These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs - We Are The Mighty
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These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Typically, an amputation ends a military career. For a long time, most any level of amputation was considered to make a service member unfit for combat. As of last summer, only 57 amputees had returned to conflict zones and most of those stayed at a desk.


These three men wanted to get back into the fight.

1. The Ranger who swore he’d still be a squad leader

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Photo: US Army Special Operations Command

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski was in an armored vehicle when insurgents threw a grenade into it. Kapacziewski survived the blast with serious injuries. After months of surgeries and casts, he attempted to walk on his right leg again and heard the pins holding it together snap. Soon after, he asked doctors to remove it.

Also, watch: Bryan Anderson’s Amazing Story Showcased in ‘American Sniper’ 

Over the months and years that followed, Kapacziewski (a.k.a. “Joe Kap”) relearned how to do the basic tasks required of Rangers . He ran, rucked, parachuted, and completed Army drills with his prosthetic leg. Since his amputation, he has conducted four combat deployments and even earned an Army Commendation Medal for pulling an injured soldier 75 yards during a firefight.

2. The paratrooper who led an airborne platoon with a prosthetic

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. Bryan Mitchell

1st Lt. Josh Pitcher finished relieving himself on the side of the road, closed his fly, and heard the loud pop of a small roadside bomb. Two days later, he was in a hospital in Germany, promising to return to combat despite losing his left leg beneath the knee. Before he could even try and return to active duty, Pitcher had to kick a pill and drinking habit he got trying to deal with the pain after his surgeries. But, he learned how to do his old job with his new leg. Less than two years after his injury, he returned with his unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Afghanistan. A few months later, he took over a 21-man platoon and led them for the rest of the deployment, most of it trudging through the mountains in the northern regions of the country .

3. The captain who calmly reported his own double amputation

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Photo: US Army SGT Joe Padula

When then-1st Lt. Daniel Luckett’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq in 2008, a squad leader called up to ask if everything was all right. Luckett calmly responded, “Negative. My feet are gone.” Two years later, Capt. Luckett was with the 101st Airborne Division again; this time in Afghanistan. He uses a small prosthetic to assist what remains of his right leg. A much larger one serves as his left. His second day with his first prosthetic, he attempted to walk away with the leg. Doctors tried to get it back, but Luckett convinced them to let him keep it. He would go on to earn the Expert Infantry Badge during his efforts to prove he was still an asset. After successfully earning the award, the soldier was promoted to captain and allowed to deploy with his unit as part of the Afghan surge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Deadly crash raises questions about Marine Corps aviation

One Marine is dead, another is injured, and five are missing after an F/A-18 Hornet collided with a KC-130J refueling tanker during a night-time training mission off the coast of Japan on Dec. 5, 2018.

Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, the pilot of the F/A-18, was rescued after crash but died on Dec. 6, 2018. The other Marine aboard the Hornet was rescued and is in stable conditions, but all five Marines aboard the KC-130J remain missing.


The deadly incident is the latest in series of fatal and costly accidents among Marine Corps aircraft that have raised concerns about the condition of aircraft and quality of training in the Corps and across the US military.

On July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130T tanker aircraft crashed in Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and a sailor.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

A Marine Corps KC-130T deploys a high-speed drogue during an aerial refueling mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, June 16, 2018.

The KC-130T was introduced in the early 1980s. The aircraft in that incident, one of the last ones still flying, was set for retirement within a few years.

The proximate cause of the accident, however, was a corroded propeller blade that went unfixed when it entered an Air Force maintenance depot in 2011, according to an investigation released in December 2018. The corrosion became a crack that allowed the blade to shear off in flight and rip through the fuselage, causing the plane to break up.

Data compiled by Breaking Defense in September 2017 — after a summer in which deadly accidents led Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to order rolling stand-downs across aviation units — showed that over the previous six years, 62 Marines had been killed in aircraft accidents, compared to just 10 personnel from the Navy, which has more people and more aircraft.

The Corps also had more Class A Mishaps, the most serious category of accident which involve loss of life or more than id=”listicle-2622946621″ million in damage.

The Marine Corps has fewer aircraft than the Navy, so a few accidents can boost the accident rate considerably. Marine Corps aircraft are also frequently carrying troops, which can make fewer accidents more deadly.

The age and nature of Marine Corps aircraft also complicate matters. The F/A-18 Hornet and the KC-130T both entered service around the same time. (The Corps has said it will get rid of its oldest Hornets, but delays in the F-35 program have slowed that process.)

