Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Three years after the first prototype for the Black Hawk aircrew trainer was set up and implemented as a training aid at Fort Bliss, Texas, that technology has been enhanced.

A team from System Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile, also known as AMRDEC, has developed the Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment. Crew chiefs and gunners can train in a realistic setting where they see and hear the same things simultaneously.


Because there was no funding, Joseph P. Creekmore Jr., S3I aviation trainer branch chief and BAT Project director, said BAT team members used borrowed or discarded materials to work on the CAPE during breaks between scheduled projects.

It paid off.

“Design began over a year ago at a somewhat frustratingly slow pace for the BAT Team but, week by week and part by part, the CAPE device took shape and became the device we have today,” Creekmore said.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

The singular focus of the Army’s modernization strategy is making sure the warfighter and their units are ready to fight, win, and come home safely. As the head of the BAT Project, Creekmore said he believes the Army needs the CAPE to contribute to and ensure readiness in aircrews.

“Because we are a nation that has been continuously at war since 9/11, all the BAT Projects’ Army aviators have experienced combat overseas,” Creekmore said. “They all went into combat as part of a trained team.

“They all survived combat because they fought as a team. All the BAT Project’s former and retired Army aviators know to their very core that, to fight and win America’s wars, the Army must train as it fights and that includes training as a full aircrew,” Creekmore explained. “So, from Day 1, the BAT Project dreamed and planned for an opportunity to demonstrate an excellent whole-crew trainer that would contribute to the readiness of all U.S. Army Air Warriors.”

CAPE and BAT are linked using an ethernet connection. Creekmore said the nine locations with fielded BAT devices only need a tethered CAPE to provide Army aviation units with a way to train a complete UH-60 aircrew.

Manuel Medina, S3I assimilated integration technician, said he was blown away when he was first introduced to this technology. “Back when I was in, we didn’t even have anything like this… If we had the flight hours and the maintenance money to train, we would.”

According to Jarrod Wright, S3I lead integrator who built the BAT, many aircraft incidents are a result of some type of aircrew miscommunication.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment that is tethered to the Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

“What we’re trying to do here is … teach that crew coordination to allow pilots and crew chiefs to train like they would in combat with two devices tethered to each other,” said Wright, who spent more than eight years as a crew chief.

“In combat, no UH-60 breaks ground without its full complement of two rated aviators, a non-rated crew chief/door gunner and a second door gunner,” Creekmore explained. He said this type of equipment and training is necessary to maintain the high performance level and proficiency that exists in our Warfighters.

“This environment allows you, not only to train, but to evaluate potential crew chiefs and door gunners,” Wright posited. “You’re not throwing someone in there and saying, ‘I hope he gets it’.”

Medina, also a former gunner and crew chief, said this technology can benefit the Army in many ways. Not only can maintenance costs, flight hours, fuel, and training dollars be reduced, but the BAT and CAPE systems focus on considerations like spatial orientation or disorientation, response to changes in gravity, and susceptibility to airsickness. These devices mimic conditions crews see in flight and can identify adverse reactions while minimizing inherent risks.

The BAT Project team has high hopes for the CAPE.

“It is my hope that … the Army invests in further development of the CAPE and then fields it as BAT mission equipment so we can get this critical training capability in the hands of UH-60 aircrews throughout the Army,” Creekmore said.

Wright said the potential exists to use this technology to train complete crews in rescue hoisting and cargo sling load — any scenario they might encounter in any type of combat or rescue situation. He even sees the possibility for the BAT and CAPE to be used as preparation for hurricane relief or similar missions.

The Aviation Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Earlier this week, images surfaced out of the reclusive nation of North Korea showing Kim Jong Un posing with a bevy of senior military leaders as they show off their fancy new pistols. The pistols were handed out by the nation’s Supreme Leader in celebration of the 67th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and according to North Korean media, the pistols were awarded to Kim’s top generals as a symbol of his trust in them.

Of course, after looking at the pictures for a minute… you might start to wonder if that trust is all that founded.


Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Literally chillin’ like a villain. (North Korea’s KCNA)

Long before a recruit earns the right to call him or herself a Marine, they’re ingrained with the four weapons safety rules. This essential training step comes before being bestowed the title of Marine for good reason: If you can’t handle your own weapon safely, you represent a potential threat to your fellow Marines. Let’s run through those rules again, just in case you’re not familiar with them:

  1. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
  2. Never point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  4. Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire.

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice in these pictures is the egregious lack of trigger discipline on display in this photo of what should theoretically be North Korea’s most competent military minds. The third weapons safety rule says clearly that you should keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Why is that rule so important? Well, in this case, it would be so you don’t accidentally blow the leader of your country’s head off…

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

But this guy is clearly thinking about it.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

And this guy might just want to replace the 3-Star sitting in front of him.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Dude on the left is literally pointing a pistol at Kim with his finger on the trigger.

Of course, even if you violate the keeping your finger straight and off the trigger rule, the people around you should still be fairly safe if you’re careful not to ever point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

I’m pretty sure these two guys think they’re in a water gun fight.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

“I’ll just point this weapon safely at Bob’s face.”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Maybe they’re all trying to rob each other?

Of course, it’s safe to assume that none of these weapons were loaded, as Kim Jong Un almost certainly didn’t intend to equip his generals to overthrow him — but that’s not really the point. The whole idea behind firearm safety is not to grow complacent about the rules; a Navy SEAL and a food service specialist learn and exercise the same basic tenants of firearm safety because it serves as the foundation from which you can develop more advanced skills. Snipers still keep their fingers straight and off the trigger until they’re ready to fire for the same reason professional race car drivers wear helmets: Because no matter how good you are, everybody has a bad day.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

But like… has this guy ever even seen a pistol before?

Of course, North Korean troops are regularly starving, are poorly equipped, and almost certainly receive sub-par training even by a third-world standard, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see how uncomfortable and awkward its military leaders seem to be with pistols. In that case, it’s the photo op that might be the most confounding.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 common leaderships myths debunked by former top general

Since retiring from the US military as a four-star general eight years ago, Stanley McChrystal has reflected on one of his favorite subjects — leadership — and he’s had some significant revelations.

McChrystal had a 34-year military career, taking out al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, and spent a year leading America and its allies in the War in Afghanistan. Since retiring, he’s overseen the leadership consulting firm the McChrystal Group, translating what he’s learned to a business audience.

For an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” we explored the three most common myths about leadership, which he identifies in his new book “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”


The Formulaic Myth: If someone follows a checklist of behaviors, they’ll be a great leader

McChrystal said that it’s tempting to believe that if you make a checklist of traits and behaviors collected from leadership books and mentors, and check off every box, you will be a great leader. “But the reality is, when you look at history, there’s a number of people who followed that perfectly and failed, some over and over,” he said.

He’s not disputing the fact that there are certain truths about what’s effective, and that a sterling résumé can prove helpful. But life is messy and taking the best advice or following a well-worn path to success is not sufficient for being an effective leader.

McChrystal pointed to the example of opposing generals in the American Civil War, the Confederacy’s Robert E. Lee and the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant. Up until the war, Lee was seen as the exemplary soldier, with a sterling track record and a way of carrying himself that even his enemies admired; in comparison, Grant’s accomplishments were less exceptional and he was rougher around the edges. But it was Grant, of course, who emerged victorious. It’s why, McChrystal said, that situational context and leaders’ relationship to their followers are more important than a “correct” way to lead.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Ulysses S. Grant did not rise to the head of the Union forces in the Civil War by accident, of course, but by many traditional measures of leadership and background, he did not match up to his opponent, Robert E. Lee. It was Grant, however, who was the victor.

The Attribution Myth: The successes and failures of a team are all the results of its leader

McChrystal retired from the US Army in 2010, after handing in his resignation to President Barack Obama in the wake of a Rolling Stone article that showed McChrystal’s team criticizing the administration. McChrystal soon set to work on his memoirs as a way to analyze his own successes and failures. He recruited a team to help him with research and fact checking.

