China says it will fine US ships that don't comply with its new rules in South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
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China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

By 2020, China could be setting the stage for a massive naval confrontation in the South China Sea if it tries to enforce new rules that are currently in draft form.


China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

According to a report by Stars and Stripes, China wants to require all ships to ask permission before entering “Chinese waters” and all submarines to surface, announce their presence, and fly a flag. China has been taking steps to enforce its claims in the South China Sea, including a bomber flight and the construction of air bases on artificial islands.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Reuters has reported that China has begun construction of what appear to be facilities intended to support long-range missiles at Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef. The news breaks after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) carried out what the Navy described as “routine operations” in the maritime flashpoint.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

An international arbitration panel ruled against China’s claims last July, but the Chinese boycotted the process and have ignored the ruling against their claims. Last November, the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out what were, for all intents and purposes, “freedom of navigation” exercises. This past December saw a Chinese vessel carry out the brazen heist of an American unmanned underwater vehicle.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

Quartz Media reports that the Chinese will fine any vessel that fails to comply $70,000. No word on how they intend to collect, but the U.S. has a lengthy tradition of refusing to pay such fines, going back to the XYZ Affair, when a South Carolina Rep. Robert G. Harper, famously coined the phrase, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

It should be noted that deagel.com, an online encyclopedia of military hardware, prices a Standard surface-to-air missile at $750,000 per unit, and a Harpoon anti-ship missile at $720,000 per unit.

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Some of the world’s smartest people are worried about killer robots

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea


Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined with 1,000 of some of the world’s smartest people in warning of the potential rise of killer robots being used on the battlefield.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with [artificial intelligence] weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable,” reads an open letter from more than 1,000 AI and robotics researchers. “And the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

The Guardian reports:

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

Artificial intelligence on the battlefield poses many difficult questions, according to the open letter. Besides the possibility of SkyNet, some of the concerns posed by the letter are:

  • A military arms race akin to nuclear weapons in which nations build smarter and more powerful robots
  • Killer robots falling into the hands of terrorists
  • Dictators using such robots for genocide and other violent campaigns

You can read the full letter here

READ MORE: The Pentagon wants armed citizens to stop standing outside of recruiting centers

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Army museum will feature six National Guardsmen

When the National Museum of the United States Army opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020; six New York Army National Guard soldiers will be a permanent part of it.

The six men who serve at the New York National Guard Headquarters outside Albany and the 24th Civil Support Team at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, are models for six of 63 life-sized soldier figures that will bring exhibits in the museum to life.

Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.


But real soldiers are better, he said.

“Having real soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene,” he said. “They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment.”

Actual soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures, Morando added.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald displays the cast made of his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a 0 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.

The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American soldiers.

The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders — Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald — will populate two exhibits from two different eras.

Vilardo, Gerdt, and Archibald will portray soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald clutches pipes representing rope as a technician prepares to apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The figure modeled by Archibald, an assistant inspector general at New York National Guard headquarters, will be climbing down a cargo net slung over the side of a model ship into a 36-foot long landing craft known as a “Higgins boat.”

The boats took their name from Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana boat-builder who designed the plywood-sided boats, which delivered soldiers directly to the beach.

Vilardo, the commander of A Troop, 101st Cavalry, who also works in the Army National Guard operations section, was the model for a combat photographer. His figure will be in the boat taking pictures of the action.

Gerdt, a survey section leader in the 24th Civil Support Team, modeled a soldier standing in the boat gazing toward the beach.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt holds a pose while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 14, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 — the museum is being built around them.

Kim, Morrison and Freed modeled for figures that will be in an Afghanistan tableau. They will portray soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment on patrol in 2014, each soldier depicting a different responsibility on a typical combat mission.

The figure based on Morrison, the medic for the 24th CST, will be holding an M4 and getting ready to go in first.

Freed, the executive officer of the 24th CST, modeled a platoon leader talking on the radio.