Planes like the AV-8B Harrier, which first became operational in 1971, and the newer MV-22 Osprey are vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which makes them trickier to fly even when they’re new.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

An MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to conduct a personnel transfer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)

But, as Breaking Defense found, the Corps was seeing accidents at a much higher rate than the Navy — 10% more in the best year.

An investigation by Military Times this spring found Marine Corps aviation accidents had increased 80% over the previous five years, rising from 56 in fiscal year 2013 to 101 in fiscal year 2017. The greatest increase came among Class C mishaps, where damage is between ,000 and 0,000 and work days are lost due to injury.

2013 marked the beginning of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, and other services also saw an increase in mishaps starting that year as squadrons reduced flying hours for training.

The Marines, however, have a smaller budget, fewer personnel, and fewer aircraft. After 2013, flying hours were reduced and and experienced maintainers supervisors were released.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Almendarez, cleans the inside of a nacelle on a V-22 Osprey aboard USS Iwo Jima, Oct. 7, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The next year, military operations increased as a part of the campaign against ISIS and in response to Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Flying hours for deployed pilots grew while returned pilots were “flight-time deprived.”

Along with increased flight hours for deployed Marine pilots, maintenance suffered, as the Corps was not able to replace some of its more experienced maintainers and crew members. That drove an increase in the number of aircraft that were unable to fly, in turn depriving pilots of flight time for training.

The loss of both skilled maintainers and pilot hours increases the chances a mishap will occur and the chances that a minor mishap will escalate, defense analysts told Military Times.

“You got worse at everything if you flew two or less times a week,” John Venable, a former F-16 pilot and senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Military Times. “And the average units have been flying two or less times for five years. It lulls your ability to handle even mundane things.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a respectful alternative to the Veterans Day parade could look like

The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.

Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.

So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.


These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.

(Photo by David Valdez)

To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.

American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.

(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)

Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:

“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”

Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.

Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.

Articles

9 bombers that can shoot down a fighter

When bombers beat fighters, it is very notable. But some bombers have more tools than others in an air-to-air fight. For instance, the F-105 shot down 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many thanks to its M61 cannon.


Here are some bombers that an enemy fighter would not want to get caught in front of.

1. De Havilland Mosquito

While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.

It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
The Mosquito’s heavy armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannon is very apparent. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Douglas A-20G Havoc

During the Pacific War, Paul I. Gunn, also known as “Pappy” came up with the idea to make use of the extra .50-caliber machine guns that came from wrecked fighters. He put those on A-20 bombers.

Eventually his modifications were something that Douglas Aircraft began to put on the planes at the factory. The A-20G had six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose — the same firepower of a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat. Against a Zero, that would be a deadly punch. The A-20 later was used as the basis for the P-70, a night fighter armed with four 20mm cannon.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
A look at the nose of an A-20G Havoc. (USAAF Photo)

3. Douglas A-26B Invader

Designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, the Invader was equipped to carry up to 14 .50-caliber machine guns in its nose. Nope, not a misprint; this was the combined firepower of a P-47 and a P-51. That is more than enough to ruin the life of an enemy pilot who gets caught in front of this plane.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
The A-26B Invader. Note the eight ,50-caliber machine guns in the nose. Six more were in the wings. (USAAF photo)

4. North American B-25J Mitchell

The medium bomber version of the B-25J was pretty much conventional, but another version based on the strafer modifications made by “Pappy” Gunn in the Southwest Pacific held 18 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One B-25, therefore, had the firepower of three F4U Corsairs.

Other versions of the B-25, the G and H models, had fewer .50-caliber machine guns, but added a 75mm howitzer in the nose.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

5. Junkers Ju-88

Like the Allied planes listed above, the Ju-88 proved to be a very receptive candidate for heavy firepower in the nose. Some versions got four 20mm cannon and were equipped as night fighters. Others got two 37mm cannon and six 7.92mm machine guns, and were intended to kill tanks and/or bombers. Either way, it will leave a mark, even on the P-47.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Ju-88 in flight. Some were armed with two 37mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Vought A-7D/E Corsair

The A-7 Corsair is widely seen as an attack aircraft. It carries a huge bomb load, but the D (Air Force) and E (Navy) models also have a M61 Vulcan with a thousand rounds of ammo. While no Navy or Air Force Corsairs scored an air-to-air kill in the type’s service, if a plane or helicopter was caught in front of this bird, it wouldn’t last long.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
An A-7E Corsair from VA-72 during Operation Desert Shield. (U.S. Navy photo)

