The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.
Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.
Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer
The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.
The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.
(US Army photo)
Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.
During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.
Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.
“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.
The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.
The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.
To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
(US Army photo)
In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.
“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”
To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.
In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added
CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.
“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.
The United States isn’t out of the game yet when it comes to space, but if it wants to remain on top, it will need to do more and do it faster, a senior Defense Department official said Jan. 8, 2019.
“China is integrating certain new technologies and fielding those capabilities faster than the U.S.,” said Chris Shank, director of DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “That means we have to be more responsive.”
Shank spoke during a presentation in San Diego hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he pointed out some statistics regarding space launches in 2018.
“China had 39 launches, the U.S. had 31, Russia had 20, [and] Europe had eight,” Shank said. “And [China] landed a robotic mission on the dark side of the moon — a first.”
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., April 14, 2018. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiments system was onboard and is one of the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron’s primary missions.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
Shank said that while he doesn’t think the U.S. has lost leadership in space, it is losing ground. After all, he noted, the United States isn’t without its own recent achievements in space.
Space Development Agency
“In the same week that they land on the moon, we are at the furthest reaches of the solar system at Ultima Thule,” he said. NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by and observed the trans-Neptunian object about 4 billion miles from the sun in January 2019. It’s the farthest object ever explored in space.
Shank said to stay relevant in space, the United States will need to speed up its development cycle for space-based technologies significantly.
“The DOD is committed to creating a Space Development Agency,” Shank said. “That would be a joint organization… to rapidly develop and field the next generation of space capabilities. I think that a Space Development Agency will represent a real investment in experimenting and prototyping of the rapid field of capabilities. … So buckle up — 2019 is going to be busy.”
Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.
Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.
Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.
The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.
But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.
If there’s one thing that can bring football fans across all the different teams together, it’s food. Food is not only the centerpiece to any successful football party (not just for the Super Bowl, but especially for the Super Bowl), it’s central to both tailgates and to the stadium experience.
So your hometown football team needs to put some thought into what it offers fans – especially when it’s time to eat some feelings after a loss.
A few teams have really brought their best into concessions for the 2018 season. Criticize the team’s gameplay all you want (and we will), but you have to admit that some teams are trying to give their fans a really great Sunday experience.
Get ready to throw your friend through a table.
10. The fried PB&J on a stick — Buffalo
Bills fans can get a taste of county fairs all season long with fried PBJ, funnel cakes, corn dogs, and apple pie logs — all available at Buffalo’s New Era Field. Bills fans have plenty of bad feelings to bury under a fried mouthful of these.
It looks like a light taco meal — but it’s Cheetos.
9. Battle Red Tacos — Houston
Leave it to Houston to get Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-encrusted chicken fingers jammed into a taco trio and smothered in plenty of Sriracha mayo. As if the way the Texans are playing isn’t enough to give you heartburn.
Giardiniera is that vegetable matter all over the hot dog. Don’t worry, you can brush it off.
8. The Pit Bull — Washington
The Redskins really brought the magic for the 2018-2019 season menu. Not only does the team’s food make this list twice, I actually had to rework the list because Washington had so many great things. Now, it’s not that I don’t love the idea of Fireball Cotton Candy or a Maryland Crab Grilled Cheese, but this monstrosity is one of the best-looking stadium hot dogs I’ve ever seen. The Pit Bull is a foot-long beef hot dog with horseradish mustard sauce and hot Italian giardiniera.
It could only be more California if it was produced by Aaron Spelling.
7. TsUNAmi Burger — Los Angeles
Chargers fans at StubHub Center have the option of ordering Levy Restaurants’ seared tuna “burger” with Applewood bacon, tomatoes, avocado, and lemon aioli on a sesame Brioche bun.
The Superfans would appreciate any pork product called “belly.”
6. Pork Belly Tacos — Chicago
The Bears brought braised pork belly with daikon and Asian-style carrot slaw, grilled scallions, and Sriracha pepper sauce this year. I guess they didn’t expect the Bears to play so well and wanted to make sure people still had a reason to come to Soldier Field.
