This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

These days, single-mission ships are not exactly the best of buys. The big reason is they can only do one thing and no matter how well they do that one thing, they can’t handle other missions very well. Versatility can often make or break a purchasing decision. Think of it this way – if a ship (or small boat) can do multiple missions, there is a better chance it will be purchased.

One such versatile boat is being displayed at SeaFuture 2018 in La Spezia. That is the FFC 15, a patrol boat that can do more than just patrol. In fact, according to a release on behalf of Baglietto Navy, it can also serve as a rescue asset, a fast-attack craft, a police boat, and also a landing craft.


There are some baseball utility players who look at this boat with sheer envy at its versatility. According to a handout provided on Baglietto’s behalf, this boat comes in at 20 tons, almost three times the size of the legendary Higgins boats. But it has a top speed of 45 nautical miles an hour and can go 330 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

The FFC 15 can hold up to 24 troops, and has a top speed of 45 knots.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat is not only capable of operating on the open ocean, it can also navigate up and down rivers. The boat can also be hauled by a transport like a C-5 Galaxy (which hauls various Navy patrol boats) or C-17 Globemaster III. If the roads are good enough, this boat can also be hauled in by trucks. It can also be hauled in on various ships.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Inside the troop compartment of the FFC 15, where up to 24 personnel can be carried from an amphibious ship to a quiet out-of-the-way place to sneak ashore.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat has a crew of four and can haul as many as 24 personnel. The bow is equipped not only for beaching (through a reinforced prow), but it also has a bow ramp. There are also two positions for heavy machine guns like the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

The FFC 15 features two positions for gunners on top of its superstructure. Despite being able to haul 24 troops, it can be carried on C-5 and C-17 transports, or by truck.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

So far, no orders for this boat have been made. That said, this fast and versatile vessel could very well find a lot of orders for a lot of missions with a lot of countries.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a WW2 peace treaty

When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.

He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.


A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”

But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.

‘Inherent part of Japan’

For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.

Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”

“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”

For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.

Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.

When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.

What comes first?

After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.

Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.

“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.

“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”

Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”

Generosity not popular

At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.

An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.

Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan

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Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.

“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”

In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”

Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.

“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”

In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”

In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.

“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”

The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.

“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”

Also read: Yes, Japan and Russia are technically still at war.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China warns foreign ships: ‘steer clear or you will pay’

The US Navy and regional allies have reportedly noticed an increase in Chinese radio queries to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea — some said to be less than friendly, and others actually threatening.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the disputed Spratly Islands warned in early 2018 when a Philippine military aircraft flew close to a Chinese outpost, The Associated Press reported July 31, 2018, citing a new Philippine government report.


“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the report said the Chinese forces threatened soon after, according to the AP.

In the latter half of 2017, Philippine military aircraft patrolling near contested territories received at least 46 Chinese radio warnings, the government report says, according to the AP. While these warnings have traditionally been delivered by Chinese coast guard units, they’re now thought to be broadcast by personnel stationed at military outposts in the South China Sea, the news agency reported.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

US Navy destroyers.

(US Navy photo)

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP.

“These communications do not affect our operations,” he added, noting that when communications with foreign militaries are unprofessional, “those issues are addressed by appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”

The Philippine military tends to carry on with its activities. “They do that because of their claim to that area, and we have a standard response and proceed with what we’re doing,” Philippine air force chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Rio Kintanar Jr. told the AP.

Though an international arbitration tribunal sought to discredit China’s claims to the South China Sea two years ago, China has continued to strengthen its position in the flashpoint region.

In recent months, China has deployed various defense systems — such as jamming technology, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even heavy bombers — to the South China Sea, leading US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in June 2018 to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the waterway.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

An EA-18G Growler takes off from a flight deck .

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan J. Soto)

Beijing, however, argues that it has a right to defend its sovereign territory, especially considering the increased frequency of US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations in the area; it has conducted more than half a dozen since the start of the Trump administration.

Despite Chinese warnings and objections, the US military has repeatedly made clear that it will maintain an active military presence in the South China Sea.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told the AP in February 2018.

The US military has also expressed confidence in its ability to deal with China’s military outposts in the region should the situation escalate.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters in Ma 2018, adding: “It’s just a fact.”

