Britain is planning to almost double its number of troops in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
May on July 10, 2018, said the British military will deploy an extra 440 troops, bringing the country’s total to about 1,100, as it looks to assist Afghan forces in their battle against Taliban and Islamic State (IS) insurgents.
The move comes a day before the start a potentially contentious NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018, with U.S. President Donald Trump demanding that members contribute more to the alliance’s efforts and their own national defense.
Trump has called on allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan to help deal with the security situation the country, where a NATO-led mission is assisting the Western-backed government in Kabul.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the U.K. is among the first to answer,” May said.
The additional troops will not be in a combat role and will instead take part in NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train and assist Afghan forces.
British troops, like the bulk of Western forces, ended combat operations in 2014, handing battlefield duties mainly over to Afghan forces.
About half of the British troops will arrive in August 2018, with the rest coming in February 2019. They will be based in Kabul.
Trump in 2017 announced that the United States would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and has asked other NATO countries to send reinforcements as well.
Citing U.S. officials, Reuters reported on July 10, 2018, that the U.S. administration is planning another major review of its strategy in Afghanistan “in the next few months.”
The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, along with IS, Al-Qaeda, and other militants, some 17 years after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from rule in Afghanistan.
The Textron Scorpion has been competing for the OA-X contract lately, but while the Air Force seems all too willing to ignore what could be a very capable light-attack plane, it could soon find a launch customer. That customer is Saudi Arabia.
The Scorpion, a private venture by Textron, has been pitched as a potential trainer, light attack, or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platform. The aircraft, which first flew in 2014, is capable of carrying 9,000 pounds of weapons, flying as high a 45,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 450 knots, and having a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Saudis signed a $110 billion arms deal with the United States earlier. Big-ticket items in the deal included four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, as well as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile systems, and M1A2 Abrams tanks. However, the Scorpion could be an interesting pick for the Saudis.
The aircraft is easy to maintain – and its long range could be very useful given the vast distances involved on the Arabian Peninsula. It also comes cheap, allowing the Saudis to buy a lot of airframes. That last item becomes very important in an era where a new F-35 can cost as much as $100 million.
The production-ready version of the Scorpion will be at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates. That plane will feature a Garmin 3000 avionics suite. You can see a video about the potential Saudi order of this plane below.
Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.
The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.
Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.
The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.
The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.
Growing shortfalls and falling retention
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”
Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)
“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.
Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”
But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.
Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.
Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.
The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.
These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.
“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.
A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.
Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)
The services have also struggled to retain pilots.
The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.
Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”
The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.
But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention
A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”
Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.
The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.
It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.
Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.
The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.
“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.
The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”
Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.
“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.
The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.
According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”
Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”
Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.
Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.
One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.
However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”
With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.
According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.
The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.
“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”
A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.
The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.
It took a while, but the United States Marine Corps could have its first female infantry platoon commander soon. The milestone will be possible if a lieutenant currently taking part in the Infantry Officer Course graduates on Monday.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the candidate just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last of the graded exercises in the grueling course. Prior to this female candidate, at least 30 others have entered, but failed to graduate for one reason or another.
After graduation, she will command an infantry platoon, usually with three squads of Marines. The integration of women into ground combat roles with the Marine Corps drew controversy due to actions by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus who was an outspoken proponent of the change. Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study showing that all-male units out-performed gender-integrated units in nearly 70 percent of the tasks.
Mabus’s comments drew fire from Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lehew’s Navy Cross citation noted that he led the team that rescued survivors of the 507th Maintenance Company, the unit in which Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch served with at the time, and also ran back and forth to retrieve Marine casualties from a destroyed amphibious assault vehicle.
The Infantry Officer Course is seen as one of the toughest schools in the U.S. military, and roughly one out of four officers who enter the course do not compete it. Earlier this year, three female enlisted Marines were assigned to an infantry battalion. At least 10 women have graduated from the Army’s Infantry Officer Course.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
China’s state-run news organization is being shamed for flaunting its “incredibly strong soldier morale” in a video showing a People’s Liberation Army service member participating in what appeared to be an obstacle course.
“This is the incredibly strong soldier morale of China’s PLA,” the People’s Daily tweeted in the caption, referring to China’s People Liberation Army. “They fear nothing.”
The service member, wearing a combat helmet and a load-bearing vest, could be seen dunking himself into a hole filled with water amid sounds of gunfire.
People on Twitter, some of whom are former US service members, mocked the People’s Daily’s characterization of the PLA troops:
In its latest report on the Chinese military, the US Defense Department said China continues to reform their armed forces in an effort to become a “world-class” military by 2049.
“In 2018, the PLA focused its training on war preparedness and improving its capability to win wars through realistic combat training during numerous smaller force-on-force exercises and skills-based competition exercises,” the Defense Department said in its annual report to Congress.
Obviously, video games are nothing like the real world. No one is going to give you 100 gold coins to go clear a bunch of rats out of a dungeon and no one is impressed by your ability to roll on the ground to get places faster.
Where this division between real life and gaming hits the hardest is in the military. Think about it — not once has a recruiter tried to tell you about the “quest reward” that is the GI Bill. On the bright side, there are a lot less people screaming that they’ve done unspeakable acts to others’ mothers — so there’s that.
These are six video game tropes that are completely detached from reality.
Usually, waiting for your vision to stop going red indicates a concussion…
Most games have one of two types of healing: Either you just hide behind a rock for a few seconds and you’re perfect or you run over a first-aid kit and it immediately feel better You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t how it works on an actual battlefield.
There are entire occupations in the military dedicated to delivering aid to wounded troops. The cold reality is that just throwing a first aid kit at someone isn’t going to get them back to 100%.
