MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army cold-weather ops course is nuts

More than two dozen Army Rangers with battalions from the 75th Ranger Regiment bolstered their skills in cold-weather operations during training Feb. 21 to March 6, 2019 at Fort McCoy.

The soldiers were part of the 14-day Cold-Weather Operations Course Class 19-05, which was organized by Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security and taught by five instructors with contractor Veterans Range Solutions.


A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

The Rangers received classroom training on various subjects, such as preventing cold-weather injuries and the history of cold-weather military operations. In field training, they learned about downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ahkio sled use, and setting up cold-weather shelters, such as the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent or an improvised shelter.

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Building a shelter among other soldiers and being able to stay warm throughout the night was one of the best things I learned in this course,” said Sgt. Paul Drake with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th at Fort Benning, Ga. “This training also helped me understand extreme cold weather and how to conserve energy and effectively operate while wearing the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) uniform properly.”

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

The Army ECWCS features more than a dozen items that are issued to soldiers, said Fort McCoy Central Issue Facility Property Book Officer Thomas Lovgren. The system includes a lightweight undershirt and underwear, midweight shirt and underwear, fleece jacket, wind jacket, soft shell jacket and trousers, extreme cold/wet-weather jacket and trousers, and extreme cold-weather parka and trousers.

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“It’s a layered system that allows for protection in a variety of climate elements and temperatures,” said Lovgren, whose facility has provided ECWCS items for soldiers since the course started. “Each piece in the ECWCS fits and functions either alone or together as a system, which enables seamless integration with load-carrying equipment and body armor.”

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

In addition to many of the Rangers praising the course’s ECWCS training, many also praised the field training.

“Living out in the cold for seven days and sleeping in shelters makes me more competent to operate in less-than-optimal conditions,” said Sgt. Austin Strimenos with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “Other good training included becoming confident with using the Arctic tents and the heaters and stoves and learning about cold-weather injuries and treatments.

“Also, the cross-country skiing and the trail area we used were awesome,” Strimeros said.

Students in Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05 practice skiing.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

During training, the students experienced significant snowfall and below-zero temperatures. Spc. Jose Francisco Garcia, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th, said the winter extremes, along with Fort McCoy’s rugged terrain, helped everyone build winter-operations skills.

“The best parts of this course is the uncomfortable setting that Fort McCoy confronts the soldiers with during this kind of weather,” Garcia said. “This makes us think critically and allows us to expand our thought process when planning for future cold-weather operations. It also helps us to understand movement planning, what rations we need, and more.”

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

Spc. Stephen Harbeck with the 1st Battalion of the 75th at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., which is near Fort Stewart, said enjoyed the training, including cold-water immersion training. Cold-water immersion training is where a large hole is cut in the ice at the post’s Big Sandy Lake by CWOC staff, then a safe and planned regimen is followed to allow each participant to jump into the icy water.

“The experience of a service member being introduced to water in an extreme-cold environment is a crucial task for waterborne operations and confidence building,” said CWOC instructor Joe Ernst.

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“The best things about this course are the training about fire starting, shelter building, and the cold-water immersion,” Harbeck said. “CWOC has helped me understand the advantages and disadvantages of snow and cold weather. Everything we learned has equipped me with the knowledge to operate in a cold-weather environment.”

By Army definition, units like the 75th are a large-scale special-operations force and are made up of some of the most elite soldiers in the Army. Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and more, so gaining training to operate in a cold-weather environment adds to their skills.

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Learning about and experiencing the effects of cold weather on troops and equipment as well as learning about troop movements in the snow are skills I can share with soldiers in my unit,” said Cpl. Justin Galbraith, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “It was cold, and it snowed a lot while we were here. So … it was perfect.”

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Other field skills practiced in the training by the Rangers included terrain and weather analysis, risk management, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and more.

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

“This course has given me insight on how to conduct foot movements, survive in the elements, and more,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Bowman with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th. “It’s also helped me establish the (basis) for creating new tactics, techniques, and procedures for possible upcoming deployments and training situations.”

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

This course is the fifth of six CWOC classes being taught between December 2018 and March 2019.