In early 2018 the US disinvited China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from participating in 2018’s iteration of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises, citing what it characterized as alarming Chinese activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines has at least twice raised the issue of radio warnings with Beijing, the AP reported July 31, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Just days after President Donald Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “nuclear button” and flaunted the size and efficacy of his own nuclear fleet, the two countries have made strides toward peace.


With little more than a month before the start of South Korea’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea has reopened communications with Seoul and expressed interest in mending relations.

In the same New Year’s Day address in which Kim touted his willingness to engage in nuclear war, he “earnestly” wished for South Korea’s games to succeed and said it was a “good opportunity to show unity of the people.”

Now talks over sending a delegation of North Korean athletes to the games are scheduled to take place between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The U.S. and South Korea have also announced they will pause their military exercises not just through the end of the games in late February but reportedly all the way through the Paralympics, set to end in mid-March.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

As a result, the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea may have just scheduled an unprecedented 2 1/2 months of markedly lowered tensions.

North Korea hates the U.S. and South Korea’s military exercises, which regularly feature huge numbers of troops and advanced weapons systems. Lately, the drills and development of new weapons systems have increasingly focused on taking out Kim.

North Korea often intentionally times missile launches to coincide with the drills.

North Korea, China, and Russia all support the “freeze for freeze” path to negotiations, wherein the U.S. and South Korea suspend the military drills in exchange for North Korea halting missile and nuclear tests.

The U.S. has always rejected this strategy on the grounds that North Korea’s missile tests are illegal and the military drills are not. But the Winter Olympics have opened a window of opportunity for diplomacy.

But is it a trap?

North Korea has made overtures of peace to South Korea before. In fact, Andrea Berger, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pointed out on Twitter that Pyongyang had a history of extending olive branches after periods of tension.

“2017 painted the extremely worrying security backdrop that everyone is desperate to move away from,” Berger wrote. “The DPRK will test each South Korean administration, pushing to see how far doors will open.”

“But, it is worth remembering that most January windows of opportunity for North-South progress get smashed fairly quickly,” Berger wrote — North Korea’s peace overtures normally occur in January.

Read More: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

Even as North Korea prepares for its highest-level talks with South Korea in years, reports have surfaced that it’s planning to test a missile or at least a rocket engine.

Additionally, a lull in activity may tempt South Korea to side with China, Russia, and ultimately Pyongyang, rejecting the U.S.’s calls for total denuclearization and holding out for talks until strict preconditions have been met.

But for now, the U.S. and South Korea are set to go months without provoking North Korea with military exercises. It will be up to North Korea, which has backed out of peace talks before, to demonstrate its commitment to de-escalation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is drawing up plans for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan

The US Defense Department is exploring its options to completely withdraw all US troops deployed in Afghanistan, in the event President Donald Trump abruptly makes the decision, according to NBC News.

The ongoing planning, which was not explicitly directed by the White House, includes procedures for a completely withdrawal of US forces within weeks, current and former officials reportedly said.

The Defense Department’s move comes in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw the majority of US troops in Syria, as Turkish-backed forces embark on a campaign against Kurdish groups near the Syria-Turkey northeast border.


An official described the planning as “prudent,” while another official called the recent actions in Syria as a potential “dress rehearsal” for Afghanistan, NBC News reported.

Trump initially recalled roughly two dozen service members in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish excursion into Syria, but later expanded that order to around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Oct. 21, 2019, said that an undetermined, small number of US troops could still be stationed in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and prevent ISIS from taking control.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

(U.S. photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

Trump initially recalled roughly two dozen service members in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish excursion into Syria, but later expanded that order to around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Oct. 21, 2019, said that an undetermined, small number of US troops could still be stationed in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and prevent ISIS from taking control.

“USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones,” Trump said in a now-deleted tweet on Sunday. “We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”

Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces caught numerous military officials and lawmakers by surprise, and attracted bipartisan condemnation for what they characterized as an abandonment of US allies and principles. Roughly 11,000 Kurds — who were allied with the US in the region — were killed in the fight against ISIS, and many more were relied upon by the US to evict the extremists from their strongholds.

