B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

The Air Force is giving its historic B-52 bomber a massive weapons enhancement by engineering an upgrade to the aircraft’s internal weapons bay, which promises to substantially enhance its attack mission options.


The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing. This initiative not only increases the weapons delivery capacity for the bomber but also enables it to accommodate a wider swath of modern weapons.

IWBU uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, service officials said.

Also read: What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

“The B-52 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade provides internal J-series (smart) weapons capability through modification of Common Strategic Rotary Launchers and upgrade of aircraft software,” Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.

The B-52 has previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU, the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting-edge, precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that the IWBU effort will bring a 66-percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52.

Service developers also explain that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The move is a key modernization step for the Air Force which, for many known reasons, no longer views the B-52 in its historic role as a “carpet bombing” aircraft. The demands and challenges of modern warfare, both counterinsurgency as well as the possible force of large-scale mechanized warfare, now require precision. This weapons upgrade will help expedite the integration of an even larger arsenal of precision-guided or (smart) weapons, as Grabowski explained.

Related: How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

While the B-52 can, of course, still blanket an area with bombs should it need to do so, more likely challenges in a modern threat environment would doubtless use long-range sensors, guided weapons, or even lasers to achieve both greater standoff and precision in possible engagements.

Also, given that the size and “not-so-stealthy” configuration of the B-52, it is primarily intended to operate in areas where the US Air Force already has air supremacy. Longer range, more precise Russian-built air defenses would also be expected to pose a significant threat to even high-altitude bombing missions.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
A United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. (USAF photo)

Given the fast pace of advances in command and control technology, manned-unmanned teaming, and artificial intelligence, it is entirely feasible that manned bombers, such as the B-52, will soon be able to control nearby drones from the air. (A former Air Force Chief Scientist discussed this at great length in previous interviews with Warrior Maven.)

The first increment of IWBU integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well.

More: This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios, and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons, and technologies, Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of multiple interviews with program managers in recent years

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9 royals who could claim the throne of the United States

No, the U.S. did not suddenly become a monarchy, nor are we even starting to think about it. But Americans, despite their historical disagreements with the idea of royalty, are very much enamored with some of the world’s royal families. The Shah of Iran, Princess Grace of Monaco, and (of course) the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom have all been the subject of Americans’ interest for a time.


B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
My personal favorites are King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. #couplegoals, amirite? Public domain.

 

The fact is that the United States could well have been a kind of constitutional monarchy, with George Washington on the throne. A small cabal of Continental Army officers wanted to give that a go, being unsure of a republican government. Washington rebuffed the men, and the rest is history – but what if there had been one chair to rule all of the United States? Who today could win that game of thrones?

1. Queen Elizabeth II

This one is pretty obvious. As the current reigning monarch of the last monarch that ruled what we now call the United States, reverting back to a monarchy would see the U.S. go along with who the British Empire proclaimed to be the rightful heirs to the throne throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, which brings us to Queen Elizabeth.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
NASA photo

2. Ernst August V, the House of Hanover

When the United States won its independence from Britain, the reigning monarch was King George III of the House of Hanover. The Hanoverians ruled the British Empire until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901 but if we were to give Hanover the throne of the United States to pick where they left off, the current head of the House of Hanover would be H.R.H. Prince Ernst August V, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, son-in-law of Princess Grace of Monaco, and public urination aficionado.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Looks like the Prince enjoys a few smokes with his beers. Welcome to America. Pinterest

3. Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou

Also known in some circles as Louis XX, the Duke of Anjou is the current pretender to a French throne that no longer exists and is the direct descendant of Louis XVI. Louis XVI, of course, is the last Bourbon king of France before the French Revolution caused his head to be removed from the rest of his body. It could be argued that since the Louisiana Purchase of French North America resulted in doubling the size of the young United States, French kings have a legitimate claim to any would-be American throne.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
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4. King Felipe VI of Spain

Since many of the United States current possessions were once Spanish possessions, it makes sense that the current King of Spain, King Felipe VI, be considered for the U.S. throne. Making Felipe’s claim even stronger is that he is also descended from the Bourbon king Louis XVI and is the second cousin to France’s Duke Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Spanish King Felipe VI meets President Donald Trump at the White House. White House photo.

5. Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon

Remember that time the French people got rid of their king (we just briefly mentioned it)? Eventually, the country was ruled by First Consul – later Emperor – Napoléon Bonaparte. Bonaparte ruled France as it sold its North American possessions to the United States in 1803. Well, he still has living heirs, the most prominent being Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoléon’s youngest brother Jérôme, and the Emperor’s great-great-great-great-nephew.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Reddit

6. Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide

Much of what is today the United States once belonged to Mexico before the U.S. took it in the Mexican War of 1846. At that time, Mexico was ruled by the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But before Mexico took on a republican form of government, it was ruled by a legitimate Mexican Emperor, Augustin I. He ruled very briefly before being executed and overthrown, but his living descendants include Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide, the current head of Mexico’s royal family.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Who? seen here with Pope Benedict XVI. Wikimedia Commons.

 

7. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Given the number of Russian holdings in North America, it’s not crazy to consider a Russian claim to the throne. Russia’s last possession, Alaska, was sold to the United States during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, grandfather to the last official Russian Tsar. As many are aware, the Imperial Romanov’s reign over Russia ended when the family was murdered by Bolsheviks during Russia’s transition to becoming the Soviet Union. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is now the recognized head of the Imperial Family of Russia, now that there are no more male members of the Romanov Dynasty left.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Who says we can’t have a Queen? Or Tsarina? Public Domain.

8. Andrew Romanov, Prince of Russia

Wait, I thought I said there were no more male Romanovs? I did, but monarchy is tricky. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so many stupid wars about who gets what throne. Prince Andrew is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas I, whose reign ended with his death in 1855. His grandmother was Russian Duchess Xenia who fled Russia in 1917 aboard a British warship. Romanov is a World War II veteran of the British Royal Navy who even lived in California for a time.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Wikimedia Commons

9. Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar

If Alaska gives Russia a claim to the throne of the United States, why not Hawaii? Before Hawaii became a U.S. territory by annexation in 1898, it was a sovereign republic, led by American businessman Sanford Dole. Before that, though, it was a sovereign kingdom, ruled by Queen Liliʻuokalani, a native Hawaiian. Though Queen Liliʻuokalani’s dynastic succession ended with her death in 1917, the royal lineage continued, and today the head of the Hawaiian royal family is HRH Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar, who is also an accomplished steel guitar player.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Public domain.

Your potential Queen of the United States is in the center, wearing purple.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best war movies of 2018

It was a good year for the war-military movie genre. There weren’t many of them made this year, but the quality was much, much better than in years past. There could be many reasons for this; the rise in military veterans wanting a say in how their lives are depicted onscreen, Hollywood looking to real-world stories for source material, or just a general focus on what works and what doesn’t in filmmaking.

Whatever the reason, it was a good year. To show our appreciation, we’re presenting to you nine of our favorites. After all, a good, old-fashioned war movie marathon is the perfect New Year’s Day recovery tactic.


9. ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

This film recreates the hijacking that led to one of the most daring rescue operations of all time, Israel’s now-famous Raid on Entebbe. 7 Days In Entebbe is a story set from the point of view of the hijackers. It’s not a great film for its depiction of what it’s like to be a hijacker or hostage, but the action is good, and the film really brings the era to life.

Related: 6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

8. ‘Overlord’

World War II is a great setting for any film of any genre. You can set any story in any place on Earth, and it will be slightly believable because Nazis are the ultimate insane, evil villains. While everyone loves a great WWII drama, every now and then, someone gives the World War II sub-drama a spin and adds an element that is surprising and fun. This time, it’s zombie horror.

Now Read: Why we’re pumped about the new ‘Overlord’ film

Paul Rudd stars a baseball legend Moe Berg in the WWII drama “The Catcher Was A Spy.”

7. ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’

By now, America knows what to expect from a Paul Rudd movie. The Marvel alum’s wry smile and sharp wit are fun and appealing in comedies and action-adventure movies. But The Catcher Was A Spy is a dramatic take on the life of Red Sox legend Moe Berg, who famously supplied information to the Allied war effort in Japan and Eastern Europe.

A great cast backs up Rudd, whose depiction of the anti-heroic Berg in this film based on Berg’s real exploits.

Related: This Boston Red Sox catcher changed the course of World War II

6. ‘Hunter Killer’

This is one of only two movies on the list that isn’t based on a true story, but much of what went into making the film was real. For example, Butler and crew really lived on a submarine with U.S. sailors. In the movie, a submarine commander assembles a team of SEALs to prevent a coup in Russia and prevent a potential World War III. What’s the most fun about this movie though, is the way the producers drummed up buzz for it. Gerard Butler visited troops, gave a Pentagon press briefing, and even played Battleship with We Are The Mighty.