“Fort McCoy is a good location for this training because of the weather and snowfall,” said Spc. Clay Cottle with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “We need to get more Rangers into this course.”

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Note: Male CWOC students are provided a command-approved modified grooming waiver during training to help prevent cold-weather injuries because of multiple days of field training.

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

Fort McCoy lives its motto, “Total Force Training Center.” The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.

Articles

These fighters are doing the heavy lifting against ISIS

Older U.S. Air Force jets — including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, eyed in recent years for retirement, and the F-15E Strike Eagle — are leading the air war against the Islamic State, statistics show.


U.S. military fighter-attack jets, bombers and drones have dropped more than 67,000 bombs since the 2014 start of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department’s mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to information provided by Air Forces Central Command.

Notably, fighter-attack aircraft released more than three times as many weapons as bombers did, the figures show. Drones dropped the least of any category of aircraft.

Aircraft like “the A-10, F-15E, and F-16 are breaking their backs because they are the right platform for the job and providing the right function,” Brian Laslie, an air power historian and author of the book, “The Air Force Way of War,” said in an email to Military.com.

F-15E Strike Eagle as it refuels. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua A. Hoskins)

Weapons Released by Aircraft

U.S. aircraft have released a total of 67,333 weapons from Aug. 8, 2014, through May 16, according to the data. While the F-15E released the most, the F-22 Raptor — one of the most advanced stealth fighters — dropped the least.

Here are the figures for the 10 types of U.S. aircraft flying combat sorties: F-15E Strike Eagle, 14,995 weapons released; A-10 Thunderbolt II, 13,856; B-1 Lancer, 9,195; F/A-18 Super Hornets, 8,920; F-16 Fighting Falcon, 7,679; B-52 Stratofortress, 5,041; MQ-1 Predator drone, 2,274; MQ-9 Reaper, 2,188; AV-8B, 1,650; and F-22, 1,535.

Broken down by aircraft type, fighter and attack planes dropped a total of 48,635 weapons, or 72 percent of the total; bombers released 14,236, or 21 percent; and drones dropped 4,462, or 7 percent, according to the statistics.

 

Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff, a spokeswoman for Air Force Central Command, or AFCENT, cautioned that the numbers released by the command — which includes assets and actions under the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC — don’t reflect the “entirety of kinetic activity in OIR,” such as assets belonging to coalition partners or other U.S. components, like the Combined Joint Land Component Commander and Special Operations Joint Task Force.

“The amount of weapons employed by each aircraft varies due to a number of factors, such as time in theater, types of missions (i.e. close air support, air-to-air, escort, interdiction, etc.), ordnance type, etc.,” Atanasoff said in an email last week.

F-15Es parked during Operation Desert Shield. (Photo by: Wikimedia)

‘Lion’s Share of the Work’

While the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets actually flew the most combat missions, the Air Force’s F-15Es dropped the highest number of bombs, releasing more than one in five of the total amount, according to AFCENT.

As the workhorses of the ISIS fight, the “E” model Strike Eagle is a dual-role jet with the ability to find targets over long ranges and destroy enemy ground positions.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, the gunship popularly known as the Warthog or simply the ‘Hog’, has released almost as many weapons, albeit with a special type of accounting. Every 100 rounds from the Hog’s 30 mm Avenger gun is counted as one weapon, Atanasoff said.

Laslie said he wasn’t surprised that commanders are turning more frequently to fighters and close-air support aircraft in the campaign against ISIS — an operation estimated to cost roughly $13 billion so far.

After the Vietnam War, the service has operated as “a much more tactical Air Force,” he said. “From El Dorado Canyon in 1986 [campaign in Libya], to Desert Storm in ’91 and the Balkan campaigns of the mid-to-late 90s, tactical assets have done the lion’s share of the work.”

A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

‘See the Airpower’

Atanasoff said the relatively lower strike number for the B-52 doesn’t mean the bomber isn’t as active as other aircraft, but rather that it simply hasn’t been in theater as long. The B-1 left the campaign in early 2016 and was replaced by the B-52 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in February said, “You’re just going to see a continual rotation of both of those weapons systems.”

Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, last year noted the Stratofortress’ unique ability to stay airborne for a long duration.

“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” he said at the time. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”

Laslie said, “GPS and stand-off weapons (and permissive environments) have kept the B-52 in the game, but it really is a tactical conflict in OIR.” He said bombers like the B-52 — though strategically useful — “aren’t really optimized for this mission set” in quick, one-off strike sorties.

An F-22 deploys flares. (Photo by: US Air Force)

Hunting for Intel

Similarly, the relatively lower strike numbers for the F-22 stealth fighter and the MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones may be attributed to the fact that they’re often used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to relay to other platforms and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center.

“We have refined our targeting process and become more efficient in layering our ISR to uncover targets that have made themselves available to us, which also has facilitated the number of weapons we’ve been able to deliver,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters last week.

Leaders have also “relied on the F-22’s ability to fuse information, understand where our friendly forces are,” to watch, and deconflict with multiple forces on the ground, he said.

At times controllers are using Reapers, Predators or both “combined in a formation” as a more efficient way of using their sensors, according to Lt. Col. Eric Winterbottom, chief of the Commander’s Action Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Remotely piloted aircraft are likely the first aircraft dictating “strike or no strike calls based off what we’re seeing” from the sensors, Winterbottom said in October. They’re an example of why officials ask for more ISR assets to ease pressure on manned aircraft and to minimize collateral damage from airstrikes.

More at Military.com:

Needing Trops, Army Offers Up To $90K Bonuses To Re-Enlist

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Pair of Raids in Tehran

Pentagon: China Could House Fighters on 3 South China Sea Outposts

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s F-35 fleet reportedly made 7 emergency landings before that crash

Five of Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-35 jets reportedly made seven emergency landings prior to a crash somewhere in the Pacific Ocean last week, the Ministry of Defense said, according to the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.

Two of the emergency landings were related to the crashed F-35, but the Defense Ministry approved the aircraft to fly again. The emergency landings occurred in flight tests between June 2017 and January 2019, The Mainichi reported.

Among other issues, the F-35s reportedly had problems with the fuel and hydraulics systems. The diagnosed aircraft were were inspected and refitted with parts.


The crashed F-35, which was assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, Japan, was reportedly diagnosed with cooling and navigation system problems in June 2017 and August 2018, according to The Mainichi.

The aircraft, designated AX-6, is the second F-35A assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ F-35 Final Assembly Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan and is the first to be assigned to the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.

(JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.)

Four of the five F-35s with problems were also assembled by Mitsubishi, while the fifth aircraft was reportedly assembled in the US. All of Japan’s F-35s have been temporarily grounded.

The downed 6 million aircraft marked the first time an international ally has lost an F-35. Search-and-rescue teams were able to locate debris of the wreckage but the pilot is still missing.

The particular F-35 was the first one assembled in the Mitsubishi plant and was piloted by a veteran who had 3,200 hours of flying time, according to Defense News and Reuters. The pilot reportedly had 60 hours of flying time in the F-35.

Following the crash, the US and Japan have conducted an intensive search for the aircraft. The Lockheed Martin-developed, fifth-generation fighter boasts several technological and stealth features, which could provide rivaling nations like Russia or China valuable intelligence, if found.

“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This anti-Putin journalist faked his own death to out Russian assassins

Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was reported to be assassinated on May 29, 2018, in Ukraine, but he showed up alive at a news conference on May 30, 2018, according to several reports.

Babchenko, 41, appeared at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, said the reported assassination was a sting operation.


Reports on May 29, 2018, indicated Babchenko was shot in the back in his apartment in Kiev, dying in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. His wife was said to have found him and called the ambulance.

“Special apologies to my wife,” Babchenko said at the press conference, according to the BBC.

“We prevented the attempted murder of Babchenko by conducting a special operation,” the head of the SBU, Vasily Hrytsak, said on May 30, 2018, before Babchenko appeared, adding that the attempt on his life had been planned by Russia for two months.

“According to information received by the Ukrainian Security Service, the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves,” Hrytsak said, according to The Telegraph.