“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a Fox News interview on Oct. 7, 2019. (On Oct. 20, 2019, in an about-face, Graham told Fox News he is “increasingly optimistic this could turn out very well.”)

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Sen. Lindsey Graham.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Former US Central Command commander and retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel also condemned the withdrawal, and reflected on the US’s reliance on the Kurds.

“Without it, President Donald Trump could not have declared the complete defeat of ISIS,” Votel wrote of the Kurdish help against ISIS in Syria. Trump has frequently claimed ISIS has been unequivocally defeated.

The US has pulled out 2,000 troops from Afghanistan so far this year, bringing the total number of forces in the country to around 13,000, Task Purpose reported. Earlier in October 2019, Esper said he was confident the US military could withdraw thousands more troops without adversely affecting operations.

Esper, who visited Afghanistan on Oct. 21, 2019, advised not to compare US policy for Syria with that of Afghanistan.

“Very different situations, very different adversaries if you will, very different level of commitment,” he said, according to NBC News. “Very clear policy direction on one.

“All these things should reassure Afghan allies and others they should not misinterpret our actions in the region in the recent week or so in regard to Syria and contrast that with Afghanistan,” Esper added.

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

Military Life

6 ways to kill time while at ‘Mojave Viper’

If you’re a Marine or sailor and your unit receives orders to deploy, then you’re also looking at spending a little over a month training in the Mojave Desert. Every year, Marines from all over the U.S. and Japan take a trip to Twentynine Palms, California, where they eat, sleep, and sh*t war games against role players pretending to be the bad guys.

During your stay at “29 stumps,” you’ll get to blow up a lot of stuff, eat plenty of MREs, and sweat your ass off in the process.


Although you’ll have plenty of training to do, you’ll also find yourself bored as hell between activities as you sit in the middle of the desert at Camp Wilson.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft
This isn’t an establishing shot for the next Transformers movie,t’s your home during your stay in Mojave Viper.
(Photo by Marine Cpl Michael Dye)

Instead of twiddling your thumbs, try the following to keep your mind occupied. You’ll thank us later.

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Play “knock down the other guy”

Between training revolutions, you’ll have no form of entertainment. Idle minds wander — this is when you’ll come up with new games to play with your fellow brothers. Everyone has a flak jacket and SAPI plates, right? It might be time to enjoy a semi-violent game of “knock down the other guy.”

Sleep, sleep, and then sleep some more

Do you really need any more explanation?

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

Search for cell service

Cell towers don’t cover most areas of the camp. However, there are a few cell-phone companies that extend service into select spots. We’ve discovered tiny, three-square-foot pockets of service and, once we left that magic spot, we got nothing.

It’s possible to find a signal, you just have to hunt for it.

Work on your six pack

While in Twentynine Palms, you’re going to sweat, which also means you’re losing weight. While you’re waiting to do whatever your platoon commander has planned for the day, you should knock out some crunches and planks. After a few weeks of training, you’re going to rotate home — those six-pack abs will be good for your dating life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQXRuN8_rcg

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Document how much fun you’re having with a funny YouTube video

Marines can have fun just about anywhere at any time because of the dark sense of humor they proudly inherit from the grunts who came before them. To pass the time while you’re out in the blistering heat with nothing to do, make a video. Document how much fun you’re having.

Watch a movie on your phone

You better have the entire film downloaded to your iPhone or Andriod. Even if you find a little pocket of signal out there, it won’t be enough to download an entire movie — just sayin’.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will get money needed to keep the A-10 flying

The Air Force is set to acquire new wings for its A-10 Thunderbolts in order to keep the vaunted attack aircraft in operation until the 2030s.

The Air Force told Congress in 2017 that 110 of its 283 A-10s were at risk of being permanently grounded unless money was apportioned to restart production and rewing the remaining planes.


The service has already paid to replace the wings on 173 of its A-10s, but Boeing, which originally built the wings, has since shut down production, and the Air Force didn’t have funding for new wings for the remainder — 40 of which would have to be grounded by 2021, according to CNN. Those aircraft are still flying with wings from the late 1970s, according to Aviation Week.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump in March 2018, included $103 million requested by the Air Force to fund the rewinging. That is enough to cover the production of four new sets of wings, but going forward, Boeing might not be supplying them.