Kim, the chaplain for the 42nd Division, was the model for a soldier operating a remote control for a MARCbot, which is used to inspect suspicious objects.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed holds a pose with a mock M4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as technicians apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The process of turning a soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.

When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.

“They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder,” he recalled. “That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall.”

The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Heads casted from New York Army National Guard soldiers wait to be matched with their bodies at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Vilardo, who posed crammed into a mock landing craft corner with a camera up to his eyes, said the photography portion of this process was the most unnerving part for him.

“I’m not one to like my picture being taken and to have really close photography of your face and hands was a new experience,” he said.

Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model’s nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.

The soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison holds his pose as technicians apply casting material to his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Gerdt was told to stare into space and think about not seeing his family for two years.

“I had to hold my facial expression for about 15 minutes while they did that,” he said.

Because his character was talking on the radio, he had to hold his mouth open and some of the casting compound got inside, Freed said.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed poses with a mock M-4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as photos of his pose are taken at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

“It was a bit nerve wracking, “Freed recalled. ” They pour the silicon liquid over your entire face and you have these two breathing holes. Your hearing is limited. It is a bit jarring.”

The material also warmed up.

“It was like a spa experience,” Kim joked. “They had me sit with one of those barber covers on. I had to be still with my head tilted back.”

The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. “As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there,” he said.

Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo poses as World War II combat cameraman standing in the corner of a landing craft at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Kim was asked to crouch and hold a controller in his hand. When he got up to move his legs were frozen, he said. “It was four hours and a lot of stillness,” Kim said.

Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt.” He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.

Vilardo jammed himself into a plywood cutout so it looked like he was stabilizing himself on a boat. Morrison held an M-4 at the ready as if he were ready to lead a stack of soldiers into a room.

The six New York National Guardsmen and four other soldiers visited the Brooklyn studio during the first two weeks of November 2018.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Major (Chaplain) James Kim poses with the remote control for a MARCbot robot as Paul Morando, the Exhibits Chief for the National Museum of the United States Army, refines his position at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 8, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

They were the last soldiers to be turned into figures, Morando said.

Four active duty soldiers also posed during the process; Chaplain (Major) Bruce Duty, Staff Sgt. Dereek Martinez, Sgt. 1st Class Kent Bumpass, and Sgt. Armando Hernandez.

Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection. These lifelike soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day or during a combat mission in Afghanistan, Morando said.

The New York soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.

He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.

Morando needed soldiers to pose and wanted to use soldiers from the New York City area to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people.

Batt, in turn, reached out to Freed to ask for help in finding guard soldiers.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Soldiers pose for museum exhibits.

(U.S. Army photo)

The museum was looking for soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race, Freed said.

For the D-Day scene they needed soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like soldiers from the 1940s. The design for the Afghanistan scene included an Asian American and African-American soldier, Freed said.

He recruited Kim, a Korean-American, as the Asian American and Morrison as the African-American soldier. Vilardo, Archibald and Gerdt are lean and looked more like an American of the 1940s.

The six New York Guardsmen that Freed recruited were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo holds a pose as a World War II combat cameraman while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the soldiers said.

While their names won’t be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.

He was impressed to find out how much work goes into creating an exhibit and the care the museum staff is taking to get it right, Freed said.

“I have a newfound appreciation of the efforts the Army is making to preserve its history,” he added.

“I think it is pretty cool that they would get soldiers to model as soldiers,” Archibald said. “Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there.”

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

This draft of the landing craft exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army gives a sense of what the finished result will look like when the museum opens.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

“I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a historic display, “Kim said. ” To be immortalized and to be able to share that with generations of my family. It is a once in a life time opportunity.”

“It’s extremely cool. I feel honored to do it,” Gerdt said, adding that he was looking forward to taking his newborn daughter to see the exhibit.

Vilardo, who has a seven-year old daughter, said she was pretty excited when he showed her photographs of him being turned into an exhibit figure.