The SBU also said that a suspect accused of planning to carry out the assassination was apprehended and that Russian intelligence had paid the person ,000 thousand for the hit.

Babchenko, a prominent war correspondent, is extremely critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and fled Russia in February 2017, because of threats to him and his family.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ministry was happy Babchenko was alive, calling the staged assassination a “propagandistic effect,” the BBC reported, citing the Russian news service RIA.

See Babchenko speak at the news conference below:

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the US B-52 bombers flying around Europe have been up to

Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on Oct. 10, 2019, for a bomber task force deployment.

The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to “conduct integration and interoperability training” with partners in the region and to “exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location” in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.


Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow — this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.

Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Bomber Task Force 20-1 was “part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,” a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.

The Barksdale B-52s’ deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

A B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana takes off from RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

US Air Force Senior Airman Sho Kashara, an Explosives Ordinance Disposal airmen from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, helps build inert BDU-50 bombs for practice use by B-52H Stratofortresses at RAF Fairford, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

US Air Force airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H for takeoff during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes,” Crowe added.

96th Bomb Squadron aircrew from to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn’t have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a “flying crew chief” to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron weapons system officers work in the lower deck of a 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in the Black Sea region in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Three B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in formation after completing missions over the Baltic Sea for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by SSgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO’s Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

French air force Dassault Rafales fly next to a US Air Force B-52H over France in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 25, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

Two Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons engage in a planned intercept of a US Air Force B-52H over Poland during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

A US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, Oct. 28, 2019.

(Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense)

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana taxis toward the flight line at RAF Fairford in support of Global Thunder 20, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s next to a US Air Force B-52H in Norwegian airspace during training for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 30, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

A US Air Force B-52H and Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles conduct a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron pilot flies a US Air Force B-52H during training and integration with the Royal Norwegian air force in Norwegian airspace in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet’s home base.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

“The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence,” the spokeswoman said.

A US Air Force B-52H takes off from RAF Fairford to return to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

A US Air Force 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

BTF “rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.

“Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal,” said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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

Articles

Could a nuclear war with Russia start in the Black Sea?

An incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in February now has new context. The dustup involved multiple Russian aircraft making close passes over the Porter that the United States Navy described as “unsafe and unprofessional” at the time. The aircraft involved were Su-24 Fencers and an Il-38 May.


According to a report from Reuters, the Russian defense ministry has declared that any United States Navy patrol in the Black Sea is a potential threat to Russia. The reason, they claim, is that they cannot tell what missiles are loaded aboard the U.S. ships.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean during a 2007 deployment. (US Navy photo)

How credible is this claim? To start, let’s look at the Porter’s weapons suite. It carries a single five-inch gun, it is equipped with two Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 324mm torpedoes, and two Mk 41 vertical launch systems (one with 29 cells, the other with 61).

It is this last system that warrants a closer look. The Mk 41 can carry RIM-66 Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-174 Standard SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RUM-139 Vertical-Launched ASROCs, and BGM-109 Tomahawks. The Tomahawks are probably what the Russian defense ministry is citing as their excuse for the close encounter.

Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Tomahawk comes in several varieties. Perhaps the most well-known are the TLAM-C and TLAM-D versions, largely because they have been the most used. According to Designation-Systems.net, the Block III version of the Tomahawk has a 750-pound high-explosive warhead and a range of 870 nautical miles.

The new Tactical Tomahawk, known as the BGM-109E, has a range of 900 nautical miles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In other words, from the Black Sea, Tomahawks could reach out and at a minimum, roll back Russian air defenses in time of war. There used to be a nuclear version of the Tomahawk, but according to a 2013 report by the Federation of American Scientists, the BGM-109A TLAM-N was retired after the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

So, really, a patrol by the United States Navy is not a threat to Russia, in and of itself. And the Navy’s patrols in the Black Sea won’t touch off a nuclear war – unless the Russians launch their nuclear-tipped anti-ship missiles first.

Articles

3 things to know about Sig Sauer and the future of Army handguns

For nearly 10 years, the Army has been on the search for a replacement to the Beretta M9, which has been in the hands of soldiers since 1985.