The program is considered a “new start,” and under it, the new wings will come with a higher price, as engineers work through the hiccups of the design phase.

Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, mentioned that the service was looking for a new partner on the A-10 early 2018.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said in January 2018. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

Because of the potential for A-10s to be grounded if they don’t get new wings, “acquisition is being expedited to the maximum extent possible,” according to a draft request for proposal for A-10 wings, issued in February 2018.

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft
US Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 74th Fighter Squadron commander, lands an A-10 Thunderbolt, Dec. 3, 2014.
US Air Force

According to the anticipated schedule included in the draft request, a final request is expected by April 3, 2018, a proposal due date on June 5, 2018, and the awarding of the contract by the end of the March 2019. (The 2019 fiscal year runs from October 2018 to September 2019.)

The service has committed to maintaining six of the nine A-10 squadrons it has, but the contract will ultimately determine how many wings the service can actually buy, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week, saying “the majority of the A-10 fleet will fly and fight for the foreseeable future.”


The hard-fighting A-10 emerged in 2017 from a debate between lawmakers and the Air Force over whether it would stay in service, and in recent years it has seen duty all over the world.

It was a workhorse in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, releasing 13,856 weapons between Aug. 8, 2014 and mid-2016 — second only to the F-15E Strike Eagle, which released 14,995 weapons over the same period.

The Thunderbolt has also seen duty in Afghanistan, where the government requested the A-10 return in late 2017. A squadron of 12 A-10s arrived in the country in January 2018, where it has taken part in an intensified air campaign against militants in the country — in particular the Taliban and its drug-producing facilities.

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US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski

The venerable aircraft will soon face competition closer to home however, with comparison testing between it and the F-35— the plane originally meant to replace the A-10 — happening as soon as summer 2018, when the F-35 is scheduled for testing in close-air-support and reconnaissance operations.

Congress has said that the Air Force cannot shed any A-10s until that evaluation takes place. But whatever the results, the Thunderbolt looks likely to have vocal supporters.

“If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10,” Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France told The Aviationist. “Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well.”

“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden told Scout Warrior. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful, calculated, and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”

“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson, the Air Force secretary, told lawmakers in December 2017.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what Spec Ops vets and female soldiers think of the first female Green Beret

For the first time in American history, a female Soldier has completed U.S. Army Special Forces training and has earned the right to don the legendary Green Beret.

Despite how often people get the moniker wrong, Special Forces is only a title that applies to the U.S. Army’s elite special operations Green Berets. SEALs, Rangers, Marine Raiders and others all fall under the broader term of “Special Operations,” but only the Green Berets are rightfully called Special Forces.


“Good for her! It was only a matter of time and I would guess it will become more and more common over the next few years, across USSOF.”
-Former Navy SEAL/CIA Officer Frumentarius
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Special Forces Assessment and Selection (US Army)

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the formal ban on women serving in combat roles, and in 2016 all military occupational specialties were opened up to female service members, including those in elite special operations fields.

“There will be no exceptions,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in 2015. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

The identity of the woman that fought her way through all six phases of Special Forces training has not been revealed, citing privacy concerns for the Army’s newest Green Beret, but the impact of her accomplishment remains.

We don’t need to know her name or see her to be inspired by her, just knowing that there is a female green beret can motivate any Soldier to do better or to reach for their goals.”
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

What we do know about this history-making Soldier is that she was among only a handful of females that made it through the initial 24-day assessment that serves as a screening to eliminate those who may not have the mental or physical capacity to complete the training. Now, even with Special Forces training behind the America’s female Green Beret, her days of training are far from over. Once you earn a spot in a Special Operations unit, training is continuous to ensure special operators are well prepared for any challenges they may face.

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Special Forces Green Beret soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces Groups stand silent watch during the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President John F. Kennedy (U.S. Army Photo)

Former Green Beret NCO and Warrant Officer Steve Balestrieri used to oversee portions of the selection process, and earlier this year wrote an article for Sandboxx News entitled, “Women Passing Special Forces Selection? Yes you can,” in which he outlines the challenges all aspiring Green Berets must face, as well as some that are specific to females serving in that capacity. We asked Balestrieri how he feels about seeing this historic event unfold.

