Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.

WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.


Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Carlos Delgado)

The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.

Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.

25. Lincoln, Nebraska

Total score: 60.69

Employment (ranked out of 100): 49th

Economy (ranked out of 100): 8th

Quality of life (ranked out of 100): 29th

Health (ranked out of 100): 94th

24. Durham, North Carolina

Total score: 60.72

Employment: 15

Economy: 55

Quality of life: 28

Health: 42

23. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Total score: 60.85

Employment: 14

Economy: 10

Quality of life: 18

Health: 84

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Gerson Repreza)

22. Chesapeake, Virginia

Total score: 61.25

Employment: 57

Economy: 13

Quality of life: 26

Health: 61

21. San Antonio, Texas

Total score: 61.34

Employment: 29

Economy: 27

Quality of life: 19

Health: 47

20. Denver, Colorado

Total score: 61.79

Employment: 6

Economy: 50

Quality of life: 12

Health: 79

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Owen CL)

19. Laredo, Texas

Total score: 61.80

Employment: 33

Economy: 1

Quality of life: 78

Health: 20

18. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Total score: 61.96

Employment: 20

Economy: 72

Quality of life: 25

Health: 30

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen)

17. Columbus, Ohio

Total score: 62.16

Employment: 24

Economy: 14

Quality of life: 37

Health: 54

16. Boise, Idaho


Total score: 62.71

Employment: 21

Economy: 36

Quality of life: 4

Health: 89

15. San Diego, California

Total score: 62.75

Employment: 47

Economy: 78

Quality of life: 2

Health: 35

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lucas Davies)

14. Plano, Texas

Total score: 63.23

Employment: 82

Economy: 44

Quality of life: 10

Health: 20

13. Fort Worth, Texas

Total score: 63.35

Employment: 70

Economy: 5

Quality of life: 32

Health: 20

12. Irvine, California

Total score: 63.66

Employment: 50

Economy: 40

Quality of life: 41

Health: 1

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Catatonique)

11. Madison, Wisconsin

Total score: 64.50

Employment: 27

Economy: 6

Quality of life: 21

Health: 40

10. Jacksonville, Florida

Total score: 65.50

Employment: 23

Economy: 20

Quality of life: 36

Health: 13

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lance Asper)

9. St. Petersburg, Florida

Total score: 65.67

Employment: 51

Economy: 18

Quality of life: 23

Health: 13

8. Gilbert, Arizona

Total score: 67.73

Employment: 40

Economy: 3

Quality of life: 15

Health: 64

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Total score: 68.13

Employment: 62

Economy: 2

Quality of life: 11

Health: 61

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Jason Pratt)

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Total score: 70.06

Employment: 17

Economy: 24

Quality of life: 5

Health: 49

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

Total score: 71.45

Employment: 12

Economy: 9

Quality of life: 3

Health: 64

4. Raleigh, North Carolina

Total score: 71.78

Employment: 5

Economy: 4

Quality of life: 14

Health: 70

3. Orlando, Florida

Total score: 71.94

Employment: 3

Economy: 16

Quality of life: 9

Health: 32

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Drew Coffman)

2. Austin, Texas

Total score: 72.22

Employment: 11

Economy: 17

Quality of life: 7

Health: 20

1. Tampa, Florida

Total score: 72.44

Employment: 8

Economy: 12

Quality of life: 6

Health: 16

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

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Intel

The military’s best air combat exercise is getting a new twist

Red Flag is legendary among fighter pilots. This exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, located near Las Vegas, is where American combat pilots have gone to hone their skills since the end of the Vietnam War.

“Red Flag-Nellis was originally created to give fighter pilots their first 10 combat missions in a large force exercise before deployment to contingency operations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Cunningham said in an Air Force release. “Vietnam War analysis had proven that pilot survivability increased dramatically after surviving 10 combat missions.”


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The success of the original Red Flag has left Air Force pararescue personnel, like those taking part in a 2016 demonstration, little to do.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

In terms of military exercises, Red Flag has been a blockbuster hit. The first major conflict since Vietnam, Desert Storm, saw very few pilot losses. While new technology certainly contributed, Red Flag played a vital part as well, giving pilots their first taste of “combat” over the course of two weeks. Other countries, like Israel and the Netherlands, have come up with their versions of this exercise. One of the unintended consequences of this improved readiness, however, is that it has made combat search-and-rescue missions less frequent. Less real-world experience means an increased need for specific training exercises.