Next: Gerard Butler totally gets why troops hate military movie mistakes

5. ‘A Private War’

A Private War is the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, one of the world’s best war photographers. She had seen action in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, and more. She is famous in the world of journalism for repeatedly coming under attack for just being a journalist. Colvin was one of the last journalists to interview Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as she covered the Syrian Civil War.

4. ‘Operation Finale’

Operation Finale was the name the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, gave to the capture, imprisonment, and extraction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina. He hid there as a factory worker at a local Mercedes-Benz plant under the name Ricardo Klement. Once the Mossad found out where he was hiding, it wasn’t long before they hatched a daring plan to put “The Architect of the Holocaust” on trial in Israel.

Now Read: How ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ hunted his fellow Nazis for Israel

3. ‘Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero’

This year was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and Hollywood did not miss the chance to remember the brave men — and canines — who fought it. Stubby was a stray who also happened to have fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded.

No — you’re crying!

Related: A stray dog named ‘Stubby’ was the most decorated dog of WWI

2. ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’

World War I had quite the effect on author JRR Tolkien. His most legendary works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are based on his time there, a way for the veteran to make sense of the horrible killing. So, it makes sense that the director who brought those works to the silver screen also brings a bit of Tolkien’s own experiences along with it. Though They Shall Not Grow Old has nothing to do with Tolkien, Jackson’s closeness to the material is apparent in this documentary film, as his grandfather served in the Great War.

The critically-acclaimed documentary uses previously unseen film reels from the archives of the UK’s Imperial War Museum.

Read On: After 100 years World War I battlefields are poisoned and uninhabitable

1. ’12 Strong: The Declassified Story of the Horse Soldiers’

In the days following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. sent its most capable insurgent-wrangling troops into Afghanistan with the intent of supplying and coordinating those who were already aligned against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These Special Forces troops provided air cover and strategic planning to the Afghan Warlord-led Northern Alliance who had been struggling to oust the Taliban since they took control of Kabul in 1994.

But to get there and be effective, the Green Berets had to adapt to the environment and technology available to them, and their success came at a real cost.

Full Story: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross

“The lights went out, the ship rolled and tossed and suddenly seemed to settle well on her starboard side,” stoker Bert Harris later said. “The Germans had shot us to pieces.”


“Abandon ship!”

HMS Glowworm was lost, but its captain, 35-year-old Lt. Com. Gerard Broadmead Roppe, would win a posthumous Victoria Cross for the action. And, strangest of all, he would get it on the recommendation of the German captain who had sunk his ship.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Glowworm moving to ram the Admiral Hipper during World War II.

In April 1940, the Glowworm, a Royal Navy G-class destroyer, was part of the escort for the battle cruiser HMS Renown during mine-laying operations in the North Sea. On the night of April 7, 1940, however, the Glowworm, which was armed with four four-inch guns and ten torpedoes, lost a man overboard in rough weather, and fell behind to search for him.

“That was a bad omen,” Harris later said.

Capt. Roppe eventually had to give up the search and was returning to the Renown when, at about 8:30 a.m., April 8, the Glowworm encountered two German destroyers. The German ships, the Bernd von Arnim and the Hans Ludemann, were escorting the 14,000-ton German heavy cruiser Admiral von Hipper, under the command of Capt. Hellmuth Heye. The cruiser was transferring German troops to Trondheim, Norway, as part of the German invasion.

The Glowworm and the German destroyers exchanged fire, with the Glowworm scoring a hit on one of the two ships before the German ships fled into a squall with the Glowworm in pursuit. But when the Glowworm came out of the squall, she suddenly found herself within range of the Admiral von Hipper and facing that ship’s eight eight-inch guns

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
The HMS Glowworm burning after taking heavy fire.

The Hipper opened fire with the Glowworm at 9,200 yards (8,400 meters), and its fourth salvo struck the smaller ship. The Glowworm began making smoke and used the cover to dart back into the squall as the bigger ship continued firing. The Glowworm struggled to get within range of the Hipper. By then, her radio room, bridge, and forward 4.7-inch gun had been destroyed. Her engine room and her rangefinder had been hit, and the small ship was ablaze. The upper yard of her mast had collapsed, falling across wires and short circuiting the ship’s siren that wailed unheeded.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
The Hipper attacking Glowworm from the Hipper’s crew’s perspective.

Knowing he had no chance again the Hipper, Capt. Roppe determined to cause as much damage to the larger ship as he could.

Unbelievably, he attacked.