“I think that (from what I heard from those who know), this woman had no corners cut for her, and not only met but exceeded the standards. For her, now the journey really begins. I truly wish her all the best.”
-Former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri

As Balestrieri writes in his piece, some members of the Special Operations community may well harbor some outdated beliefs when it comes to women serving in these elite roles, but as he points out (and our discussions with other Special Operations veterans seem to further prove), many of America’s elite warfighters are happy to see their female peers work their way into their elite company.

“I wish her all the best, I hope she crushes it. There are a lot of outside opinions that ultimately don’t matter so long as she does her job and does it well.”
“At the end of the day, SOF is a place where politics don’t really matter as long as you can do your job to standard.”
-Luke Ryan, Former Army Ranger
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A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with the National Guard shares best practices to U.S. and Chile counterparts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/Released)

Green Berets are tasked with a number of difficult mission sets in combat environments, from direct action operations to training foreign military forces to provide their own defense. Alongside their peers in the Special Operations community, Green Berets have served as part of the backbone of America’s presence in Global War on Terror operations the world over.

Earning the right to wear the Green Beret is an incredible feat for any Soldier, but becoming the first female to earn one is not only historic, it’s an important message to Soldiers of all types across the force: Being a man is not a prerequisite to becoming one of America’s most elite war fighters. Because the history-making Soldier serves in the National Guard, it also shines a valuable light on the opportunities service members of both genders have in both active and reserve capacities.

“I mean it’s a major win for females everywhere, it’s bigger than just the Army, especially the National Guard. It’s proof that women are capable and that institutions are capable of change. She’ll be able to bring her own strengths and capabilities to that community, which will make it better. “
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

In 1981, a female Soldier named Capt. Kathleen Wilder was failed as she very nearly completed Special Forces training. After an investigation into her dismissal, it was found that she had “been wrongly denied graduation.” Now, nearly four decades later, significant challenges remain for women in military service, but this momentous occasion is a step in the right direction.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

The US Navy sent the USS Wasp into the South China Sea early April 2019 loaded with an unusually heavy configuration of Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

“We are seeing a fleet experiment going on right now,” Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and naval-affairs expert, told Business Insider, explaining that the Navy and the Marines are experimenting with the “Lightning Carrier” concept.

Light carriers armed with these short landing and take-off F-35s could theoretically take over operations in low-end conflicts, potentially freeing up the “supercarriers” to focus on higher-end threats such as Russia and China, or significantly boost the firepower of the US Navy carrier force, experts told Business Insider.


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The USS Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration, with 10 Joint Strike Fighters on its flight deck.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The USS Wasp has been drilling in the South China Sea with at least 10 F-35s on board.

The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, is participating in the ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Philippines. It deployed with at least 10 F-35s, more than the ship would normally carry.

“With each new exercise, we learn more about [the F-35Bs] capabilities as the newest fighter jet in our inventory, and how to best utilize them and integrate them with other platforms,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider.

The Wasp was recently spotted running flight operations near Scarborough Shoal, a contested South China Sea territory.

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The USS America.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson)

The Navy and Marine Corps began experimenting with the “Lighting carrier” concept a few years ago.

The Marine Corps did a Lightning carrier proof of concept demonstration in November 2016, loading 12 F-35B fighters onto the USS America, the newest class of amphibious assault ship intended to serve as a light aircraft carrier.

“The experiments led to the realization that this is an option,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert and former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“I think the Marine Corps may be realizing that this is the best use of their large amphibious assault ships. I think you are going to see more and more deployments like that,” he added.

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Possible Lightning Carrier configuration.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

A Lightning carrier might carry almost two dozen F-35s.

The Marine Corps elaborated on its plan for the Lightning carrier in its 2017 Marine Aviation Plan, which suggests that the Marines should be operating 185 F-35Bs by 2025, more than “enough to equip all seven” amphibious assault ships.

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the corps said, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.” These ships, the America-class ships in particular, could theoretically be outfitted with 16 to 20 F-35s, along with rotary refueling aircraft.

“A Lightning Carrier, taking full advantage of the amphibious assault ship as a sea base, can provide the naval and joint force with significant access, collection and strike capabilities,” the service said.

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An AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron 311 landing aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.

