This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.
The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.
Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.
Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. These drone laws & regulations are continually changing, and you should not rely solely on the lists herein. Please look up your state’s current laws and/or contact an attorney to determine what, if any, legal requirements or restrictions apply to the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in your area.
Recreational vs. Commercial Drone Regulations
One of the biggest hurdles to mass adoption of drones is the numerous regulations that restrict what drone owners and operators can do. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has several regulations that have hindered drone market growth.
The most prevalent of these restrictions is the one colloquially known as the “line of sight rule,” which mandates that drone operators keep the unmanned aircraft within eye shot at all times. This clearly removes any potential application for drones in the delivery space, as the need to keep a drone in line of sight at all times defeats the purpose of sending off a drone to drop off a product at a consumer’s home.
But there are different FAA drone rules for commercial use and for recreational use. Recreational drone laws are in some ways more lax than commercial ones, but the line of sight remains pivotal (more on these laws later).
Drone Pilot License and FAA Laws & Regulations
“Do I need a license to fly a drone?” “Do I need to register my drone?” These are two of the most common questions prospective drone owners ask.
As of a law passed on January 3, 2018, a recreational drone user must register their drone with the FAA, mark the outside of the drone with the registration number, and carry proof of registration when flying. Furthermore, the pilot must fly only for recreational purposes.
This next portion is crucial: The pilot must keep the drone below 400 feet in uncontrolled or “Class G” airspace. This simply refers to airspace where the FAA is not controlling manned air traffic, which means it is safe to fly your drone there. Fortunately, most drones and their accompanying mobile apps provide guidelines to help identify appropriate airspace and height.
The FAA has a full list of drone rules and guidelines here.
The FAA’s online registration system went into effect on Dec. 21, 2015. This required all UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds to be registered.
Since then, the number of drones registered in the U.S. has been increasing. More than 900,000 owners had already registered by the end of 2018, and monthly owner registration averaged between 8,000-9,000 during the full year 2018, according to the FAA.
As of December 10, 2019, there were 1,509,617 drones registered with the FAA. This includes 1,085,392 recreational drones and 420,340 commercial drones, as well as 160,748 remote pilots certified.
State and Local Laws & Regulations
In addition the federal laws, several states have enacted drone regulations of their own. Here’s a breakdown of drone regulations by state:
Alaska state law HB 255 passed in 2014 places limits on how law enforcement can use drones in their operations, which includes but is not limited to how and whether they can save images and video captured by drone.
SB 1449 passed in 2016 is quite robust, and includes the following regulations:
Drones cannot interfere with police, firefighters, or manned aircraft.
Flying a drone in what is considered “dangerous proximity” to a person or property is deemed Disorderly Conduct.
Drones must stay a minimum of 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically of any “critical facility.” These include but are not limited to courthouses, hospitals, military installations, water treatment and oil and gas facilities, and power plants.
Any city or town in Arizona with more than one park must permit the usage of drones in at least one of those parks.
Cities and towns in Arizona may not craft their own drone laws.
Arkansas has several state laws regarding drones. Act 293 forbids the use of drones to invade privacy and commit video voyeurism. Act 1019 forbids the use of drones for surveillance of “critical infrastructure.” And am Arkansas State Park Regulation passed in 2018 forbids the operation of drones in any Arkansas State Park without first acquiring a Special Use Permit from the Office of the Director.
The most populous state in the union has three laws regarding drones. Civil Code Section 1708.8 forbids the use of drones to record another person without their consent. SB 807 grants immunity for first responders who damage any unmanned vehicle that interferes with first responders during emergency services. Related, AB 1680 makes it a misdemeanor for drones to interfere with the activities of first responders during an emergency.
HB 1070 passed in 2017 requires the Center of Excellence within the Division of Fire Prevention and Control within the Department of Public Safety to conduct a study on the integration of drones within state and local government operations that relate to certain public safety functions. The law also created a pilot program to facilitate this goal.
Meanwhile, Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24 in 2018 forbids the operation of drones in Colorado State Parks with the exception of designated areas.
