The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.
Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.
A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.
Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.
Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.
The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”
If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.
US F-22 stealth fighters have returned to the Middle East to “defend American forces and interests” at a time of high tension with Iran, although it is unclear whether the advanced air superiority fighters have been deployed as part of the ongoing deterrence mission or for some other purpose.
An unspecified number of US Air Force F-22 Raptors arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility June 27, 2019, flying into Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement June 28, 2019.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
This is the first time these fifth-generation fighters have flown into Qatar, as they have previously operated out of Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where a collection of US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are currently deployed.
The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti, citing sources, reported that nine F-22s with the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have flown into the region with at least three more expected to follow at a later point in time.
Photos of the aircraft flying in formation showed at least five fighters.
F-22s flying in formation in the Middle East.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
The US Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles to the Middle East in early 2019 to replace F-22s after years of regular deployments to the region.
“There are currently no F-22s deployed to AFCENT, but the United States Air Force has deployed F-15Cs to Southwest Asia,” AFCENT told Air Force Magazine in March. “US Air Force aircraft routinely rotate in and out of theater to fulfill operational requirements, maintain air superiority, and protect forces on the ground.”
But now these unmatched air assets are back in the region, and their arrival, likely part of a routine deployment, comes as US troops, weapons, and equipment are increasingly moving into the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter possible Iranian aggression.
F-22s in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
As sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, intelligence reports pointing to the possibility of Iranian attacks led the US military to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to confront Iran.
Those assets were followed by more naval vessels, air-and-missile defense batteries, and thousands of additional troops.
In June 2019, Iranian forces shot down a US Navy drone, a serious escalation in the wake of a string of attacks on tankers, allegedly the work of Iranian forces.
F-22 in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
Although the US was prepared to retaliate with airstrikes on Iranian positions, President Donald Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, arguing that taking life in response to an attack on an unmanned system would be a disproportionate.
But after Iranian leadership issued a statement insulting the White House, Trump changed his tune. “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,’ Trump tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sam Houston is more than just the namesake for the fourth-largest city in America — the man is literally called the “George Washington of Texas.” And in the Lone Star State, that’s as close to God as one can get.
Here are a few reasons why the Texas hero Sam Houston owns the title “Governor of Governors.”
1. He was actually governor of two states.
Houston was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. He resigned as governor in 1829, a result of alcoholism and depression from his failed marriage. Thirty years later, he became the 7th governor of Texas.
2. He’s an American combat veteran.
Of course he is. When the War of 1812 rolled around, he fought so well, Gen. Andrew Jackson took notice. Houston became a Jackson protégé and Jacksonian Democrat in his political years.
3. Sam Houston was adopted by the Cherokee Nation.
He spent much of his youth among Indians in Tennessee. Although he would come to have close ties with President Jackson, they probably differed on the treatment of the Cherokee. Houston took a Cherokee wife and was an honorary member of the tribe. His adopted name was “Black Raven.”
We can take a pretty good guess on how Jackson felt about the Cherokee.
After Houston rigged the appointment of Nashville Postmaster away from John P. Erwin at Jackson’s request, Erwin challenged Houston to a duel. Houston refused, but when Gen. William White — veteran of the Battle of New Orleans — challenged him instead, the gunfight was on.
He practiced shooting at Jackson’s home. Old Hickory advised him to bite a bullet during the duel saying “It will make you aim better.”
Houston won the duel, shooting White in the groin.
5. He clubbed a congressman for accusing him of fraud.
Sam Houston, while a Congressman from Tennessee, felt slandered in a speech on the House floor. William Stanbery of Ohio, an anti-Jacksonian, accused Houston of fraud. Later that day, Houston saw Stanbery walking down the street and delivered a fierce beating. Stanbery even pulled a pistol on Houston, but it misfired.
6. His defense attorney was Francis Scott Key.
When Congress got wind of the epic beat-down Houston put on Stanberry, they charged him with assault and put him on trial. The eloquent Key argued the case with the Supreme Court acting as judges (no pressure) but still lost. Houston was fined $500 and left Washington in disgust, heading back home to Texas.
7. He beat the “Napoleon of the West” in eighteen minutes.
He didn’t fall into the trap of going in headfirst against Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army after the fall of the Alamo. Instead, Houston led a very George Washington-esque series of strategic retreats, giving his army time to regroup and congeal as a unit – and for more Texians to join his army. By the time he surprised Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto, Houston was no longer outnumbered.
It took 18 minutes for the Mexican Army to break and flee. But the Texians killed them for hours. Houston’s official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner – including Santa Anna. The Texians lost just 11 men, with 30 (including Houston) wounded.
8. He was the first (and only) foreign head of state to be a U.S. governor.
His win at San Jacinto won Texas its independence as a republic. With Houston promptly elected as the first President of Texas with 80 percent of the vote. Once the Republic became a U.S. state, he would become one of its senators.
