Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

Last week was Infantry Week at Fort Benning, GA, an entire week dedicated to celebrating some of the most sought-after awards and training events. This year’s schedule included Best Sniper and Best Ranger. 

First up was Best Sniper, where teams of two soldiers competed in a three-day event through an array of tests and obstacles, including close-up shots with pistols, to those where they must hit targets 600+ meters away with a rifle, as well as shotgun events. The entire competition is built off of individual and collective tasks focused around key Army Sniper Course basic teachings, like increasing validity and survivability through reconnaissance.

Competitors traveled from across the nation and from various branches of the military; Marines and members of the Coast Guard were present in this year’s event. 

Last year’s competition was canceled due to COVID-19, and the event hasn’t fulfilled its international status since 2018. 

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
This years winners, the team from the Special Forces Sniper Course took first place in the U.S. Army Best Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 15, 2021. Sgts. 1st Class Daniel Posey and William Greytak scored the most points in the multi-day competition that involved two-person teams from across the Army. (U.S. army photos by Markeith Horace, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs)

Best Sniper competitors for 2021 gathered for a chance to win different titles, including: Field Craft Award, which encompasses land navigation, target detection, and night range estimation; Top Pistol; Coach’s Award; and Iron Man, for the team with the fastest time; and the coveted title of Best Sniper. 

SFC Zachary Small, NCOIC for the Best Sniper Competition 2021, said, “I think the community needed this, i think the competitors needed this, and I know the coaches absolutely needed this.” 

On describing the design, he said: “The competition was based on creating realism with some of the events. It’s kind of difficult to replicate combat scenarios, but trying to make it as realistic as humanly possible was primarily the goal here.” 

The teams participated in an event called Flavortown where users gave away their position at the top of a building, then had to remove targets and exfil from the top of the structure. Other events included night range estimation, with some items in an urban setting and others in a woodland point of view. Physical tests were also brought in, such as the standard two-mile run, Small said, but with teams wearing uniforms and boots. 

Certain technologies were also banned to test soldiers’ abilities without certain equipment, he said. Land navigation was done with SUAs (small unmanned aircraft system) and UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) trying to find the competitors in the woods. 

Because different units have their own weapon systems, which tend to vary, SFC Small said competitors were restricted to using certain calibers. For their primary weapon they shot a .300 Win Mag and for their secondary, 7.62 mm.

“It’s an overall problem solving competition, he said. “It’s cool because you get to see how different services handle the problems mentally and their solution to the problem physically.”

As for the competition being held at Benning, Small said they had overwhelming support from leadership, ForceCom, Special Operation Forces, and sister services. 

“The benefit of having other sister services is increasing the interoperability. We’re branching out and get to talk to other subject matter experts.” 

A team consisting of First Sergeant Guillermo Roman and Staff Sergeant William Orr, former Sniper instructors and current hunting buddies, joined forces in their first sniper competition. Previously, they had worked and coached shooting events. 

“It’s a different kind of stress, it’s more fun than I thought it would be,” Orr said. “It’s much more mentally stressful to see your time tick away, as opposed to seeing your target get away while you’re going through the process.” 

As previous Sniper instructors, Roman agreed that they know the process, but the time pressure is the most difficult aspect to get used to. 

“We’ve taught kids, take your time, check twice, take your shot. But when you’re under pressure, all that stuff almost goes out the window for a split second. You have to check yourself, remember to slow down and remember what we were taught and then engage.” 

Winners of the event included: 

  • Ironman Award: USMC School of Infantry West
  • Field Craft: UT ARNG (19th Special Forces Group)
  • Top Pistol: Special Forces Sniper Course
  • Top Coach: SFC Daniel Horner CA ARNG
  • 1st Place:  Special Forces Sniper Course
  • 2nd Place: 3/75 Ranger Regiment
  • 3rd Place: UT ARNG (19th SFG)
  • 6th Place: CO ARNG
  • 8th Place: CA ARNG
  • 9th Place: IA ARNG
  • Overall, an OUTSTANDING performance and representation for the Army National Guard.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Should MoH recipients, POWs get same Arlington honors as officers?

In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.

Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.


Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.

Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.

Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

Arlington National Cemetary.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.

“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”

The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.

At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.

“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.

Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.

During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.

A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.

“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.

In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.

“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beloved Coast Guard veteran and crossing guard, ‘Mr. Bob,’ dies while saving two children from speeding car

Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.


Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.

Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.

Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.

Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.

“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Vietnam veterans can get a rare cancer from this parasite

A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.


The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.

Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.

“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
Members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in combat on Hill 875 during the Vietnam War (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.

Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.

