China's growing submarine fleet is 'armed to the teeth' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.


“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, Crashback. It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”

Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.

Also read: The Navy gets more money for its next nuclear-armed submarines

One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.

The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February 2018 interview. But “China has grown — in terms of maritime power, maritime projection — more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”

That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.

‘Armed to the teeth’

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
The Virginia-class attack sub USS North Dakota. (Photo by US Navy)

Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs — capable of firing anti-ship and land-attack missiles — and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.

“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.

More: Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.

The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.

That expansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.

“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”

China’s subs are also stretching their legs.

In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan — the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)

In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea— the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.

“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”

‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
A Chinese Shang-class nuclear attack submarine in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands. (Photo by Japanese Ministry of Defense)

The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.

US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.

A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.

Related: The US Navy’s most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers

The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs — which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.

China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.

Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”

“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”

“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power — it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.

Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”

Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November 2017, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March 2018 it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.

Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years — a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.

In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine in an undated photo released by Japan. (Photo by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.

India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.

The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.

Read more: Trump pardoned a sailor who took illegal photos of a submarine

India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back — the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.

India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.

Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.

Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance — which extends Beijing’s influence.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015. (Photo by Indian navy)

“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity

“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”

All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.

More: What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.

“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”

“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warships ignore China, sail through Taiwan Strait

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 25, 2019, sending a message to Beijing, which has warned the US to “tread lightly” in the closely watched waterway.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and the supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez navigated a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 25, 2019, the US Pacific Fleet told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the Pacific Fleet said.


The two US Navy vessels that passed through the Taiwan Strait were apparently shadowed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships.

The passage is the fourth since October 2018 and the fifth since the US Navy restarted the practice of sending surface combatants through the strait July 2018.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince)

The Taiwan Strait is a roughly 80-mile international waterway that separates the democratic island from the communist mainland, and China regularly bristles when US Navy vessels sail through. When a US destroyer and a fleet oiler transited the strait in January 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the passage “provocative behavior,” accusing the US of “threatening the safety” of those nearby.

Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled territory, to be a renegade province, and it firmly opposes US military support for the island, be that arms sales, protection assurances, or even just the US military operating in the area. China fears that US actions will embolden pro-independence forces in Taiwan that want to declare it a sovereign state separate from China.

China has repeatedly urged the US to keep its distance from Taiwan, but the US Navy has continued its “routine” trips through the strait. “We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in January 2019.

The rhetoric used by the Navy to characterize the Taiwan Strait transits is almost identical to that used to describe US freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea.

The Navy has already conducted two FONOPs this year, angering Beijing both times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

The Coast Guard cutter James pulled into Port Everglades on November 15 laden with 38,000 pounds of cocaine hauled in by it and other Coast Guard ships during months of patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The crew of the James and the helicopter deployed with them were in formation behind the bales, some of which were topped with testaments to the precision of Coast Guard marksmen.

Coast Guard crews and the ships and aircraft they use have a variety of roles, but they are just one component in the fight against drug smuggling on the high seas that is reaching new heights.


The 458,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, was intercepted through a complex interdiction process that sometimes begins before the drugs even set sail, draws on governments and security forces from throughout the region, and requires crews to be as good at reacting as they are at planning.

“At-sea interdiction … is truly a team sport,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said aboard the James.

Colombia is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. While it’s the only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coasts, more than 80% of the finished product destined for the US goes through the eastern Pacific — an area the size of the US mainland.

Finding suspicious vessels in an area that size can be a challenge for the Coast Guard, even with the capabilities of the other US agencies and neighboring countries with which it partners.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

A crew from US Coast Guard cutter Dependable intercepts a drug-smuggling boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean, April 8,, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Time, speed, and distance

Intelligence-gathering can point to when and where shipments will depart, but in the absence of that the search for seaborne smugglers often starts in at sea, where what a vessel looks like and how people aboard it behave are sometimes the first signs of nefarious activity.”

If you have like one of these open-construction boats, known as a panga, that usually has multiple outboard engines,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, told Business Insider in an interview aboard the cutter.