“I told her it would be just like “Night at the Museum”, he said referring to the Ben Stiller movie about museum exhibits coming to life, “and that we could go visit anytime.”

“It is extremely humbling to know I am going to be part of Army history, “Morrison said. “I already thought I was part of the Army Story. Now I am going to be part of the story the public gets to see.”

Editor’s Note: The National Museum of the United States Army is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation. The museum will serve as the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and provide the comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. The Museum is expected to open in 2020 and admission will be free. www.thenmusa.org

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

‘Hyena Road’ tells the war stories of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan

Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross was never a soldier, but he has great respect for them. He comes from a military family; his grandfather and his father both served. Gross ended up in the arts, but he believes that soldiers represent their countries with an enormous amount of dignity and honor and they should be acknowledged for that.


“A soldier signed a piece of paper at one point, saying ‘I am willing to die for my country,'” Gross says. “That’s an extraordinary fucking thing. Did you ever sign such a piece of paper? I know I sure as shit didn’t.”

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Gross wrote, directed, and stars in Hyena Road, a film about a Canadian Forces effort to build a road into the heart of enemy-held territory in Afghanistan. Gross plays Pete Mitchell, a sage intelligence officer responsible for convincing the local warlords to stop planting improvised explosive devices along the construction path .

“My character is loosely based on this real officer who was my guide,” Gross says. “Through this intelligence guy I started to learn stuff about Afghanistan. Not just the combat, I started to learn about Afghans.”

Mitchell needs to understand Afghan culture as he tries to bring a mysterious former Mujahid known as “the Ghost” to his side of the fight. The Ghost, played by Niamatullah Arghandabi, is a local Afghan elder who has a hidden identity as a legendary warlord who disappeared after the Russians withdrew.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Niamatullah Arghandabi with filmmaker Paul Gross. (Photo courtesy of Paul Gross)

Gross made two trips to Afghanistan to visit the Canadian Forces fighting there. The second time, he decided to film everything he could. He didn’t have a story at the time. A lot of that footage wound up in the final cut of Hyena Road. He talked to a lot of soldiers and took a lot of notes. When he returned to Ontario, he wrote a screenplay.

“Everything in the movie is pretty much based on stuff that I either heard or witnessed or was sort of common knowledge,” Gross says. “In other words, I didn’t make up anything.”

The film also features a very non-traditional actor in Arghandabi. He now serves an advisor to the Afghan government, and in 1979 he was a mujahid during the Soviet invasion.

“Since he was a kid, he was fighting Soviets,” the director says. “When he was 16, he was living in a cave coming out with Stinger missiles to knock down helicopters. I dragged him out and made him an actor.”

The director met the Arghandabi at Kandahar Airfield while on a visit there in 2011.

“I sat down with this guy and talked with him through an interpreter for about two and a half hours,” Gross recalls “I thought to myself, ‘I could spend the rest of my life with this guy and I would not understand one thing about him.’ That’s how different our cultures are.”

‘The Ghost’ told Gross of the time he met Osama bin Laden. To him Bin Laden wasn’t a fighter; he was a “clown.”

“It’s the weirdest thing,”Gross remembers of Arghandabi. “Talking to these people who knew all these bad guys. Bin Laden was one of the baddest guys we ever thought of, and [Arghandabi] thought he was a clown.”

Gross wants people to walk away from the film entertained, but also better informed because in his opinion, everyone should understand what it is they’re asking their military forces to do.

“That doesn’t mean you have to be against war,” Gross says. “It’s just that most of us wander around with blinders on. We should know what our neighbors, our cousins, our friends are doing there because we’re the one sending them there.”

Hyena Road is in theaters and on iTunes on March 11th.

 

Articles

The Army just picked this new semi-auto sniper rifle

The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.


According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler  Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment with a M110 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin)

This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.

So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.

