China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

China’s defense minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow on April 3, 2018, to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia,” according to the Associated Press.

“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” China’s new defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, said, according to CNN.


“The Chinese side has come [to Moscow] to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia … we’ve come to support you.”

The two defense ministers met for the seventh Moscow International Security Conference, according to Russian state owned media outlet TASS.

“To my memory, this is the 1st time in many years that a senior Chinese military leader says [something] like that publicly,” Alexander Gubev, a Senior Fellow and Chair of Russia in Asia-Pacific Program at Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted on April 4, 2018.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
China’s defense minister, Wei Fenghe.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met in Moscow on April 5, 2018, where they expressed the same sentiment of a forged “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US, the Associated Press reported.

In the last year, Russia and China have held joint naval drills in the South China Sea and the Baltics, as well as joint missile defense drills, according to the AP.

China and Russia have long supported each other’s positions on North Korea and Syria at the United Nations, and Beijing increased its support for Moscow after the West imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, CNN reported.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the Air Force plans to ‘sail’ its airmen through space

Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”


This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.

Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.

Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.

Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.

In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.

That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.

Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.

While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.

Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.

“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. Originally developed and implemented as a military navigation system, today we share it with the rest of the world while still relying on it for a variety of tasks from guiding precision weapons to delivering humanitarian supplies on the other side of the planet. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.

It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Col. Buzz Aldrin was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and the second person to walk on it. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.

“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
The Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) is an American military airdrop system which uses the GPS, steerable parachutes, and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact (PI) on a drop zone (DZ). (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.

“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”

Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.

“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”

Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.

“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Description Here (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.

“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.

“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”

In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.

“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.

“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”

According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”

Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.

Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.

“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit, walked on the Moon and are currently aboard the International Space Station. The future holds promises of laser-based sails and self-sustained space outposts. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.

“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”

“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The official watch of the French Air Force is available to the general public

In a time before pocket-sized supercomputers and super sturdy G-Shock watches, the precise timekeeping required for military operations was accomplished with complex yet robust timepieces powered by a compressed spring and a series of gears, wheels, and levers. Today, while the advent of wearable computers has made this technology obsolete, watch enthusiasts and military buffs alike can celebrate the fact that the official watch of the French Air Force has been made available for purchase by the general public for the first time.

Founded in 1948 by Henry Louis Belmont, Yema went on to become one of the premiere French watchmakers of the 20th century. Those that aren’t familiar with the history of watchmaking may be surprised to learn that English and French watchmakers were the premiere artisans of the industry before the Swiss. In fact, the Swiss rose to the horological prominence that they hold today because farmers would manufacture copied parts of English and French timepieces during the cold Swiss winters. Even Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, a massive anglophile himself, started his watchmaking career in London before high taxes, the outbreak of WWI, and anti-German sentiment in Britain forced him to relocate to Switzerland.


China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A vintage advert for the Superman (Yema)

Despite the transition of watchmaking prominence to the Swiss during the 20th century, Yema found great success through their partnerships. Their racing chronograph, the aptly named Rallygraph, was worn by Formula 1 icon Mario Andretti. The year 1982 saw a Yema become the first French watch worn in space when French Spaceman Jean-Loup Chrétien wore a Yema Spationaute 1 on a 10-day space trip. However, Yema’s most famous collaboration was with the French Air Force.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A French fighter pilot carries his flight helmet while wearing the Yema Superman FAF Black edition (Yema)

In 1963, Yema introduced the Superman dive watch. Developed for diving professionals, the watch possessed a water-resistance rating of 300m. In comparison, the 1963 Rolex Submariner 5513 was rated for 200m. The Superman was also equipped with a patented bezel-locking mechanism that prevented the timing bezel from being adjusted accidentally once it was set for a dive. These features, coupled with the watch’s toughness, durability, and French origin, made the Superman the natural choice for the French Air Force to equip both its pilots and rescue divers.

Although Yema survived the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s, an industry culling that killed off numerous traditional watchmakers, they were purchased by the Seiko Corporation in 1988. The company was sold back into French hands in 2004 and embarked on a mission to revive the tradition of French watchmaking. Although Yema does utilize off-the-shelf movements from Switzerland, the company spent four years developing a completely in-house caliber. The MPB1000 is the first proprietary automatic movement to be engineered and built by Yema, and the obvious choice to power their top-of-the-line models.