“Most of the legitimate traffic has one engine,” Randall said. “Some of the ones that are actually trying to move the cocaine will have multiple engines so they can go faster and evade detection.”

Fuel barrels can be a tipoff. “Ones that have multiple fuel barrels, you know they are preparing for a longer transit, so that may be an indicator,” Randall said. “You may also in some cases see the bales of contraband on deck.”

In other instances, the crew of vessel not waving or otherwise acknowledging the Coast Guard’s presence — particularly when that presence is a helicopter overhead — may also warrant closer attention.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

A boarding team aboard the Coast Guard cutter Stratton removes bales of contraband that later tested positive for cocaine from a go-fast vessel in international waters in the drug-transit zone of the eastern Pacific Ocean, February 23, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

Personnel from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, a US-based multiagency body that liaises with authorities through the region, also run aerial patrols over the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.

“They’ll fly some overhead surveillance, and one of those aircraft may sight one of these vessels,” Randall said of the JIATF-South. “Then they’ll vector us in to those targets, and then that’s when we launch the boats, launch the helicopter, and coordinate an interdiction.”

But where and when — and even whether — those interdictions take place depends on a number of factors.

“It basically boils down to time, speed, and distance, and where you want to effect that interdiction,” Randall said.

“There’s a time aspect. There’s a boat-capability aspect. There’s a what-is-your-adversary-going-to-do aspect,” Randall said.

No two interdictions are the same, he added. It’s “situation-dependent on all those things.”

“We talk with our pilots. We talk with our boat operators and say, ‘OK, this is what we think is going to be the best process to effect this interdiction,'” he said. “Then we put all those pieces together, make some decisions, launch, and then try and go effect the interdiction.”

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf during a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 10, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

‘We do a lot of training’

Coast Guard crew members tasked with those interdictions are typically waiting on-call aboard their ship.

“We kind of rotate with three teams, and we rotate when you’re on ready status,” said Lt. j.g. Simon Juul-Hindsgaul, a boarding officer on the James, in an interview aboard the ship. “You’re decked out … you hear the pipe, and you’re ready to go.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Crew members from the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer interdict a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel during a counter-narcotics patrol, November 11, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Midas)

There are different approach tactics for different kinds of vessels, Juul-Hindsgaul said, declining to elaborate on them. And different kinds of missions come with different kinds of concerns, he added.

“When it’s a pursuit mission — so it’s not a vessel that is potentially flagged or that we would have to just do some alongside questioning — then you’re thinking are they going to be compliant? How am I going to approach the vessel? What’s the safest angle of approach?”

In the small boat, where Juul-Hindsgaul is always stationed, communications are a constant concern.

“Comms with the helicopter, because they’re generally overhead and they can vector us in, that’s key,” he said. “The farther out we operate, the more unreliable the communications become, so then you start working secondary comms and that sort of thing.”

Approaching a suspect vessel can get hairy. In April, Coast Guard and Navy crews came upon a go-fast boat in the eastern Pacific. Spotting the US ship, the go-fast boat’s crew began throwing their cargo overboard.

Then their engine caught fire, and Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors had to battle flames before seizing a half-ton of cocaine.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Some at-sea interdictions, which can take 12 hours or more, come up with nothing, either because the suspect vessel carried no contraband or because it offloaded it before being intercepted.

Whatever the situation, Coast Guardsman tasked with boarding have to prepare for a variety of potential threats. In one case, a fishing vessel intercepted by the James during its most recent cruise had more than 30 people aboard, Juul-Hindsgual said.”

Just the sheer number of individuals that I don’t know what they have on them before I get on board,” he said, “there’s always that.”

“We’re always checking to make sure that they don’t have any weapons that could potentially harm us,” he added. “Then with the other vessels … they could potentially ram us or something, so we’re always aware of that.”