“I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened,” he said. “And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me.”

After doing their research on key decisions in McChrystal’s career, “we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.” The “Great Man Theory” of history, which places single people front and center, fell apart for him.

He said that, “leaders matter, just not like we think they do.” The best leaders are able to make the most of their team members’ potential through skilled management and an ability to inspire, but ignoring the complex web of interactions among leaders and every person they interact with, as well as the circumstances out of their control, is something McChrystal considers a toxic approach. Followers should respect great leaders without putting them on a pedestal, he said, and leaders should not place themselves on that pedestal, either.

The Results Myth: Delivering results is all that’s required for positions of power and accolades

Related to the first myth, the third one concerns the common presumption that people in positions of power got there because they delivered results.

“In reality, we don’t actually follow that very well,” McChrystal said. “We promote people, we move them into new jobs, et cetera, who have been failures over and over again. And we have other people who are very successful, but because they don’t quite fill some other need we have, we reject them.”

That’s why it’s a mistake to think that good speaking skills or a magnetic personality are trivial, because they’re as important to leadership as anything else — for better or worse. “You can have one person who’s producing or likely to produce a great outcome, but somebody else who can make us feel good or make us feel scared or make us something that inspires us to action, we often will go that way, much more than we will direct results,” McChrystal said.

Listen to the full episode and subscribe to “This Is Success” on Apple Podcasts or Art19.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”


“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.

There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.

Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.

Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.

“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”

The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.

Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.

Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.

Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.

“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.

But for the men and women conducting these high-stress operations or deploying, the pressure is mounting as they go without paychecks, not knowing how they can provide for their families back home, said Steven Cantrell, who served as the 12th master chief petty officer for the service.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.

“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”

Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.

While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.

Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.

“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)

Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.

“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.

While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.

But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.

He has been waiting for two years.


Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”

Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.

The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.

For Choi, that’s especially true.

“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.

His visa will expire in less than a year.

“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”

The complex history of MAVNI

In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.

Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
Sgt. Saral Shrestha.
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)

Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.

In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.

“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”

“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.

MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.

Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.

The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.

The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
Santosh Kachhepati
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)

The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.

Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”

As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.

In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”

He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”

Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.

Mattis looks to save MAVNI

In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.

“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.

Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.

“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”

In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.

Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.

“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.


“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.

“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’

“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”

Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.

Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.

Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”

Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.

Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.

He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.

“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
The first Navy sailors to participate in the MAVNI program are issued the oath of citizenship by Stacey Summers, branch chief from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Chicago field office.
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)

Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.

“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”

Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.

In the meantime, she does paperwork.

“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”

Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it

“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.

“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.

“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.

“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.

To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch children of Civil War veterans talk about their fathers

The American Civil War ended more than 155 years ago, but the country really isn’t all that far removed from that part of its past.

If you need proof of that beyond ongoing racial disparities and questions over the existence of monuments to Civil War leaders, you don’t have to look far. Irene Triplett, the last person to receive a Civil War pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, died in June 2020. The grandson of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, died in October 2020. Unexploded ordnance from the Civil War was still killing people as late as 2008.


Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Also, people are rioting in the streets and tearing down statues of Civil War generals. (Photo by Wikipedia Editor Mk17b)

But Americans’ personal connection to the Civil War is slowly disappearing. A few of the direct descendants, sons and daughters, of Civil War veterans are still around because they were born when their fathers were in their 70s and 80s.

Two of the last remaining children of Civil War veterans sat down with National Geographic in time for Veterans Day 2014 to share stories told by their fathers. They were in their early 90s at the time of the interviews.

William H. Upham was a private in the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry when the North and South first clashed at the Battle of Bull Run. His son, Fred Upham, talked about how his father was wounded in the neck and shoulder during the battle.

“He was captured at that battle and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond,” Upham said in the interview. “The thing that saved his life, I believe, is that, at that point in the war, there was a prisoner exchange. … If he would have been kept in the service, with 50,000-60,000 casualties per battle, he would never have made it to the end.”