Being conspicuous is a good way to attract enemy fire.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Lance Cpl. Thomas Hunt, a designated marksman with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, looks through the scope of his M110 sniper rifle while concealed in the tree line during the II Marine Expeditionary Force Command Post Exercise 3 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michelle Reif/Released)

The new M110A1 does provide some relief in that department, being about 2.5 inches shorter than the M110. More importantly for the grunt carrying it, it is about three pounds lighter than the M110.

Both the M110 and the M110A1 fire the NATO standard 7.62x51mm cartridge, and both feature 20-shot magazines. The Army plans to spend just under $45 million to get 3,643 M110A1s. That comes out to $12,000 a rifle, plus all the logistical and support needs for the Army, including the provision of spare parts.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
A German soldier fires a Heckler Koch G28 during a NATO exercise. (NATO photo by Alessio Ventura)

The Army has long made use of semi-automatic sniper rifles. During the Vietnam War, a modified version of the M14 known as the M21 was used by the service’s snipers. One of those snipers, Adelbert Waldron, was America’s top sniper in that conflict, scoring 109 confirmed kills.

By comparison, the legendary Carlos Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

An Army astronaut on a six-month mission in space recently shared her experience, saying she still leans on her military training while aboard the International Space Station.

Lt. Col. Anne McClain, a former helicopter pilot who has flown over 200 combat missions, blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket in early December 2018 to serve as a flight engineer for her crew.

“I spent my whole career working high-risk missions in small teams in remote areas, which is what we’re doing right now,” she said in an April 24, 2019 interview.


McClain, 39, is one of five soldiers in the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s astronaut detachment. Its commander, Col. Andrew Morgan, is slated to launch July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Spacewalker

During her stay, McClain has been able to complete two spacewalks — both about 6.5-hours long — for maintenance outside the space station, which is about the length of a football field.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for an experiment that measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity.

(NASA)

On March 22, 2019, she and another American astronaut replaced batteries and performed upgrades to the station’s power system. Then on April 8, 2019, she and a Canadian astronaut routed cables that serve as a redundant power system for a large robotic arm that moves equipment and supports crews while outside the station.

When she first started to train for spacewalks back in Houston, McClain said it reminded her of being an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot on a scout weapons team.

The spacesuits, she noted, are like small spacecraft that need to be constantly monitored in order for their occupants to stay alive against the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. Suits have their own electronics, power and radio systems — similar to components helicopter pilots often cross-check while remaining focused on the mission.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain works in a laboratory inside the International Space Station Jan. 30, 2019.

(NASA)

Then there is the buddy team aspect of both operations.

“Up here on a spacewalk, that’s the other astronaut that’s outside with you,” she said. “On the ground, that was the other helicopter that I was flying with.

“Most importantly, you have to be able to work with that other person and their system — their spacesuit, their helicopter — in order to accomplish the mission,” she added. “It was actually amazing to me how many of the skills kind of carried over into that environment.”

Space research

Unique from her Army days has been her participation in scientific experiments on the station, the only research laboratory of its kind with over 200 ongoing experiments.

An upcoming experiment, she said, is for an in-space refabricator, a hybrid 3D printer that can recycle used plastic to create new parts.

“That’s a really exciting new technology to enable deep-space exploration,” she said.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain, wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and Air Force Col. Nick Hague work to retrieve batteries and adapter plates from an external pallet during a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity March 22, 2019.

(NASA)

In December 2018, NASA announced plans to work with U.S. companies to develop reusable systems that can return astronauts to the Moon. Human-class landers are expected to be tested in 2024, with the goal to send a crew to the surface in 2028.

What’s learned in these missions could then help NASA send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, according to a news release.

While currently in low Earth orbit, McClain explained that resupply vehicles can come and go. Beyond that, crews would need to be self-sustained for longer periods of time.

“We’re using the space station as a test bed for some of the technologies that are going to enable us to work autonomously in space,” she said, “and hit some of our deep-space exploration goals.”

