Chinese bombers might be training for American targets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Chinese bombers are much more active and operating farther from Chinese shores at an increased frequency, and the Pentagon thinks they are likely training for strikes on US targets, according to the 2018 China Military Power Report.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the Department of Defense explained in its annual report to Congress. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”


The report noted that these flights could be “used as a strategic signal to regional states,” but the PLA hasn’t been clear about “what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities.”

In 2017, PLA bombers flew a dozen operational flights through the Sea of Japan, into the Western Pacific, around Taiwan, and over the East and South China Sea — all potential flashpoints. There were only four flights respectively in 2015 and 2016, and only two between 2013 and 2014.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

(Department of Defense 2018 China Military Power Report)

The Pentagon report noted that in August 2017, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) expanded its operating area by sending six H-6K bombers up past Okinawa for the first time. The bombers flew along the east coast of the island, home to approximately 50,000 American military personnel.

Bomber flights into the Western Pacific are also disconcerting because “the extended-range [H-6K] aircraft has the capability to carry six land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam.”

Activities around Taiwan and in the East and South China Sea are also alarming given Beijing’s contested interests in these areas.

China is in the process of modernizing its military in an attempt to fulfill Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision of a world-class military that can fight and win wars in any theater of combat by the middle of this century. Part of this process is the development of power projection tools, such as aircraft carriers and long-range strategic bombers capable of striking targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.

The US is watching these developments closely, as the Pentagon believes that “great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained early 2018.

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

Humor

This is what it would be like to be a Space Shuttle Door Gunner

The idea of a “Space Shuttle Door Gunner” has always been a joke around the military. It’s so outlandishly silly that no one would dare think it’s real.


With last year’s proposed Space Corps, the expansion of civilian space programs, and a growing need for a military presence in space to protect American assets, President Trump gave his nod to the idea of a “Space Force.” This joke may soon be reality. But there are still many roadblocks in the way – like physics, for instance.

For obvious reasons, the door would have to be closed during takeoff and landing, otherwise, friction alone would tear the shuttle apart. Tragic examples of what foam shedding and a faulty O-ring can cause means that any fighting a door gunner would see would have to occur beyond a distance from Earth to allow for EVA (extravehicular activity).

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Now that the door gunner is properly outside of Earth’s atmosphere, they could begin their watch. A properly tethered door gunner could hold their post for a while. The current record for longest EVA, also known as a “spacewalk,” is held by Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin at 7 hours and 29 minutes. They walked outside of the International Space Station to install power and data cables — but a door gunner could hold that post for longer.

Finally, the nitty-gritty of space combat. A door gunner could easily bring modern weapons into space and, surprisingly, only have a few problems firing it. This is because modern ammunition has its own oxidizer, so no atmospheric oxygen is required. There wouldn’t be any sound (since audible sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum) and the recoil wouldn’t matter in low-Earth orbit because the shuttle would be moving at around 4 miles a second.

 

Tests on Earth have proven bullets fire in a vacuum. (via GIPHY)

 

The downsides would be that, without friction to slow down the bullet, it would travel until it hit something — the enemy, Earth, or some distant object forever away. Also, without gravity and oxygen to dissipate the gunpowder smoke, a large cloud would expand from the barrel.

So, yes, being a Space Shuttle Door Gunner is physically possible and may be needed one day.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

If it’s not ethical, they won’t field it: Pentagon release new A.I. guidelines

The Pentagon has vowed that if it cannot use artificial intelligence on the battlefield in an ethical or responsible way, it will simply not field it, a top general said Monday.


Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), made that promise as the Defense Department unveiled new A.I. guidelines, including five main pillars for its principled execution of A.I.: to be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable.