Fred Upham died in Colorado in December 2019 at age 97.

Lewis F. Gay, a Confederate soldier from Florida, was also the beneficiary of a prisoner exchange, according to his daughter, then-92-year-old Iris Lee Gay Jordan (who still referred to the war as “The War Between the States”). The young rebel was stationed in the Florida Keys before being captured and held in Delaware.

After his release, he was sent to some of the most critical battles of the late Civil War, fighting at Chickamauga, Atlanta and more. Most of his original company had been killed.

Children of U.S. Civil War Vets Reminisce About Fathers | National Geographic

www.youtube.com

In explaining her connection to the war, Jordan discussed how her parents met. She was born when her father was 82 and her mother 41. Jordan lived in Florida until her August 2017 death.

“He said he enjoyed me more than he did his others [children], because he was so busy making a living to support them, he didn’t have the time,” she says in the video.

Upham, on the other hand, recalled the two times his father got to meet President Abraham Lincoln. The first time was through an invitation from his senator. The president and the former private talked about his time as a prisoner of the Confederacy and about his wounds.

“Lincoln had known that my father had been severely wounded, ” Upham recalled. “So he asked him to take off his tunic so he could examine the wounds in person. My father said yes … and Lincoln examined the wounds on his neck and head in detail.”

They were terrible, the 16th president told Upham’s father. Lincoln was concerned about the treatment of Union prisoners at Libby Prison, but the soldier told him they weren’t being abused or tortured.

Despite his injuries, William Upham got off relatively easy. The Civil War killed more than 650,000 troops and more than 130,000 civilians. Some estimates place the death toll at more than a million Americans. Yet Upham says his father never held any animosity toward Confederates after the war, despite his captivity and the loss of life. Lewis Gay said the same about the Union.

“If he were here, he’d say the men in North were just like he was,” Jordan said. “They were away from home and families and fighting a war, and there was no animosity on his part at all.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

The Israeli Air Force just won the Tetris Challenge

Since Sept. 1, 2019, when Zurich police published a photo on social media of two officers lying on the ground, surrounded by the contents of their car, laid out in a geometric pattern and pictured from above, police departments, firefighters, first responders as well as air force squadrons and other military units from all around the world have joined in, photographing their work equipment (and even service members) in this peculiar way.


The Tetris Challenge has since then conquered the Internet, making the rounds across all the social networks. The challenge is inspired by “knolling.” a term that dates back to 1987, and it involves organizing objects and tools on the floor at right angles, allowing you to see every item clearly in a photograph. This has often been done ahead of travels, by photographers and journalists, collecting all their stuff in the same place to organize the trip. In the last few weeks, Tetris Challenge has become a way to showcase all the pieces of hardware (and personnel) that make up a service or system.

יום ניקיונות בחצרים שהפך לאתגר הטטריס הגדול ביותר

www.youtube.com

If you google “Tetris Challenge”, you will find many examples of interesting shots taken from the above. Here you can find an interesting post by our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone.

But, the Challenge, when it deals with military aviation stuff, has probably a brand new winner: the Israeli Air Force.

The IAF has published on Twitter a shot taken by Rotem Rogovsky and Daniel Levatovsky from SKYPRO at Hatzerim Air Base with a Tetris Challenge image that gathers the F-15I Ra’am of the 69 Sq; the F-16I Sufa of the 107 Sq, the M-346 Lavi of the 102 Sq, as well as the G-120A Snunit, the OH-58B Saifan and the T-6A Efroni of the Flight Training Shool. Not only are the aircraft worth a look, but also their accompanying weapons, including the Israeli-developed, SPICE 2000 EO/GPS-guided bombs. Interestingly, even the only airworthy PT-17 (Stearman Model 75) of the Israeli Air Force maintained at the museum in Hatzerim can be seen in the photo.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

T-Mobile will give its biggest discount ever to the military

Supporting the military is nothing new to T-Mobile. The carrier is one of America’s most dedicated veteran employers. In keeping with the practice of asking customers what they want and giving it to them, T-mobile asked its veteran employees what they needed. The veterans answered truthfully. T-Mobile listened — in a big way.


