The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.
The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.
“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.
Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”
In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.
A B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.
After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.
It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.
“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon has become a legend. It was the star of the 1986 movie, Iron Eagle, in which Doug Masters proved he was a better pilot than Maverick. It serves in many air forces the world over, but one in particular has shown the F-16 a lot of combat action. That’s Israel. All of that combat experience — which includes 47 kills — has lead Israel to make some modifications.
Ilan Ramon’s IAF F-16A Netz 243, which took part in the 1981 Osirak raid. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor)
This is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, three years after getting their first F-16s, Israel used some Fighting Falcons to take out the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The flight of almost 700 miles was supposedly beyond the range of the F-16, yet eight Falcons placed 2,000-pound bombs on the target, setting back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.
So, just how many Falcons does Israel have? Recent counts state that Israel has 224 F-16C/D/I Fighting Falcons on inventory. This is a substantial force — and these are not stock F-16s. Israel’s hacked the F-16 to make it much better than you might expect.
For instance, while the United States Air Force only uses 370-gallon drop tanks on the F-16, the Israelis use 600-gallon tanks, adding 62 percent more fuel to the external tankage. The Israelis also turned the F-16Ds, normally used as conversion trainers, into precision-strike specialist planes. Israeli planes are also equipped with a lot of Israeli-designed electronic gear, usually for electronic warfare. These hacks have a price – Israeli Vipers are heavier and require modifications to their landing gear.
Despite buying a custom version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, called the F-15I, Israel has opted to stick with their own F-16I won, and not just because its capabilities have been forged by combat use. The F-16I is significantly cheaper than the F-15I. Although Israel is among the countries that will acquire the F-35 Lightning, the F-16 will be around for a long time as a key asset for the Israeli Defense Force.
No matter how you feel about the Confederate States of America or the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, it’s undeniable that relics from the Civil War belong in a museum.
But which one?
A face that screams “wanna fight about it?”
In 1863, a Pvt. Marshall Sherman from the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment captured a Confederate battle flag from the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pa. His bravery that day earned him not only the keepsake of his heroics, but also the Medal of Honor.
“We just rushed in like wild beasts. Men swore and cursed and struggled and fought, grappled in hand-to-hand fight, threw stones, clubbed their muskets, kicked, yelled, and hurrahed,” said Minnesota soldier William Harmon, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.
The flag, no longer on public display, resides at the Minnesota Historical Center in St. Paul. And Virginia wants it back.
“Come get it. Sincerely, the 1st Minnesota Infantry”
The 1st Minnesota wasn’t only at Gettysburg, though the unit took a beating there. They were also at First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, Seven Pines, and First and Second Fredericksburg, just to name a few. It was at Gettysburg that the 1st was ordered to charge a Confederate position where they would be outnumbered by at least five to one to keep a faltering Union line together. They suffered 82 percent casualty rate but still helped hold off Pickett’s Charge the next day.
The Regiment has their own monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield today.
And Minnesota has a war trophy.
For a century, Virginia has tried to get it back, through any means necessary. They tried asking nicely. The answer was no. They tried an act of Congress. Minnesota said no. Even after a Presidential order, Minnesota declined. In 1998, 2000, 2003, and in 2015, the answer remained the same. When Virginia demanded the piece of their heritage back, then-Governor Jesse Ventura replied that it was now Minnesota’s heritage.
Check out the story from Minnesota’s Historical Society.
The Greatest Generation is being lost to the unalterable process of aging. Today’s youngest World War II veteran is more than 90 years old, and fewer than 400,000 of the 16 million American’s who served still survive.
Drafted in 1943, Clifford Stump of the famed 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate his 95th birthday one week after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day he experienced firsthand, and will soon relive, as he returns to the shores of France for the first time since he fought there in 1944.
“We were 18, 19, 20-year-olds, we were tough, we knew everything,” says Stump as he recalled that infamous day. “But on D-day, we sobered up really quick to life.”
Stump was a U.S. Army Airborne artilleryman operating a ‘British 6 pounder’ as 156,000 allied troops landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious military assault in history. Stump fought in campaigns in France, Belgium, Germany and was part of the final push to Berlin in 1945.