7. F-105D/F/G Thunderchief

The F-105 is probably the tactical bomber with the highest air-to-air score since the end of World War II. Much of this was due to its M61 Vulcan with 1,029 rounds of ammo. You know what Leo Thorsness did with his F-105 against a bunch of MiGs.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Republic F-105D in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

8. F-111 Aardvark

While it was an awesome strike aircraft that could still be contributing today, it is not that well known that the F-111 did have the option to carry a M61 cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of heat for whatever unfortunate plane is in front of it.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. A-10 Thunderbolt

Widely beloved for its use as a close-air support plane in Desert Storm and the War on Terror, the A-10’s GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be used against aerial targets. During Desert Storm, a pair of Iraqi helicopters found that out the hard way.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
BRRRRRT. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s new bomber deployment is inflaming tensions

Two Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela on Dec. 10, 2018, and their presence has already prompted dueling statements from Washington and Moscow.

The bombers landed at Maiquetia Airport outside Caracas after a 6,200-mile flight, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were accompanied by an An-124 military transport plane and an Il-62 long-range aircraft.


The Defense Ministry said the journey took the bombers through the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, but the flight was “in strict compliance with international rules of the use of airspace.”

Moscow didn’t say if the bombers carried weapons, but they are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear-armed missiles with a range of 3,400 miles.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

A Russian Tu-160 in flight.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez has said the Russian aircraft would conduct joint flights with Venezuelan planes. Moscow hasn’t said how long this trip would last, but it has already drawn a response from the US, which views Venezuela as its most significant foe in the region.

“Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

The Pentagon also criticized the deployment, contrasting it with the US dispatching the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which treated tens of thousands of patients, many of them Venezuelans, on a tour of South America in 2018.

“As the Venezuelan government seeks Russian warplanes, the United States works alongside regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said Dec. 10, 2018. “We maintain our unwavering commitment to humanity.”

The Kremlin rebuked Pompeo, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Pompeo’s comments were “rather undiplomatic” and that Moscow “consider[s] this statement to be totally inappropriate.”

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

He also chided the US for labeling the deployment as a waste of money. “It is not appropriate for a country half of whose defense expenditure would be enough to feed all of Africa’s people to make such statements,” Peskov said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also joined the fray. In a statement released Dec. 11, 2018, the ministry said it acknowledged that “tweets” did not “bind anyone to anything in the US in general.”

“However in this situation an official is involved, so this disregard of the rules of diplomatic ethics cannot be seen as a statement ‘to dismiss,'” the ministry added. “What the secretary of state said is inadmissible, not to mention that it is absolutely unprofessional.”

Good friends, but not best friends

Tu-160 bombers last visited Venezuela in 2013 and 2008, the latter trip coming during heightened tensions over Russia’s war with Georgia. Tensions between Washington and Moscow are again heightened, amid Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, but Moscow’s ties to Caracas are longstanding.

“In the Chávez era, Russia was a major arms supplier to Venezuela, and Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, remains a major player in Venezuela’s collapsing oil sector,” Benjamin Gedan, former South America director on the National Security Council and a fellow at the Wilson Center, said in an email.

“In recent years, as once prosperous Venezuela became an international panhandler, Russia renegotiated loans to postpone sovereign default,” Gedan added.

Russia remains one of the most important international allies for the increasingly isolated regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Gedan said, but that support is not as robust as it may appear.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Russia’s own oil industry has faced headwinds, and its economy has been strained by sanctions imposed by the US and European Union after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. While Russian President Vladimir Putin remains broadly popular, backlash to a government plan to raise pension ages has dented his standing.

“Russia’s generosity is motivated in part by its desire to prop up a Latin American regime that is hostile to US interests,” Gedan said. “That said, Moscow does not have the wherewithal to bail out Venezuela. Given the impacts of sanctions and relatively low oil prices, Russian support for Venezuela these days mostly involves purchases of oil assets priced to sell by the desperate Venezuelan government.”

Maduro returned from a three-day visit to Russia last week touting billion in investments, including a billion pledge for joint oil ventures and a Russian agreement to send 600,000 metric tons of wheat to Venezuela in 2019.

But officials in Russia questioned those deals, with one Rosneft official telling the Financial Times that the amount of new oil investments mentioned by Maduro sounded “suspiciously close” to the amount of the existing agreement.

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

Articles

UK scrambles fighters in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable bombers

The Royal Air Force had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers on Thursday.