As with other astronauts, McClain has also become a guinea pig of sorts in human research tests that study how the human body reacts to microgravity.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Anne McClain, now an astronaut and lieutenant colonel, stands next to a OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

(NASA)

One experiment she has been a part of is monitoring airway inflammation up in space.

With a lack of gravity, dust particles don’t fall to the ground and will often be inhaled by astronauts. The tests measure exhaled nitric oxide, which can indicate airway inflammation, she said.

This research could be important if astronauts are sent back to the Moon, which is covered with a fine dust similar to powdered sugar, she said.

“If that’s in the air and we’re breathing that for months on end, if we’re doing extended stays on the lunar’s surface,” she said, “we need to understand how that affects the human body.”

Overview effect

While there is no typical day in space, McClain said their 12-hour shifts normally start with a meeting between them and support centers in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan.

When not helping with an experiment, astronauts do upkeep inside the station that includes plumbing, electricity work, changing filters, checking computer systems, or even vacuuming.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain uses the robotics workstation inside the International Space Station to practice robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques April 16, 2019.

(NASA)

The best parts of her day, she said, are when she gets the chance to peer down on Earth. Every day, the station orbits around the planet 16 times, meaning astronauts see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

“One of the cool things about going to the window is if you’re not paying attention, you don’t even know if it’s night or day outside,” she said. “You could look out and see an aurora over the Antarctic or you could look out and see a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific.”

After seeing Earth from above with her own eyes, McClain has come to realize people there are more dependent on each other than they may think.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain poses for a photograph with her 4-year-old son before she launched to the International Space Station in early December 2018.

(NASA)

“You get this overview effect where you realize how small we are and how fragile our planet is and how we’re really all in it together,” she said. “You don’t see borders from space, you don’t see diversity and differences in people on Earth.”

Those back on Earth can also gaze up and enjoy a similar effect.

“Sometimes we focus too much on our differences, but when we all look up into space, we see the same stars and we see the same sun,” she said. “It really can be unifying.”

Whenever she glanced up at the stars as a young child, she said it was a magical experience and eventually sparked her interest in becoming an astronaut.

Her family supported her dream and told her she could do whatever she wanted as long as she put in the work.

Q&A with Army astronaut in space

www.youtube.com

“They didn’t tell me how much work it was going to be,” she said, laughing, “but it certainly was a lot more than I anticipated.”

Before she was selected to NASA’s human spaceflight program in 2013, McClain, of Spokane, Washington, attended the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned in 2002.

She later became a Marshall scholar and earned two master’s degrees. She then flew over 2,000 flight hours on 20 different aircraft and became a Kiowa instructor pilot.

In June 2019, she is set to return back to Earth.

“No matter what your passion is, you really can find it within the Army,” she said. “The opportunities really are endless and the sky is not the limit.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

3 hiking tips you hadn’t thought of from a U.S. Marine

One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.

While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.


China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works.

(Courtesy of the author)

Use dry deodorant to manage chafing

Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.

Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

Also comes in handy if any of your buddies passes out early at a party.

(Courtesy of the author)

Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites

Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.

Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)

(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)

Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form

If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.

If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.

It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Air Force ‘Bones’ are still grounded

On Mar. 28, 2019, the Air Force Global Strike Command, that manages the U.S. bombers, ordered a “safety stand-down” of the Lancer fleet.

“During a routine inspection of the B-1B drogue chute system, potentially fleet-wide issues were identified with the rigging of the drogue chute. It appears to be a procedural issue and is unrelated to the previous problem with egress system components. As a precautionary measure, the commander directed a holistic inspection of the entire egress system. The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft. As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight,” said an official statement released by the Command on the very same day.

The drogue chute is part of the B-1B emergency egress system that relies on ACES II ejections seats, hatches in the upper side of the fuselage through those the seats are ejected from the aircraft and the drogue chutes, used to put the seat in the proper position before the main parachute deploys.