It’s probably for the best. A laser could get set off by anyone: friend, foe, or civilian bystander.
For some reason, claymore mines in video games are always set to go off when someone walks in front of the little lasers attached to the front.
In real life, mines like those do exist, but they aren’t used on the battlefield. Laser tripwire mines are highly discouraged by the Geneva convention. Typically, real claymore mines are detonated with a wire and switch.
Even in the apocalypse, any weapon you find works perfectly.
Perfectly working weapons
No matter what wide assortment of weapons and firearms the game presents to the player, every weapon will always work perfectly. You never have to clean them, maintain them, or deal with many of the issues that plague actual weapons.
Cleaning weapons is a daily routine for combat arms troops. But even if the weapon is at peak cleanliness, they may still suffer a failure to feed, load, or eject, which takes a troop out of the fight temporarily. It’d be nice for immersion if the gamer had to perform SPORTS on a disabled rifle, but it definitely wouldn’t be any fun.
Older games tended to be a lot more straightforward with their orders.
In a sense, there are briefings in video games. While the mission loads up, players are told what to do and then sent off to play. If they don’t like a mission, they can usually just skip it — or disregard orders and play it however they see fit.
Declining a mission from someone who outranks you or putting your own “creative twist” on an objective to it is a surefire way to incur administrative action — especially if your idiotic move has terrible consequences for someone else.
It’s also much harder to do a 360 No-Scope in real life, so don’t try it at home, kids.
“Running and gunning”
In multiplayer games, when a match starts, players set out with a singular objective of outscoring the other guys. This means that everyone plays the fun role of the badass who runs around the map shooting fools in the face.
Actual missions are set up differently and broken down into many different tasks. Your security element is often away from the fight and watching what the enemy is up to, the support element makes sure things go according to plan, and even the assault teams you’d expect to be doing the badass stuff often are given a single task like, “just watch this one particular window.”
Thankfully, helicopter pilots don’t give a damn if you’ve gone on a 7-kill streak or not.
Video games try to give everyone an equal and competitive chance at winning. Developers spend months fine tuning a game before launching it to make sure every player is given the same chance as the next. In a perfect, competitive environment, the only variable is skill.
There’s no way in Hell that U.S. troops would willingly fight on the same level as their enemy. Sure, there’s always going to be that one tool who complains about the Geneva Convention “holding us back,” but in the grander scheme of things, it really doesn’t. U.S. troops kick an unbelievable amount of ass — and they do so with bigger guns, better technology, and more rigorous training.
Considering the fact that the president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, it would make sense for presidential candidates to have some military experience. But veterans have often struggled in their bids for the White House.
While these five men all had plenty of experience in government — and at least a little experience in uniform — they all fell short in a bid for the leader of the free world:
1. Michael Dukakis
A former Army private, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis held a commanding lead early in the 1988 presidential race in which he faced then-Vice President and fellow veteran George H. W. Bush. But Dukakis spent the early weeks of the general election finishing up governor work and vacationing while Bush closed the 17 percent polls gap and took the lead.
As the race ramped up in the summer of ’88, Dukakis worked to take back the initiative. Under criticism that he would be soft on defense, he conducted a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank, but he looked so ridiculous in the tank that the journalists covering it burst out laughing in the stands. The resulting photos sank his campaign, and Bush won in a landslide.
2. George H.W. Bush
And how about President George H. W. Bush? He struggled four years later and lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton. Bush, a World War II Navy vet, announced his candidacy at a high point in his popularity, right after the completion of Operation Desert Storm.
But soon after his announcement, public perception shifted and people began to question whether America pulled out of Iraq too soon as well as whether Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to remain in power. Meanwhile, economic stagnation and new taxes soured Bush’s appeal on domestic issues. Clinton won the presidency and Bush left office.
3. Jimmy Carter
Don’t feel too bad for Bush. He only got his vice presidential spot in the first place by kicking another Navy veteran turned president, Jimmy Carter, out of the top job. Carter faced trouble early in the election due to dwindling popularity, the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis, and economic troubles. Carter had to beat down a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy before the general election.
In the general election, Bush and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan toured the country, ridiculing Carter over and over. Carter tried to counter by calling Reagan a right-wing radical, but the Republican ticket won a massive victory and even picked up enough Senate seats to regain control of the legislature for the first time in 28 years.
4. John McCain
John McCain grew up as Navy royalty, with both a father and a grandfather who were four-star admirals. He became a popular senator after his own Navy career that included more than 5 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
McCain actually lost two presidential bids. In the 2000 primary, he won New Hampshire but lost South Carolina and most Super Tuesday states before withdrawing from the race and endorsing George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas.
In 2008, he attempted to follow Bush to the presidency. He won the primary but the 2008 recession turned opinions against the Republicans and Sen. Barack Obama launched a big-data-based campaign that got him ahead of McCain in the polls. McCain earned a respectable 46 percent of the popular vote but lost most battleground states and suffered a 173-365 electoral defeat.
5. Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Stevenson and David Dubinsky shake hands on stage at an AFL convention, September 1952. (Photo: Kheel Center via Flickr)
Gov. Adlai Stevenson was a former sailor and a former special assistant to the secretary of the Navy. He was defeated three times in bids for the presidency, falling each time to a more popular veteran.
In 1952 Stevenson ran against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower only eight years after Eisenhower led the Allies to victory in a world war. He suffered a crushing defeat, then came back in 1956 to be beat even worse.
In 1960 he ran against John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination but refused to campaign until the night before the convention. He came in fourth.
Kennedy, also a former sailor, received the nomination and won the presidency. Kennedy eventually named Stevenson as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.