To address that need, a spin-off of Red Flag was created. Red Flag Rescue took place last month at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This exercise replaced Angel Thunder, a program for Air Force pararescue personnel (along with foreign air forces) who are responsible for carrying out the combat search and rescue mission.

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Red Flag Rescue was not just for the Air Force. Army personnel, like this soldier taking part in a 2017 demonstration, also took part, as did the Marines and Navy.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

Red Flag Rescue brings together Air Force pararescuemen and the other armed services for fifteen days to practice combat search and rescue in contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environments. While Air Force pararescue personnel — and others who handle combat search-and-rescue — have gained much from this, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the pilots saved from dire circumstances in the real world.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

The American Red Cross and NFL are teaming up this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage.

During this critical time, those who come to donate blood or platelets this January will be automatically entered to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.* In addition, those who come to give Jan. 1-20 will also be automatically entered to win a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card.**

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood today with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“Blood and plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may have the power to help critically ill patients currently battling the virus,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, Red Cross medical director of clinical services. “With hospital distributions for convalescent plasma increasing about 250% since October, these generous donations are vital in helping to save lives throughout the winter – a time that is often challenging to collect enough blood products for those in need.”

As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product. COVID-19 survivors have a unique ability to make a game-changing difference in the lives of COVID-19 patients. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that could provide a patient’s immune system the boost it needs to beat the virus.

How those recovered from COVID-19 can help

There are two ways COVID-19 survivors can help – through a convalescent plasma donation or by simply giving whole blood. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness.

Blood donation safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. Donors must wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

About blood donation

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

* Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

** Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How an LCAC deploys from an amphibious ship

When you think of amphibious operations, you probably think of troops storming beaches at Normandy or one of the many of coral atolls in the Pacific. Troops would ride landing craft to dislodge the enemy from their positions — often speeding directly into the teeth of fierce enemy defenses to do so. It was a very bloody way to take islands or to secure a foothold on Europe.

These days, it’s unlikely that American troops will face such a situation. This is because amphibious landings have changed — specifically, the landing craft have changed. The old-style Higgins boats are out and Air-Cushion Landing Craft, better known as LCACs, are in.


To describe it simply, the LCAC is a hovercraft. This technology vastly expands the amount of coastline that American troops can hit. According to a US Navy fact sheet, the landing craft you’d see in Saving Private Ryan or The Pacific could hit 15 percent of the coastlines around the world. The LCAC can target 70 percent — that’s a 350% increase in eligible landing zones.

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The beach above would likely have been passed over had it not been for the LCAC — here, it was just an exercise.

​(DOD photo bySSGT Jerry Morrison, USAF)

But for as capable as the LCAC may be, it can’t travel across open ocean to find its beach. And for as versatile as they are, they’re also quite large, which means they need to be transported somehow. For this, the US Navy uses well decks on larger ships. These decks, which are hangar-like spaces that rest on the waterline, were originally designed to make loading conventional landing craft easier, but they also work well for LCACs.

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A LCAC enters USS Wasp (LHD 1).

(US Navy)

In fact, these decks make LCACs very versatile crafts. When they’re not transporting troops from ship to shore, they can be used to transfer cargo between ships with well decks.

Watch the video below to see the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD 6) carry out a cargo transfer with a San Antonio-class amphibious ship!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hackers are trying to bring down entire countries, and it’s a matter of time

Gatwick Airport is Britain’s second busiest by passenger volume, and Europe’s eighth. And yet it was brought to a standstill for two days by two people and a single drone.

Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”


I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.

But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.

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(Flickr photo by Richard Patterson)

The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.

And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”

“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”

At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.

But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.

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The scope of the 2016 internet outage after the attack on Dyn.

(Wikimedia, CC)

“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes

Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.

Apparently, it is possible to take the world offline.