SB 975 prohibits municipalities within the state from regulating drones with the exception of municipalities that are also water companies, which can regulate or forbid the use of drones over said municipality’s public water supply and land.
DEEP 23-4-1 prohibits the use of drones at Connecticut State Parks, State Forests or other lands under the control of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, with the exception of those specifically authorized by the Commissioner through a Special Use License.
HB 195 forbids flying a drone over any event with an attendance greater than 5,000 people (such as concerts, sporting events, auto races, and festivals), as well as any critical infrastructure (such as government buildings, power plants, water treatment facilities, military installations, oil and gas refineries). Lastly, the law forbids cities and towns in Delaware from crafting their own drone laws.
Criminal Code Section 934.50 forbids the use of drones for surveillance that violates another person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes law enforcement, however police can use drones with a valid search warrant, if there is a terrorist threat, or “swift action” is needed to prevent loss of life or to find a missing person, per SB 92. That same law also allows someone harmed by the inappropriate use of a drone to pursue civil action.
HB 1027 forbids local regulation of drones, but does allow for local legislatures to craft some drone laws related to “nuisances, voyeurism, harassment, reckless endangerment, property damage, or other illegal acts.” It also forbids also the use of drones over or near critical infrastructure in most situations, and bans the possession or use of a weaponized drone.
Finally, Florida Administrative Code 5l-4.003 forbids the usage of drones on managed lands (such as Florida state parks and forests) with the exception of runways or helispots and only with authorization from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
HB 481 preempts Georgia’s local governments from creating drone regulations after April 1, 2017. This law also permits state and local governments in Georgia to regulate the launch or landing of drones on public property.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also has rules and regulations that forbid the use of drones in Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites, with some exceptions for waivers for professional commercial projects that could help generate revenue or promote those sites. Prior authorization is required for such exceptions.
Act 208 created a drone test site advisory board, along with a chief operating officer to oversee the site.
Idaho Code 36-1101 forbids the use of drones to hunt, molest, or locate game animals, game birds, or fur-bearing animals. Idaho Code 21-213 mandates warrants for law enforcement to use drones, creates guidelines for drone use by private citizens, and outlines civil penalties for damage caused by improper use of drones.
Illinois has one of the more thorough sets of state drone laws in the nation.
20 ILCS 5065 created the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act charged with regulating commercial and private drones. These regulations include landowners’ rights, operational safety, and privacy rights.
HB 1652 prohibits the use of drones to interfere with the activities of hunters or fishermen.
SB 1587 permits the use of drones by law enforcement with a warrant for counterterrorism, to prevent harm, or to thwart the impending escape of a suspect. If used, law enforcement agencies must destroy all information gathered by the drone within 30 days, with exceptions made if the information contains reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
SB 2937 relaxes regulations on drone usage by law enforcement during a disaster or public health emergency, and creates rules for how law enforcement can acquire and use information gathered from a private party’s use of drones.
Finally, SB 3291 forbids cities, towns, and other municipalities from enacting regulations or restrictions on the drone use, with the exception of municipalities with more than one million residents.
Indiana has multiple state drone laws, starting with HB 1009, which created warrant guidelines for law enforcement use of drones and other real-time geolocation tracking devices. The law also created a Class A misdemeanor called “Unlawful Photography and Surveillance on Private Property,” in which a person intentionally conducts electronic surveillance of another’s private property without permission.
HB 1013 permits drone use to photograph or video a traffic crash site, while HB 1246 forbids drone use to locate game during hunting season.
SB 299 created two Class A misdemeanors tied to drone use. The first is “sex offender unmanned aerial vehicle offense,” in which a sex offender uses a drone to follow, contact, or surveil another person under conditions that prohibit said offender from doing so. The second is “public safety remote aerial interference offense,” in which a person uses a drone in a manner that obstructs or interferes with a public safety official performing his or her duties. Both offenses become level 6 felonies if the guilty party has a prior conviction under the same section.
Finally, IAC 312 8-2-8 (i) forbids drone use on Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property, which includes state parks; however, the DNR can grant licenses to use drones at its discretion.