With the release of their very own French-made movement, Yema continued to rebuild their reputation using their strong heritage. In 2020, Yema again became the official timekeeping partner of the French Air Force and released the Superman French Air Force edition watch. Based on the standard Superman design, the FAF edition was designed in collaboration with French airmen including pilots and ground personnel. The watches are available in a variety of configurations to fit the preferences of any buyer. Case diameter can be had in 39mm or 41mm, finish can be had in either brushed stainless steel or with a black PVD coating, and the movement can be either a quartz-powered Swiss Ronda 515 or Yema’s automatic MPB1000 mentioned earlier. While all models bear the French Air Force red, white, and blue roundel on the case at 6 o’clock and on the crown as well as the French Air Force logo on the caseback, the automatic MPB1000-equipped models are limited to 1,948 pieces each for the steel and black models and are engraved with their series number.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

(Left to right) Yema’s President Frank Minost, General Manger Christopher Bôle, French Air Force Chief of Staff General Lavigne, and Yema’s Brand Manager William Germain (Yema)

As a result of COVID-19, the initial release of the Superman FAF edition was delayed. However, Yema persisted and on June 26, Yema delivered the Superman FAF Black Limited Edition #0001/1948 to the French Air Force Chief of Staff, General Phillipe Lavigne. Priority delivery continued to French Air Force personnel until, eventually, orders by the general public were shipped. Additionally, Yema is donating up to 12.5% of FAF edition sales to the official French Veterans Foundation, FOSA. Today, limited edition models are still available and ready to ship internationally from Yema’s workshop in Morteau.

Before you go writing off the French Air Force, keep in mind that they are one of, if not the oldest military air service. They can trace their roots back to the French Army Air Service which predates even the Royal Flying Corps, the predecessor to the RAF. Today, the French Air Force has seen extensive combat action in the War on Terror flying combat missions in Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. French pilots of the 21st century carry on their branch’s long legacy of warfighting and their watches are ready to accompany them into the skies.


MIGHTY TRENDING

VA may now approve civilian urgent care facilities for veterans

Got a sore throat or a sprained ankle and don’t want to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital? Got sick at 8:00 on a Friday night and don’t want to wait until Monday to see a VA doctor? A new VA program may be for you.

As of June 6, 2019, the VA offers medical care to eligible veterans at selected civilian urgent care facilities nationwide.


China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

Dr. Jake Williams, Veterans Affairs dentist, poses for a photo January 9, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

This is an expansion of the VA’s Mission Act, which itself was an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act. The Choice Act was passed in 2014 as the result of highly publicized problems with veterans not being able to get appointments at VA hospitals in a timely manner.

Under this new expanded program, veterans are eligible to get limited urgent care from civilian doctors regardless of how close they are to a VA facility.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

The Wichita Veterans Administration Hospital, also called the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, located at 5500 East Kellogg Avenue in Wichita, Kansas.

Eligibility

If you are enrolled in the VA health care system and have received VA medical care within the last 24 months, you should be eligible for this program. However, you should contact your local VA medical facility before visiting a civilian urgent care provider. Only certain services and providers are covered under this new benefit. If you visit a provider that isn’t part of the program, or you get medical treatment that isn’t covered under this program, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.

You don’t have to go to a civilian doctor if you don’t want to. The VA says that most of its locations, including hospitals and community-based outpatient clinics, offer same-day services for most situations.

You should contact your local medical office to check your eligibility. Or you can call (866) 606-8198. You can also find civilian community-care locations near you at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX

Payments

One way this program differs from regular VA medical care is that you may have to make a co-payment to see the civilian doctor. The amount depends on your VA Priority Group and how many times you visit civilian doctors each year. Typically, you get three free visits each year.

Co-Payments for Office Visits

  • Priority Groups 1-5. There is no co-payment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is .
  • Priority Group 6. If the visit is for medical treatment related to combat and chemical exposures such as Agent Orange; contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC; Gulf War Syndrome, etc., as well as some mental illnesses, there is no co-pay for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is . If the visit is not related to these conditions, the co-payment is per visit, for all visits.
  • Priority Groups 7-8. The co-payment is per visit.

There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.