It’s not merely that “someone” out there is trying to figure out how to take down the internet. There are multiple someones out there who want that power. In June 2018, Atlanta’s city government was hobbled by an attack that wiped out a third of its software programs. The FBI told Business Insider earlier this year that it believed terrorists would eventually attempt to take America’s 911 emergency system offline.

Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes.

Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers

Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.

The hack was almost certainly done by Russia, whose military had invaded Crimea in the south of the country in 2014.

“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”

The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”

CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.

2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.

“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”

The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.

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Anti-aircraft guns guarding Natanz Nuclear Facility, Iran.

“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.

Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.

Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”

A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon

Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).

During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.

The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.

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A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.

Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.

“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”

“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”

“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”

Another scary thing? The Wannacry attack was in May 2017. By December 2017, the US government confirmed that the North Korean government was responsible for the attack. The North Koreans probably just wanted money. The hermit-communist state is chronically poor.

But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.

Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.

National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”

So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.

Featured image by Ivan David Gomez Arce.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s F11F was so fast it could shoot itself down – and did

By the 1950s, the Cold War was in full swing, and the Soviets appeared to have an edge in fighter plane technology. The USSR debuted a new plane, the MiG-15. This new fighter had a design that no one had yet seen flying. Its swept-back wingspan allowed it to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound. It was also incredibly effective against all the fighters of that age. The Navy needed to figure out how to beat it to protect its carrier.

They turned to defense contractor Grumman, who soon turned its designs inside-out and trying to take the new MiG down.


And they started with the F9F Cougar.

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Looks cool on a carrier, looks worse getting shot down by MiGs.

(U.S. Navy)

What came of the project was the F11F Tiger, which incorporated the latest and greatest in naval aviation technology and tactics into the basic designs of the carrier-based F9F Cougar. The Cougar has a windswept wing design of its own, as the MiG-15 had completely outclassed straight-wing fighters in the skies over Korea. The Navy wanted some fighters who could protect its ships in aerial combat. Grumman began its effort with the F9F Cougar but went back to the drawing board and came out with the Tiger, a supersonic fighter that could be launched from a carrier and bring the fight to the MiGs.

Unfortunately, its high top speed is how the F11F Tiger became the first fighter to shoot itself down.

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The F11F

(U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 21, 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge began a shallow dive in his F11F. As he did, he fired two short bursts from the aircraft’s four 20mm cannons, and thought nothing of it – until he got to the end of his dive, and the bursts began to shoot up his aircraft. He started at 20,000 feet and then went into a Mach 1 dive as he fired. He accelerated with afterburner and at 13,000 feet, fired to empty. He continued his dive. but at 7,000 feet, something struck his canopy glass and one of his engine intake lips. The aircraft began to lose power, and Attridge headed back to base to land it.

But in order to make it back without shattering the canopy, he had to slow down his Tiger to a crawl, and the engine would only produce 78 percent of its normal power. He wouldn’t make it back to base at that rate. Two miles away from the runway, the engine went out completely.

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(U.S. Navy)

Attridge didn’t bail out – test pilots are crazy – in the slowed aircraft, he settled into some trees. Despite some injuries, he exited the plane once on the ground and was picked up by a rescue helicopter. The plane, as it turned out, was hit in the windshield, the right intake, and the nose cone by its own rounds. The low pitch of the plane and its trajectory, combined with the trajectory of the bullets and the speed of the Tiger’s descent at half the speed of sound right into the guns’ target area, meant that the plane would easily catch up with its own burst of 20mm fire.

The pilot shot himself down in about 11 seconds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition bombings spike in Afghanistan, but stalemate drags on

The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.

Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.

Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.


The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.

In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.

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A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.

The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.

The US continues to suffer losses as well.

Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.

The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”

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Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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

“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.

Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.

He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

Blizzard fans plan protests after company’s response to Blitzchung ban

After a week-long controversy and accusations of censorship, Blizzard Entertainment responded late Oct. 11, 2019, to say China did not influence its decision to ban a professional gamer from Hong Kong for supporting anti-China protests. But the gaming community has been reluctant to accept Blizzard’s latest explanation of the move, and many are still planning protests at the company’s upcoming conference, BlizzCon.

“Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung, wore a gas mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on Oct. 5, 2019. Blizzard initially responded by banning him from competition for one year, and saying that it would no longer work with the two commentators who conducted the interview.