Stump is a long-time VA North Texas Health Care System patient with an active fan base. When he visits Dallas VA Medical Center, Stump makes his rounds visiting with employees and his fellow veterans, schedules appointments, and regales many with stories of our Nation’s history from the first-person perspective.
“It’s humbling to get to know our veterans, to care for them, and most importantly, to learn from them,” says Lara Easterwood, Physician Assistant with VA North Texas’ Community Living Center.
On his most recent visit to the Dallas campus, Stump shared the news that he’ll soon travel to Normandy, France, to participate in 75th anniversary D-Day events in early June 2019. Stump will also re-visit other locations during the week-long trip–locations he last saw as a 20-year-old soldier, operating in support of his fellow soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.
“You think about all the buddies you made over there and you always have to keep them in mind,” said Stump. “I wanted to stay with them and you had to be ready to save them.”
Stump’s trip to Normandy, France and other battlefield locales he last visited 75 years ago is part of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and USAA’s support to honor 20th-century Veterans’ sacrifice before they pass.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
A military appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former Marine Corps scout sniper involved in desecrating the bodies of enemy fighters in Afghanistan in 2011, finding that the actions of the service’s top officer at the time tainted the case.
The decision, by the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, was handed down Nov. 8, five years after the original conviction.
In December 2012, Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement, docked in pay, and demoted to sergeant for participating in an incident in which multiple Marine snipers attached to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, urinated on enemy corpses and then posted a video of the act to YouTube.
When the video got public attention, the incident made global headlines, creating a black eye for the Corps and prompting many prominent American leaders to denounce the snipers’ actions.
The scandal would continue to make headlines in the years following, after a Marine attorney, Maj. James Weirick, came forward to allege that the then-commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Jim Amos, had attempted to interfere with the cases to ensure harsh punishments for the Marines involved. Evidence of this alleged interference mounted.
A 2012 affidavit from then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, appointed by Amos as the oversight authority for the sniper cases, states that Amos told him the Marines involved needed to be “crushed” and discharged from the Corps.
Waldhauser, now the four-star commander of U.S. Africa Command, also alleged that Amos asked him whether he would give all the snipers general courts-martial, the highest form of criminal trial. When Waldhauser responded he would not, Amos allegedly told him he could make someone else the convening authority for the cases.
Two days later, Amos did just that, appointing then-Lt. Gen. Richard Mills to take over. He told Waldhauser he had “crossed the line” in their previous conversation and was removing Waldhauser to fix that problem.
Weirick and another attorney, Col. Jesse Gruter, who both worked for Mills when he took over the sniper cases, alleged in affidavits that Amos and his attorney, Robert Hogue, continued to exert influence over the sniper cases.
In February 2012, Hogue requested that photos and videos of the sniper incident be classified as secret, a move that Weirick and Gruter saw as improper and designed to disadvantage legal defense teams for the snipers facing charges.
When Gruter complained about the alleged improper classification, he claims Amos’ top lawyer, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, tried to get him removed from Mills’ legal team.
In spring 2012, Amos took to the road with a presentation he called the “Heritage Brief,” a discussion with Marines intended to promote discipline and good behavior. The brief contained a photo of the sniper incident with the headline, “What Does America Think of Her Marines Today?”
Since the sniper cases were still being adjudicated, the brief raised concerns about unlawful command influence, a situation in which actions of a senior officer prejudice a legal case.
Around the same time, Amos met with Mills and asked him which Marines he planned to prosecute. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Gen. John Paxton, then-commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, from which all the snipers were based, sent a memo to Amos with “updates and recommendations” about the sniper prosecutions.
Since the commandant was supposed to be completely hands-off regarding the legal proceedings, this memo also raised red flags for Gruter.
Even though Chamblin pleaded guilty and got a relatively light sentence under a pretrial agreement, the appeals court found evidence of unlawful command influence that was never cured or eradicated in the case.
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told [Waldhauser] that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,'” the court wrote. “This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI. We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding.”
Gruter, who recused himself from the sniper cases over his belief that the government was withholding evidence of Amos’ actions constituting unlawful influence, said in an affidavit that he would have advised a number of remedial measures to remove any taint from the cases after Amos removed Waldhauser and replaced him with Mills as the oversight authority.
“A member of the public, aware of these facts and this assessment from the [oversight authority’s staff judge advocate], would lose confidence in the fair processing of this case,” the court found.