Boarding a suspected smuggling vessel brings a new set of challenges, with a procedure to match.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Coast Guard cutter Valiant crew members transport seized contraband from one of the eight vessels interdicted during their eight-week patrol in the eastern Pacific in early 2016.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“So we get on board, one of our initial procedures, which you learn out of school, is just your initial safety sweep. You always do that, make sure that the vessel’s safe to be on board,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Training includes a basic boarding course for officers as well as a specialized counter-narcotics course. Crews keep training while at sea. “We do a lot of training,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Some smuggling vessels, especially self-propelled semi-submersibles, which carry multiton loads of drugs just below the surface and cost id=”listicle-2621744055″ million to million apiece, are equipped with “kill switches.”

“We find that all the time, that they have scuttling valves or something,” Juul-Hindsgual said.

Sometimes smugglers just throw contraband overboard. Recovering floating bales of drugs is no easy task either.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on top of a self-propelled semi-submersible they stopped July 3, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Boarding a smuggling vessel means eventually getting off of it — a task complicated by drugs and detainees that need to be brought back.

“It matters whether or not the vessel has nationality [and] if it makes a claim of nationality,” Randall said of dealing with a seized vessel. “If it makes a claim of nationality, then we may have to use one of our … bilateral agreements … to do some exchange of information to verify the registry of the vessel or verify the nationality of the people” on it.

That inquiry and the response to it often has to go through layers of bureaucracy. It may take hours to get an answer, but that answer affects what comes next, Randall said.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

A boarding team member from Coast Guard cutter Stratton grabs a bale of cocaine that suspected smugglers jettisoned from their vessel in a failed attempt to flee Coast Guard pursuit in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“For the safety of the people we usually bring them on board, because some of these semi-submersible or these low profile vessels are not the safest vessels to be on,” he added. “So we’ll remove them and put them on our boats, which [are] a safer platform, until those disposition processes work out.”

“That’s generally an all-hands effort,” Juul-Hindsgaul said of removing people and contraband.

Read more: The Coast Guard is catching more drug-running subs, but most ‘very stealthy’ narco subs are probably going undetected

“I’m out there on the boarding team and we … do the full law-enforcement boarding,” he added, “and then we’ll set a different scenario where we set a stage on board, where everyone preps and gets ready and then we’ll just transport all that back to the vessel.”

Coast Guardsmen handling any suspected drugs are outfitted with protective gear.

“You don’t want to get any of it on you or ingest any of it,” Randall said. “It’s really highly potent.”

“People train to go through and … check medical and all that sort of stuff for” detainees, Juul-Hindsgual said. “Then we gear up and then transport the contraband to a secure hold” aboard the Coast Guard ship.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Coast Guard cutter Stratton boarding-team members detain four suspected smugglers after intercepting their vessel with 17 bales of cocaine on board in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“We give [detainees] a medical check. We get them showered. We give them a uniform and then start providing three meals a day and all that kind of stuff,” Randall said. “They take good care of them until we get them back to the US judicial system.”

Detainees, some of whom arrive poorly clothed or in ill health, remain at sea with the ship, disembarking to another vessel if the cutter makes a port call in another country, as the Coast Guard must hold them in international waters.

“Once we get, basically, to a position where we’re allowed to enforce US law or a country waives jurisdiction … and we get an positive drug test, we will embark the people as detainees and then embark the contraband and then hold them until we can bring them back for US prosecution,” Randall said.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

A Coast Guard cutter Bernard C. Webber crew member carries a bale of cocaine during a drug offload at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, October 16, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

‘Peddlers of poison’

Taking care of the drugs is fairly straight-forward process. Seizures from several ships are collected aboard one ship for an offload, usually in South Florida or Southern California.

From there, the drugs are usually turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes samples and discards the rest. Each year, the DEA’s Cocaine Signature Program conducts tests on about 2,500 cocaine samples.

The DEA says its tests can determine the origin of cocaine down to the sub-regional level with 96% confidence, and it consistently finds that Colombian cocaine dominates the US market.

The DEA has “ways to … analyze that [cocaine] and then the bulk of it gets destroyed,” said Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant. “They will use it to enable prosecutions to better inform the intelligence picture on this threat that exists out there.”

Things are more complicated for the human cargo that Coast Guard ships bring back.While the Coast Guard is a law-enforcement agency, the expansion of the drug war and of its authority to detain suspected smugglers in international waters has increased the numbers of detainees.

That increase has raised concern about legal procedure and due process.