The Hawkeye State’s lone drone law, HB 2289, forbids any state agency from using drones to enforce traffic laws and insists upon a warrant or other lawful measure to use any information obtained by drones in any civil or criminal court proceedings.
SB 319 expands the definition of harassment in the state’s existing Protection from Stalking Act to include particular drone uses.
HB 540 permits commercial airports to design their own drone facility maps and forbids drone use in certain areas designated by said maps.
HB 1029 created the crime of unlawful drone use, defined as the intentional use of a drone to surveil a location without the owner’s prior written consent.
SB 183 regulates drone use for agricultural commercial operations, while SB 141 clarifies that some drone surveillance constitutes criminal trespass.
HB 635 added drones under the crimes of voyeurism and video voyeurism, and HB 335 authorized the establishment of registration and licensing fees for drones in Louisiana at a $100 limit.
HB 19 forbids drone use to surveil school rounds or correctional facilities, while SB 73 expands the definition of obstructing an officer to include intentionally crossing a police barrier with a drone. SB 73 also permits law enforcement and the fire department to disable drones if they endanger the safety of the public or an officer.
Lastly, SB 69 insists that only the state, not local governments, can regulate drone use.
Sec. 1. 25 MRSA Pt. 12 mandates that law enforcement agencies obtain approval before acquiring drones and lays out other rules for police use, such as warrant requirements.
Section 14-301 establishes the state’s power over local authorities to create laws that regulate drone operation.
Furthermore, SB 992 outlines several prohibitions for drones, all of which classify as misdemeanors. First, local governments cannot regulate drones except if the drone belongs to the locality. Second, the law allows commercial drone operation provided the FAA has authorized the user to do so commercially, and allows recreational use under federal law compliance.
Third, SB 992 forbids drone use that interferes with emergency personnel, to harass any individual, to violate restraining orders, or to capture photo or video that invades a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Finally, the law forbids sex offenders from using drones to photograph, follow, or make contact with an individual they are forbidden to contact.
Minnesota Statute 360.60 mandates that all recreational and commercial drone operators register their drone with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Commercial operators must have drone insurance per the requirements set forth under Minnesota Statute 360.59. Furthermore, all commercial operators must pay a licensing fee for a Commercial Operations License, according to the Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Rules Chapter 8800.
In the Big Sky State, SB 196 outlines that information gained from drone use is only admissible in court when obtained with a search warrant or through some other exception recognized by the courts.
HB 644 forbids drone use that interferes with efforts to suppress wildfires.
Amendments 362, 640, and 746 officially define drones as aircraft, which regulates drone operations. This law also prohibits weapons on drones and forbids the use of drones within a certain distance of airports and other “critical” facilities. Finally, it places restrictions on drone use by law enforcement.
SB 3370 is a robust law that establishes several guidelines for drone use:
Permits drone use in accordance with federal law
Classifies drone use in a way that endangers the life or property of another as a disorderly person offense.
Establishes that is a fourth-degree crime if an individual “knowingly or intentionally creates or maintains a condition which endangers the safety or security of a correctional facility by operating an unmanned aircraft system on the premises of or in close proximity to that facility”
Outlines that using a drone to interfere with a first responder is a criminal offense
Allows drone owners of critical infrastructure to apply to the FAA to forbid or limit drone use near said infrastructure
Classifies operating a drone under the influence of drugs or with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater as a disorderly person offense
Forbids local governments from regulating drone use in any way that conflicts with this law
Appropriately, the state that was “First in Flight” was also one of the first to adopt a truly detailed set of drone laws, starting with SB 744 in 2014, which established requirements for recreational, commercial, and government drone use.
SB 446 gives North Carolina’s Chief Information Officer the power to approve drone use by state agencies, mandates tests for drone operations, and establishes a permit process for commercial drones.
HB 128 forbids drone use near a correctional facility, with the exception of certain official use or other prior authorization.
HB 337 permits drone use for emergency management activities. It also makes adjustments to align the state law with federal law, and exempts model aircraft from the state’s training and permitting requirements for drones.