Co-Payments for Prescriptions

If you get a prescription from an urgent care center, you should fill it at a VA network pharmacy. If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you will have to pay the full price at the drug store and then file a claim with the VA to get your money back.

If you are given a prescription for what the VA considers routine or maintenance drugs (such as blood pressure or cholesterol drugs), you will have to get those filled by the VA.

Some veterans may be required to make a co-payment for medication. Prices are based on your Priority Group, as well as the type of drugs prescribed. For details, see https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/copays.asp.

When the benefit starts, you will be able to contact the VA Health Resource Center for questions related to urgent care co-payments at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Stay on Top of Your Military Benefits

Not sure what your veteran health care benefits are? Keep up with all the changes and details. Sign up for a free Military.com membership and get all the latest updates straight to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Civil War movies

It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.

From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.

These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.


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1. Gone with the Wind

Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.

To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.

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2. Glory

Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.

The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.

Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.

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3. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals to dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.

By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.

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4. Gettysburg

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.

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5. The Civil War

When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.

Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinx and OJ: Made in America.

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6. Cold Mountain

Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.

While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.

The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.

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7. Ride with the Devil

Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.

Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.

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8. The Horse Soldiers

This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.

With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.

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9. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.

As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The Air Force needs new spy pilots, especially for the Cold War-era U-2 Dragon Lady that has flown since 1955, but piloting the U-2 is different from nearly any other aircraft in the world right now. Pilots are strapped into the plane by a dedicated crew and then fly at the edge of space, capturing photographs and signals intelligence.

Here are 13 photos that show what that’s like:


China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Reynato Acncheta, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, and Senior Airman Willy Campos help Maj. Sean Gallagher don his helmet before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

First, it really is a team effort to get pilots suited up. Flying at the edge of space exposes pilots to all sorts of hazards, from extreme cold to solar radiation. The extensive gear required would be nearly impossible for the pilot to put entirely on themselves, so enlisted airmen help them get in gear.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, helps Maj. Sean Gallagher don his flight suit before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilot’s entire body is covered by the suit, and it helps regulate their blood pressure, even at high altitudes. The pilots also have to breathe in pure oxygen for a while before the flight to get the nitrogen out of their blood. Otherwise, they would develop decompression sickness, similar to when divers get the bends.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, gets in a vehicle to take him to his aircraft before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilots leave the prep room and ride to the plane in trucks converted for the purpose. The airmen bring the pilot’s gear along, including the hoses and pumps that feed air to the pilot. The pilot will also receive liquid food, water, Gatorade, and caffeine through hoses as missions can be very long.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, greets his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The U-2 is an ungainly beast on the ground, necessitating a ground crew. But once pilot and plane are together, the possibilities are great.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, ensures that Maj. Sean Gallagher’s flight suit is properly connected before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The crew straps the pilot into the bird and plugs them into the systems in preparation for taxiing and takeoff.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Colin Cortez, a U-2 Dragon Lady crewchief assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, signals a U-2 aircraft as it taxis to a parking spot after flying a mission while deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy Kin)

The jet taxis on permanent gear that sits under the fuselage as well as two sets of wheels that are placed under the plane’s wings.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies over the Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

Once they’re in the air, though, they’re graceful and sleek with large wings supporting a thin fuselage. They can zip through the air at low altitudes, but they specialize at high-level flight, taking photos and collecting signal intelligence from up to 70,000 feet in the air or higher.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

When flying at high altitudes, the plane’s lightweight construction and powerful engines allow it to continue even when the air gets thin and oxygen is scarce. This was vital in the 1950s when satellites didn’t yet exist. The Air Force thought they could retire the plane in 1969, but the date has been continuously pushed off or canceled. Most recently, the Air Force decided to cancel a 2019 retirement.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

Ice forms around the canopy glass of a U-2 Dragon Lady flying over California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

This allows the U-2 to fly above the range of many air defenses and even the engagement altitudes of many jets. During the Cold War, some U-2s were caught in Soviet airspace and escaped simply because MiGs and Sukhois of the time couldn’t reach them. This isn’t quite immunity, though. As the war dragged on, the Soviets developed weapons that were quite capable of reaching near space, and China and Russia can both reach U-2s in flight.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U-2 Dragon Lady pilot lands on the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