Likewise, the court found, Amos’ use of the sniper cases in his Heritage Brief would erode public confidence in the the fairness of prosecution proceedings.
Because so much time has passed since Chamblin was convicted, the court decided that dismissal of charges, rather than retrial, was the only fair remedy.
“We … find that public confidence in military justice requires dismissal with prejudice in this case,” the court found.
Allegations of unlawful command influence would continue to color Amos’ tenure until he retired in 2015.
Multiple oversight agencies, including the Defense Department Inspector General, investigated the allegations and cleared him of wrongdoing.
But at least one previous conviction has been overturned on appeal as a result of his Heritage Brief: the case of Staff Sgt. Steve Howell, who was convicted of rape and sexual assault in 2012 but had his conviction and 18-year sentence overturned in 2014 because of the appearance of unlawful influence in the case.
Chamblin, who left the Marine Corps shortly after his conviction, published a book in 2015 called “Into Infamy: A Sniper’s War.”
Reached for comment by Military.com, he declined to discuss the case before the government decides whether to appeal the ruling. It can do so anytime within 30 days from the date of the decision.
In all, eight Marines were punished in the fallout from the sniper scandal. Several received administrative punishments. Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola and Sgt. Rob Richards, like Chamblin, pleaded guilty and received demotions at special court-martial proceedings. It’s not clear if Richards’ and Deptola’s cases are also under appeal.
Richards, who was severely wounded in 2010 and had been nominated for a Bronze Star for valor on the 2011 Afghanistan deployment, died in 2014 at the age of 28. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Weirick would ultimately be fired from his position after sending an email regarding the cases to Peter Delorier, one of Amos’ attorneys. Delorier perceived the strongly worded missive as threatening.
“It is a positive step that the court exposed the illegal and unethical conduct of Jim Amos and Vaughn Ary, but their reprehensible conduct also deprived the other Marine snipers of a fair hearing,” Weirick told Military.com in a statement. “Those cases must also be vacated to ensure justice and help restore public confidence in the military justice system.”
Featured Image: Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, addresses drill instructors at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., May 29, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bethanie C. Sahms/Released)
A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.
The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.
Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”
“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.
Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.
Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.
According to the indictment:
Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.
A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.
(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
The U.S. Army’s new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter featuring a digital cockpit has made its first flight, a company announced.
The chopper, basically a UH-60L upgraded with the new Integrated Avionics Suite, flew for the first time on Jan. 19 in Huntsville, Alabama, according to a release Monday from Northrop Grumman Corp. The base is home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.
The utility rotorcraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit, but Northrop won a contract in 2014 to upgrade between 700 and 900 L models of the aircraft with the new cockpit design, which replaces older analogue gauges with digital electronic instrument displays. The technology is already included in UH-60M production models.
“This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters,” Ike Song, vice president of mission solutions at Northrop, said in a statement.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based company won the Army deal over such competitors as Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, according to an Aviation Week report at the time.
The new system is nearly identical to the UH-60M interface, according to Northrop. The technology is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements for military and civilian airspace around the world, the company said.
The Army a decade ago began receiving UH-60M variants featuring the new digital cockpits. The M model is the most advanced variant of the helicopter and remains in production.
Ted Meyer is a Los Angeles-based artist, curator, and patient advocate who has been coloring the lives of those with traumatic injuries for 17 years with his project called “Scarred for Life: Mono-prints of Human Scars.”
“The whole idea is to tell their story by making a beautiful piece of art from their scar” Meyer said. “I do a print off their body and then I try to work in some of the details of what happened to them into the painting that I do over the print.”
Meyer is comfortable around hospitals because he was born with an enzyme deficiency that doctors believed would cut his life short. Fortunately, a treatment was found, and the breakthrough radically changed his life and artistic focus.
“I met a woman who was using a wheelchair with a broken back,” he recalled. “We had a long conversation one day and she told me I should keep doing my art because I still had a lot to say about it.”
He called the woman to do a print of her scars, and the public’s reaction to the artwork received was very different from that received by his paintings.
“People would come up to me after seeing the work and show me their scars,” Meyer said. “They take their shirt off, pull down their pants or lift up a dress, everybody wanted to tell me. That was seventeen years ago and I’ve been doing this since.”
