-straw” view of areas below, be able to survey wide-swaths of dispersed terrain across a combat area of operations? Perhaps stealthy platforms, increasingly equipped with advanced sensor technology, could perform some of the wide-area command and control missions currently taken up by the JSTARS. It may be that a new JSTARS platform could operate in tandem with other systems, networks and aerial platforms able to assist the mission in higher-risk environments. In fact, this kind of cross-domain connectivity seems to be at the heart of what ABMS seeks to accomplish.
The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.
The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.
We’ve heard this one before, but a senior U.S. military official said Sept. 13 that a swarm of coalition jets bombed a facility near Mosul, Iraq, he claimed was making chemical weapons for the Islamic State terrorist group.
The general in charge of Central Command’s air forces said the recent strike on a former pharmaceutical plant involved a dozen aircraft — from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to B-52 Stratofortresses — on 50 different targets.
“Intelligence had indicated that Daesh converted a pharmaceutical plant complex into a chemical weapons productions capability,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian during a press briefing Sept. 13. “This represents just another example of [ISIS] blatant disregard for international law and norms.”
The air chief admitted there’s a long history of false reporting on chemical weapons production in the Middle East, particularly with Iraq, but said intelligence pointed to specific weapons being manufactured there.
“The target set, as we better understood it, was basically a pharmaceutical element that they were, we believe, using them for most probably chlorine or mustard gas,” Harrigian said. “We don’t know for sure at this point.”
The strike included F-15E Strike Eagles; A-10s; B-52s; Marine F/A-18D Hornets and F-16 Falcons.
“With respect to the number of airplanes we used, so as we looked at the number of points of interest … specifically, we had a pretty significant number of them,” Harrigian said. “And so to allocate the right types of weapons from the — the necessary number of platforms, we needed that many jets to be able to take out the breadth from that facility that was out there on the ground.”
“The strike near Al Bab, Syria, removes from the battlefield ISIL’s chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. “It is one in a series of successful strikes against ISIL leaders, including those responsible for finances and military planning, that make it harder for the group to operate.”
Sure to be fodder for conspiracy theorists, the files all relate to Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Following his murder, more than 30,000 government documents — totaling millions of pages — have been incrementally released to the public, although many of them have been redacted or only partially released.
Much of the public stayed in the dark about the presence of these files until Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK,” in which a closing statement told the public about the secret documents. Movie-goers quickly turned into letter-writers, as concerned citizens began demanding that Washington make the full set of files available.
The index does, however, present eyebrow-raising file names that seem to implicate a connection between the Assassination Records Review Board and the CIA. One such batch of files is listed with the subject line “CIA CORRESPONDENCE RE ARRB,” Politico reported.
On July 26, 2018, two stealth aircraft were spotted taking off at the remote Tonopah Test Range in southwest Nevada, with one lingering over the base while the other appeared to head south.
Two stealth aircraft operating out of the secretive Tonopah base isn’t out of the ordinary. In this instance however, the two aircraft in question appeared to be F-117 Nighthawks — planes that were retired more than a decade ago.
The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s, and the first F-117 unit reached initial operating capability in October 1983, becoming the first operational, purpose-built stealth aircraft.
It was designed to attack high-value targets without being detected. It could carry 5,000 pounds of internal payload, and two engines could push it to 684 mph. The plane, which took part in the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War, was renowned for its precision.
An F-117 Nighthawk flies over the Nevada desert.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)
“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” former F-117 maintainer Yancy Mailes said in an Air Force release marking the 10th anniversary of the plane’s retirement, referring to a guided bomb . “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building.”
Nighthawk pilots were nicknamed ” Bandits .” The maintainers, designated material application and repair specialists, were known as MARS, which eventually became ” Martians .”
While the plane was designed to elude detection, one was shot down by Yugoslavian air defenses in March 1999. The pilot bailed out and was rescued within hours, as enemy forces closed in.
After 25 years in service, the Air Force retired the F-117 on April 22, 2008. But the story didn’t end there. An Air Force official told Military.com in September 2017 that the service got permission to retire 52 Nighthawks but wanted to maintain them in case they were called back into service.
Rumors that the plane was still in flight continued for years. In late 2014, The Aviationist published photos showing F-117s in operation at Tonopah. It was suspected that the planes were being used for some kind of testing.
The aircraft were being kept in Type 1000 storage, meaning they were being maintained in case they needed to be recalled to active service. That meant keeping them in their “original, climate-friendly hangars” at Tonopah, rather than building new storage facilities for them elsewhere, the Air Force said at the time.
In accordance with the Type 1000 program, or “flyable storage,” the service added, “some F-117 aircraft are occasionally flown.”
In October 2010, footage emerged that appeared to show the aircraft flying near Groom Lake Air Force Base, which is part of Area 51, and near Tonopah Test Range.
An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter refuels from a 100th Aerial Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, March 27, 1999.