At 10:10, Capt. Roppe fired his ship’s five torpedoes at a range of 870 yards (800 meters), but all five missed their target. Unable to evade the larger ship, he ordered the Glowworm to ram, and the British ship struck the German cruiser near her starboard bow, gouging a large hole in the side of the German ship. The Glowworm scraped along the side of the German ship before pulling clear and coming to rest in the water, flaming and with its siren still wailing.

Related: This naval battle helped set the stage for two world wars

The Glowworm‘s wheelhouse, transmitting station, wireless office, and the captain’s cabin that was functioning as a first aid station had all been hit and destroyed. There was a huge hole in the side of the ship near the engine room and her superstructure was in shambles.

Capt. Roppe gave the order to abandon ship.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
British destroyer HMS Glowworm recoiling from German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper after ramming her off Norway in April 1940.

As men were jumping over the side, Harris said, Petty Officer Walter Scott stayed on the only Glowwworm gun that was still operable and “kept that gun going for quite a time.”

In all, 111 members of the Glowworm’s crew were lost, including Capt. Roppe, but with a gallantry that was lost as the war advanced, the Hipper’s Capt. Heye rescued thirty-one survivors of the British ship and congratulated them for the fight they had put up.

“(He) told us that our Captain had been a very brave man,” said Harris.

The Hipper completed her mission, dropping troops at Trondheim, but then returned to port for repairs. She was out of action for a month. From there, Capt. Heye sent a Victoria Cross recommendation for Capt. Roppe to the British War Office.

And Capt. Roppe got it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everyone lost their minds when a Marine general relieved an Army general

If it weren’t for the Japanese, the Marine Corps’ biggest enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II might well have been the U.S. Army. On at least five occasions, Army commanders were relieved of command for what the Corps deemed was a lack of proper aggression. Those commanders were given the benefit of being relieved by their Army commander. When one brigadier was relieved by his Marine commander, it caused a grudge the branches held on to for years.


Gen. Ralph Smith began World War II with a promotion to brigadier general and a command of American soldiers in the Pacific. With Smith came his experience in previous American conflicts. He served under Gen. John J. Pershing in Mexico, during the Punitive Expedition. He also fought on the Western Front of World War I and was among the first American troops to land in France. He earned two Silver Stars in combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. His bravery and combat credentials were without question.

When he earned his second star, he also took command of the 27th Infantry Division, an Army unit that was soon folded into the 2nd Marine Division. The new mixed unit formed the V Amphibious Corps under Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and its target was the Gilbert Islands. The Marines would attack and capture Tarawa while the Army did the same on Makin. The Marine Corps’ Smith thought the Army’s 6,400-plus troops should be able to overwhelm the 400 defenders and 400 laborers who held the reinforced island.

But it didn’t happen as quickly as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith though it should. This would build tensions when it came to take Saipan.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

As if Saipan wasn’t tense enough.

On Saipan, the Marines and the Army would fight side-by-side on a dream team that would not be matched until the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1992. When the U.S. began its assault on Mt. Tapochau in the middle of the island, the Marines found themselves advancing much further, much faster than their Army counterparts. The soldiers at Mt. Tapochau were tasked with taking an area known as “Hell’s Pocket.” The Army was expected to go into a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under enemy control.

Now, if terrain is given a nickname by the Americans tasked to take it, that’s a pretty good indication of some intense fighting. But Holland Smith didn’t know that because he hadn’t inspected the terrain. The Army commander devised a plan to split his forces, using one battalion to hold the pocket while the other outflanked the Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, he would not be in command to implement it. It turns out “Howlin’ Mad” Smith was about to live up to his nickname.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

The U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division marches to the front on Saipan.

With what he saw as a lack of aggression on Makin fresh in his mind, the inability of the Army to advance on Saipan made the Marine Corps’ Maj. Gen. Smith furious. He not only relieved the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith of command of the Army on Saipan, he ordered Ralph C. Smith off the island. It would be the only time an Army commander would be relieved of command by a superior from another branch, and the Army wouldn’t forget it for years. The firing was so public that Smith could no longer command a unit in the Pacific and spent the rest of the war in Arkansas.

After the war, a panel of inquiry was convened. Known as the Buckner Board, it was staffed entirely by Army brass. When it looked into the Saipan incident, it found that Holland Smith had not looked at the terrain facing the Army on the island and was not in possession of all the facts. The plan hatched by the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith to take Hell’s Pocket worked, and the Army was able to catch up to the Marines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy secretary will go toe-to-toe with his top officers

In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps hit the wall, with a string of deadly accidents on the sea and in the air. In 2018, we’ll see whether the overstressed sea services start saying “no” to missions.