Originally, Meyer shied away from printing veterans’ wounds. Though he comes from a family with military tradition, he didn’t feel he had the credentials to do it.
“I’m not in that world,” he said. “There’s a couple of other veteran projects and usually they have a much closer relationship to it than I do.”
That all changed a few years ago. Someone close to Meyer returned from Iraq after several tours as a helicopter pilot and killed himself.
“I thought I should approach this subject by letting people tell their stories, because he never told any of us that he was struggling,” Meyer said. “Apparently, he had some damage in his jaw from shrapnel, and they wouldn’t let him fly because the jaw was deteriorating.”
So Meyer decided to tell veteran stories, but that has created a different problem: He needs more veterans to become works of art. He was offered an exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, but he couldn’t find enough scarred vets to participate so he had to postpone the show indefinitely.
“I think it was very systemic of the fact that a very small percentage of people fight over there,” Meyer said. “It’s a different culture and these are people who have a different sense of what being patriotic and being an American and defending us is.”
One of Meyers’ subjects, Jerral Hancock, is missing an arm, is paralyzed, and burned.
“Almost his whole body is scarred from burns,” Meyer said. “He had a lot of texture, so I went in and I have his tank that he had been in sort of marching across, rolling across his scar. I try to give it a narrative, but also make it a beautiful piece of artwork.”
“It was cool seeing war and our scars put to art, and it was an interesting experience going through Ted’s art,” Hancock said. “I would recommend it to other vets because it helps show the reality of war for those who don’t understand the sacrifices made.”
Working with wounded warriors changed the way Meyer sees the veteran community. A man who spent his life with people in physical and emotional crisis gained an appreciation for a new group he’s never known and relates that experience to the world.
“They’ve given a tremendous amount and don’t feel bitter about it,” Meyers said. “There’s a moral integrity to that I find lacking most everywhere else.”
Meyer has an upcoming show for his “Scarred for Life” project at Muzeumm Gallery in Los Angeles from February 6th through March 1st. If you’re a veteran with scars and a story you’d like turned into art, contact Ted Meyer at email@example.com.
China’s growing presence in the Pacific and Indian oceans has its neighbors on guard, and their competition for influence has recently kept Sri Lanka’s capital and port city of Colombo busy.
On Oct. 1, 2018, a day after Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier Kaga, the country’s largest warship, and destroyer Inazumasailed into Colombo, the ships’ commanding officers and the commander of Japan’s escort flotilla four, Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda, met with the head of the Sri Lankan navy, sharing “views on matters of bilateral importance.”
“Japan’s government is promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and this deployment in the Asia Pacific is a component of that strategy,” Fukuda told Reuters as his ships sailed to Sri Lanka. Japanese naval vessels have stopped in Sri Lanka 50 times over the past five years, he said.
Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome Japanese navy ships Kaga and Inazuma in Colombo, Sept. 30, 2018.
(Sri Lanka navy photo)
On Oct. 4, 2018, the same day the JMSDF ships departed, Chinese navy ship Hai Yangdao arrived for a four-day “goodwill visit,” according to Sri Lanka’s navy, which said the Chinese ship’s skipper and the commander of Sri Lanka’s western naval area “held a cordial discussion on matters of mutual interest.”
Sri Lanka sits not far from shipping lines through the Indian Ocean that carry much of the world’s container traffic and the majority of China’s energy imports. Its location has made it an area of interest for countries throughout the region.
That relationship has become more of a concern for India, Japan, and others in recent years, especially after Sri Lanka granted China control of the port of Hambantota for 99 years in 2017.
India in particular is worried Beijing will use the port for military purposes — China and Sri Lanka both deny that will happen — and to augment the presence it has elsewhere in the region, including at a port in Pakistan and a military outpost in Djibouti.
New Delhi has watched warily as Chinese submarines and other warships have passed through the area over the past several years. India’s security posture has undergone what has been called “a tectonic shift” toward the country’s southern approaches in recent years.
On Oct. 6, 2018, Sri Lankan navy ships SLNS Sagara, an offshore patrol ship, and SLNS Suranimala, a missile ship, both left Colombo on their way to India for a four-day goodwill visit that was to include training exercises.