The company said Blitzchung violated the rules of the competition by making political statements, and claimed that the statements damaged the company’s image by offending a portion of the public.

The punishment was harshly criticized by fans and U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of censoring free speech to protect its relationships in China, a massive and highly lucrative market with strict laws that require companies operating in the country to censor or remove content at the government’s request. Players threatened to boycott Blizzard’s games in response and a small group of Blizzard employees staged a walkout to show support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

After staying silent for several days, Blizzard Entertainment President J.Allen Brack pushed back against claims that Blizzard’s business in China influenced the company’s decision in a statement published Oct. 11, 2019. The company reduced the suspension of Blitzchung and the two commentators to six months and reinstated Blitzchung’s prize money, but Brack reiterated that Blitzchung had violated the rules of the competition.

“There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” Brack wrote in a statement.

Blizzard’s reduced punishment didn’t do much to change public perception

Critics remain skeptical of Brack’s claim that China had no impact on Blizzard’s decision, and many suggested that Blizzard should have lifted its suspension of Blitzchung and the two competitors entirely.

Others accused Blizzard of trying to minimize its concession by making a statement on a Friday evening, a common tactic used to diminish negative press in a weekend news cycle. Former Blizzard producer Mark Kern said the company used the same strategy while he was working there.

Protesters upset with Blizzard’s lack of support for Hong Kong are planning to show up at the company’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, on November 1. One group of protesters planned to form picket lines outside of the event and interrupt BlizzCon panel discussions with questions about Hong Kong. The same group is demanding that Blizzard make a public statement in support of Hong Kong, apologize and reverse the punishment, and create a special protest costume for the Chinese “Overwatch” character Mei.

Ultimately, Brack’s statement did little to change the perception of Blizzard’s punishment of Blitzchung, though the “Hearthstone” player said he accepted the company’s stance on the situation. Blizzard will have to wait and see if time will heal the company’s public perception, and hope the situation doesn’t escalate further with planned protests in the coming weeks.

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

Articles

F-22 to receive new weapons and stealth upgrades

The Air Force is performing key maintenance on the F-22 Raptor’s stealth materials and upgrading the stealth fighter with new attack weapons to include improved air-to-air and air-to-surface strike technology, service officials said.


“In the Summer of 2019, the F22 fleet will begin to receive upgrades to its available weapons with the Increment 3.2B upgrade.  This upgrade allows full functionality for the AIM-120D and AIM-9X Air-to-Air missiles as well as enhanced Air-to-Surface target location capabilities,” 1st Lt. Carrie J. Volpe, Action Officer, Air Combat Command Public Affaris, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., told Scout Warrior.

The F22 currently carries the AIM-9X Block 1 and the current upgrade will enable carriage of AIM-9X Block 2, Volpe added.

Related: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers explain that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

Another part of the weapons upgrade includes engineering the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), designed for all weather day-and-night attacks; it is a “fire and forget” missile with active transmit radar guidance, Raytheon data states. The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing attack range, GPS navigation, inertial measurement units and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explain.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson

The AIM-120D also includes improved High-Angle Off-Boresight technology enabling the weapon to destroy targets at a wider range of angles. 

Additional upgrades to the stealth fighter, slated for 2021, are designed to better enable digital communications via data links with 4th and 5th generation airplanes.

“The backbone of this upgrade also includes the installation of an open systems architecture that will allow for future upgrades to be done faster and at less expense than could be previously accomplished,” Volpe said.

 Stealth Coating Maintenance

The Air Force has contracted Lockheed Martin to perform essential maintenance to the F-22’s low-observable stealth coating to ensure it is equipped to manage fast-emerging threats.

Lockheed Martin completed the first F22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline, a company statement said.

“Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor’s Very Low Observable radar cross-section,” Lockheed stated.

The increase in F22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support and antenna calibration.

F-22 Attack Supercruise Technology 

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.

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An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

Related: Here’s when the F-15 outperforms the F-22 or an F-35

At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22.  However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias.

Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

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F-22A Raptors with the 94th Fighter Squadron drop joint direct attack munitions. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s. Dave Majumdar of The National Interest writes that many would like to see more F-22s added to the Air Force arsenal. For instance, some members of Congress, such as former Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have requested that more F-22s be built, given its technological superiority.