We’re slightly disappointed Rice-A-Roni didn’t make the menu. I THOUGHT IT WAS YOUR TREAT, SF.
5. Dungeness Crab Pretzel — San Francisco
Dungeness isn’t how it’s prepared, it’s a west coast variety of crab. This sandwich features knuckle and claw meat mixed with garlic aioli, dijon, and chives on a buttered, toasted pretzel baguette. Now that you know what 49ers fans are eating, try to figure out why they’re cheering.
It’s enough for three people from DC, two people from Maryland, or one from Virginia.
4. DMV Super Burrito — Washington
Redskins fans can ponder why they allowed Kirk Cousins to leave as they chow down on three pounds of beef, chicken, and half-smoke rolled with Spanish rice, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and black beans in a flour tortilla. YOU LIKE THAT.
This is a sandwich arms race.
3. Kingdom Inferno Chicken Sandwich — Kansas City
When it starts to get cold at Arrowhead Stadium, you can warm up your insides and colon with breaded chicken tenders, Carolina Reaper pepper mayo, pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapeños, and Buffalo sauce on a brioche bun.
They should have never retired the Horse Collar.
2. Brat In A Blanket — Green Bay
This is pretty much Wisconsin summed up into a bratwurst. A brat wrapped in melted cheese curds and topped with beer mustard in a pretzel bun. Do the Packers know their fans or what.
This might explain the Cardinals 2018 season.
1. Gridiron Burger Challenge — Arizona
Weighing in a seven pounds and coming with a price tag, the Arizona Cardinals either forgot you were there to watch a football game or they’re trying to distract you from the way they’re playing it. Either way, the Cards’ Gridiron Challenge Burger includes five 1/3 pound burger patties, five all-beef hot dogs, five bratwursts, 20 slices of American cheese, eight slices of bacon, eight chicken tenders, 12 ounces of fries, lettuce, pickles, and tanker sauce, all on a 10-inch bun.
If you finish the whole thing in under an hour, you earn yourself a Cardinals jersey and a photo on the scoreboard. Someone’s gonna do it — might as well be you.
There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.
However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!
This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.
1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite
I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.
2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS
Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.
But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.
3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves
Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.
But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.
4. Stay on Top of the Laundry
Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?
5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized
Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.
6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone
This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!
Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…
7. Learn to Better Manage my Time
Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”
This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
On Sept. 5, 1986, New York-bound Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by armed terrorists at Karachi airport in Pakistan in what would become one of the bloodiest hijackings of the 80s.
During the 17-hour ordeal, Neerja Bhanot would help the cockpit crew escape and ground the plane, hide the passports of passengers to protect their identities and nationalities, and open the emergency door to help others escape.
Bhanot would give her life saving and protecting the passengers on board that day. She was just shy of 23 years old.
Just after 0600, four gunmen sped onto the tarmac in an airport security van and entered the plane, firing their weapons. Flight attendant Sherene Pavan hailed the cockpit crew and pressed the hijack code as the hijackers grabbed Bhanot and held a gun to her head, demanding to be taken to the captain.
Upon arrival in the cockpit, they saw that the crew received the warning and evacuated by means of a safety hatch in the cockpit.
Inside the plane, 29 year-old American Rajesh Kumar was pulled out of his seat, shot, and kicked out of the plane.
The hijackers wanted a pilot to fly the plane to where other members of their militant group were imprisoned. As negotiators communicated with them from outside the aircraft, the terrorists began looking for more Americans on board.
This is when Bhanot and the other flight attendants began hiding the passports of the travelers to protect their identities. As the hours dragged on, the power of the aircraft began to dwindle. When the lights finally went out, the terrorists began to fire into the aircraft, killing the on-board mechanic Meherjee Kharas.
Bhanot and other members of the crew took the opportunity to open at least three doors and help passengers escape.
Bhanot was shot helping the hostages out of the plane and was evacuated by her colleagues, but she died at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital.
22 people were killed in the attack, including two Americans, and another 150 were injured. The combined efforts of the 16 flight attendants likely saved hundreds of lives that day, and for two more days after the attack, the crew continued to care for minor passengers until they could be reunited with their families.