In 2017, a former Coast Guard lawyer described the cutters holding detainees at sea as “floating Guantanamos.” Another Coast Guard officer called them “boat prisons.”

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Petty Officer 1st Class Radoslaw Florczak, left, a health services technician aboard Coast Guard cutter Active, medically screens a detained suspected narcotics smuggler during a patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, May 15, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

Schultz’s predecessor, Paul Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, bristled at that description when asked about it during a December 2017 interview, saying he thought it was “an unfair stab at the Coast Guard.”

Taking care of detainees while aboard and offloading them to the proper authorities were “a challenge of logistics,” he said.

The Coast Guard and US officials have said intelligence gleaned from detainees is vital to bring down trafficking networks, though some are skeptical the smugglers being caught — often low-level members of criminal groups or fishermen who sign up for the lucrative pay a successful smuggling run can bring — can offer more than fragments of information.

“Make no mistake, these are peddlers of poison,” Zukunft said in December 2017. “So I think there’s been a mischaracterization of who these people are. They have choices. They’ve elected to engage in criminal activity. That is a direct threat to the livelihood here in the United States.”

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

Articles

Canada to buy Super Hornets as F-35 hits setbacks

The Canadian government is in negotiations to buy 18 Super Hornet fighter jets, a blow to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which was originally envisioned to replace Canada’s 30-plus-year-old CF-18 Hornet fleet.


Canadian officials will explore upgrading the country’s aircraft to the Super Hornet as an interim option before final decisions are made for an open competition — a process that could still include procuring the F-35 for its aging fleet.

Just not yet.

The Liberal Party of Canada, headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Tuesday announced an urgent need for “a new squadron of interim aircraft” and turned to Boeing to recapitalize the country’s CF-18s.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
U.S. Air Force F/A-18Fs being refueled over Afghanistan in 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said during a press conference in Ottawa that the overuse of Canada’s McDonnell Douglas-made CF-18 fleet “would carry risk this government is not willing to take” to sustain current supplemental operations in NATO and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.

Competition to purchase an entirely new fighter jet will come at a later date, Sajjan said.

“The government will launch, in its current mandate, a wide-open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fleet,” he said.

Even though Canada has been in discussions for years to purchase approximately 60  F-35 jets, lawmakers have grown weary of setbacks in the stealth jet program.

In June, Trudeau called the aircraft one that “does not work and is far from working.”

In the latest setback, a Marine Corps F-35B based out of Beaufort, South Carolina, caught fire in mid-air last month. The service is investigating the incident.

In September, the Air Force ordered a temporary stand-down of 13 out of 104 F-35s in its fleet “due to the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks,” according to a statement at the time. Two additional aircraft, belonging to Norway and stationed atLuke Air Force Base, Arizona, also were affected.

The 13 F-35s, plus the two belonging to Norway, are back up and running, according to a story from Defense News on Friday.

In a statement Tuesday, Lockheed Martin said that although it is “disappointed with this decision, we remain confident the F-35 is the best solution to meet Canada’s operational requirements at the most affordable price, and the F-35 has proven in all competitions to be lower in cost than 4th generation competitors.”

“The F-35 is combat ready and available today to meet Canada’s needs for the next 40 years,” the statement said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants a more American paint job for Air Force One

Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.

The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.

The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.

Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.

The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.

Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Donald Trump’s personal plane.

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”

President Kennedy and renowned French industrial designer Raymond Loewy sat on the floor of the Oval Office in 1962 with colored paper and crayons to sketch out that paint scheme, according to a book about the history of the jet, titled “Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 nose gear collapses after plane makes emergency landing

An F-35A from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, experienced an in-flight emergency Aug. 22, 2018 as well as a ground mishap which caused its nose gear to collapse, service officials said.

The F-35, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, experienced a ground mishap at approximately 12:50 p.m., the 33rd Fighter Wing said in a Facebook post.


“The F-35A experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base,” officials said. “The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed,” the 33rd said.