(US Air Force photo)
Four years on, the shadowy Nighthawk is still seen skulking through the sky over the American West.
About six F-117s are kept in flyable condition at any one time, according to The War Zone , which reported that the planes are likely flown by contractors. That may be why there haven’t been official references to the Nighthawk’s activities, which may involve testing of low-observable technology.
Two Nighthawks were spotted flying together over Nevada in July 2016. In November 2017, what appeared to be an F-117 was spotted being hauled under cover on a trailer near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The next day, an F-117 was observed in flight north of Rachel, Nevada, being chased by a two-seat F-16 in what may have been a test of some kind of anti-stealth technology, The Aviationist said at the time.
But the Nighthawk’s time may finally be nigh.
According to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force is to remove four F-117s from service every year, a process known as demilitarizing aircraft, a service official told Military.com in September 2018.
“We had to keep all the F-117s in flyable storage until the fiscal ’17 NDAA gave us permission to dispose of them,” the official said.
It will be some time before the last F-117 leaves the flight line for good, and the expense of keeping them maintained in a museum may be prohibitive, meaning the Air Force could scrap them outright, according to The War Zone. But some vestiges of the Nighthawk may live on.
“It was a unique experience,” retired Col. Jack Forsythe, who first flew a Nighthawk in 1995 and led the final formation flight in 2008, said in early 2018 “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 (Raptor) and F-35 (Lightning II) pilots feel today.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Navy SEAL who led a risky assault on a mountain peak to rescue a stranded teammate in Afghanistan in 2002 will receive the Medal of Honor, according to a White House announcement.
Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor May 24, 2018, according to the announcement.
According to the White House release, Slabinski is credited with leading a team back to rescue another SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, after he was ejected from an MH-47 Chinook crippled by enemy rocket-propelled grenade fire March 4, 2002 in eastern Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)
The operation would ultimately be known as “The Battle of Roberts Ridge” in honor of Roberts. The team had originally begun the mission the day before, tasked with establishing an outpost on the top of Takur Ghar mountain as part of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot Valley.
“Then-Senior Chief Slabinski boldly rallied his remaining team and organized supporting assets for a daring assault back to the mountain peak in an attempt to rescue their stranded teammate,” the White House announcement reads. “Later, after a second enemy-opposed insertion, then-Senior Chief Slabinski led his six-man joint team up a snow-covered hill, in a frontal assault against two bunkers under withering enemy fire from three directions.”
Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire” as he took on al-Qaida forces in the rescue attempt, according to the release.
“Proximity made air support impossible, and after several teammates became casualties, the situation became untenable,” the release said.
Moving his team into a safer position, Slabinski directed air strikes through the night and, as daylight approached, led “an arduous trek” through waist-deep snow while still under fire from the enemy. He treated casualties and continued to call in fire on the enemy for 14 hours until an extract finally came.
Slabinski previously received the Navy Cross for leading the rescue and directing continued fire on the enemy throughout the lengthy and brutal fight.
“During this entire sustained engagement, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski exhibited classic grace under fire in steadfastly leading the intrepid rescue operation, saving the lives of his wounded men and setting the conditions for the ultimate vanquishing of the enemy and the seizing of Takur Ghar,” his medal citation reads. “By his heroic display of decisive and tenacious leadership, unyielding courage in the face of constant enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Slabinski’s actions were highlighted in a moving 2016 New York Times account that emphasized the role of Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman,who was attached to the SEAL team and ultimately died on the mountain.
Task and Purpose reported in late April 2018, that Chapman, credited with saving the entire SEAL team he was attached to during the operation, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. The White House has not confirmed that.
Chapman reportedly directed air strikes from AC-130 gunships after Roberts was ejected from the MH-47. During follow-on attempts to rescue Roberts, Chapman would ultimately be wounded by enemy fire from close range.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Reporting surrounding the role of Slabinski and the SEALs in recovering Chapman paints a complex picture. According to the New York Times report, Slabinski believed, and told his men, that Chapman was dead. Air Force officials, however, reportedly contest that Chapman was still alive and fought by himself for more than an hour after the SEALs moved back to a safer position. Predator drone footage reportedly supports this belief.
Slabinski himself told the publication doubt persisted in his mind.
“I’m trying to direct what everybody’s got going on, trying to see what’s going on with John; I’m already 95 percent certain in my mind that he’s been killed,” he said in an interview with the Times. “That’s why I was like, ‘O.K., we’ve got to move.'”
Slabinski will also be the 12th living service member overall to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
According to a biography provided by the White House, Slabinski enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and graduated Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1990. He completed nine overseas deployments and 15 combat deployments over the course of his career, including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as director of the Naval Special Warfare Safety Assurance and Analysis Program after more than 25 years of service, according to releases.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Slabinski’s previous awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, five Bronze Stars with combat “V” device, and two Combat Action Ribbons.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.