In early July, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center became the first VA facility to participate in an international clinical trial evaluating the therapeutic benefit of an immunomodulator drug, Tocilizumab (TCZ), as a treatment for Veterans with COVID-19 severe pneumonia.
“COVID-19 is known to cause extensive damage in the lungs,” said Dr. Lavannya Pandit, a Houston VA pulmonologist and critical care physician who is a co-investigator in the study. “This often leads to difficulty breathing and, eventually, pneumonia. Pneumonia triggers a hyperimmune response that we are seeing can be more detrimental to some patients than the original infection.”
Medical personnel have used TCZ successfully to treat hyperimmune responses in cancer patients. The trial results will help determine if TCZ has a similar effect in patients who are diagnosed with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
The clinical trial is a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Both the investigator and participant are blinded to who is receiving the TCZ treatment. Eligible participants are patients who are in the hospital and who chest imaging has confirmed has severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
Veterans at Houston VA very willing to step up
Medical personnel will monitor Veterans in a clinical environment for their responses to the treatment. Responses may include disease progression, the duration of hospitalization and the need for critical care and other supportive treatments.
“VA offers cutting-edge treatments and top quality care for Veterans with COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Trautner. Trautner is a faculty member at the Behavioral Health Program, Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.
“Participating in this clinical trial allows our Veterans the opportunity to contribute to scientific progress,” she said. “So far, Veterans at the Houston VA have been very willing to step up and volunteer. We enrolled eight Veterans in the first three days of the study.”
Trial taking place in more than 50 locations
“The treatments we offer for COVID-19 three months from now will be very different than what we offer today because of scientific trials like this,” said Trautner.
In addition to Houston VA, the trial is taking place in more than 50 locations across the United States, Europe and Canada, including at the Baylor College of Medicine.
“I always find it an honor and privilege to care for our Veterans who have served our country,” Trautner said. “The Veterans we are enrolling in this study are eager to join the fight against COVID-19, and we are happy to provide them this opportunity and do our part.”
1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg
Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.
What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.
Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.
Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.
Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.
2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats
Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.
Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.
Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.
FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.
Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.
The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.
After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.
At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.
3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”
Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?
The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.
The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.
At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.
4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system
WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.
The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.
Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.
5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds
This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.
And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.
The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.
Since 2006, the Snowball Express has served to provide comfort and a sense of community to the families of fallen service members. Year-round activities across the country culminate in a grand, all-expenses paid excursion to Disney World. This year, when COVID-19 threatened to derail the annual event, the Gary Sinise Foundation, backed by its sponsors, A-list celebrities and hundreds of volunteers, engineered a virtual game plan that kept this inspiring joy ride on track.
“This has been a tough year for our nation,” said retired Gen. Robin Rand, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “Compound dealing every morning waking up to deal with the loss of a loved one with the pandemic. Gary wanted the families to know we were not going to forget them. He’s a genuine force of nature; his commitment to this community of our nation’s veterans and first responders is unmatched. So when we realized we had to pivot from an in-person event, he began reaching out to his connections made over the last 40 years. Gary is hard to say no to.”
Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band were frequent participants in the original iteration of Snowball Express. His foundation absorbed the program in 2018. Planning for a year of Snowball Express activities begins in January. In August, Rand said, the decision was made to cancel the in-person event out of concerns for the safety of more than 650 families and 1,750 Snowball Express-goers. “We quickly went virtual. The sponsors, entertainers and about 500 volunteers (including members of the original Snowball Express team) exceeded expectations.”
Held earlier in December, this year’s Snowball Express featured a “something for everyone” itinerary, including an opening night event streamed from the Museum of Magic hosted by David Copperfield and a dance party hosted by DJ D-Nice, a guided tour by Jay Leno of his classic and vintage car collection, a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, “Free Solo” followed by a Q&A with climber Alex Honnold and a bedtime reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Kristen Chenowith.
Throughout the weekend, actors, musicians and entertainers, including Angelina Jolie, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Hanks, Patricia Heaton, Kaley Cuoco, Joe Mantegna, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, Olympian Simone Biles and Keanu Reeves, offered messages of love and support.