One pilot was on board the aircraft, but did not sustain any injuries as a result of the mishaps, the Air force said. Fire crews “responded immediately,” officials said.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

An F-35A Lightning II taxis down the runway.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Smallwood)

Lena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com that an investigation into the incident “is just beginning.” Lopez did not specify a timeline when the Air Force may have an update into the incident.

The Air Force did not specify the extent of the damage.

Eglin is home to one of the busiest F-35 training units in the Air Force; The 33rd Fighter Wing is also the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots.

The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence at Eglin and sends pilots through the training pipeline at the base, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.

Photos from the Northwest Florida Daily News showed the F-35 tipped downward atop its collapsed landing gear.

Featured image: Contracted Logistics Maintenance personnel from Lockheed Martin at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., stop the pilot on the taxiway during the return of his flight in preparation to verify the F-35A’s brake temperatures are within safe limits to recover the aircraft March 13, 2012.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China sends ship to spy on war games

The Australian military is monitoring a Chinese surveillance vessel believed to have been sent to spy on the Talisman Saber war games being held along the coast of Queensland.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship is now sailing toward Australia, presumably to observe the joint military exercises involving American, Australian, and Japanese forces, Australia’s ABC News reported, revealing that up to 25,000 troops will be participating in the “high-end” warfighting exercises.

“We’re tracking it,” Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, Chief of Defense Joint Operations, explained July 6, 2019. “We don’t know yet what its destination is, but we’re assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland, and we’ll take appropriate measures in regards to that.” He did not elaborate on the response.


He did, however, acknowledge that the Chinese ship is in international waters, where it has the right to sail and, if it so desires, conduct surveillance operations.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence ship.

(Australian Defence)

“All nations have the right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct military surveillance operations in international waters outside a state’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea,” Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the US and Australia — along with most other nations — accept this principle and grant it to China, Beijing does not extend this right to other nations in the South China Sea, where it routinely chases away foreign vessels.”

China has long objected to “close-in surveillance” by the US Navy near its shores, despite the People’s Liberation Army Navy routinely doing the same.

Chinese AGI vessels have, in recent years, been making frequent appearances at the joint military exercises in the Pacific. The Australian Defence Department told reporters that it is “aware that there will likely be interest from other countries in exercise Talisman Saber.”

One of China’s AGI vessels was spotted lurking off the Australian coast 2017 during the last iteration of the Talisman Saber exercises.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Sterett fires its MK 45 5-inch gun during a naval surface fire support exercise as part of Talisman Saber 17.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Byron C. Linder)

The Chinese navy was disinvited from participating in 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to the militarization of the South China Sea by Chinese forces. Nonetheless, China sent one of its spy ships to monitor the exercises from off the coast of Hawaii.

“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News at the time.

By allowing the Chinese military to engage in these types of surveillance activities, the US and its allies are hopeful that China will eventually offer the reciprocity it has thus far been unwilling to grant, Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, argued.

“For international rules to function they must be reciprocated,” Townshend told news.com.au.

Australian military officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told local broadcaster ABC News that they suspected that a new aspect of Japan’s participation in this year’s Talisman Saber drills has piqued China’s interests.

“This year’s Talisman Saber involves the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was created last year primarily as a response option for potential Chinese incursion in the Senkaku Islands,” one official told reporters, adding, “Their capability and interoperability with Australia and the United States will be of interest to Beijing.”

The Australian Defence Department said the Chinese ship will be “taken into account during the planning and conduct of exercises.”

China has not yet commented on the matter.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 absurd military habits that stay with you forever

The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.

There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.


China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”

The bug-out bag in your trunk.

This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.

To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?

Now: 12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

I would rather ride in silence.

Shouting in the passenger seat.

Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.

Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

How to gain credibility in one easy photo.

Staring at everyone’s shoes.

Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Eating too fast.

How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Carrying everything in your left hand.

When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.

Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it. 

There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the British plan to join an attack on Syria

Theresa May will hold a crunch Cabinet meeting on April 12, 2018, in which she and her ministers will decide whether to join military action in Syria.

The prime minister will seek her Cabinet’s approval to join with Donald Trump’s US in launching airstrikes against the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad, the war-torn country’s disgraced president.