“We change to adapt to our customers’ needs, we listen to their pain points” says Matt Staneff, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of T-Mobile. “Our veteran employees and customers transitioning out of the military were just making ends meet during long periods of unemployment.”

And so began the company’s Military Support Initiative.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
T-Mobile’s veteran employees who participated in the 2017 NYC Veterans Day Parade
(Twitter @JohnLegere, T-Mobile CEO)

T-Mobile decided to go all-in for the military-veteran community in a number of ways. On top of the benefits of buying into T-Mobile’s ONE family plan (of which there are many, including a Netflix subscription), T-Mobile will now offer that plan at half-off for military families — along with half-off of popular Samsung smartphones. It’s not just the biggest discount T-Mobile has ever offered, it’s the biggest discount in the wireless industry. Ever.

But the carrier’s plan is more than just a discount and some great service, it’s a real investment in military communities. It starts with the discount, but T-Mobile quickly recognized that making it easier for transitioning military families to make ends meet was solving only part of the bigger problem: the long period of unemployment. So, T-Mobile decided to do something about that, too.

“Our plan to hire military veterans has had phenomenal success to date,” says Staneff. “We have vets in every department performing very well. What veterans bring to the culture of T-Mobile is one of the keys to our success.”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
The Military Honors Wall at T-Mobile’s Snoqualmie, Wash. office
(Twitter @NevilleRay)

A few years back, the company pledged to hire some 5,000 veteran employees, and not just for entry-level positions. The company employs vets at all levels and in all areas. Now, they’ve pledged to hire 10,000 more veterans — and their spouses — in the next five years.

“It took a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do during transition,” says Tana Avellar, once an active duty Army officer who now serves in the Washington State National Guard. She is also a T-Mobile employee. “I can’t be more proud to work for a company that is such an advocate for their employees, veterans, and their families overall.”

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
Avellar in her National Guard role.
(Photo from Tana Avellar)

But T-Mobile is looking to help out all veterans, not just the ones who want to work for them. It’s teaming up with FourBlock, a career readiness nonprofit designed for veterans and their families. The company is funding FourBlock’s Massive Open Online Course, a training course based in 15 cities in the U.S. (with four more on the way). The training helps spouses gain employment while giving them the confidence to pursue the jobs they’re more than qualified to do.

The last part of T-Mobile’s investment plan is a real investment, in both T-Mobile’s future and military families. The company is rolling out a $8 billion investment in new infrastructure, and will start that with a $500 million plan to build new 5G towers in military communities.

“Our mission is to have the best coverage for all Americans,” says Staneff. “And bases aren’t always near big cities. So, we wanted to make sure everyone had access to the fastest networks, whether they live in cities or rural small towns, military bases or somewhere in between. They all deserve the same access.”

Articles

At least two killed in attack on NATO convoy

At least two American military personnel were killed in a murder-suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Afghanistan earlier today. A press release from Operation Resolute Support confirmed the attack and that casualties had been inflicted, while Stars and Stripes reported that a Pentagon spokesman had confirmed the number of casualties.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the convoy was hit on the southern edge of the city of Kandahar, the capital of the province of the same name in the country. Currently, about 8,400 American troops are in Afghanistan, alongside about 5,100 NATO personnel. The Trump Administration is considering whether or not to increase the American deployment by about 4,000 personnel.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
A U.S. Marine with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment guides a convoy of Marines returning from field training at Camp Wilson on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., on March 11, 2009. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps)

These are not the first casualties the United States military has suffered in Afghanistan this year. In April, two Rangers were killed in a raid on the Taliban in Achin. Earlier this week, a UH-60 Blackhawk made a hard landing, injuring two American military personnel. NBCNews.com reported that the attack took place near the airport, which also served as a major military base for NATO personnel.