Japan has also sought a larger role in the Indian Ocean region. Tokyo has expanded security partnerships and plans to spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects there — ambitions that rival China’s.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kaga helicopter carrier.
The arrival of Kaga was purportedly meant as a sign to Sri Lanka that Japan was willing to deploy major military assets to an area of the world where China’s influence is growing.
After the Kaga’s departure, Japan’s navy was to begin four days of joint exercises with Sri Lanka’s navy in the Indian Ocean meant to strengthen cooperation between the two forces. Sources told The Japan Times that it was also meant as a message to China, though a MSDF said no specific country as being targeted.
As a part of the exercise, Sri Lankan officers will board the Kaga to observe Japanese training and to exchange information on humanitarian operations. (Officers from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet are also on hand.)
“It’s rare for the MSDF to allow military officials of other countries to board any of its vessels during an exercise at sea,” a public-relations official of the Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office told The Japan Times.
Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy, April 25, 2018.
Washington, along with Tokyo and New Delhi, has reportedly taken an interest in the port of Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast as a way to counter China’s presence at Hambantota and around the region.
Trincomalee saw a visit by the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy in April 2018, and in August 2018 — a few weeks after Sri Lanka took part in the US-led Rim of the Pacific military exercise for the first time — the amphibious transport dock USS Anchoragepulled into Trincomalee with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for a security cooperation exercise. (Such exercises have been done before.)
August 2018 also saw a visit to Sri Lanka by Japan’s defense minister, who stopped in Trincomalee and Hambantota. That visit came a few months after the Japanese foreign minister visited for the first time in 16 years.
“The message to China is that Japan, with India and the United States and of course Sri Lanka, has the capacity to engage militarily,” Nozomu Yoshitomi, a professor at Nihon University and a former Ground Self Defence Force major general who advised the Japanese cabinet, told Reuters in October 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Welsh’s comments on Thursday represented a shift in the Air Force’s official attitude toward reviving the F-22; it had previously said doing so would not be cost effective.
“I don’t think it’s a wild idea,”Welsh said, as Defensenews.com notes. “I mean the success of the F-22 and the capability of the airplane and the crews that fly it are pretty exceptional. I think it’s proven that the airplane is exactly what everybody hoped it would be.”
“We’re using it in new and different ways and it’s been spectacularly successful and its potential is really, really remarkable,” Welsh continued. “And so going back and looking and certainly raising the idea well, could you build more? It’s not a crazy idea.”
As Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft Monthly, wrote in 2015: “How about a risk-reduced approach for NGAD? Take the almost perfect Raptor and put it back into production, albeit this time with the tweaks that make it truly the best fighter ever it can be. That approach may just help mitigate against the early cost overruns and delays and provide capability faster and when it’s needed.”
The USS Illinois (SSN 786) was commissioned Oct. 29 in a ceremony at Groton, Connecticut.
The Virginia-class fast attack submarine can carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike at targets on enemy shores, or it can switch some of its missiles out with other payloads to deliver special operators or mines to contested areas around the world.
Conventional periscopes don’t exist on the Illinois or other Virginia-class submarines. Instead, they feature photonic masts that send video and other image data to screens throughout the ship.
The Illinois is a Block III-version of the Virginia class, and features a horseshoe-shaped sonar instead of the older, spherical sonars. And, instead of packing 12 vertical missile tubes, Block III subs carry two sets of six missiles in Virginia Payload Tubes. If the Navy adopts a new missile in the future, the VPTs allow the Illinois to more easily switch to the new weapon.
The boat carries an S9G pressurized water reactor. The nuclear reactor powers the vessel for its entire lifecycle without ever needing refueling. The pump-jet propulsors push the boat forward are quieter than a traditional propeller.
Missions on the Illinois can go on for three months or longer, and the crew can spend nearly the entire time submerged.
To learn more about Virginia-class submarines, check out the Navy infographic below.
After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.
On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.
“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”
The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.
Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.
With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”
The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.
More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.
A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.
So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.
Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.
“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”
Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.
Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.
Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.
“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”
Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.
The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.
As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.
As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.
The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.
This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.
“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”
Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.
On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.
Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.
With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”
The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.
Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.
Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.
While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.
Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.
You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.
The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”
“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”
(Courtesy of NASA)
The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.
The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.
Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).
The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)
Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.
Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.