May wants to launch airstrikes without first securing parliamentary approval, the BBC reports, in a move which would be opposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and numerous other opposition MP across the House of Commons.

This means Britain is on the cusp of joining the US in another military foray in the Middle east. Here’s how we got here.

“Abhorrent” chemical attack shocks the world

The West is preparing to respond to a chemical attack which left at least forty people dead and hundreds more receiving treatment in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018. Douma is just a few miles outside the country’s capital, Damascus, and is controlled by rebels who want to overthrow President Assad.

The attack was the latest chapter in a civil war which has ravaged Syria since 2011. The conflict has left over 500,000 Syrians dead and around 6.1 million displaced, according to UN and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights data.

Prime Minister May, President Trump, and other western leaders believe Assad is almost certainly behind the attack. May described the attack as a “shocking, barbaric act” which cannot go “unchallenged” by Britain and its allies. The Assad regime denies being responsible for the attack.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Bashar al-Assad

British submarines are reportedly being moved within “missile range” of Syria with military action set to begin as early as April 12, 2018, if May secures the backing of her government ministers.

Doesn’t May need the permission of MPs?

Contrary to what many believe, the UK prime minister is not legally obliged to seek parliamentary approval before launching military action. In fact, they don’t even need to inform them.

The root of this misconception is the 2003 Iraq invasion. The then-prime minister Tony Blair asked Parliament to vote in favour of invading Iraq. This created an informal convention which was followed by David Cameron, who a decade later decided against taking action in Syria after MPs voted it down. Prime ministers may decide to look for parliamentary support to give their military action political authority. After all, going to war is one of the riskiest and most controversial decisions a prime minister can make.

However, this is nothing more than a convention. In 2011, for example, MPs didn’t get to vote on intervening in Libya until after the intervention had already got underway, meaning it was too late to vote it down anyway.

Does the public want another war?

If May does intend on ignoring convention, it will not be with the broad support of the British public. A YouGov poll released April 12, 2018, finds that just 22% of Brits support military action in Syria, while 43% oppose it.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Labour leader Corbyn previously told the BBC he supported a parliamentary vote before any action. It “should always be given a say on any military action,” Corbyn said. “We don’t want bombardment which leads to escalation and a hot war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria.”

Speaking today, Corbyn questioned how airstrikes would improve the situation in Syria. “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life,” he told reporters.

Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, signaled he supports military action against Assad but said it would require the support of MPs with “some strong conditions around it.”

The SNP’s defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, has warned that airstrikes “will not provide the long-term solutions needed to end the war.”

What would the ramifications be?

The Syrian conflict is one of the greatest challenges facing the world, not least because it is so fiendishly complex.

President Assad may be opposed by Britain, the US, France and other western nations, but is supported by Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. This means Syria has effectively become a proxy battleground for tensions between the West and Russia, which have been at the worst since the height of the Cold War.

A war of words is already underway. On April 11, 2018, President Trump told Putin to “get ready” for US missiles.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Donald Trump

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'”Trump tweeted April 11, 2018. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Russia had warned the US that any missiles fired into Syria would be shot down and its launch sites targeted.

Worryingly for Britain, one of the launch sites pinpointed by Russia could be a British military base in Cyprus, The Times reports. Eight cruise missile-armed Tornado fighter-bombers located at RAF Akrotiri, on the southern coast of Cyprus. These bombers are set to contribute to airstrikes and could be at risk of Russian retaliation.

Russia has already moved war vessels from to a base on the Mediterranean coast, within range of a US warship, according to satellite imagery of the region.

What is clear is that risk of war between nuclear-armed states is now at its highest for a generation. The decisions May’s government makes in next few days could be among the most important made by any UK government.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 29

It’s finally the last week of 2017. And good riddance.


Celebrate the end of 2017 in the safest way possible: Avoid Navy ships at all costs.

Play it even safer with these memes.

1. “We might have a little experience in sand.”

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
We can help with target practice too.

2. $20 says they’re Marines.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
$50 says they just cleaned their weapons.

3. What did YOU do to end up here?

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Everyone who brought Bud Light ended up here anyway.