In a press release, the Army announced they had awarded a $580 million contract to Sig Sauer for the Modular Handgun System, “including handguns, accessories and ammunition.”

1. The military already uses Sig Sauer weapons

The new contract is not the first time Sig Sauer has outfitted members of the armed forces. After losing the Army bid to the Beretta M9 in 1984, the SIG-Sauer P226 was adapted by the Navy SEALs as the MK25 to replace the 9 mm SW M39 pistols. The MK25 was built with corrosion-resistant parts, a necessary requirement when serving a SEAL.

A Coast Guard member is seen firing a Sig Sauer P229R DAK pistol at an indoor range located on Joint Base Cape Cod, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

Related: This suppressed pistol was custom made for Navy SEALs

Additionally, though the Army has widely issued the M9 to most soldiers, Military Police and members of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) often use the SIG-Sauer P228, a smaller version of the P226, known for its compact style and designated as the M11.

The Coast Guard adapted the SIG-Sauer P229R DAK after their M9’s bit the dust in 2004. As many Coast Guardsmen carry and use weapons on a daily basis while policing the nation’s borders, the wear and tear on the handgun took a toll quicker than the other branches. Because the USCG falls under the Department of Homeland Security, the branch was able to use non-Geneva compliant JHP ammunition with a non-NATO standard caliber (40SW).

A soldier fires an M9 pistol. | U.S. Army photo

2. The P320 was named ‘Handgun of the Year’ by an NRA magazine

The P320 is rumored to be the handgun the Army will model their version after. One of the biggest complaints by soldiers about the M9 is its grip size, which is a significant problem for small-handed users. The P320 handgun can be ordered with changeable grips, which would accommodate all soldiers and can changed without incident in the field.

The Sig Sauer P320 was recognized in June 2016 as the Handgun of the Year by the National Rifle Association publication ‘American Rifleman.’ If the Army has chosen to model its next signature weapon after the SIG-Sauer P320 handgun, the upgrades, accessories, and features are numerous, and will provide soldiers a much more modern and up-to-date feel than the current M9.

3. Sig Sauer beat out nine other bids for the lucrative contract

The Army is poised to expand its numbers as the incoming presidential administration has indicated a larger military is on the horizon, a good sign for the pistol company. The $580 million contract extends through 2027 and includes the cost of weapons, ammunition, and accessories. The win showed Sig Sauer coming out ahead of other prestigious gun makers, including Glock, Beretta and Smith Wesson.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the major cues that will tell you if your boot is lying

Everyone lies — it’s natural. To say you don’t lie is a lie in and of itself because you know damn well you’ve told a kid at some point that, “it gets better” knowing full-well it doesn’t — especially as an adult. In fact, the only real truth we have is that everyone lies.

So it makes sense that boots will lie their asses off to avoid punishment and, just like any other human, they’re bad at it. But even a bad liar can be convincing from time to time. Luckily, the Marine Corps developed the Combat Hunter Program, which enables those who receive the training to proactively assess an environment to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Like almost everything you learn while in the service, these lessons can be applied to other areas of life — one of those being lie detection.

Generally, by the time you take on boots, you’ve become wise enough to identify lies — probably because you told all those same lies when you were an FNG. But if you want to be extra sure that you’re getting the truth out of your newbie, watch for these cues:


If they’re this bad, be especially cautious.

Sweating

In almost every case, when someone’s telling a lie, they’re nervous — they don’t want to get caught. When someone’s nervous, they have trouble controlling their perspiration.

Of course, this isn’t a foolproof metric, especially when there are external, environmental factors at play — you know, like the sun.

Unusually formal language

A person who is a little over-confident in their lie will usually use more formal language. Pay extra attention when someone drops the contractions. Look out for “did not”s and “do not”s in someone’s explanation.

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Direct eye contact

While it makes sense for someone who’s nervous or ashamed to look away from the person they’re lying to, it’s also a very obvious sign. Someone who’s trying their best to be convincing knows this and will compensate by looking you directly in the eye.