The bombers came from the North East past Ireland, ITV News reports. A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told ITV “at no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”

However, some of the Tu-160 bombers carry long-range nuclear capable cruise missiles which can pose a threat to the UK even outside of its own airspace. It is not clear right now which Tu-160 variants were intercepted.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Russian Tu-160 bombers fly in formation. | Flickr

Russia has recently been holding snap air force exercises, with a directive from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself apparently instructing the force to prepare for a “time of war.”

Russian planes frequently skirt or breach NATO and US allies’ air spaces. When detected, the standard operating procedure for most countries dictates scrambling jets to intercept the intruders.

Intel

This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

Much like U.S. special operations forces, Russia has its own elite troops that shine during special missions like counterterrorism and hostage rescue.


“Spetsnaz,” or special purpose, is an umbrella term for special ops in Russia and other eastern Bloc states. These elite troops traditionally fall under the GRU [intelligence service], FSB [security service], and other ministries, in addition to the traditional military structure.

Regardless, they are the “core of the best trained men the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation, could produce,” according to SOFREP.

In this video, we get a sense of what these troops are capable of. Though it is worth pointing out that this was produced in Russia and isn’t exactly an impartial look at this force.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1fY8lblBlQ

NOW: 13 famous rock stars who served in the military

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force says no plan to recall retired pilots

An amended executive order gave the Defense Department the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots to address a personnel shortage.


The Air Force says it doesn’t currently intend to recall those pilots however.

The Air Force says it doesn’t plan to use new authority granted by an amended executive order to recall retired pilots to correct an ongoing personnel shortage.

“The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on Oct. 22. “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”

Trump signed the order on Oct. 20, granting additional authority to the Defense Department under Executive Order 13223.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Oct. 20 that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested the move.

Mattis was expected to delegate to the Air Force secretary the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
US Air Force by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

The Air Force is currently about 1,500 pilots shy of the 20,300 it is mandated to have. About 1,000 of those absent are fighter pilots. Some officials have deemed the shortage a “quiet crisis.”

Under current law, the Air Force was limited to recalling 25 pilots; the executive order temporarily lifts that cap.

The Air Force has already pursued a number of new policies to retain current pilots and train new ones. In August, the service announced that it would welcome back up to 25 retired pilots who elected to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could continue in their current assignments.

Articles

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

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5 fundamental differences between ISIS and the Taliban

Many Islamic extremist groups celebrated the Taliban’s reinstatement following the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan. However, although terrorist organizations may look the same on the surface, they all have different modus operandi. ISIS has made claims that the Taliban is a stooge of the US and they were handed Afghanistan on a silver platter. The comments were exchanged after brutal battles emerged between the Taliban and the local ISIS group in firefights and social media. Now that the United States has left Afghanistan, both groups can focus on what really matters to them – fighting each other.

Not sure who’s who? Here are 5 fundamental differences between the two terrorist groups:

1. The treatment of women

The biggest difference between the Taliban and ISIS is their methods and ideology of sharia law enforcement. ISIS and the Taliban have different ways of interpretations of how to treat women and clearly, ISIS is only interested in sexualizing them and servitude. Allegedly, the Taliban states that things will be different this time.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, gave his first-ever public appearance last week to address concerns about women at a news conference. He promised the Taliban would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law. According to the AP, the Taliban have encouraged women to return to work and have allowed girls to return to school, handing out Islamic headscarves at the door. 

Under ISIS, women do not have the right to even learn to read.

2. They disagree on who is a heretic

One other difference is how the two groups treat the Shia Muslim “heretics”, who are deemed “legitimate” targets by ISIS. However, the Taliban has a different view on how the Shia Muslim “heretics” should be treated or executed. Militarily, strategic differences have made the two groups bloody rivals. This difference is shown in the ISIS description of the Taliban as “apostates”.

Extremist groups who have shown reason and callous pragmatism in recent years have always collided with the ISIS movement. ISIS seems to be dedicated to devout “purity” and ominous forecast that often leads to violence. The Taliban outnumber and outgun the Islamic State but we’ve heard this story before in the valley of death that is Afghanistan.

3. Sentencing for criminals

The two groups are known for their extreme variation of Sunni Islam and strive to lead via a dictatorial regime under strict sharia law. ISIS and the Taliban are united in their violent law enforcement methods, but what differentiates the two groups is their major strategic differences of enforcing Sharia Law — even though most Islamic extremist groups have welcomed the return of the Taliban.