Stars and Stripes also reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming to have killed two generals, 13 other troops, and destroying two armored vehicles. The Taliban have been known to exaggerate claims. They claimed they destroyed the Blackhawk that went down, and had killed all on board.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR

The attack took place a day after a Shiite mosque in Heart province was attacked, leaving 29 dead and 64 wounded. No groups claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS has gained a foothold in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have made gains in the country in recent months.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam War bridge raid was a lesson in adaptive air combat

It was like trying to hit a needle in a haystack, kill a fly with a sledgehammer, or whatever analogy you prefer for using brute force to apply surgical precision in the middle of a swirling ambush.

By analogy and history, the attack on Dragon’s Jaw is a bizarre mismatch of weapons to mission. It is another hard lesson for U.S. air power in the ’60’s. Several decades of evolving doctrine and aircraft development have led the U.S. Air Force in a different direction from how air wars will actually be fought in the future. Instead of long range strategic nuclear attack, tactical precision anti-insurgent strike is the emerging mission. The U.S. will continue to learn that hard lesson on this day.


By any measure this is an impressive air armada: Sixty-six advanced supersonic fighters and strike aircraft from America’s “Century Series”. The main strike package is 46 Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs with massive bomb loads. The defensive escort is 21 North American F-100 Super Sabres holstering a covey of air-to-air missiles. The strike and escort fighters are supported by an enormous number of tanker, surveillance, rescue and reconnaissance planes. They all have one objective: to kill “The Dragon”.

The Dragon is the Thanh Hóa Bridge, near the geographic center of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese nicknamed the bridge “Hàm Rồng” or “Dragon’s Jaw” since its massive steel and concrete construction seem like a row of sturdy teeth set in the mouth of a deadly dragon. The Dragon itself is made up of one of the most sophisticated integrated air defense networks on earth modeled closely after the most sophisticated, the Soviet Union’s.

Ironically, if this same task force had been attacking the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons their results would have almost certainly been better. That is the mission these aircraft were actually designed for. But the Dragon is a small, critical target, and an elusive one. Even though it’s not an all-out nuclear war with the Red Menace, the Dragon must be slayed in the ongoing proxy war that is Vietnam.

The Thanh Hóa Bridge would be a tough target to hit even without an advanced, integrated network of radar guided anti-aircraft guns, SAMs and MiGs surrounding it. The bridge has only a single one-meter wide railroad track on its deck. It is 540 feet long and 54 feet wide at its widest point. From the attack altitude of about 10,000 feet it is difficult to see well at high-speed.

The flight of F-105 Thunderchiefs break into sections of four aircraft each. Today they are armed with 750 pound “dumb” bombs. The day before a nearly identical strike also failed to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw when the Thunderchiefs attacked with crude AGM-12 Bullpup guided missiles and 750 pound dumb bombs. The AGM-12 missiles, an early attempt at “smart” weapons, failed significantly. Remarkably, even though some of the 750 pounders did hit the bridge, they had little effect. The first attempt at breaking the Dragon’s Jaw on April 3rd failed spectacularly. The bridge proved sturdier than expected, the weapons less precise than hoped.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
Front view of the F-105.
(US Air Force photo)

Having abandoned the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles from the day before the F-105 Thunderchiefs would strike with only dumb bombs today.

The F-105 was originally designed to carry a nuclear weapon enclosed within its streamlined fuselage using an internal bomb bay. It was supposed to attack a target from low altitude at Mach 2, “toss” the nuclear weapon at the target in a pop-up attack, and escape at twice the speed of sound.

Today the big F-105 “Thuds” lug a junkyard of dumb bombs under their sleek swept wings and below their sinewy Coke-bottle curved fuselage. The yardsale of external bombs and bomb racks creates enormous drag on the needle-nosed “Thud”, slowing it to below supersonic speed and making it vulnerable.

As predictably as a firing line of advancing redcoat soldiers facing off against Native American insurgents in the Revolutionary War, the Thunderchiefs returned the very next day, marching across the aerial battlefield in broad daylight. The North Vietnamese had been ready the day before. Today they were angry, battle hardened and ready.