That means battles both in the Pentagon and on the Hill. The newly named Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, seems to be charting a collision course with joint commanders, who he says have run the services ragged with too many missions, and with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which gave joint headquarters preeminence over the four armed services in many areas. In recent years Congress and the Pentagon have restored some of the service chiefs’ authority over weapons acquisitions, but they haven’t questioned the basic balance of power set in law some 31 years ago. Now the Strategic Readiness Review which Spencer commissioned has put changing Goldwater-Nichols on the table.

How to make the case for change? “We’ll start every conversation with 17 dead sailors,” Spencer pledged in September. But 17 deaths is just the beginning. While Spencer was talking specifically about two deadly surface ship collisions this summer, transport aircraft crashes killed 19 Marines in July and August. In response, the Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered rolling safety stand-downs at all Marine aviation units.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Damage to the port side is visible on the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain after colliding. (Photo by U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

This summer was just a particularly lethal spike in a long-running trend. Crashes of a C-2 transport and a T-45 trainer killed five more Navy personnel just since fiscal year 2018 began on October 1st. Three naval aircraft have been lost in accidents since Oct. 1, another three damaged.

In fiscal 2017, Navy aircraft suffered 10 Class A Mishaps involving permanent disability, loss of life, or more than $2 million in damage. The Marines, with a much smaller air fleet, suffered another 10. Long-term, both services have seen rising accident rates ever since 2013, when the Budget Control Act abruptly cut funds for training and maintenance. The Marines in particular have seen their accident rate — which has long been higher than the Navy’s — more than double over the last two years.

As costly as these accidents are, and as devastating as these deaths have been, the biggest potential catastrophe is a force unready for combat. Early in 2017, the sea services admitted that 53 percent of all naval aircraft were grounded for maintenance, rising to 62 percent for strike fighters and 74 percent of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. As for surface ships, both a former deputy secretary of defense and a panel of retired captains have publicly argued that the recent series of accidents — not just the two fatal ones — shows a force struggling with basic seamanship, let alone the complex skills required to fight an enemy fleet. Meanwhile the third pillar of the Navy, the submarine branch, has avoided deadly accidents but still has an unprecedented proportion of its boats idled awaiting maintenance: Ready submarines are consumed by day-to-day missions for the joint commanders, leaving few boats in reserve to “surge” in a major war.

Also Read: So, parts of our helicopters are falling on children now

Time Money

So what do the Navy and Marine Corps need? The most precious commodity is time: time to catch up on training, time to clear up the maintenance backlog. But time is finite, and every day spent getting ready is one less day out doing missions. The services’ concern for readiness — particularly for major wars — conflicts directly with the theater commanders‘ need for naval presence. The current Pentagon process effectively gives the joint commanders a blank check for how heavily forces are committed around the world, with little provision for the services to throw a yellow flag and say “too much.” That’s the system Sec. Spencer seems ready to challenge.

Money would help too, of course. More money for maintenance and training would help readiness, but, less obviously, so would more money for modernization. Buying new ships and aircraft could let the Navy and Marines retire aging, unreliable equipment, which drags down readiness because it’s down for maintenance too often.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Aviation Electronics Mate Airman Adam Lowery (front) and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Tyler Humphries (back) conduct routine maintenance on an MH-60S Sea Hawk assigned to the Merlins of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse L. Gonzalez).

Or you could use the new ships and planes to increase the size of the force. Growth improves readiness by spreading the workload over more units, giving each more time for training and maintenance. (Of course, that assumes that the workload doesn’t go up too, and that training and maintenance funds go up proportionately instead of being spread thinner over the larger force). The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. John Richardson, said that building more ships would help prevent future accidents, because with more ships at work, none of them would be worked as hard.

Building a bigger fleet is a long-term solution, however, with estimates ranging from 18 years to about 35. And despite President Trump’s encouraging rhetoric, the administration struggled to add just one new ship to the 2018 budget — which Congress hasn’t yet managed to fund, even as we start the second quarter of the federal fiscal year.

For now, then, the Navy and Marine Corps have to improve readiness without a larger force or even additional training and maintenance money. That means their only option is to take on fewer missions — which is why Sec. Spencer has to challenge Goldwater-Nichols.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US diplomats in China suffer strange sudden brain injuries

No one knows exactly what caused 24 US diplomats and their families in Cuba to fall ill and in many cases show signs of brain injuries after they reported hearing strange noises.