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen has been answering questions across news channels. One example of the differences in how those laws are enforced is that the Taliban reserve hand-cutting for serious theft. It is not the go-to punishment for petty crimes. ISIS and its chapters adhere to the hand-cutting punishment to the letter. Naturally, to enforce the promises of the leadership the fighters on the ground must obey orders. I would not place faith in the moral compass of a Jihadist, though.

4. The Taliban are willing to ‘negotiate’

Founded on January 10, 2015, ISIS began recruiting Taliban defectors after they had established the Islamic State in Khorosan Province (ISKP or ISIS-K) in Afghanistan. A civil war between the terror groups arose due to this factor. The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad, asked his rival Abu Bakr, leader of ISIS, to stop recruiting former Taliban members. Mullah had hoped that the two groups could unite under the Taliban’s leadership but their conflicting views could not allow it. Later in 2017, the two extremist groups went to war, and the violence continued until the ISKP was almost entirely done away with by the US and Afghan forces.

A peace treaty was signed by the Taliban group in Feb 2020, under Donald Trump’s Administration which stated that the US troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months. The Taliban still practiced violence, but at reduced levels. After signing the peace deal with the US government, ISIS claimed that the Taliban was a collaborator and unworthy of the leadership. Again, the irony of the same accusations of the former Afghanistan government.

5. Public relations

ISIS is determined to see its sharia law enforced and is willing to do so no matter the cost. An attack was already orchestrated at Kabul airport where more than 100+ people lost their lives, including 13 U.S. service members.

ISKP has already led dozens of attacks in Afghanistan in 2021 and more are expected to come. The President has repeatably taken responsibility for adhering to the deadline. However, that decision opened a Pandora’s Box of existential questions for OIF/OEF veterans. Extremist groups like Al Qaeda have been decapitated but not entirely eradicated. The return of the Taliban only makes it worse because other rival jihadi groups now have a footing in Afghanistan whether the Taliban like it or not.

It is ironic that the Taliban Government will have to deal with violent insurgencies while attempting to gain recognition of the international community. They inherited a much more violent Afghanistan than the foe they overthrew. The Taliban want to claim victory and quit while they’re ahead. However, when you dance with the devil you do not get to choose when the song ends.

Articles

NASA astronauts train with Air Force survival school instructors

Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery at the fitness center pool [at Fairchild AFB, Washington].


These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs
Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

Also read: This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

“It’s a different space program now,” said astronaut Sunita Williams. “We’re flying in capsules instead of shuttles, and they can land anywhere. You never know when an emergency situation may happen, so we’re grateful to get this training.”

The astronauts were put through the paces of bailing out from a simulated crash landing in water. They learned to deploy and secure a life raft, rescue endangered crew members, avoid hostile forces and experience being hoisted into a rescue vehicle.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten a complete environmental training experience — lots of wind, waves and rain,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “This is a great way to experience how bad it can get and how important it is to be prepared.”

Trained With Course’s Students

The astronauts opted to join in with more than 20 water survival course students, despite being given the option to train alone.

“They didn’t want to train on their own,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the chief of NASA human space flight support in Houston. “They wanted to train with the group, because some of these people may one day be preforming search and rescue for them.”

Other NASA astronauts visited the survival school last year in an effort to research and test the viability of its training course and facilities. The astronauts liked what they experienced, and NASA has since developed its training partnership with the schoolhouse.

“The [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] instructors are advising us in water recovery,” Behnken said. “These experts are the most experienced I’ve ever seen. They are able to spot holes in our training and fill the gaps.”

NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston has a large water training facility built to simulate weightless conditions during space walks, but it’s not properly equipped to simulate water surface conditions for recovery training.

This training is vital for future mission recovery operations, Behnken said, noting that NASA officials are working with the experts here to replicate the survival school water survival training equipment at the Houston facility.

Impressive Facilities

“I’m impressed by the use of the facilities here,” Williams said. “It’s a small space, but they really manage to simulate all kinds of weather conditions and situations we might experience during a water landing.”

The survival school originally had a separate detachment at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where it conducted water survival training in open ocean waters. The training was brought to Fairchild in August 2015 in an effort to save time and money by consolidating training at one location.

“It was a good decision for the Air Force to streamline our training efforts by moving all portions of water survival training here,” said Air Force Col. John Groves, the 336th Training Group commander. “However, the fitness center pool was designed for recreational use and isn’t suited to the ever-increasing demands placed on it by our training programs. Bottom line, we owe it to our airmen and mission partners such as NASA, who rely on our unique training capabilities, to have a purpose-built water survival training facility.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

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