According to historical accounts ranging from Air Force Magazine to Wikipedia, four of eight lightweight, nimble, subsonic MiG-17s (NATO codename “Fresco”) of the North Vietnamese 921st “Sao Do” (Red Star) Fighter Regiment led by North Vietnamese flight leader Trần Hanh visually acquired an attack formation of four F-105Ds at 10:30 AM.

The Thunderchiefs were just starting to drop their bombs and already committed to their attack run. Flight leader Trần Hanh ordered his wingman, Pham Giay, to cover his attack on the F-105s. Hanh dove in through light cloud cover, achieving complete surprise. He opened fire on the F-105 with his heavy 37mm cannon at extremely close range, only 400 meters. Having attacked from above and behind in a classic ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering) scenario, Hanh preserved energy and positioning. The hapless F-105, piloted by USAF Major Frank E. Bennett of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, was pummeled by the MiG’s cannon shells. It erupted in a comet of plunging fire and hurtled downward toward the Gulf of Tonkin. Major Bennett did not survive.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilot Tran Hanh shown after the war.

A small, nimble, lightweight fighter had just gotten the better of a large, heavily loaded fighter-bomber despite having a substantial escort from F-100 Super Sabres. The Super Sabre fighter escort was out of position to respond to the MiG-17 ambush. A brutally hard lesson in the future of air combat was in session.

The melee continued when another North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilot reportedly named “Le Minh Huan” downed a second F-105D, this one piloted by USAF Capt. J. A. Magnusson. Capt. Magnusson reportedly radioed that he was heading for the Gulf of Tonkin after being hit. He struggled to maintain control of his heavily damaged Thunderchief as he tried to escape North Vietnam. Capt. Magnusson was forced to eject twenty miles from the island of Hon Me, and was eventually listed as missing in action, then killed in action after a 48-hour search turned up nothing.

Painfully, the U.S. Air Force confirmed they had lost two F-105s and pilots in the second attack on the Dragon’s Jaw. Even worse, the bridge remained intact, a straight, iron grin at the futile attack of the Americans.

After the failed F-105 strikes and aircraft losses the Americans were desperate to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw bridge. Author Walter J Boyne wrote in Air Force Magazine that the U.S. developed a bizarre, massive pancake-shaped bomb weighing two and a half tons and measuring eight feet in diameter but only thirty inches thick. The gigantic, explosive Frisbee was dropped from the back of a lumbering C-130 Hercules transport and was intended to float down river toward the bridge where it would be detonated by a magnetic fuse. Several of the weapons were actually dropped, one C-130 was lost.

The bridge remained intact.

Early laser guided bombs were also employed against the Dragon’s Jaw with modest success. An attack on May 13, 1972 by a flight of 14 F-4 Phantoms used early “smart” bombs and actually knocked the bridge surface off its pilings, briefly rendering it inoperable and forcing repairs.

But the bridge still stood.

Attacks on the Dragon’s Jaw continued until October 6, 1972. A flight of four Vought A-7 Corsair attack aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) was finally successful in breaking the bridge in half. They used the AGM-62 Walleye guided bomb and 500-pound Mk.84 general purpose “dumb” bombs. The bridge was finally severed at its center piling.

Author Walter Boyne wrote about the final strike, “At long last, after seven years, 871 sorties, tremendous expenditure in lives, 11 lost aircraft, and a bewildering array of expended munitions, the Dragon’s Jaw was finally broken.” The key lesson from the brutal campaign to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw was that tactics and equipment need to be adaptable and precise in the modern battlespace.

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews
USAF reconnaissance photo of the Thanh Hu00f3a Bridge in North Vietnam.
(US Air Force photo)

The F-105 Thunderchief was an impressive aircraft, but was forced into a brutal baptism of fire over Vietnam during an era when air combat was in transition. As a result, the F-105 suffered heavy losses. The history of the aircraft went on the include an unusual accident with the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds. On May 9, 1964 Thunderbird Two, an F-105B piloted by USAF Captain Eugene J. Devlin, snapped in half during the pitch-up for landing at the old Hamilton Air Base in California. The Thunderchief only flew in six official flight demonstrations with the Thunderbirds.