But whatever is causing these mysterious illnesses, it seems to now be happening in China too.

On May 23, 2018, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.


The New York Times reported June 6, 2018, that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.

After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

On June 5, 2018, the office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents, which some have called “sonic attacks.”

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“U.S. government personnel and family members at affected locations have been directed to alert their mission’s medical unit if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations,” the State Department announcement said. “Reported symptoms have included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”

A mysterious problem that began in Cuba

The saga began in late 2016, when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some individuals could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.

Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.

A study of those victims suggested a disconcerting possibility: some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury,” the study’s authors wrote.

Many of the victims remembered strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported hearing a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.

The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
The U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The recent State Department announcement said there have been at least 24 victims of these attacks. Of those, 21 were studied by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere.

After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.

The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.

The symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.

“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.

An unknown cause

Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about what happened to these diplomats.

If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government denied any connection and investigators hadn’t found a link to Russia, which intelligence analysts have speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.

Now that there are cases in China, the mystery is even deeper.

The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But although sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make a sonic weapon unlikely.

“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” Horowitz said.

He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the study on the victims from Cuba reported found no signs of infection (like fever). They determined that it was unlikely a chemical agent caused these effects, since it would have damaged other organs, too.

In an editorial published alongside that study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, they couldn’t definitively figure out what went wrong.

“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”

Now, employees headed to China may have to consider similar testing.

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

popular

How legendary battleships could come back, and why they won’t

The battleships of yore maintain a special place in the hearts of Navy enthusiasts — and it’s easy to see why. Imagine the massive broadside salvos from the USS Iowa, each hurling 15 shells against an enemy force, smacking Communists with 18 tons of steel and explosives with each volley from as far as 20 miles away. Every few years, there’s a new call to bring these behemoths back. Today, the Navy could, but they won’t.

Why?


First, let’s look at the role battleships were intended to play in naval warfare. These ships were floating fortresses, equipped with massive, long-barreled naval artillery. The idea was that these ships would form “battle lines” at sea. Battleships would line up, present their broadsides, and overwhelm an enemy force with firepower.

During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, battleships proved this strategy could work. The side that typically won a fight during that war was the one that got their battleships properly lined up against the enemy’s formation first. The best success comes when one fleet can “cross the T,” sailing their line of ships perpendicular to the front of the enemy line so they can fire all broadsides while only a few enemy ships can fire from forward turrets.

Japanese success added fuel to an arms race already playing out across the world’s shipyards. The British launched the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, only a year after construction began. It was the most powerful weapon of war at the time and could fire 4-foot-tall shells at ranges of up to 10 miles.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
HMS Dreadnought underway (US Navy)

It redefined naval warfare. All the powerful nations of the world began building copycats, leading to these ships taking on a huge role in World War I.

Except fights between battleships were actually fairly rare in World War I. This was partially because they cost so much to build that it was considered foolhardy to risk them when victory wasn’t essential. Instead, battleships were often used to support operations on shore or to secure trade and supply lines.

But there were clashes between battleships, the largest of which was the Battle of Jutland in 1916 — by some metrics, the largest naval battle ever fought. Over 250 ships participated, including 50 battleships. The British had more and better ships, but suffered from poor gunnery and debatably poor tactics. Germany won the tactical exchange but Britain was victorious strategically.

It was the golden hour of battleships, still the kings of the ocean. But during World War I, a new weapon was introduced that would change naval warfare: the carrier. It would take decades for bombers to be effective weapons against capital ships, but the change was already underway by the time Germany invaded Poland, and arguably complete by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
After landing a Royal Navy Grumman Martlet of 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm is seen taxiing along the flight deck of HMS Formidable (67) to the forward hangar.

Once naval aviation was capable of delivering repeated torpedo and bomb attacks hundreds of miles from their ship, the battleships’ maximum ranges,, which hovered around 20 miles, made them too vulnerable for front-line fighting. Even super battleships, like the Yamoto, and their support vessels were forced to turn back when they thought they were facing even a single carrier fleet.

In fact, the Yamoto only fired its guns against a surface target in one battle before it was sunk in 1945. It was sunk by… let me check my notes here… carrier-based aircraft. But its sister ship, the Musashi… oh, that also saw minimal fighting before sinking due to damage sustained from carrier-based aircraft.

Instead, battleships took on a role supporting amphibious landings, raining steel on enemy positions as Marines and soldiers pressed ashore.

And that’s the role battleships filled for decades, supporting landings in Korea, Vietnam, and even a fake amphibious attack in Iraq in 1991.