Too many details

Liars have a tendency to over-explain their story. Usually, this tactic is reserved for the more experienced liars. After all, if you’ve spent time creating, remembering, and parroting a lie, you’re going to watch all of those painstakingly plotted details to emerge, right?

If they’re wearing sunglasses, you might want to have them removed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex Kouns)

Fake smiles

If someone is lying to you and hoping to drive the persuasion home, they might smile. Naturally, we smile at each other to signal to another person that we’re genuine but, as Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, suggests, an authentic smile is in the eyes — not the mouth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now threatening British ships in the South China Sea

Following in the wake of the US Navy, a British warship recently challenged China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea, provoking a confrontation with the Chinese military and triggering outrage in Beijing, Reuters reported Sept. 5, 2018.

The warship HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship carrying a contingent of UK Royal Marines and one of three Royal Navy surface ships deployed to Asian waters in 2018, was confronted by the Chinese navy — a frigate and two Chinese helicopters — when it sailed close to Chinese-occupied territories in the Paracel Islands in late August 2018, Reuters reported.


The Chinese navy instructed the British vessel to leave the area, and the situation did not escalate further, the report said.

“HMS Albion exercised her rights for freedom of navigation in full compliance with international law and norms,” a spokesman for the Royal Navy told Reuters.

Beijing on Sept. 6, 2018, strongly criticized London’s actions, calling the recent incident a provocation.

“The relevant actions by the British ship violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters. “China strongly opposes this and has lodged stern representations with the British side to express strong dissatisfaction.”

“China strongly urges the British side to immediately stop such provocative actions, to avoid harming the broader picture of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability,” the ministry added, according to Reuters. “China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

Royal Marines assault craft exiting the stern of HMS Albion during amphibious operations in 2010.

The US military regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, often sending both warships and bombers past contested territories in the area. And Washington has been pressing allies and international partners to push back on Chinese efforts to dominate the strategic waterway.

London appears to be answering Washington’s call, and Beijing may be particularly upset because it could encourage others to do the same.

In August 2018, the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted joint military exercises in the South China Sea, putting on a show of force with aircraft carriers and other weapons systems in China’s backyard.

Gavin Williamson, the British defense secretary, said on June 3, 2018, — one day after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea — that the deployment of the Albion and other vessels to the region sent the “strongest of signals” on the importance of freedom of navigation.

“We believe that countries should play by the rules,” Williamson said in a clear reference to China.

Increased pressure by the US and Britain has not curbed China’s ambitions in the waterway, through which trillions of dollars’ worth of trade pass annually.

Over the past year, China has significantly increased its military presence in the region by deploying jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles at its outposts in the South China Sea. Chinese bombers have also become much more active in the area.

The Chinese military, arguing that it is defending Chinese territory, regularly threatens foreign ships and aircraft that get too close, and confrontations are not uncommon. The US Navy and other countries in the flashpoint region say their operations have not been affected by China’s threats and warnings.

China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Sept. 6, 2018, that it would continue to dispatch ships and planes to confront countries outside the region that “continue to send warships to the South China Sea to stir up trouble.”

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

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This was what it took to fly the world’s first stealth attack jet

The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.


During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.

According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.

An F-117 on display at MCAS Miramar, in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.

Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.

Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.

The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.

The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.

An A-7D Corsair II, similar to the ones prospective Bandits trained on prior to being told what they were actually training to fly (Photo US Air Force)

If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.

The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.

All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.

An F-117 in-flight, as seen from the boom operator’s station in a USAF tanker (Photo US Air Force)

After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.

By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.

Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Remington Arms has filed for bankruptcy…again

On July 28, 2020, the Remington Arms Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an Alabama federal court. Seeking to restructure amid legal and financial hardships, this is the second time since 2018 that Remington has filed for bankruptcy.

At 204 years old, Remington bills itself as America’s oldest gun maker and claims to be America’s oldest factory that still makes its original product. Remington has also developed and adopted more cartridges than any other firearm or ammunition manufacturer in the world.