(U.S. Navy)

The Lightning carrier is based on an older concept that has been around for decades.

The Lightning carrier concept is a rebranded version of the classic “Harrier carrier,” the repurposing of amphibious assault ships to serve as light carriers armed with AV-8B Harrier jump jets.

“We would load them up with twice or even three times as many Harriers as what they would normally send out with an amphibious readiness group and then use it as, essentially, a light carrier to provide sea and air control in a limited area,” Hendrix said.

The “Harrier Carrier” concept has been employed at least five times. The USS Bonhomme Richard, for example, was reconfigured to serve as a “Harrier Carrier” during the invasion of Iraq, the Navy said in a 2003 statement.

“This is not the norm for an amphib,” a senior Navy officer said at the time.”Our air assets dictate that we operate more like a carrier.”

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F-35B Lightning II aircraft on the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The Lightning carrier could boost the overall firepower of the US carrier force.

Lightning carriers, while less effective than a supercarrier — primarily because of the limited range of the F-35Bs compared with the Navy’s F-35Cs and the much smaller number of aircraft embarked — offer a real opportunity to boost the firepower of the carrier force. “You are going to see an increase in strike control and sea-control potential,” Hendrix told Business Insider.

The amphibs could be integrated into carrier task forces to strengthen its airpower, or they could be deployed in independent amphibious readiness groups with their own supporting and defensive escorts, dispersing the force for greater survivability and lethality.

“You can turn the light amphibious ships into sea-control, sea-denial, or even strike assets in a meaningful way to distribute the force and bring this concept of distributed lethality to bear,” Hendrix said, adding that this is a “wise” move given the rising challenges of adversaries employing tactics such as long-range missiles and mines to deny the US Navy access.

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The USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

Deploying light carriers armed with F-35s to deal with low-end threats also frees up the supercarriers to address more serious challenges.

“What we’ve been seeing over the past year is the Navy using Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARGs) with [amphibious assault ships] in the Middle East in place of Carrier Strike Groups,” Clark said.

The Navy has then been able to focus its supercarriers on the Atlantic and the Pacific, where great powers such as Russia and China are creating new challenges for the US military.

Last fall, the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, sailed into the Persian Gulf, and it was during that deployment that a Marine Corps F-35B launched from the ship and entered combat for the first time, targeting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The USS Harry S. Truman, initially slated for service in the Persian Gulf, relocated to the north Atlantic for participation in NATO exercises.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The rise and fall of USPS


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.

But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?

The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.

Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.

Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.

Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.

Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.

Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?

Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.

Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.

Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.

Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.

So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.

Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.

Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.

It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.

The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.

If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.

Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.

The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.

Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?

The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.

And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.

And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remember: All troops and DoD civilians can get TSA Precheck

Service members are trusted to defend the nation, surely they can be trusted when boarding a plane.

This is the thinking of the Transportation Security Administration, which is pushing to ensure that service members and DOD civilians know they can use the TSA Precheck program.

“Service members are already enrolled in TSA Precheck, but many do not know they are,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a recent interview. Pekoske, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral, wants all those eligible to use this free program.


Smart security

All service members of all components of the armed forces and students at the armed forces’ service academies are automatically enrolled in TSA Precheck. Their DOD ID numbers — a 10-digit number that should be on the back of your Common Access Card — serve as their Known Traveler Numbers.

Civilian employees must opt into the program using milConnect website at https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/. Their DOD ID number is also their KTN.

Again, there is no cost for military members or civilians. For the general public that enrolls in the program, the cost is .

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Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2014. The event highlighted TSA’s new initiatives which include efforts to hire more veterans and to make travel easier for service members and veterans.

“This is a real benefit for being a member of the armed forces, and it is good for us from a security perspective,” Petoske said.

To obtain their positions, service members and DOD civilians undergo background checks, and most have security clearances. They are trusted to carry weapons in defense of the United States or to safeguard America’s secrets. So the TSA decided that there was no need for them to take off their shoes and belts at a checkpoint to get on an aircraft.

Using TSA Precheck

All travelers must add their DOD ID number to their Defense Travel System profiles to access TSA Precheck while on official travel, but eligible service members and civilians can also use it on personal travel, Pekoske said.