So, what role would a re-commissioned or newly built battleship play today? Not much of one. The Navy could re-commission a battleship, but they require tons of fuel and manpower — often needing over 1,500 crewmembers. And the best conventional naval guns still only shoot about 20 miles.

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Electromagnetic Railgun at terminal range located at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (US Navy photo by John F. Williams)

There is one game-changing technology that could resuscitate naval artillery: railguns. They can provide massive firepower at ranges of over 100 miles and speeds of over mach 7, all without conventional explosives that increase the risk of catastrophic damage during a fight.

It’s not too hard to imagine a nuclear battleship with multiple railguns powered by the reactor and massive capacitor banks. But even then, the battleship wouldn’t have the range to hit Chinese shore installations without venturing deep into the defender’s anti-ship missile range.

So, the future is likely to lie in extended range missiles, carrier drones, and aircraft, all still capable of attacking targets hundreds of miles further out than even a battleship with a railgun could.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets can get free flu shots at VA and Walgreens

During flu season, protecting your health with a flu shot is easier than ever and as close as your local VA or neighborhood Walgreens. VA and Walgreens care about your health and are partnering to offer enrolled Veteran patients easy access to flu shots.

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost standard (Quadrivalent) flu shots to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system.

If you are interested in finding out more about other vaccine options, especially if you are aged 65 or older, contact your VA health care team.


During the program, which runs from Aug. 15, 2018, through March 31, 2019, enrolled Veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 8,200 locations in addition to their local VA health care facilities.

No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

Your immunization record will be updated electronically in your local VA electronic health record. Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA electronic health record.

The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many Veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.

Other options for immunization

VA health care facilities:

You may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment if you are admitted to one of our VA health care facilities, or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.

Other non-VA providers and pharmacies:

Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for your flu shot at these locations. If you do not have insurance, there will usually be a charge.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Fortnite’ finally fixed the giant robot that has been terrorizing the game

The creators of “Fortnite” have responded to the pleas of hundreds of players by lowering the firepower of a giant robot that has been terrorizing the game for weeks.

Epic Games added the B.R.U.T.E. mech suit to the game with “Fortnite’s” season 10 update on Aug. 1, 2019. The B.R.U.T.E. is a two-person vehicle that requires one player to pilot while the other player controls a rocket launcher and shotgun. The B.R.U.T.E. can crush players and destroy buildings simply by stomping through them, and its boosters give it tons of mobility compared to players on foot.


The mech has been wreaking havoc in battle royale matches, and some of the most well-known “Fortnite” players started a social media hashtag #RemovetheMech to petition for the B.R.U.T.E. to be removed entirely. Players have specifically complained about their inability to defend themselves against the B.R.U.T.E. during competitive matches.

The game’s developers attempted to defend the B.R.U.T.E.’s strength in an Aug. 15, 2019 blog post, sharing specific stats about how many players were eliminated using the mech in battle royale matches. Epic said the mech was designed to bring “spectacle and entertainment” to the game, and make it easier for players with a lower skill level to win a match.

“The mission of Fortnite is to bring players of all skill levels together to have a fun experience where anyone can win. For example — everyone having a shot at that first elimination or Victory Royale moment and the satisfying feeling that comes with it. Right now, we know there are players out there who have never had that opportunity,” the developers said in the post.

Now, one week later, Epic announced sweeping changes to the B.R.U.T.E., lowering its speed and damage, and making it appear less often overall. The changes are designed to make the mech a defensive tank, rather than an aggressive juggernaut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32QZBOe6gHM
Streamers React To The BRUTE Finally Being NERFED & Junk Rifts Being REMOVED!

www.youtube.com

“We want to reduce a B.R.U.T.E.’s ability to engage and disengage at long distances to encourage a more strategic approach to an encounter,” the detailed patch notes read. “In general we hope to shift B.R.U.T.E.s away from being highly mobile and put more emphasis on their already defensive nature.”

The B.R.U.T.E. will still be around for the foreseeable future, but it seems that players will have now a better chance to fight back. “Fortnite” regularly cycles through weapons and vehicles, so its possible that the mechs will be a distant memory in a few months, or just replaced with something even more powerful.

“Fortnite” is the most popular game in the world with more than 250 million players, and it’s free to play. The game also supports competitive events that give away millions of dollars in prize money.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas joined the military twice. The second time was for a reason soldiers don’t often give. His first enlistment began as a Marine in 1971. He spent the war on an aircraft carrier and didn’t set foot in South Vietnam until the war was over. He re-enlisted to land a spot as an embassy Marine in Saigon in 1974. He was on the second-to-last American helicopter leaving the city as it fell in 1975. He left active duty in 1978.