9. He refused to declare allegiance to the Confederacy.
Houston opposed secession and traveled around Texas explaining why. He did not think it was good for Texas economically, militarily, or ethically. He didn’t think the rebels would win. Despite his opposition, a state convention met and voted to secede by a whopping 160 votes. Houston would not swear allegiance to the Confederate States and was ousted as governor of Texas.
The Union offered him a command, but he turned it down.
Former President Jimmy Carter has offered to travel to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un in a bid to break the diplomatic stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization of the rogue state.
Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told Politico that the former president had expressed his willingness to travel to North Korea in a conversation on March 7, 2019.
“I think President Carter can help (President Trump) for the sake of the country,” Khanna later told CNN.
Carter was the first US president to travel to North Korea, visiting the country in 1994 to meet Kim’s grandfather, former leader Kim Il Sung. Carter’s visit helped to defuse the first North Korean nuclear crisis, paving the way for the Agreed Framework, in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid.
He returned to the country in 2010, where he helped secure the release of American captive Aijalon Gomes.
In the interview with CNN, Khanna said that Carter’s experience negotiating with Kim’s grandfather would be an asset for the Trump administration, following the collapse of negotiations between Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I think it would be so profound because he could talk to Kim Jong Un about his grandfather and the framework he established,” Khanna said.
Khanna said that he and Carter had on March 7, 2019, been discussing plans to revive the denuclearization plans the former president brokered with Kim Il Sung, to develop a new joint framework for peace.
The Carter Centre and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carter seems to hold no great respect for Trump, and in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show in March 2018 agreed when the host said Trump’s election showed Americans were willing to elect a “jerk” as president. Trump meanwhile has derided Carter’s leadership and “everyman” image while in the White House.
President Jimmy Carter Is Still Praying For Donald Trump
However, Carter has previously made efforts to broker a relationship with the administration, and was critical of hostile press coverage of Trump in October 2017, when he first offered to help Trump negotiate with Kim.
“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about,” Carter told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
“I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”
Then remarks were welcomed by Trump, who tweeted: “Just read the nice remarks by President Jimmy Carter about me and how badly I am treated by the press (Fake News).”
“Thank you Mr. President!”
The nuclear summit between Trump and Kim came unstuck when Kim demanded an end to US sanctions.
Analysts earlier in the week said that satellite imagery showed North Korea had started rebuilding a long-range missile launch site in the wake of the collapse of the negotiations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Right now, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to help us fight back against COVID-19, including those in critical medical specialties. Normally, they lead ordinary civilian lives as neighbors, coworkers, coaches and parents. However, when this crisis struck, they sprang into action as citizen soldiers and airmen, putting their lives on hold — and on the line — for our safety. If you appreciate those who are doing double duty to keep us safe, this is the time to donate!
Until the tide turns and our Guard troops can return to their families full-time, this will continue to be a huge and extremely stressful deployment. The extra comforts and support the USO can provide all of our deployed troops make a world of difference. Help us bring a little home to our heroes while they fight to keep our homes safe.”
Russia has sent two modernized submarines equipped with advanced stealth technologies to the Mediterranean Sea as part of efforts to reinforce naval presence off the Syrian coast.
“The Black Sea fleet’s new large diesel and electric submarines, Kolpino and Veliky Novgorod … have arrived in the Mediterranean,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website on Aug. 28.
The ministry added that the two stealth submarines were fitted with new navigation systems, fully automatized control systems, high-precision missiles, and powerful torpedo equipment.
The submarines, classified by NATO as “Improved Kilo” class, were built in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg and are designed for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations in mid-depth waters. They are capable of holding a crew of 50 and have a top underwater speed of 20 knots and a cruising range of 400 miles.
A Improved Kilo-class submarine. Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
Part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet is engaged in the battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.
Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against militant groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011.
Damascus blames the deadly militancy on some Western states and their regional allies.
When the coalition of Western and Arab allies banded together to fight ISIS, the idea of fighting the good fight was met with a lot of zeal. When Jordanian fighter pilot First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured and burned alive by the terror organization, Jordan’s King Abdullah vowed “punishment and revenge” and led to the Jordanian King, an accomplished fighter pilot himself, releasing a photo of himself in his flight suit, geared for battle.
The Western world was wowed once more when a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, led that country’s air war against Daesh. Many in the West aren’t familiar with the customs of each individual Arab country, especially when it comes to their views on the rights of women.
“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“We are in a hot area so that we have to prepare every citizen,” Al Mansouri said. “Of course, everybody is responsible of defending their country — male or female. When the time will come, everybody will jump in.”
The allies still allow U.S. planes to use their bases, but now the Gulf states who spearheaded the effort against ISIS are focused elsewhere. Emirati forces joined Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan also joined in the effort in Yemen. Qatar limited its sorties to reconnaissance missions.
Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, the UAE in March, Jordan in August, and Saudi Arabia in September.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized local allies efforts, saying the Gulf states, known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet. If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground.”
“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS],” Carter continued, “is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces.”
According to the Atlantic, the Obama Administration consistently complains about local allies, notably Turkey and the Gulf, expecting the U.S. to fight their regional enemies more than U.S. national security.
So, in weird military news, the former range director and several others at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks have pleaded guilty to an insane amount of bribery. And I don’t mean your run of the mill “here’s twenty bucks. Say I shot a perfect 40/40” either. I mean, he received antique sports cars, diamond earrings, and a nice arsenal of firearms in kickbacks to help squeeze through lucrative government contracts.
I get that GS-12 contractors make far more than an E-9, but you’d think someone would have noticed that the retired Sergeant Major is now rolling up in a souped-up ’69 Ford Galaxie overnight. Like, I’m pretty sure all of those stupid internet training videos the military makes us do twice a month specifically point out that this is a red flag.
But honestly. The dude took over $700,000 in bribes, and I bet the range still worked like sh*t. Or that’s at least my excuse whenever the 50M target won’t go down when I swear I shot that motherf*cker… Anyways, here are some memes.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
As violence in Mexico raged with intense competition between rival drug cartels and the Mexican government, the cartels came up with a radical solution for improving their capabilities in the street.
Through ingenious engineering, and by taking a page out of “Mad Max,” cartels created so-called narco tanks.
These home-made armored vehicles, also known in Spanish as “monstruo” for their hulking size, reached peak popularity in 2011 as the Mexican military seized a garage from the Los Zetas that was being used to construct the vehicles. Four narco tanks were seized in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in addition to an additional 23 trucks that were awaiting modification.
The Mexican military’s subsequent crack-down on the creation of monstrous forced the practice to go underground. Narco tanks are still produced, but today’s versions have their armored paneling on the inside so as to not draw unwanted attention from rival cartels and the military.
Below are some of the most impressive narco tanks from the vehicles heyday.
The behemoth versions of narco tanks were created from modified semi trucks.
Dump trucks were also modified into massive steel-plated monsters.
Even smaller narco tanks were armored almost completely with steel plates that could be upwards of 2 inches thick.
As part of further defensive measures, the tanks were usually equipped with double wheels.
Offensively, narco tanks had armored turrets and weapon bays on the side, out of which cartel members could point assault rifles.
Some vehicles were equipped with battering rams to plow through traffic and any potential roadblocks.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.
“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”
Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.
The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.
“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”
The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.
Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.
The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.
While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.
“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”
“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.
While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.
“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.
“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”
Since late 2017, thieves have taken 10 bells or gongs from buoys floating off Maine’s coast, and now the Coast Guard is offering a reward for information about the culprits.
Six buoys where hit during the first half of 2018, and more have been swiped since then. The Coast Guard says nine bells were stolen from Penobscot Bay, and another one, the most recent, was stolen off Bailey Island in Harpswell.
The bells attached to the buoys are meant to help mariners navigate when visibility is low.
When the Coast Guard asked the public for information at the end of May 2018, Lt. Matthew Odom, the waterways management division chief for the Coast Guard in northern New England, said the thefts “not only reduce the reliability of our aids-to-navigation system and put lives at risk, but they also create a burden and expense to the taxpayer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids.”
Seaman Cory J. Hoffman and Seaman Apprentice David A. Deere with a buoy on the deck of Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay in Lake Erie, Nov. 12, 2007.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William B. Mitchell)
Each stolen bell has weighed 225 pounds, according to the Portland Press Herald. The gongs, like the one stolen from the White Bull Gong buoy off Bailey Island, weigh 371 pounds. The combined weight of the stolen gear is 2,755 pounds.
A Coast Guard spokesman told the Press Herald that the service has spent about ,000 so far to replace bells and gongs that have been stolen. That doesn’t include the time and labor needed to fix and replace the equipment.
The Coast Guard says the bells are most likely being sold to nautical novelty stores or scrap yards. The service requires the bells be made of a copper-silicon alloy to resist corrosion and withstand the seawater to which they’re constantly exposed.
The stolen merchandise could be worth a lot, depending on the market for copper. Silicon bronze, which is similar to the copper alloys used in the bells and gongs, can sell for about id=”listicle-2598399878″.50 a pound, according to a scrap-metal firm in Portland. Assuming all the bells and gongs can be sold, the 2,755-pound haul could net more than ,100.
Tampering with navigation aids is a federal crime, punishable by fines up to ,000 a day or a year in prison. The Coast Guard has asked those with information about the missing devices to call the Northern New England sector command center.
The reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction can total up to half the amount of fines imposed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.