When U-2s land, the pilots have a very limited visibility, so the Air Force assigns chase cars to follow the planes and radio guidance to the pilot. Sometimes the pilots can make do with very little guidance, but the chase cars are needed in case anything goes wrong. This is especially true after long missions where the pilots may be exhausted form 12 hours or more in the air.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A U.S. Air Force maintainer from the 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron runs to the wing of a U-2 Dragon Lady from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron to install a pogo support at an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Once its back on the ground, the U-2 is again limited by its paltry two sets of wheels which are lined up like a bicycle’s. So maintainers are sent out with “pogos,” the small sets of wheels that prop up the wings and keep the plane stable on the ground.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

A U-2, flying from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, approaches the maintenance hangar after the final sortie for one of its mission systems, December 15, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

If the plane is landing at a new base or has flown through possible contamination, the pilot may have to take it through a wash down. This is also traditionally done when an airframe or a mission module has flown its final mission.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

U.S. Air Force Major Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, explains the U-2 Dragon Lady’s mission after landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Pilots then climb down from the high-flying bird, exhausted. But their missions ensure American safety and security by collecting intelligence that might otherwise be impossible to garner. Its sensors have collected data of enemy air defenses, troop deployments, and technology.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will debut a new recruiting slogan at the Army-Navy Game

After years of trial and error and millions spent on focus groups, the Navy thinks it has a slogan that will resonate with the American public.


At the Dec. 9 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, the service will roll out its new tagline, “Forged by the Sea.”

The tagline has been under development since 2016 by the marketing agency Young Rubicam, which surveyed the Navy’s youngest sailors, as well as veterans and “key influencers” to come up with a message that would capture the essence of the service.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
The Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen play in the 2011 Army-Navy game. (US Navy photo)

The 17-to-21-year-old focus group, known as Generation Z or Centennials, was a top priority for the Navy in developing its new tagline.

“The Navy is now recruiting young men and women of the Centennial Generation, who have different goals, expectations and information-gathering habits than their Millennial predecessors,” said Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, commander of Navy recruiting command, in a statement.

“As such, the Navy recognized the necessity to develop a new marketing campaign and media strategy that more effectively reach, educate and inspire the best-and-brightest prospective recruits,” he said.

Also Read: Navy’s new ‘Blue Angel’ unis for the 2017 Army-Navy game are glorious

The slogan’s elaborate rollout Saturday will include a one-minute ad spot on CBS during the game that takes viewers on a fast-paced tour of the Navy’s operational capabilities, from a nuclear submarine to a fighter launch from an aircraft carrier and into space, with a shot of an M4-QC Triton surveillance drone.

“From the depths to the stars,” text at the end of the ad flashes. “Forged by the sea.”

The Navy is also launching a number of social media initiatives near game time, including augmented reality filters on the Navy Recruiting Command Facebook page to allow users to play around with the new tagline, and a Facebook Live show hosted by two officers who attended the Naval Academy, according to a news release.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
(Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Koch)

Following the game, according to the release, a camera team will hit the street to interview sailors about the new tagline and then share their reactions on social media.

For the Navy, which abandoned its previous slogan, “A Global Force For Good,” in late 2014 because it was so unpopular, there’s a lot riding on the new tagline.

In May 2015, the service inked a $457.5 million contract with Young Rubicam for Navy recruiting advertising and marketing slogans, to include the new tagline.

According to the release, work on the new campaign began in spring 2016 and involved an aggressive effort to research the emerging Centennial generation. This research initiative involved trips to visit current and former sailors and study of the career goals and mindsets of Centennials, including what they thought of the Navy.

“What we found was that there was nearly 100 percent awareness of the Navy, but zero percent understanding of the Navy’s full mission, reach and influence,” Ken Dowling, head of the Navy Partnership and managing director at Young and Rubicam Memphis, said in a statement.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Emily Johnston)

“Centennials saw the Navy’s purpose as one dimensional and strongly tied to defense and combat,” he said. “The things that set the Navy apart from other branches of the military weren’t well-defined, and there was limited awareness of the wide range of career opportunities the Navy offers.”

The “forged” tagline handily beat out five other slogan options in focus groups, officials said, although the Navy did not publicly release the other slogan candidates. In a statement, Garvin acknowledged the Navy’s struggle to encapsulate its mission and meaning in a pithy phrase.