The safety stand-down was issued after the U.S. Air Force had already grounded its Lancer fleet in June last year, following an in-flight emergency on a Dyess Air Force Base’s B-1B with the 7th Bomb Wing, on May 1, 2018: the heavy bomber was on a training mission when a serious engine fire erupted near the right wing root. There were fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. All but one was extinguished by taking appropriate flight procedures, prompting the aircraft commander to heed technical orders and command a controlled manual ejection from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, arrives at Andersen AFB, Guam, Dec. 4, 2017

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

Following the emergency, the fleet was grounded pending further investigations while the crew members were each presented the Distinguished Flying Cross in a ceremony July 13, 2018, at Dyess AFB.

The investigation determined that a deformed part on one of the two pathways used to fire the seat caused the ejection seat to fail. The grounding was lifted few week later, when the Air Force found a secondary pathway that allows them to initiate ejection allowing all the B-1s to return to flying status. The B-1B involved in the incident was flown from Midland to Tinker AFB , to undergo depot maintenance and upgrades at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, on three engines, on Oct. 26, 2018.

So, the 2018 incident has nothing to do with the current issue that still keeps the bomber fleet on the ground. However, as reported by Air Force Magazine, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Timothy Ray approved a recovery plan on Apr. 16, 2019: all the U.S. Air Force 66 B-1s will be inspected. It takes from 7 to 10 days to inspect the egress system and aircraft will be cleared to fly once the inspections are completed Ray said according to Air Force Magazine.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

An incredible image showing five B-52s flying over Northern Europe during the recent deployment of B-52s to RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s and the B-2s remain operative as the B-1 fleet is grounded.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The safety stand-on was order as there no B-1s deployed across the world. The most recent deployments of U.S. strategic bombers involved the B-52: six “Buffs” belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing, deployed to the UK last month as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation in Europe (the largest Stratofortress deployment since Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when there were as many as 17x B-52s on the ramp at RAF Fairford); B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Pacific region.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., allies warn Syria against chemical attack in new offensive

The United States, France, and Britain are warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as he launches a campaign to retake the last remaining rebel-held province in Syria.

In a joint statement issued late on Aug. 21, 2018, the three Western powers said “we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again” as it embarks on a military offensive in Idlib Province after reasserting control over most other rebel-held areas of the country since 2017.


Assad’s forces have started heavily bombing and shelling Idlib, which lies next to the border with Turkey and where holdout rebels from all over the country were transported in recent months under Russian-brokered deals offering them safe passage to Idlib if they surrendered territory they once held around Damascus and other areas.

Assad’s assaults against major rebel strongholds in the country’s seven-year civil war have followed a pattern, with initial heavy bombing and artillery attacks followed by the alleged use of chemical weapons in an apparent attempt to intimidate rebels and force civilians to flee the area under siege.

In light of this pattern, the three Western powers stressed their “concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs.

Britain, France, and the United States said that “our position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is unchanged” since the three powers staged air raids in April 2018 to eliminate sites where chemical weapons allegedly were made, in response to an alleged chemical attack that occurred in Douma weeks earlier.

“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the three powers said.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, and efforts by Western powers at the UN to rebuke Syria over alleged chemical attacks have been batted down by Syria’s biggest ally, Russia, in recent years.

The impasse at the United Nations is what led the United States, Britain, and France to act on their own in early 2018

The three allies released their warning to Syria on the anniversary of what they called a “horrific” sarin-gas attack in Ghouta outside Damascus that killed more than 300 people five years ago.

That attack, which the West blamed on Assad’s forces, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals.

But despite the agreement, numerous chemical attacks have occurred since then, with most of them documented by the global chemical weapons watchdog and blamed on the Syrian government.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the situation in Syria in August 2018.

Featured image: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.


A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

Also read: 4 myths about veterans you can dispel at work right now

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians. (Painting by Claude Lorrain)

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

More: Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.