But the core mission of Snowball Express is not just to give the families a much-needed and deserved good time, Rand said. It is also about providing resources to help them cope with their grief (children are encouraged to messages of love to their fallen parent) as well as information on such topics as college tuition. Perhaps the most meaningful and moving portion of the weekend is the Remembrance Garden. This year’s garden was re-staged as a virtual event; participants were able to navigate online to find a flag with their fallen hero’s name.
It is these aspects of the Snowball Express weekend that offer the most lasting value to families, according to Peggy Riggen, the legal guardian and great-aunt of 13-year-old Joshua Ryan Blackwell, whose father, Justin R. Blackwell, was killed in action when his son was five-months-old.
“Snowball Express has brought not only fun, but camaraderie, understanding, and a place to go to for help on questions that you just don’t know where to go to get the answer,” she said via email. “Josh and Allyson, my niece, developed great friendships with other Gold Star families and kids who understood what they were going through. They helped each other when they needed to talk, when they needed to grieve, when they needed to be angry or sad and lonely, and they could talk each other through it. I know that they found a lot of solace in that.”
This year’s Snowball Express was literally a “little engine that could” operation. Preparations for the Remembrance Garden along required volunteers to set up upwards of 2,000 flags, each with its own identifying marker.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Foundation staff,” Rand said. “It was all hands on deck, a lot of late nights and long hours. It goes to show you, give people a task and if they are passionate about the mission there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”
The US Air Force confirmed in early August that it would buy two Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental airliners and convert them to serve as future Air Force One planes for US presidents.
The decision to buy planes that were already built rather than custom-made aircraft stemmed from President Donald Trump’s push to cut costs.
Trump publicly criticized the Boeing-led program’s cost in December.
Earlier this year, Trump said he would be able to cut a billion dollars from the $4.2 billion Presidential Airlift Recapitalization program, though the White House later said those savings would only amount to “millions.”
Now the exclusion of a key feature to keep expenses down may attract objections from Congress.
“Strangely to me, the Air Force has just announced that the next version of Air Force One will not have in-flight refueling capability. What do you make of that?” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton asked Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford on Tuesday, during a hearing to confirm Dunford’s reappointment to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I think that was a decision that was not made by the Air Force, but made by the White House,” Dunford said, “and I think it had to do with the fiscal constraints on the program.”
Cotton, calling the decision strange, suggested lawmakers and military leaders might reverse it. “I think we might need to revisit that decision here on Capitol Hill,” he said, according to Air Force Times.
The Air Force said in August that it wouldn’t mandate the new planes have in-flight refueling systems, and officials have said adding that capability would add unneeded costs.
But while the 747-8 models can fly almost 1,800 nautical miles more than the jets they will replace without refueling, according to Defense One — and even though presidents have never used in-flight refueling on the current planes — Dunford said the need to make ground stops for refueling, even in the case of emergency, “will certainly be a limiting factor, and we’ll have to plan accordingly.”
The Air Force plans to start modifying the 747s in 2019 and have them enter service in 2024. By that time, the two Boeing 747-200-based VC-25A aircraft that serve as Air Force One when the president is aboard will be 34 years old.
The Boeing 747-8 platform was selected as the next presidential aircraft in January 2015. The two aircraft acquired for the program were built by Boeing for a Russian airline that went bankrupt before it could take delivery. The company then held on to the planes until a new buyer could be found. The Air Force has not disclosed how much it paid for them.
Air Force One acts as a mobile national command center, and expected modifications include a specialized communications system, electrical upgrades, a medical facility, and a self-defense system. What requirements will be put on the planes and how much they will cost have been the subject of wrangling between the Pentagon and contractors for months.
The Air Force is looking to cut costs by striking better deals on the materials going into the planes. A number of the plane’s interior furnishings will be commercially available products.
“From this point forward, any additional cost savings will arise from capitalizing on acquisition process opportunities,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense One this month.
Boeing has already gotten $170 million in development funding to study the future Air Force One’s technical requirements. Earlier this month, the Air Force awarded the company another contract worth a little less than $600 million to begin the preliminary design of the future Air Force Ones.