Finally, NCAC 13B.1204 forbids drones to take off or ascend at any state park area without a special permit from the park.
North Dakota Code Sec. 29-29.4-01 restricts drone use to surveillance, crime investigation, and other law enforcement uses. It also mandates law enforcement have a warrant to do so.
HB 2559 forbids drone use within 400 feet of any critical infrastructure facility.
HB 2710 established quite a few drone regulations, including:
Creating new crimes and civil penalties for mounting weapons on drones, as well as interfering with or obtaining unauthorized access to public drones
Allowing a law enforcement agency to use a drone with a warrant and for exceptions such as training
Requiring any drone operated by a public body to be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA)
Allowing a landowner under certain conditions to take action against an individual operating a drone lower than 400 feet over their property
SB 5702 set the fees for registering a public drone. HB 4066 clarified and modified some drone definitions and made it a class A misdemeanor to operate a weaponized drone. It also regulated public drone use and mandated policies and procedures for data retention.
HB 3047 adjusted the law forbidding weaponizing drones by making it a class C felony to fire a bullet or projectile from such a device. It also prohibits drone use over private property in any way that intentionally or recklessly harasses or agitates the property’s owner or occupant. Finally, it allows law enforcement to use drones to reconstruct accident scenes.
Lastly, The State Fish and Wildlife Commission forbids the use of drones to hunt, fish, or trap animals and prohibits using drones to interfere with hunters.
Title 18 Section 3505 forbids drone use to intentionally surveil other people in a private place, to use a drone in a way that puts another person in reasonable fear of injury, or to operate a drone to handle contraband.
Title 53 of Section 305 builds upon this law by having Title 18 Section 3505 preempt any laws or resolutions of other municipalities. Furthermore, municipalities cannot regulate ownership and operation of drones unless authorized by statute.
HB 7511 provides exclusive regulatory power over drone use to the state and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, in accordance with federal law. It also prevents local governments from crafting their own drone laws.
Title 250 of Park and Management Area Rules and Regulations forbids drone use at any Rhode Island state park without a special use permit, typically issued for professional filming and media companies. Furthermore, the law also bans drone use to harass or disturb individuals, wildlife, or natural resources at a state park.
SB 80 mandates that drone operation complies with appropriate FAA requirements. It also classifies drone use over military and correctional facilities as a class 1 misdemeanor. Delivering contraband or drugs by drone to a correctional facility is a class 6 felony under this law. Finally, it amends the crime of unlawful surveillance to include intentional drone use to observe or record an individual in a way that violates their reasonable expectation of privacy, and forbids landing a drone on someone’s property without consent. Unlawful surveillance is a class 1 misdemeanor.
The much simpler SB 22 grants exemptions from aircraft registration requirements for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.
The Volunteer State has six drone laws to consider. SB 796 permits law enforcement to use drones with a search warrant in cases of high-risk terrorist attacks or if quick action is necessary to prevent clear and present danger to life. Any evidence obtained in violation of this law cannot be admitted in state criminal prosecutions, and the law creates opportunities for those wronged by such evidence to take civil action.
SB 1892 classifies intentional drone surveillance of an individual or property, and possessing images from said surveillance, as Class C misdemeanors. Distribution or use of those images is a Class B misdemeanor.
On a similar note, SB 1777 makes it a Class C misdemeanor for any private entity to use a drone to conduct video surveillance of someone who is hunting or fishing without their consent.
HB 153 forbids drone use to capture footage above open-air events and fireworks displays. HB 2376 clarifies that individuals can use drones on behalf of both public and private institutions of higher education.
Finally, SB2106 makes it illegal to operate a drone within 250 feet of a critical infrastructure facility in order to surveil or gather information about said facility.
HB 912 detailed 19 lawful uses for drones and also created two new crimes: illegal use of drones to capture images, and the offense of possessing or distributing said images.