In 2004, he came back. The Marines thought he was too old at age 52. But for the Army Reserve, he was just what the doctor ordered. Literally.


It’s really not a fascination with war itself,” Sgt. Nicholas, who became a podiatrist in the intervening years, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more trying to keep people from getting killed. I’m taking the spot of some 19-year-old.”

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update
The now-Army NCO Nicholas’ Marine Corps Saigon Embassy ID photo. (Don Nicholas)

 

In 2011, he was 59 years old, the oldest of 6,000 troops in the 25th Infantry Division sent to eastern Afghanistan. He tried for years to get back into the military after his service ended. He tried during Desert Storm and again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t until the height of the Iraq War that the Army was ready to take a man of his skill and advanced age.

Though “advanced” is a term used only because the Army’s average age of enlistees back in 2004 was somewhere between 30 and 35. Nicholas’ wife says his return to service actually replenished his youthful vigor.

He doesn’t want the other 19-year-olds to go,” Mrs. Nicholas said. But “it makes him 19 again. He finds youth in the military.”

After his initial re-enlistment in 2004, he was sent to Iraq for 11 months. After a brief stay back at home, he redeployed to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, among other places. At age 60, he would be ordered out of the battlefields of Afghanistan due to age restrictions. Instead, he fought to stay in Kunar Province of Afghanistan for another year, pushing back against the military’s attempted mandatory retirement. He has only seen 16 years of active service and wants to complete 20 years.

If I have my chance to stay in and complete my 20 years. I absolutely would,” he told the Daily Mail. “Probably would stay in a few more years after that if I could.” As of 2011, he was hoping his podiatry practice could get him attached to a medical unit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran unemployment rate drops in first signs of economic rebound

Veteran unemployment rates fell in May by nearly three points to 9%, from 11.7% in April — the first signs of an economic rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The drop in the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations exceeded the 1.4% decrease in the rate for the general population, from 14.7% to 13.3%, reflecting “a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed” by the virus, the monthly report said.


May’s 9% jobless rate for all veterans compared to 2.7% overall in May 2019 during the economic surge, and 3.8% in March before the first effects of the novel coronavirus hit the economy, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

The unemployment rate for all female veterans in May was 7.8%, compared to 2.7% in May 2019, BLS said.

For post-9/11, or Gulf War II, veterans, the unemployment rate remained in double digits at 10.3%, but was down from 13.0% in April, BLS said. A year ago, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 2.8%.

The figures showed remarkable resiliency in a hard-hit economy among older veterans who began their service in the 1990s, referred to as Gulf War-I veterans by BLS. For those veterans, the unemployment rate was 4.8% in May, BLS said.

However, the unemployment rates remained in double digits for the oldest generation of veterans from Vietnam, Korea and World War II, it said. For those veterans, the unemployment rate in May was 11.9% compared to 2.7% in May 2019.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Wall Street analysts had warned that the overall unemployment rate could approach 20% in May and June and remain in double digits through the end of this year, depending on a range of variables.

However, BLS Commissioner William Beach, in a statement accompanying the report, said that non-farm payroll jobs increased by 2.5 million in May despite the pandemic “and efforts to contain it.”

The 2.5 million figure was the largest monthly gain in new jobs since BLS began tracking the data in 1939, it said.

At the White House, President Donald Trump hailed the unexpected drop in the unemployment rates as “an affirmation of all the work we’ve been doing.”

He called predictions of jobless rates in the range of 20% “the greatest miscalculation in the history of business shows” and said the economy is now poised to take off “like a rocketship.”

In a statement, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the May jobs report showed “much higher job creation and lower unemployment than expected, reflecting that the reopening of the economy in May was earlier, and more robust, than projected.”

He said, “It appears the worst of the coronavirus’s impact on the nation’s job markets is behind us.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why United States NASA, China, and UAE are all going to Mars at the same time

NASA just launched its Mars rover Perseverance, along with its first interplanetary helicopter, perched atop an Atlas V5 rocket.


But NASA wasn’t alone….In the past two weeks, space agencies from China and the United Arab Emirates also launched missions to Mars.

These spacecraft will travel over 400 million kilometers before all reaching their destination around February 2021.

But in the past 13 years, only seven rockets sent missions to the red planet. So, why are so many attempts to reach Mars all happening right now?

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

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