“Over the years, we have changed our tagline several times to capture everything our great Navy represents in just a few simple words,” he said. “After much research and creative development, we emerged with a deep understanding of our organization’s purpose and potential — all of which tie back to the sea. For more than 200 years, our sailors have been tested and shaped by the sea. Our new tagline perfectly captures the transformative impact the Navy and the sea has on our sailors.”

The previous motto, “A Global Force For Good,” hung around for five years after its 2009 debut, even though it never became popular in the rank and file. Ahead of the 2014 Army-Navy game, Cmdr. Chris Servello, then-spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, told Navy Times the slogan simply didn’t capture all that the Navy stood for, though he nonetheless called the campaign built around the tagline successful.

There was some discussion in 2013 about promoting “Semper Fortis” — always strong or always courageous — as the Navy’s tagline, echoing the Marine Corps‘ “Semper Fidelis” motto and the Coast Guard‘s “Semper Paratus.” However, this effort never gained steam.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
A play from scrimmage during the 2002 Army-Navy game. Navy won, 58-12, after an incident where Army cadets stole the Navy’s mascot. (US Navy photo)

The renewed effort to resonate with the youngest recruitable sailors comes as the Navy, like the other services, faces new recruiting challenges. With a stronger economy, fewer young people are seeking out military service, and some service branches are struggling to meet recruiting goals.

In a Monday address at a U.S. Naval Institute event, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said the Marine Corps and the Navy are doing alright in recruiting, but acknowledged that the services might be challenged if the recruiting goal were increased.

“If we had a surge right now, there might be some problems,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy says it has top-secret information about UFOs

The Navy has said it has top-secret information about unidentified flying objects that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.

A Navy representative responded to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by a researcher named Christian Lambright by saying the Navy had “discovered certain briefing slides that are classified TOP SECRET,” Vice reported last week.

But the representative from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence said “the Original Classification Authority has determined that the release of these materials would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”


The person also said the Navy had at least one related video classified as “SECRET.”

Vice said it independently verified the response to Lambright’s request with the Navy.

Lambright’s request for information was related to a series of videos showing Navy pilots baffled by mysterious, fast objects in the sky.

The Navy previously confirmed it was treating these objects as UFOs.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

An image from a 2004 video filmed near San Diego showing a UFO.

(CNN/Department of Defense)

The term UFO, along with others like “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “unidentified flying object,” does not necessarily mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial. Many such sightings ultimately end up having logical and earthly explanations — often involving military technology.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had also previously told The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents, that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

The Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said this week that an investigation into “sightings is ongoing.”

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Black Vault last year: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the Department of Defense videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can watch the 2004 video here, as shared by To the Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, with one commander who saw the object on a training mission telling The Times “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Another pilot told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

Pilots told The Times that the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology. Many of the pilots who spoke with The Times were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” and they reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress.

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Scientists also told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

Gough, the Pentagon spokeswoman, would not comment to Vice on whether the 2004 source video that the Navy possessed had any more information than the one that has been circulating online, but she said that it was the same length and that the Pentagon did not plan on releasing it.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

An image from the 2015 video.

(NYT)

John Greenewald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice in September that he was surprised the Navy had classified the objects as unidentified.

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” he said.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

US President Donald Trump said in June that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

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

Articles

How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Two Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters headlined China’s Airshow China in Zhuhai on Tuesday, flying for just a few minutes, Reuters reports.


But Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, said the display left many questions unanswered.

Also read: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

On paper, the J-20 represents a “big leap forward in terms of the capabilities of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have on scene,” Bronk said.

Compared with the US’s fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35, the J-20 has “longer range, more internal fuel capacity, and larger internal weapons capability,” Bronk said.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

This combination of factors presents a real risk to US forces in the Pacific. Long-range, capable strike fighters like the J-20 put the US AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, as well as “refueling tankers, and forward bases at risk much more than current types if flying in relatively large numbers” should any kind of kinetic conflict flare up in the Pacific, Bronk said.

David Goldfein, the chief of staff for the US Air Force, told Breaking Defense he was not overly troubled by the new Chinese jet.

“When I hear about F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein said in August.

Indeed, nothing indicates that the Chinese have built in the type of hyper connectivity and sensor fusions that make the US’s fifth-generation fighters so groundbreaking. Of the F-35 in particular, Bronk said: “Pilots are not spending a huge amount of time managing inputs — the machine does it for him. It produces one unified picture, which he can then interrogate as required.”