“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.

Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)

Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.

“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.

Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.

Related: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.

“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.

In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.

“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why one-third of the US thinks a second Civil War is coming

A Rasmussen poll released at the end of June 2018 revealed a fear among voters that political violence is on the rise, with one in three concerned a second US Civil War is on the horizon. The poll was conducted among likely American voters who were asked via telephone and online survey how likely that war would be.

A full one-third of voters said it was likely, and 11 percent said it was very likely. There’s no word on which side they might take. The day the poll was released, President Trump’s approval rating sat at 46 percent.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
(The White House)

The poll also revealed that 59 percent of voters are fearful that those opposed to President Trump will resort to violence to advance their cause and another 33 percent were very concerned. A similar poll was conducted in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency that revealed similar fears in similar numbers.

Related: This is what happens to every state in a modern American Civil War

The difference this time around lies in the recent public confrontations of Trump Administration officials, something neither Obama nor Bush officials faced during their Presidents’ tenures. Media outlets posture that the public pressure is backlash from this administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy that pulled migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.


By no means did civility rule the day for Obama officials. By this time in President Obama’s presidency, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson interrupted the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress with a shout of, “You lie!” The heretofore unheard of interruption earned him a public rebuke in the House, and also led to his constituents chanting the same at him less than a decade later.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Wison’s outburst was in response to a comment Obama made about the Affordable Care Act. It would bite him in the ass later.

Obama’s first two years as President dealt largely with the global financial crisis of 2008, automaker bailouts, and financial regulations. As the Brookings Institution points out, no one in power thrives when the economy suffers and the Democrats lost their Congressional majority in the 2010 midterms.

A Second American Civil War would not be as clean cut as the pro-slavery vs. anti-slavery arguments or the federal authority vs. states’ rights arguments of the actual Civil War. The United States is now almost three times the size it was in the 1860s and belief systems and population are very different than they were back then. The issues facing the country are also much different, separated by more than 150 years.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

The solution to this is to simply let your vote speak for your beliefs instead of your fists, or worse, a weapon. The peaceful transition of power ensures American democracy will endure, no matter who wins in 2020. The only Civil War sequel America needs is another Captain America movie.

Articles

Trump widens potential rift with Mattis over NATO

President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”

“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.

Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.

In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.

“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.

‘It’s Obsolete’

After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.

“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.

In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.

The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”

Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.

Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.

However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”

A Deal With Putin

Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”

The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.

In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”

“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.

Reassuring Europe

To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.

To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.

In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”

“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”

Articles

This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin


The Air Force wants the F-35 to be able to elude the best enemy air defenses well into the 2030s and 2040s.

 The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.

 “They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Harrigian explained that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Harrigian emphasized that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

Harrigian explained that the F-35 is engineered with what developers call “open architecture,” meaning it is designed to quickly integrate new weapons, software and avionics technology as new threats emerge.

“One of the key reasons we bought this airplane is because the threats continue to evolve – we have to be survivable in this threat environment that has continued to develop capabilities where they can deny us access to specific objectives that we may want to achieve. This airplane gives us the ability to penetrate, deliver weapons and then share that information across the formation that it is operating in,” Harrigian explained.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Harrigian called “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech fast developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, he added.

“The place where we have to have the most agility is really in the modeling and simulation environment – If you think about our open air ranges, we try to build these ranges that have this threats that we expect to be fighting. Given the pace at which the enemy is developing these threats – it becomes very difficult for us to go out and develop these threats,” Harrigan explained.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, he said.

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures.  The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities, Harrigian said.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats, Harrigian said.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets.  So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

China says it will fine US ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. (Graphic: Lockheed Martin)

4th Software Drop

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force plans to declare its F-345s operational with the most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet.  A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

The AIM 9X is an Air Force and Navy heat-seeking infrared missile.

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

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Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod.

F-35 25mm Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter recently completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said several months ago.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F 35Aairframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017

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