“If you go on any airline website, when you are making flight reservations, there is a box for the KTN and that is where they put their DOD number in,” he said. “Once you put the number in — especially if you are a regular flier on that airline — every time you make a reservation, or a reservation is made by the DOD travel service for you, they will automatically pick up that number.”

“The effort makes sense from an agency perspective and it is also a way to say thanks to members of the military and the civilian members of DOD and the Department of Homeland Security who sacrifice so much,” the administrator said. “It’s a really good program and it provides a direct benefit to those who keep us free.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the real Ragnar Lothbrok is so shrouded in mystery

The Viking Age spanned from the sacking of the abbey on Lindisfarne in June, 793, and is generally accepted as ending with William the Conqueror’s ascension to the English throne in 1066. The Norse traveled outward from Scandinavia, reaching everywhere from Estonia to Canada to Spain to Baghdad. Despite their many accomplishments in exploring and trading, history knows them as warriors who welcomed battle and death.


No viking warrior has a reputation for badassery quite like that of Ragnar Lothbrok. His lifestyle was so badass that it’s been made into television series on History, aptly named Vikings. According to the show, Lothbrok single-handedly lead the assaults on Lindisfarne, Paris, and Wessex, and his eventual death sparked his sons to form the Great Heathen Army.

Looking at the timeline of those events in the real-world, that would mean he had a roughly 73-year viking career. The vikings, historically, made those victorious raids in 793, 845, and 858, before his death in 865. While it’s not entirely impossible for someone to raid for 73 years, the show’s creators are open about their creative liberties. The biggest of them being that there may have been many people named Ragnar Lothbrok — or no one at all.

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I mean, if your BS story makes a cold-hearted deathbringer think twice, it’s worth the risk.

(Vikings Heading for Land / Frank Dicksee / 1873)

The Norse weren’t keen on preserving their own history. They did tell stories orally, which is how they still exist today, but historical records kept by the vikings are scarce at best. As with most stories, there was room for exaggeration. Plus, the people who wrote the stories of the vikings were almost always on the receiving ends of raids, concerned more with exaggerating their ferocity and triumphs over vikings than accurately retelling their defeats.

This leads us to the biggest debate surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok: When and where he actually died. Many have claimed responsibility for death: from Carlingford Lough to East Anglia to Anglesey to where the show places his death, Northumbria, everyone wanted to be known for slaying the fearsome Lothbrok. Taking credit for such a victory could ward off potential raids, but there’s little proof to back up most of these claims.

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The battles of the Great Heathen Army were entirely accurate. They destroyed the hell out of Old England.

The only legitimate source for information on Ragnar Lothbrok is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of documents detailing Anglo-Saxon history originally published around the time Ragnar was said to exist. His name does appear, but there is a debate within the historical community if that the name “Ragnar” has been attributed to several other Norse leaders and not one single badass.

This puts a new perspective on the term “Son of Ragnar,” as it might have been more of a title than an actual blood relation. In the television series, many of Ragnar’s sons are born from his multiple wives. The two sons that actually have been historically proven to exist are Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless, both from different mothers. But any stories of their exploits, once again, fall firmly in the “with-a-grain-of-salt” category, seeing as The Saga of the Sons of Ragnar is, like much of viking history, more of a collection of campfire stories than historical evidence.

Though Vikings may not be a completely historically accurate telling of events, they do the vikings plenty of justice by interweaving the vast collection of Ragnar Lothbrok tales and piecing them into a single, compelling, easy-to-follow narrative. The facts are a bit hazy, but it’s still one of the more accurate representations of vikings in modern media. It just takes some liberties with individual characters.

Of course, there was no one assuming the mantle of “Ragnar” at the Lindisfarne raid. The actual viking, Rollo, who became the First Duke of Normandy in the year 911, lived nearly fifty years after Ragnar’s death, which means it’s impossible for them to be brothers. Even his first wife, Lagertha, may also be more myth than fact.

But on the bright side, the greatest scene in the entire series — if not television history — is actually very historically accurate.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US commandos are testing freeze-dried plasma to treat troops wounded in combat

The life of a foreign partner nation force member was saved last month through MARSOC’s first operational use of freeze-dried plasma.


The foreign ally sustained life-threatening injuries during an operation in the US Central Command area of operations, requiring battlefield trauma care made possible by MARSOC training and availability of the new product.