“Those [cost-saving] opportunities identified will be reviewed to ensure mission capabilities are not degraded,” the Air Force said at the time, according to Defense News. “The entire preliminary design effort will keep a focus on affordability.”
For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.
In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.
“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”
The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.
The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.
At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.
“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”
The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.
“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”
The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.
“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”
USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.
“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”
The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.
“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”
Turkish warplanes harassed a helicopter carrying Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis on April 17, 2018, Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reports.
The helicopter was flying from the Greek islet of Ro to Rhodes, another Greek island in the Aegean Sea.
The Turkish jets, which were flying at approximately 10,000 feet, contacted the pilot of the Greek helicopter and asked for flight details. The Hellenic Air Force responded by sending its own jets, which caused the Turkish fighters to veer off and leave.
Ro and Rhodes are two of the hundreds of islands in the Aegean Sea that are controlled by Greece, but they are geographically closer to the Turkish mainland than to Athens. Rhodes is just 29 miles from the Turkish port of Marmaris.
Ro is even closer to the Turkish mainland, and has been the site of territorial disputes in the past. The Hellenic Army does have a presence on the small island, and in early April 2018, they fired tracer rounds at a Turkish helicopter that flew over its airspace.
The episode comes just over a week after a HAF pilot died after his Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed near the island of Skyros. The pilot was returning from intercepting two Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters that had intruded into Greek airspace.
The crash does not appear to be due to the Turkish mission, but made the situation in the region more tense.
Just a few hours before the incident, Tsipras was speaking to a crowd at the island of Kastellorizo, pledging that Greece would defend its principles “in any way it can … and will not cede an inch of territory.”
The speech appeared to reference Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement that the Treaty of Lausanne, which recognized the sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey and defined its borders after the Turkish War of Independence, needed to be “updated.”
“Our neighbors do not always behave in a manner befitting good neighbors,” Tsipras said, but added that he was sending Ankara “a message of cooperation and peaceful coexistence, but also of determination.”
Relations between Greece in Turkey have always been turbulent, but recent events make some analysts worried that the two NATO allies may be inching towards a war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency plans to demonstrate an ability to launch and recover small drones from an Air Force C-130 aircraft as part of its continued development of the Gremlins program — a technical effort designed to deploy groups of small drones carrying 60-pound sensor payloads up to ranges of 300 nautical miles.
The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.
The drones are intended to perform a range of missions, such as testing enemy air defenses and conducting ISR missions for an hour on station before returning to an Air Force C-130, developers said. A key concept of the program is extending the mission range of aircraft, while allowing manned crews to operate at safer distances.
Gremlins moves beyond existing state-of-the-art programs able, which are able to launch, but not recover, swarms of mini-drones. The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, an initiative aimed at harnessing near-term emerging technologies for operational use, demonstrated an ability to launch small drones from the flare dispenser of an F-16. While able to blanket areas with ISR and perform significant mission-enhancing functions, they are expendable and not available for re-use.
“For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well,” said DARPA in a statement.
Gremlins could well be described as a technological leap in manned-unmanned teaming beyond state-of-the-art technology, as it enables drones to launch, perform missions and then return to a host aircraft. As algorithms for increased levels of autonomy advance, aircraft will be able to control drones from the cockpit with a pilot in a command and control role, service experts have explained.
At the moment, Army helicopters can used “manned-unmanned” teaming to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones, and the Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias has told Warrior that F-35 and F-22 fighter jets may soon have the technical ability to navigate multiple drones from the air. The idea is to use unmanned aircraft to perform ISR missions, delivery weapons or test high-risk air defenses or enemy formations without putting pilots in harm’s way. This day is fast approaching, given the pace of current progress developing algorithms enabling higher levels of autonomy, Zacharias has explained.
As of earlier this year, DARPA has continued its contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Dynetics to move Gremlins into the next phase of development, an effort which involves testing and a Preliminary Design Review.
The Gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses provides significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, a General Atomics statement said.
“We see the potential for using this technology on our own Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to offer our customers new mission capabilities,” David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI, said in a written statement.