Citing budget concerns, Air Force officials have said it is unlikely the service will want to build new F-22s, however it is possible the Trump administration could want to change that.

F-22 Technologies

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

Related: Air Force upgrades F-15 to compete with Chinese J-10

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updatable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

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F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii Feb. 12. The fighters and more than 250 Airmen from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., are bound for Kadena Air Base, Japan. This is the Raptor’s first overseas operational deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

Articles

The Pentagon wants to know if you were discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The Defense Department announced Dec. 30 a renewed effort to ensure veterans are aware of the opportunity to have their discharges and military records reviewed, according to a DOD news release.


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Through enhanced public outreach; engagement with veterans’ service organizations, military service organizations, and other outside groups; as well as direct outreach to individual veterans, the department encourages all veterans who believe they have experienced an error or injustice to request relief from their service’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board, the release said.

With Friday’s announcement, the department is reaffirming its intention to review and potentially upgrade the discharge status of all individuals who are eligible and who apply, the release said.

Additionally, all veterans, VSOs, MSOs, and other interested organizations are invited to offer feedback on their experiences with the BCM/NR or DRB processes, including how the policies and processes can be improved, the release said.

In the past few years, the department has issued guidance for consideration of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its predecessor policies, the release said. Additionally, supplemental guidance for separations involving victims of sexual assault is currently being considered.

The department is reviewing and consolidating all of the related policies to reinforce the department’s commitment to ensuring fair and equitable review of separations for all veterans, the release said.

Whether the discharge or other correction is the result of PTSD, sexual orientation, sexual assault, or some other consideration, the department is committed to rectifying errors or injustices and treating all veterans with dignity and respect.

Veterans are encouraged to apply for review if they desire a correction to their service record or believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade.

Intel

This is how powerful the Tsar Bomba would have been over America

In the heights of the Cold War, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe against his desk as he vowed to show America at the United Nation General Assembly in 1960. The following year, on October 30th, the most massive nuclear explosion ever was detonated over Severny Island.


The 50-megaton, 60,000-pound hydrogen bomb was said to have been 1,570 times larger than the combined energy of the nuclear devices dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 10 times the collective destructive power of every conventional weapon ever used in WWII, and it alone accounted for 10 percent of all nuclear yields ever.

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Thankfully for humanity, this was never tested again.
(Courtesy Photo)

The mushroom cloud of the blast soared up 40 miles high (seven times the height of Mount Everest) and had a 59-mile-wide cap. The blast was so incomprehensibly large that it’s nearly impossible to contextualize just how devastating it would have been if detonated over American soil.

To put all of this into perspective — and much to the delight of Yankees fans — let’s measure the hypothetical blast using today’s pitcher’s mound at Oriole Park in Baltimore, MD, as a point of reference.

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I have nothing but love for the city of Baltimore and the Orioles, but they do make things rather convenient for this thought experiment.
(Courtesy Photo)

The initial blast would have decimated the entire city and everything within 12 miles. The mushroom cloud, with a radius of 29.5 miles, would have stretched all the way into Washington D.C. The heat from the blast would have extended out 62 miles, and would have left everyone in Dover, Delaware with third-degree burns.

According to NukeMap, roughly 1.4 million people would have been killed immediately and the nuclear fallout would have made its way through Philadelphia, PA and into Trenton, NJ. Shockwaves reached 430 miles, which would have put it past Cincinnati, OH. Windows would be shattered up to 560 miles miles away, reaching Chattanooga, TN.

With a height of 40 miles, the mushroom cloud would have been visible from 564.5 miles. That means everyone in the outskirts of Atlanta would have been able to see it. The fireball was visible from 620 miles away, which would have meant everyone in Chicago would be witness to it.

For more information on the destructive power of the Tsar Bomba, check out this video.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Mount a Vulcan cannon to a Prius in 15 easy steps

Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Richard Ryan, who you may know from the popular YouTube channel FullMag, got the chance to fulfill a dream he’s had for over a decade: mounting an M61 Vulcan cannon to the top of a Toyota Prius.