“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”

The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.

Also Read: This is the parting wisdom of a Marine dying of cancer

Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.

Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.

The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.

“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”

Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.

Also Read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”

Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.

“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch: President Trump addresses nation on Coronavirus

Today the World Health Organization designated COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, a global pandemic. President Trump addressed the nation from the White House this evening to talk about what we know, what we’re doing and how we will respond. Watch the full address, here:


Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 1

Bravo Zulu to all of servicemen and women down in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. You guys are the light in this sh*tty moment. You deserve a beer.


Oh yeah… And there’s North Korea. There’s still the same douchebags screaming the same stupid rhetoric for the last 50 years.

#13: They also set up a canopy.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Popsmoke)

#12: It’s all fun and games until Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club came in.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Gruntworks)

#11: When and why did we stop using the phrase “BOHICA?”

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

#10: What? Did you think your enlistment was just about saving drunk boaters and going to festivals?

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#9: “You think you and your boys were ride or die? My bros proved it.”

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#8: We get it, dude. Your “totally knocking out the drill if he got in your face” is the reason you didn’t enlist.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

#7: “You know what would cheer the single, lower enlisted troops up? An FRG Meeting.” -Said every CO ever.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Air Force AMN/NCO/SNCO)

#6: The alcohol makes up 75% of that sadness.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#5: Remember – Scoring 181 or higher with at least 60 points in each event during the APFT is technically “exceeding the standard.”

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#4: Nothing works better than telling her that she’s better than a laptop in a 120° Porta-John.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

#3: Maybe if we send her more troops, she’ll forget we were eyeing another conflict.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#2: If he completes his purpose, he’ll also cease to exist.

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#1: You might be stacked, but do your medals go all the way to your pants?

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

MIGHTY TRENDING

170 cybersecurity experts warn that British government’s contact tracing app could be used to surveil people even after coronavirus has gone

A group of 177 cybersecurity experts have signed a joint open letter calling on the UK government voicing concerns about the NHS’ plan to roll out a contact tracing app designed to tell people when they’ve come into contact with suspected coronavirus patients.

NHSX, the NHS’ digital experimental arm, says the app will be rolled out in Britain in the next two to three weeks. The way it works is when people sign up to the app, their phone sends out Bluetooth signals to determine what other phones are in its vicinity. If a user develops symptoms they’ll be able to report themselves in the app, and their phone will then send out an alert to all the phones it’s been nearby over the previous two weeks.


The UK has taken the decision to eschew the contact tracing API being built by Apple and Google for use by governments. This decision is partly down to the fact that the UK has decided it wants to centralize users’ data on an external server, making it easier to analyze, rather than keeping processing limited to people’s devices. Apple and Google’s API stipulates that apps use the decentralized method, which is more privacy-conscious.

“It has been reported that NHSX is discussing an approach which records centrally the de-anonymized ID of someone who is infected and also the IDs of all those with whom the infected person has been in contact,” the joint letter reads. The experts argue that this data hoard could facilitate “mission creep,” i.e. the government could later use the data for purposes other than tracking COVID-19.

“It is vital that, when we come out of the current crisis, we have not created a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”

They noted that “invasive information” about users could be exploited.

“Such invasive information can include the ‘social graph’ of who someone has physically met over a period of time. With access to the social graph, a bad actor (state, private sector, or hacker) could spy on citizens’ real-world activities. We are particularly unnerved by a declaration that such a social graph is indeed aimed for by NHSX,” the experts write.

The experts ask in their letter that NHSX minimize the data it extracts from users to build trust in the app so it can be effectively deployed. Experts say 80% of smartphone users the UK would need to install the app for it to be effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus, and privacy concerns could mean falling short of that percentage.

They also ask that NHSX not build databases that could de-anonymize users, and that they lay out how the app will be phased out after the coronavirus crisis subsides.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy needs help fixing its $13 billion supercarriers

The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.

The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.

The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.


But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December 2018 that “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me.” He told reporters earlier this year that “we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

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USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but it has since been delayed to October 2019.

Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.

Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. “The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA,” a Navy official previously told Business Insider. “The elevators are the long pole in the tent,” he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni.

So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported July 1, 2019.

“We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. “We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators.”

The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will “recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class,” Guerts said.

While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.

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

Articles

Here’s how the Pentagon plans to incorporate transgender troops into the force

The Pentagon recently released its plan to better integrate transgender troops into the military, providing guidance to service members already in and a road map moving forward for transgender troops who wish to join.