HB 1481 classifies drone use over a critical infrastructure facility if the drone is not more than 400 feet off the ground as a Class B misdemeanor. Meanwhile, HB 2167 allows individuals in certain professions to capture images for use in those professions via drone as long as no individual can be identified in the images.
HB 1643 forbids local governments from regulating drones with the exception of special events and when the drone is used by the locality. HB 1424 forbids drone use over correctional and detention facilities. It does the same for sports venues, with some exceptions.
SB 840 allows telecom companies to use drones to capture images. Furthermore, it clarifies that only law enforcement can use drones to capture images of property within 25 miles of the U.S. border for border security reasons. Lastly, it permits insurance companies to use drones to capture images for certain insurance purposes, according to FAA regulations.
Finally, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Policy bans drones in Texas State Parks without a permit, with the exception of Lake Whitney and San Angelo. Individuals can also request permits for drone use at state parks.
SB 196 mandates that law enforcement obtain a warrant before using drones in any location where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Related, SB 167 regulates drone use by the government and establishes that law enforcement must have a warrant to obtain, receive, or use any data from drone use.
HB 296 permits law enforcement to use drones to capture footage at testing sites, or to find a lost or missing person in an area in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy.
HB 217 forbids individuals from using drones to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly harm, actively disturb, or chase livestock.
Finally, SB 111 established several regulations for drones:
Creates cases for law enforcement to use drones for purposes not related to a criminal investigation
Mandates law enforcement create an official record of drone use to provide information on that use and any data acquired from it
Preempts local regulation of drones and exempts drones from aircraft registration in Utah
Classifies flying a drone with a weapon attached or carried on it as a class B misdemeanor
Modifies the offense of criminal trespass to include drones entering and remaining unlawfully over property with specified intent
States that a person is not guilty of what would otherwise be a privacy violation if the person is using a drone for some legitimate commercial or educational purpose under FAA law. It further amends the offense of voyeurism (a class B misdemeanor) to include the use of any technology, including drones, to secretly capture video of an individual under certain circumstances
SB 155 mandates that law enforcement report annually on drone use by the department, regulates said use, and forbids weaponizing drones.
In 2013, HB 2012 forbade drone use by any state agency “having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations,” as well as units of local law enforcement, until July 1, 2015.
HB 2125 mandates that law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant before using a drone for any purpose, with a few exceptions. Meanwhile, HB 412 forbids local government regulation of drones.
SB 873 specifies that the fire chief or other ranking officer at a fire department has the authority to maintain order at an emergency site, which includes the immediate airspace where drones might fly.
Finally, HB 2350 classifies using a drone to trespass on another’s property to peep or spy on them as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The Washington State Legislature allows drone use in any state park area with written permission, wherein the director or designee can set restrictions. The operator must have said permission on them when using the drone.
HB 2515 forbids hunting, taking, or killing wild animals with drones. HB 4607 mandates that operators have permission from the State Park Superintendent to fly drones in any of West Virginia’s state parks.
SB 338 bans drone use to interfere with hunting, trapping, or fishing, while AB 670 forbids drone use over correctional facilities.
SF 170 requires the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission to craft rules and regulations for where drones can take off and land. The commission can also develop reasonable rules for drone use through coordination with the drone industry and local governments. Importantly, the law clarifies that the commission cannot regulate drone use in navigable airspace, and makes it illegal to land a drone on another’s property; however, operators can fly drones over their own property.
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the grill master or pit mistress:
~ a pack of spice rubs from the kitchen of a Vietnam vetrepreneur ~
“One of the beauties of being a human being is that you have the ability to adapt.”
Gene (Cappy) Holmon is a force at a farmer’s market. I’d know. All it took him was five minutes talking to my wife about his local Los Angeles line of dry rub spices and she came straight home and put me in a headlock until I promised to include Cappy’s Dry Rub in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide.
And she doesn’t really like meat. But she’s sure got a thing for Cappy.
I caught up with Holmon this week and got the 411 on how an Army veteran who was disabled during the Tet Offensive in 1968 first transitioned to a busy career as a FedEx Distribution Hub Director before pivoting to become the Meat Spice King of Los Angeles. Brace yourself. It involves losing an arm.