According to US Navy Lt. Eric Green, force health protection officer, freeze-dried plasma is providing better medical care on the battlefield. Green is the study coordinator with MARSOC Health Services Support. He explained that freeze-dried plasma is a dehydrated version of plasma that replaces the clotting factors lost in blood. Typically, plasma is frozen and thawed over a period of five days, preventing quick use in a deployed setting.

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Critical Skills Operators with US Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command reconstitute freeze-dried plasma during a Raven exercise at Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center. USMC Photo by Sgt. Salvador R. Moreno.

Another disadvantage of traditional blood products for special operations is the need for additional equipment, such as refrigerators and electricity. This creates a higher target profile for special operations forces (SOF) teams, and presents a logistical challenge for Navy corpsmen. Use of such equipment, as well as timely casualty evacuation options, is not always possible during SOF missions. FDP eliminates the need for this equipment and buys precious time for corpsmen to treat the injured before evacuation.

“I think it reassures Raiders that when they’re in harm’s way, they have a life-saving product in the medical bags of their very capable corpsmen,” said Green.

With the need for freezing and refrigeration eliminated, FDP can sustain a wider range of temperatures and is therefore more stable and reliable than traditional plasma during military operations. The dehydrated state of the plasma allows for a shelf life of two years and is compatible with all blood types. Before MARSOC received approval to begin use of freeze-dried plasma, battlefield treatment options for hemorrhaging – the leading cause of preventable death on the battlefield – were mainly limited to tourniquets and chemical clotting agents.

“It is stable in the field unlike whole blood or if we were to do fresh plasma or frozen plasma, so our guys can carry it with them in their resuscitative packs,” said US Navy Capt. Necia Williams, FDP primary principal investigator and MARSOC force surgeon with MARSOC HSS. “They can quickly reconstitute it, infuse it to somebody, and it buys time that is so critical.”

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US Navy corpsmen from 1st Medical Battalion assess the extent of injuries on a victim of simulated combat-related trauma aboard Camp Pendleton, July 29, 2016. USMC photo by Pfc. Nadia J. Stark.

According to US Navy Lt. Aaron Conway, Marine Raider Regiment surgeon with MARSOC HSS, reconstitution happens within six minutes and patients start showing improvement in vital signs minutes later. The precious time bought using FDP allows medical personnel to transfer patients to a hospital where they can receive full medical care. Conway, MARSOCs FDP principal investigator, said during medical care, FDP’s effects can be physically seen most in a patient when surgery and recovery is happening.

Since December 2016, every MARSOC special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman deploys with a supply of freeze-dried plasma and the experience to administer it. By October 2017, every MARSOC unit deployed will be outfitted with FDP.

Once the FDP has returned unused from a deployment it goes into quarantine and gets used during training exercises to prepare Navy corpsmen in its use. Corpsmen go through a rigorous academic and practical training process to prepare them for the field. They get practical experience before deploying and learn how to reconstitute and identify the indications to use FDP.

“We’ve trained with it, we’ve sourced it to our guys, and now we’ve actually got the combat wounded application of the product,” said Conway. “I think it is a tip of the spear life-saving measure.”

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Critical Skills Operators with US Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command simulate administering freeze-dried plasma to a role-playing casualty during a Raven exercise at Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center. USMC Photo by Sgt. Salvador R. Moreno.

This life-saving measure is manufactured by French Centre de Transfusion Sanguine de Armees and used since 1994. They provide the US with FDP while it is pending Food and Drug Administration approval and is under an Investigative New Drug protocol. Currently the use of FDP has been allowed within US Special Operations Command. MARSOC was the second service component within US Special Operations Command to receive approval for use of freeze-dried plasma.

In 2010, US Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, then-SOCOM commander, learned that US allied forces were using FDP successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan. McRaven wanted it made available to US forces, so he pushed his plan and helped expedite the process between the White House and the FDA.

The main roadblock getting FDA approval was the historical spike of Hepatitis B after World War II, causing the stoppage of production and use by US forces, resulting in rigorous testing and changes to the original formula. Plasma donors now undergo more testing for infectious diseases to prevent similar events. Freeze-dried plasma is expected to receive FDA approval by 2020.

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