Department of Defense Instruction 1300.28 says that troops who are mentally a different gender than they are physically will start by visiting a military doctor to receive a diagnosis. If the doctor agrees and diagnoses the service member, then the service member alerts their chain of command and begins a process that is tailored to each individual.

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Hospital corpsmen help Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, a surgeon, into his scrubs during an Pacific Partnership. Doctors like Margaron will be called on to help decide treatment plans for transgender service members. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

To summarize the process in broad strokes, the doctor and service member will agree on a treatment plan that addresses the member’s mental and physical health, and the member will report it to their commander. This plan will include an estimated day when the member’s gender will be officially switched in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.

This official switch in DEERS won’t typically happen until the doctor has asserted that the transition is complete, the commander has signed off on the change, and the member has produced a court order, passport or state birth certificate asserting their preferred gender.

Once the member’s status is changed in DEERS, he or she will — as far as the military is concerned — cease to be their birth gender and will instead be recognized as their preferred gender. This includes uniform standards, physical training tests and all other regulations that refer to gender.

Also, the guidance stipulates that service members should not begin living as their preferred gender on duty until they complete their transition. This is because they will still be expected to conform to uniform and other regulations that apply to their birth gender until they complete their transition.

The DoD Instruction letter lays out guidance for commanders, including when they should delay a member’s transition or specific steps in the process to protect mission effectiveness. Basically, the commander should use the same discretion they have with other aspects of a member’s medical care and, when necessary, order the soldier to delay treatment in order to accomplish a mission.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter signed off on the Department of Defense Instruction addressing transgendered troops in the military. (Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt)

These delays could be ordered when the transgender soldier is in a mission critical or shortage job, is deploying, or the transition could cause a breakdown in unit readiness at a key time.

Troops who need cross-sex hormone therapy to complete their transition or maintain their preferred gender will receive it within the constraints of their unit missions.

The instructions also addressed the expectation that transgendered people might soon join the military and attempt their transition early in their enlistment or time as an officer.

The instructions strongly deter this, advising commanders that while there is no blanket prohibition on gender transition in the first term of service, the necessities of training troops and preparing them for their overall military career will often preclude the service member’s ability to complete their transition.

So, people who want to transition to another gender and serve in the military should either transition before their enlistment or serve their first contract before beginning treatment.

The instruction is surely controversial. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has defended it, but Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has slammed it as dangerous and ill-thought out. He cited recruiting and deployability concerns.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines now depend on 3D printing for parts in winter warfare

The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.

US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”


That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.

The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.

But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.

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A Marine with Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, straps on his snow shoes during cold-weather training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, January 27, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)

Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.

Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.

“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”

Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.

“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”

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US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brian Rubenacker adjusts his snow shoes during Exercise Forest Light at Camp Sendai in Sendai, Japan, February 17, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)

The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.

But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.

A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.

In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.

Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.

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Sgt. Ethan Maeder, a machinist with the 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, demonstrates how to use a 3D scanner in an X-FAB facility, August 1, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)

The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.

Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.

“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

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An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

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Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

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Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan could buy F-35s for its carriers

In recent years, Japan hasn’t maintained a reputation for being an immense military power. A big reason for this is that, after World War II, the country put strong limits on military expenditures. Yet, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is one of the most modern militaries out there, with the world’s second-largest carrier force, a secret UCAV program, and a high-tech aviation industry that has a fifth-generation fighter in the works. They even put the F-16 on steroids. That and other programs combine to create one of the best air forces in the world. Japan may now be making that air force even stronger.


The Japanese government has elected to buy 25 more F-35 Lightnings. This purchase adds to the 38 that Japan ordered to serve as frontline combat planes and an additional four as trainers. The four trainers were built in the United States, but the frontline combat planes are being assembled in Japan by Mitsubishi, who make the F-2 (the souped-up F-16) and the F-15J.

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F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) conduct flight operations above Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

TheDiplomat.com also reported that Japan was considering F-35Bs to operate from its Izumo-class helicopter destroyers (technically V/STOL carriers). The reports drew strong criticism from Communist China, which has carried out a series of aggressive actions (including deploying weapons at its island bases) in the South China Sea and near the Senkaku Islands.

While many outlets focus on the Izumo-class carriers as likely candidates to use the F-35B, the slightly smaller Hygua-class helicopter destroyers (Japan’s first carriers since World War II) are larger than some “Harrier carriers” that have successfully operated V/STOL aircraft in the past.

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A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, descends to the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during Exercise Dawn Blitz. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Another option would be for Japan to operate the F-35B from forward bases on the Senkaku Islands. The V/STOL capabilities of the F-35B would make it possible for Japan to turn those disputed islands into an unsinkable aircraft carrier.

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