Holmon had been in Vietnam about 6 months when he was injured in combat, suffering damage from both AK-47 rounds and what he assumes was an RPG. Medics amputated his right arm above the elbow in a field hospital before sending him to Japan for recovery.
“…I was pretty depressed…I think it was probably three days before I actually looked to see if my arm was still there…I was in an amputee ward and I saw a lot of guys, you know, like me but with both legs gone…or both legs and an arm or something like that and at that point I said, well, hey, I’m not that bad off…At that point I just decided to get better.”
Holman returned home to San Francisco and studied business management at USF on the G.I. Bill. Then he returned to his previous employer, UPS. He quickly rose through the ranks to Division Manager of UPS Hub Operations for all of Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Nevada. That’s when FedEx poached him to help implement their new Super Hub Distribution Center in Memphis.
And as he tracked across the American South for business, he sampled the many flavors of sauce, spice and smoke upon which Southern culinary tradition pins its most heartfelt pride.
By the time he retired, Holmon was experimenting with his own blends of dry rub spices, perfecting his grill skills, and winning praise for his cooking at family events. When California Cottage Law went into effect in 2013, Holmon’s wife Paulette urged him to offer his blends to the public and Cappy’s was born. But because Cottage Law permitting initially limits sales to direct-to-consumer, Holman found that he’d have to adapt from being the distribution genius behind the scenes to being a grassroots-level, Face-of-the-Brand at farmer’s markets and local boutique grocery stores.
It can’t have been too hard. Insider knowledge: Cappy is a peach. As soon as you meet him, you’re sipping the paprika-flavored Kool-Aid.
Cappy’s has since expanded to online sales, which is where we wholeheartedly recommend that you go to order yourself one or several of his blends in time for Holiday cooking. Cappy’s Dry Rubs are great on meats, obviously, but check out how well they crossover to fruits and vegetables. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
The Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet, and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.
“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.
As a result, Corps developers explain that the aircraft has, to a large extent, had trouble keeping pace with needed modernization and readiness enhancements. This challenge has been greatly exacerbated by a major increase in Combatant Commander requests for Ospreys, particularly since 2007, Corps officials say.
“The quality of maintenance training curricula, maturation, and standardization has not kept pace with readiness requirements. Current maintenance manning levels are unable to support demands for labor The current V-22 sustainment system cannot realize improved and sustained aircraft readiness / availability without significant change,” the Corps writes in its recently published 2018 Marine Aviation Plan. “Depot-level maintenance cannot keep up with demand.”
Given this scenario, the Corps is implementing key provisions of its Common Configuration, Readiness and Modernization Plan which, according to Burns, is “designed to achieve a common configuration and improve readiness to a minimum of 75-percent mission capable rate across the fleet.”
Corps officials said the idea with Osprey modernization and sustainment is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. This includes arming the Osprey with rockets, missiles or some kind of new weapons capability to support its escort mission in hostile or high-threat environments.
Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.
The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.
As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability. This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.
In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.
(Photo by Carlos Menendez San Juan)
“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.
Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Alvin Pujols)
Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors, and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems and targeting technologies.
Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.
While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.
Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.
The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.
At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems, and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.
In a concurrent and related development, the Navy is working on its own CVM-22B Osprey variant to emerge in coming years. The project has gained considerable traction ever since the service decided to replace the C-2 for the important Carrier Onboard Delivery mission with the Osprey.
(Photo by D. Miller)
The Navy Osprey is designed to enable 1,150 miles of flight to the ship with extended fuel tanks. Alongside a needed range increase, the new aircraft will also include a new radio for over-the-horizon communications and a built-in public address system, service officials said.
The new Osprey, slated to first be operational by the early 2020s, will perform the full range of missions currently executed by the C-2s. This includes VIP transport, humanitarian relief mission and regular efforts to deliver food, spare parts and equipment for sailors aboard carriers.
The Navy Osprey variant will take on a wider set of missions than those performed by a C-2. Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.
Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.
Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.
Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today’s growing technology industry.