Everyone knows what a Prius is, but the uninitiated may not be familiar with the beastly, Gatling-style M61 Vulcan. The Federation of American Scientists defines the M61 Vulcan as “a hydraulically driven, 6 barreled, rotary action, air cooled, electrically fired weapon, with selectable rates of fire of either 4000 or 6000 rounds per minute.” With that kind of incredible firepower, this angel of death has graced a variety of U.S. jet fighters since the 1950s, as well as the AC-130 gunship — it even felled 39 Soviet-made MiG’s during the Vietnam War.


The Prius Vulcan

www.youtube.com

To pull off this ridiculously awesome feat, Ryan partnered with companies like Hamilton Sons, known for their involvement in restorations of large weapons and historical recreations, and Battlefield Vegas, which acquires rare equipment for the everyday bro or broette to use. Between Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) licenses and the actual manufacturing and acquiring of weapons, the logistics for a video of this scale is neither inexpensive nor easy, so great sponsors were key.

With all that hard work in the rear view, Ryan took some time to explain to Coffee, or Die Magazine exactly how his grand plan came to fruition:

Step 1: Watch “Predator” a lot as a kid and develop a deep appreciation for Jesse Ventura’s Old Painless minigun; fire an even bigger minigun as an adult and find it still isn’t satisfying enough.

Predator (1987) – Old Painless Is Waiting Scene (1/5) | Movieclips

www.youtube.com

Step 2: Get tricked by clickbait YouTube videos that claim to have close-up or slo-mo footage of an M61 Vulcan but don’t. Vow to make your own video someday because fuck those posers!

Step 3: Drink a cup of strong coffee and devise an absurd plan — like mounting a Vulcan to a milquetoast hybrid vehicle instead of a fighter jet or tank (boring!). “I wanted that counterculture of the Prius. Mounting it to one of those would be epic.”

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 4: Wait. Drink coffee. Wait some more. For eons. Due to the National Firearms Act, machine guns manufactured before 1986 are extraordinarily expensive, and something as rare as a Vulcan cannon is essentially priceless.

Step 5: Six years later, become friends with awesome people, the kind of people who can get their hands on a Vulcan stripped off a demilitarized F-16. Thanks, Battlefield Vegas!

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 6: Bring all the pieces together to modify the gun and the car. Replace the gun’s hydraulic-fed system with an electrical-fed system, as well as electrical primers and new motors. At the same time, strip the entire interior of the car to handle the amount of kinetic energy put out by the weapon: new floor pan, roll cage, and mounting system for the roof, accidentally making the first Prius that someone might actually call “bad ass” in the process.

Step 7: Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the job.

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 8: Get a quote from General Dynamics for the ammunition. It costs per round, meaning the gun will blow through 0,000 for one minute of sustained fire. Have small heart attack. Drink more coffee.

Step 9: Test everything. Go through six months of meticulous steps, not knowing if everything is going to work. “We were tiptoeing through, shooting five rounds here, three rounds there.”

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 10: Completely blow out the windshield due to overpressure. #mybad

Step 11: “Borrow” about 15 feet of leftover gym flooring from Mat Best’s new gym to roll up and put under the gun so you don’t blow out the windshield again. “I don’t want to Mad Max the vehicle; I want it to be street legal because I think that’s funnier.”

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 11.5: Take time to think about how awesome it is that it’s even possible for a Vulcan-mounted Prius to be street legal.

Step 12: Wait for monsoon season so that you don’t contribute to any forest fires.

Step 13: Look the happiest anyone has ever looked driving a Prius.

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 14: Finally achieve your dream of showing those YouTube weaponry rickrollers that anything can be done with a good cup of coffee and a can-do attitude.

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(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Step 15: Share. Let everyone who worked on the project have a turn to shoot because you’re a generous gun god — but also because part of you feels safer standing at a distance.

We Put a Vulcan Cannon On a Prius.

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commandant says he won’t force out Marines as the service shrinks

Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.

Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.


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That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”

“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”

The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.

“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”

The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.

Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.

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“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.

Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.

“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.

The Marine Corps carried out a series of war games that showed areas where it can cut some existing capabilities, a 15-page memo on the force design states.

When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.

“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”

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

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