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
F-35 pilots have unprecedented 360-degree visibility, can even see through the airframe with cameras, and can fire missiles at targets they aren’t even facing. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

This gives F-35 pilots a situational awareness the Chinese most likely leverage in combat.

But what exactly goes on under the hood of the J-20 remains a mystery. What is known is that the Chinese have managed to steal a considerable amount of info from US defense aviation projects.

“We don’t know how much F-35 technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk said, adding that while it was “impossible to say for sure” what the J-20 is capable of, common sense dictates that the “the sensor fusion and network integration is significantly behind what the US has managed with the F-35 and F-22.

“This is purely based on the fact that sensor fusion has taken the most effort, time, and money,” he continued.

But one-on-one combat scenarios or feature-for-feature comparisons don’t capture the real threat of the J-20.

Long-range stealth fighters, if fielded in large numbers along with older Chinese aircraft, surface-to-air missile batteries, radar outposts, missiles, and electronic-warfare units, present another wrinkle in an already complicated and fraught operating envelope for US and allied forces in the Pacific.

But is it real?

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Not really a J-20, but a rendering of it. | Alexandr Chechin photo via Wiki Commons

Whether the Chinese will actually be able to field this plane by 2018, as Beijing has projected, remains the real question.

Bronk pointed out that it took a decade between US developers building a flying model of the F-22 and getting real, capable F-22s in the air. Even if the Chinese have accelerated the process through espionage, Bronk says, “We know how much money and time it takes to make a lethal and effective fighter like the F-22,” and it’s “very unlikely that China is that far along.”

Additionally, the J-20s in Zhuhai flew for only about one minute. They didn’t do low passes. They didn’t open up the weapons bay. They didn’t do much except fly around a single time.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We learned very little,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of FlightGlobal, told Reuters. “We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility.”

Bronk speculates that the models on display at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Bronk points out that the aircraft most likely flew with underpowered engines and not the engines that would fly on the final version. “Engine performance is a key function of any aircraft,” he said, adding, “China and Russia continue to lag behind because of the really top-end manufacturing processes you need” to create and tune high-quality aircraft engines.

So while China’s new “impressive low-observable heavy strike” fighters could change the balance of power in the Pacific, whether they can field the planes in significantly large numbers at any time in the near future remains an open question.

Watch footage of the J-20’s flight below:

Military Life

This is why enlisted Marines should wear rank on their sleeves

When it comes to changing anything with tradition, Marines are quick to give their opinion. Marines like to think of themselves as some of the biggest military history buffs, and boot camp is where this thought processes begins. So when the Corps talked about changing how their rank will be displayed on combat utilities – from metal chevrons to cloth – Marines took to social media to express their displeasure.


What Marines today may not know is the material and placement of the rank was changed only after the Korean War. For the longest time, rank was placed on the sleeve of the utility uniform. This was to keep in line with the other dress uniforms. Some were cloth, others were stenciled on the sleeves.

WWII-era Marines started hand-marking chevrons on their HBT utilities sleeves with ink, but often in the Pacific they did not bother with rank insignia at all – a way to keep the enemy from knowing who was an officer and who was enlisted.

By the start of the Korean War, utilities chevrons were commonly marked on the utilities with stencil kits.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
A WWII-era Marine uniform with stenciled rank on sleeves.

The placement and material of the rank is relatively new, considering the age of the Corps. The change to putting rank on the collar came after the Korean War. Screw in posts were the first type used to attach them. Over the years it changed again to the type secured with pins. Interestingly, the crossed rifles came in 1959, after pinning the rank on the collar. Yes – crossed rifles are new as well.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US
Which was almost made for Grunts only in 2011.

If Marines are traditionalists at heart, then we should return to our roots when it comes to rank, right? Imagine: no more collarbones writhing in pain from the metal stabbing into it.

Then comes invading someone’s personal space so you can address them, which is still a problem in today’s Marine Corps. The digital pattern camouflage makes it hard to see a black chevron against a black pattern. Commandant of The Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wants to fix this, which has lead Headquarters Marine Corps to start looking into the matter.