MSSA is an 18-week program that provides transitioning service members and veterans with intensive training for high-paying careers in tech fields like database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, server and cloud administration, and cybersecurity administration. Essentially, it draws on military service members’ skill sets to quickly assess, analyze, and fix a situation with the resources at hand while remaining calm and focused, this time in the virtual world. It’s a role for which they’ve already proven themselves well-suited.
“I feel like I have so many new opportunities at my fingertips and I have the ability contribute the Microsoft mission now,” says Brown.
Enrolled service members take the course as their duty assignment, either on base or at a local community campus, spending the 18 weeks receiving both classroom and hands-on training in tech products and skills. They also prep for interviews and work with Microsoft mentors to ready them for a career in the technology industry. The program boasts a graduation rate of over 90% and upon completion, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its more than 280 hiring partners.
A new community for vets in tech
For Brown, MSSA translated to a total of 14 interviews with Microsoft. From those interviews, she received seven job offers, ultimately choosing to parlay her experience in USMC as an intelligence analyst into a security analyst in Microsoft’s own Cyber Defense Operations Center.
Just as important, though, she’s found a new sense of camaraderie with her co-workers in the tech industry, something she feared her exit from the Marines would force her to give up. She credits MSSA and Microsoft with building that community and introducing her to it.
“It has been easier to adjust to corporate world than I would have expected and I know it’s because of Microsoft being so amazing and because there are so many former military personnel where I work,” says Brown.
Job satisfaction, new purpose and a strong civilian community – it’s a vision of your future that’s worth the fight.
But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.
The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.
The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.
The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.
The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.
The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.
Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.
Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.
The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.
By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”
The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.
Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.
The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.
The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.
“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”
The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.
“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”
“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”
This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.
Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.
In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.
A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.
Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.
“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.
Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.
Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.
“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”
The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.
Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.
The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”
Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.
“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”
Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.
“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”
It said two U.S. F-22 and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets flew to the location and escorted the Russian bombers out of the zone. The U.S. jets flew out of a base in the U.S. state of Alaska, the military said.
The reports did not specify the exact location of the encounter. The military monitors air traffic in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends 320 kilometers off Alaska.
Russian state-run TASS news agency on Jan. 27, 2019, cited U.S. officials as saying the Russian jets did not enter “sovereign territory.”
It quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two strategic bombers “completed a scheduled flight over neutral waters of the Arctic Ocean [and] practiced refueling” during a 15-hour flight.
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter jet.
There were no reports of conflict between the Russian and the U.S. and Canadian warplanes.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement.
“Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace.”
NORAD, a combined U.S.-Canadian command, uses radar, satellites, and aircraft to monitor aircraft entering U.S. or Canadian airspace.
U.S. officials have reported several incidents of U.S. and Canadian jets scrambling to intercept Russian warplanes and escorting them from the region.
In September 2018, the Pentagon issued a protest after U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace west of Alaska.
In that incident, the jets followed the Russian craft until they left the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.
In April 2017, Russian warplanes flew near Alaska and Canada several times, prompting air defense forces to scramble jets after a two-year lull in such activity.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident, saying the bombers were performing “scheduled flights over neutral waters” when they were escorted by the U.S. F-22 warplanes.
Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes in various parts of the world have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.
Moscow said it scrambled a jet in June 2017 to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea.
Iranians are making fun of an Iranian official for posting a picture of an astronaut suit adorned with an Iranian flag that seems to be a photoshopped version of a children’s Halloween space costume.
Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi issued the image on February 4 with the hashtag #bright_future. Without any explanation at the time, it was unclear if he was trying to fool people into believing it was an actual Iranian-issue space suit or just a joke.
Azari Jahromi’s vague tweet was quickly met with derision, criticism, and humorous memes by Iranians on social media amid allegations the minister was, in fact, trying to trick his countrymen into believing the image was an actual suit for the government’s ambitious but not-ready-for-prime-time space program.
He later clarified that the image was “the picture of a dream, the dream of walking on the moon.” He added that he found the many jokes posted online to be “interesting.”