Interestingly, and perhaps ominously, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II shares a remarkable number of similarities with the Republic F-105 Thunderchief used in the raid on the Dragon’s Jaw in 1965.

According to author Dr. Carlo Kopp, the F-35A dimensions are oddly similar to the F-105. But among several critical differences is the wing surface area, with the F-35A having larger wing surface area and the resultant lower wing loading than the F-105. Other major differences are the F-35A’s low observable technology and greatly advanced avionics, data collecting, processing and sharing capability. Finally, the F-35A is purpose-built for a wide range of mission sets, whereas the F-105 was predominantly a high-speed, low-level nuclear strike aircraft poorly suited for conventional strike.

Lessons learned from the F-105 strike on the Dragon’s Jaw, the success of the nimble, lightweight North Vietnamese MiG-17s and the need for better precision strike capability are now deeply ingrained in U.S. Air Force doctrine. But revisiting this story is a vital part of understanding the evolving mission of the air combat warfighter and the high cost of failing to adapt in the constantly evolving aerial battlespace.

Lists

5 cheap summer vacations for military families

When I’m choosing what vacations we want to take for the summer, I like to take advantage of ALL the discounted (if not FREE) options available to our military family.

So since I’m a huntress for deals and cheap escapes, here are some ideas that we spouses can benefit from this summer.


1. Reunite with your favorite FRIEND/FAMILY!

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

I just thought recently about all my distant friends (due to PCS) that I miss. I crave their company and miss laughing with them and watching our kids play together. So here’s an idea for a vacay (on the cheaper side).

During the summer is the perfect time to pack up the kids and take a road trip. We’ll take some time to spend a few days crashing at our friends’ house. Depending on how we plan it, the cash costs will mostly be for gas and some food. Maybe an outing, but you can do activities that don’t cost much money. Just do the things that you commonly did when you were stationed together like letting the kids play at the park, walking through the mall, and even cooking together. We may even get a girls night and leave the kids with the hubbys!

2. Take advantage of Space-A with Armed Forces Vacation Club

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrewsArmy gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Typically when we hear Space-A (space available) we think of the free flights that are offered from base to base. This space available with Armed Forces Vacation Club is for resorts that allow you a week’s stay at a fixed rate of $349 for the room. The rooms are priced per unit, not per person so you can have 6 people in your room and the price will be the same. They are currently running a sale for $299. You can choose to vacay in a variety of places like Texas, Florida, the Bahamas and more.
Less than $50 per night, fixed price of $349 in early May 2018. That’s a SEVEN night stay for less than $300 bucks. Yes, rush and get that!

3. Check out lots of military travel deals for Hotels

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

If you are just looking to get out of town make sure you plan ahead so you can get ALL your savings!

You can check out sites like goseek.com that will give you a listing of hotels that offer military savings on their price per night. The savings range from $8-$445 a night depending on where you choose to stay.

4. Drive to another base!

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrewsArmy gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Sometimes you just need a CHANGE of scenery. Here’s a way to STAYcation. For example, if you are stationed in a place like Jacksonville Florida, you have access to two bases…and those are NAS Jax and Mayport. Mayport’s lodging sits right on the beach. Rooms include 2 queens and a kitchenette, free wifi, free breakfast and pets are allowed. Ocean view rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor are $85 per night and 1st floor beach access rooms are $77 per night.

So if you’re close by…BOOK THAT!

No matter where you are in the country, you can probably plan something similar!

5. Theme Parkin’ it

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Active duty military gets free entry into Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place along with 3 dependents. But there are other theme parks you can explore and enjoy that offer military members (active and retired) admission at discounted prices. This list details over 30 locations that offer military deals with savings up to 45%.

There are plenty of ways you can plan your vacay! Whatever you choose, have fun, be safe, and SAVE a few bucks in the process!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information