During its long history, Remington has churned out classic sporting shotguns like the Model 31 slide-action, Model 1100 autoloading and the Model 3200 over/under. Remington rifles have also been the favorites of familiar names like George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill and even Annie Oakley.

Remington has also had a long history of manufacturing military weapons under contract. In addition to the famous M1903 and Rolling Block rifles, Model 10 trench shotguns and 1911 pistols, Remington was contracted in WWI to make .303 British Pattern 14 rifles for England and Mosin-Nagant rifles for Russia. For the United States, Remington also made modified U.S. Model 1903 rifles with Pedersen devices.

A soldier takes aim with an M1903 Mark I fitted with a Pedersen device (U.S. Army Ordnance Department)

During WWII, Remington continued to manufacture the M1903 rifle, including the 1903A4 sniper rifle variant, the first mass-produced sniper rifle manufactured in the United States. The company also produced nearly 3 million rounds of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition.

In more recent years, Remington has continued to supply the U.S. military with firearms like the Model 870 shotgun, Model 700/M24 rifle, MSR, and even the first batch of M4A1 carbines.

A U.S. Navy SEAL with a Remington 870 during a training exercise in the early 1990s (U.S. Navy)

In March 2018, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having accumulated over 0 million of debt. In May of that same year, Remington was able to exit bankruptcy thanks to a pre-approved restructuring plan that was supported by 97% of its creditors.

In 2019, the Supreme Court denied Remington’s bid to block a lawsuit filed by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington as the manufacturer and marketer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting.

In June 2020, the FBI reported that it conducted 3.9 million firearms background checks, eclipsing the previous March record of 3.7 million. Despite a surge in firearms sales across the nation, Remington has found itself in financial hardship. According to its bankruptcy filing, the company owes its two largest creditors, St. Marks Powder and Eco-Bat Indiana, a combined total of .5 million. The filing also listed the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the city of Huntsville, as creditors with undetermined claims since the company took development incentives in each jurisdiction.

As the company tries to find a buyer to keep it alive, its future remains uncertain. Whatever its fate, the Remington name will continue to stand as one of America’s most iconic and prolific manufacturers of firearms.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why it’s illegal to use weather modification in warfare

Despite how ridiculous some rules and laws may seem, they only have to exist because someone actually did something so ridiculous. That’s why it’s still legal to rain death from above, just as long as that death isn’t actual rain. In this case, the United States is the perpetrator, seeding the clouds in Vietnam to keep the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the South.


“This weather is crazy, as if it’s happening to us on purpose!”

The idea is actually a pretty great one. Instead of bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail into submission, they would simply render it unusable. With Operation Popeye, the United States Air Force seeded the clouds over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in an effort to make the Vietnamese monsoon season last longer, keep the trail muddy and treacherous, and prevent the North from moving men and material into South Vietnam.

From Thailand, the United States used C-130 and F-4C aircraft armed with lead iodide and silver iodide to spread into clouds above the trail. The chemicals condensed the water in those clouds, forming precipitation in the form of rain. They wanted to stop up the dirt roads used by enemy trucks and men, cause landslides, wash out river crossings, and keep the roads impassable.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron contributed to the 2,602 cloud seeding missions flown during Popeye.

That’s a lot of rain.

“I never even imagined that’s what that group was doing,” recalls Brian Heckman, a former Air Force pilot, “until we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then they told us what the project was all about. We just went around looking for clouds to seed.”

And so Popeye continued with gusto, even though Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had no knowledge of the program and even testified to the “fact” that there were no such programs in Vietnam before Congress. The public didn’t find out about the program until the release of The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. That’s how the Environmental Modification Convention came to pass in 1977.

Chemtrails were still totally legal.

Its full name was actually the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, restricting “widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury.” It basically says that any manipulation of weather (aka “environmental modification”) as a means of destruction in wartime is strictly prohibited.

The United States was an early signatory to this agreement.

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Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.


The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.

The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.

(Photo: VA)

Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”

“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.

Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.

Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.

“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.

The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.

Also read: The VA might actually be getting its act together

The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.

Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”

Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.

“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.

More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.

McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”

Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.

Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.