Speaking at a Tehran event titled Space Technologists’ Gathering, Azari Jahromi said his tweet “was the introduction to good news.”
“The suit wasn’t really important because we haven’t made an Iranian space suit, yet work is being done to create a special outfit for Iranian space scientists,” he backpedaled.
That didn’t stop the torrent of jokes.
“He bought a Halloween space costume [for] , removed [the] NASA logo while sewing an Iranian flag on it. He’s promoting it as a national achievement,” a user said in reaction to the image.
Some posted memes to mock the minister, including a video of an astronaut dancing to Iranian music with the hashtag #The_Dance_of_Iranians_In_space #Bright_future.
Another user posted a photoshopped photo of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin wearing the suit Azari Jahromi had posted on Twitter.
Azari Jahromi — an avid Twitter user who’s been blacklisted by Washington for his role in censoring the Internet in Iran, where citizens are blocked from using Twitter and other social-media sites — has been promoting Iran’s space program in recent days while announcing that Tehran will launch a satellite, Zafar (“Victory” in Persian), into orbit by the end of the week.
Azari Jahromi said on February 4 that his country had taken the first step in the quest to send astronauts into space. “The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has ordered manufacturing five space capsules for carrying humans to space to the Aerospace Research Center of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology,” he was quoted as saying on February 4 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.
Iran had two failed satellite launches in January and February of last year and a third attempt later in the year resulted in the explosion of a rocket on the launch pad.
But Azari Jahromi said on Twitter on February 3 that Tehran was not afraid of failure and that “we will not lose hope” of having a successful space program.
Do Monkeys Get Space Suits?
Iran does have a recent history of sending creatures into orbit, much to the consternation of animal-rights activists around the world.
In 2010, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket was launched by Iran with a rodent, two turtles, and several worms into suborbital space and they reportedly returned to Earth alive.
A Kavoshgar-5 carrying a monkey was launched into suborbital space in 2011 but it was said to have failed, though there was no information about the unidentified monkey on board.
Iran sent another monkey up on a Pishgam capsule two years later that it said was successful. However, no timing or location of the launch was ever announced, leaving many to doubt it had taken place. A second monkey, named Fargam, was said to have made a similar trip into suborbital space nearly a year later.
Iran’s planned satellite launch this week comes amid heightened tensions with the United States, which has accused the Islamic republic of using its space program as a cover for missile development.
Iranian officials maintain their space activities do not violate United Nations resolutions and that there is no international law prohibiting such a program.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
In early January, the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack. Tehran retaliated a few days later by launching a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
As Hurricane Hermine passed through Florida last week and moved northward, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was faced with the problem of protecting its F-22 Raptors.
Costing about $140 million a pop, not including development costs, the stealth aircraft became vulnerable to the elements as Virginia declared a state of emergency.
That’s when the Air Force reached out to NASA’s Langley Research Center nearby.
With 85,200 square feet of space in their hangar, NASA’s Category 2 hurricane-rated facility seemed like the ideal location to hold 13 F-22s. After it was all said and done, 22 aircraft, including a massive C-130, was squeezed into the hangar.
The Air Force even showed their gratitude with the following tweet:
Leno picked Laberge at random out of a number of wounded soldiers to show his appreciation for those who serve. The former late night host may not be able to do something for everyone in uniform, he said, but he wanted to introduce the world to just one of them.
“Hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all soldiers,” Leno said.
In the video, Leno takes Laberge and some of his fellow soldiers out and shares some common ground around cars. Then, he takes him for a ride in the insanely fast Hellcat. As you would imagine, it was a pretty fun ride.
But the drive doesn’t end there. Over lunch, Leno talks with Laberge about what led him to join the Army, and how his recovery is going. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like,” Leno said.
And then, the best part. Getting out of the vehicle, Laberge comments that he wouldn’t mind having the Hellcat, to which Leno responds: “It’s yours. It’s yours.”
“Really?” the shocked soldier asks. “Oh man. That is awesome. Thank you.”
“America loves you,” Leno tells him. “Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”