Related: The worst duty assignments for every branch of the military 

4. The only thing worse is having to go through it again.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Nothing ever happens around here… until I’m on CQ.

5. You know the Truth.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Blasphemer.

6. Where’s his Medal of Honor? (via Coast Guard Memes)

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
It’s in the mail.

Now read: 6 crazy things actually found in boot camp amnesty boxes

7. I can feel the liquor flowing through me. (via Pop Smoke)

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
It binds us all together.

8. I also don’t mind ending up at Shoney’s after the night ends.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

9. When drinking in the Navy isn’t enough on its own. (via Decelerate Your Life)

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
For 2019, I’m considering bath salts.

Check Out: 4 of the most annoying regulations for women in the military

10. Don’t let them see you tearing up.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
And don’t stand at attention for Lee Greenwood.

11. That’s not even all of it.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
I want my Fat Leonard money.

12. Glorious Revolutionary Victorious People’s Christmas Gift.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
That’s silly. No one gets a Christmas in North Korea.

13. Start 2018 with a good attitude.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
… And like that… it was gone.

Now: This is why U.S. troops don’t use ballistic shields

MIGHTY TRENDING

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA passed a major milestone March 7, 2019, in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.


“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”

Splashdown of SpaceX Crew Dragon, Completing Demo-1 Flight Test

www.youtube.com

Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test designed to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission began March 2, 2019, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of “firsts” in less than a week.

  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.
  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.
  • First autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft’s return journey and ocean splashdown.

“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly. It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast.

(NASA Television)

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test – a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft. After SpaceX processes data from this mission, teams will begin refurbishing Crew Dragon for its next mission, an in-flight abort test targeted to take place this summer. Demo-2, the first crewed test flight, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the spacecraft’s final flight to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“For the first time, we’ve gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we’ve brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we’ve gotten to see how they all work together, and that’s very important as we move toward putting people onboard,” said NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will crew SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2. “I’m, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle.”

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is testing its new ‘Super Soldier’ exoskeleton

The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power, and mobility for combat infantry, and enable heavier load-carrying, industry officials said.


Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance-enhancing soldier technologies.

Using independent actuators, motors, and lightweight, conformal structures, lithium ion battery-powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility, carrying full loads,” said Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters, urban combat because it enhances soldier mobility, speed, and power.

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’
Lockheed Martin developed the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC). In a series of tests, NSRDEC evaluated the potential for exoskeleton technology to alleviate strain and fatigue for soldiers who carry heavy loads over long distances. (Screengrab from National Geographic YouTube)

It is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of movements.

“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” said Maxwell.

FORTIS uses a three-pound, rechargeable BB-2590 lithium ion battery.

Developed by Lockheed with internal research and development funds, FORTIS is designed to help soldiers run, maneuver, carry injured comrades, and perform a wide range of combat tasks while preventing hyper-extension of the knee.

Engineers report that FORTIS reduces the amount of energy required to perform a task by nine percent, using on-board AI to learn the gait of an individual soldier. The system integrates an actuator, motor, and transmission all into one device, intended to provide 60 Newton meters of additional torque, Maxwell explained.

Also Read: This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

“It knows what you are trying to do when you are trying to do it,” Maxwell said.

“It locks and gives you a forward torque-twist that causes the lower leg to move toward the back, then it reverses direction to bring your leg forward,” he explained.

FORTIS is a next-generation effort intended to move beyond Lockheed’s previously designed HULC exoskeleton, which weighs 85 pounds and restricts soldier mobility, developers said.

A recent, independently-funded University of Michigan study found that FORTIS does substantially enhance soldier mobility.

Check out the original exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin, the HULC.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No joke: Here’s how you can join President Trump’s COVID-19 briefing April 1

During the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump has been holding daily briefings from the White House to provide updates on the pandemic. Now, the president is extending an opportunity for service members and their families to listen in on a conference call hosted especially for them, to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how it impacts the military.


The Department of Defense announced the call on social media, requesting that interested parties RSVP via a provided link.

According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 31, 2020, there were 163,539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States and 2,860 deaths. The military announced they will no longer be releasing numbers of infected service members due to security reasons.