If Marines really want to keep with tradition, then they should accept wearing rank on the sleeves of utilities – keeping with the oldest traditions of the Marine Corps.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force and Navy are getting more high-tech missile decoys

The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $96-million contract to Raytheon to produce more Miniature Air-Launched Decoys, missiles that can be launched from jets or dropped out of the back of C-130s to simulate the signatures of most U.S. and allied aircraft, spoofing enemy air defenses.


China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles sit in a munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, March 21, 2012. The missiles can dress themselves up like nearly any U.S. or allied aircraft and can fly pre-programmed routes.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)

The missiles, which Raytheon calls “MALD® decoy,” can fly 500 nautical miles along pre-programmed routes, simulating missions that strike aircraft would fly. Modern variants of the missile can even receive new flight programming mid-flight, allowing pilots to target and jam “pop-up” air defenses.

To air defense operators on the ground, it looks like a flight of strike aircraft are coming in. So, they fire off their missiles and, ultimately, they kill nothing because their missiles are targeting the Air Force-equivalent of wooden ducks floating in a pond.

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, real strike aircraft flying behind the decoys are able to see exactly where the surface-to-air missiles and radar emissions are coming from, and they can use anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles to destroy those defenses.

The Raytheon missiles are the MALD-J variant, which jams enemy radars and early-warning systems without degrading the illusions that make the decoy system so potent. This leaves air defenders unable see anything except for brief glimpses of enemy aircraft signatures — which might be real planes, but could also easily be MALDs.

The missile is a result of a DARPA program dating back to 1995 that resulted in the ADM-160A. The Air Force took over the program and tested the ADM-160B and, later, the MALD.

The Air Force began fielding the missile in 2009 and they might have been launched during attacks against Syria while emitting the signatures of Tomahawk cruise missiles, but that’s largely conjecture. In fact, it’s not actually clear that the MALD can simulate the Tomahawk missile at all.

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles wait to be loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Ma 14, 2012. The B-52H crew can communicate with the missiles in flight and change the flight patterns to engage newly discovered enemy air defenses.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Meanwhile, the Navy commissioned the MALD-N, a networked version of the missile, for their use.

Whether or not the missiles were employed in Syria, they represent a great tool for defeating advanced enemy air defenses, like the S300 and S400 from Russia or the HQ-9 and HQ-19 systems from China. While the missile systems and their radars are capable, possibly of even detecting stealthy aircraft like the B-1s and B-2s, they can’t afford to fire their missiles and expose their radars for every MALD that flies by.

At the same time, they also can’t afford to ignore radar signatures emitted by MALDs. They have little chance of figuring out which ones are decoys and which ones are real planes before the bombs drop.

Sorry, guys. American forces are such teases.

MIGHTY TRENDING

As unemployment surges, Department of Veterans Affairs goes on hiring spree

Backed by a record $240 billion budget, the Department of Veterans Affairs has gone on a hiring spree to fill long-vacant spots as it battles coronavirus, pulling from the ranks of the retired and those furloughed or laid off by other health care systems.

From March 29 to April 11, VA hired 3,183 new staff, including 981 registered nurses, a 37.7% increase from the prior two-week period, VA said in an April 24 release.

In the next several weeks, the VA plans to add 4,500 more staff members, department secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.


“Many of VA’s new hires come from health care systems that have seen temporary layoffs due to COVID-19,” VA officials said in the release.

As the number of coronavirus cases surged, the VA began a national campaign to hire more registered nurses, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, housekeepers, supply technicians and other medical medical personnel to work in its 170 hospitals and more than 1,200 clinics nationwide.

The hires boosted the VA’s workforce to a record 390,000, or “nearly 55,000 more than we had five years ago,” the VA spokeswoman said.

However, the 390,000 figure for the total VA workforce was only 4,000 above the 386,000 number reported at a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in September 2019.

VA Inspector General Michael Missal testified at the hearing that staffing shortages were “a root cause for many of the problems in veterans care.”

In his statement to the committee last Sept. 18, Missal said his office had reported on staffing shortages at the VA for the previous four years.

He noted that the Veterans Health Administration had made significant progress on hiring but said it continues to face challenges, including the higher pay offered by private health care systems.

As of Monday, the VA had reported a total of 434 coronavirus deaths of patients in the VA health care system, and a total of 7,001 veterans in VA medical care who had tested positive for the virus.

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

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