“We will not field an algorithm until we are convinced it meets our level of performance and our standard, and if we don’t believe it can be used in a safe and ethical manner, we won’t field it,” Shanahan told reporters during a briefing. Algorithms often offer the calculation or data processing instruction for an A.I. system. The guidelines will govern A.I. in both combat and non-combat functions that aid U.S. military use.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

The general, who has held various intelligence posts, including overseeing the algorithmic warfare cross-functional team for Google’s Project Maven, said the new effort is indicative of the U.S.’s intent to stand apart from Russia and China. Both of those countries are testing their uses of A.I. technology for military purposes, but raise “serious concerns about human rights, ethics, and international norms.”

For example, China has been building several digital artificial intelligence cities in a military-civilian partnership as it looks to understand how A.I. will be propagated and become a global leader in technology. The cities track human movement through artificial facial recognition software, watching citizens’ every move as they go about their day.

While Shanahan stressed the U.S. should be aggressive in its pursuits to harness accurate data to stay ahead, he said it will not go down the same path of Russia and China as they neglect the principles that dictate how humans should use A.I.

Instead, the steps put in place by the Pentagon can hold someone accountable for a bad action, he said.

“What I worry about with both countries is they move so fast that they’re not adhering to what we would say are mandatory principles of A.I. adoption and integration,” he said.

The recommendations came after 15 months of consultation with commercial, academic and government A.I. experts as well as the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) and the JAIC. The DIB, which is chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, made the recommendations last October, according to a statement. The JAIC will be the “focal point” in coordinating implementation of the principles for the department, the statement said.

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Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer, said the guidelines will become a blueprint for other agencies, such as the intelligence community, that will be able to use it “as they roll out their appropriate adoption of A.I. ethics.” Shanahan added the guidelines are a “good scene setter” for also collaborating alongside the robust tech sector, especially Silicon Valley.

Within the broader Pentagon A.I. executive committee, a specific subgroup of people will be responsible for formulating how the guidelines get put in place, Deasy said. Part of that, he said, depends on the technology itself.

“They’re broad principles for a reason,” Shanahan added. “Tech adapts, tech evolves; the last thing we wanted to do was put handcuffs on the department to say what you could and could not do. So the principles now have to be translated into implementation guidance,” he said.

That guidance is currently under development. A 2012 military doctrine already requires a “human in the loop” to control automated weapons, but does not delineate how broader uses for A.I. fits within the decision authority.

The Monday announcement comes roughly one year after DoD unveiled its artificial intelligence strategy in concert with the White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

“We firmly believe that the nation that masters A.I. first will prevail on the battlefield for many years,” Shanahan said, reiterating previous U.S. officials positions on the leap in technology.

Similarly in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised event that, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

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

Lists

5 secrets to shopping at the Commissary with the kids

Shopping in any grocery store with children (young or old) can be a real pain. Add in going to the commissary on payday and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Maybe you’ve already tried all of the tricks for navigating shopping with kids in tow. Or are you are new to the whole grocery with kids game? Either way, try these five parent-tested secrets for making it through the experience without losing your mind.


1. Do it in the car

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

No list? No plan? Before you jump out of the car, write down must-have items and meal ideas, then prep any necessary items before you unleash the munchkins. Refresh your mind on coupons, write down any necessary purchases you remembered on your way there, and make sure you have any distraction items for the baby. It’s better to do this now than before you get in the store.

2. Get Attached

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

If they are little enough, the best place to have your kids is hanging out on you in a carrier. You can talk to them while you go to shelves and they aren’t climbing out of the cart and getting hurt. If they are at the in-between age where they want to run around, make holding onto the cart a game. “If you hold on through this aisle, you can pick out the cereal.” Or, if they sit still in the cart, say they can have a slice of cheese at the deli or bring a healthy treat along to get them through a rough spot. Make the reward something that can be given sooner rather than later.

3. Create a game

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Involve you kids in the process and they’ll look at the grocery store as a fun place to be. Can they spy something orange in the fruit section? Find things that begin with “A”? See if they can locate the can of tomatoes you always buy first. How many uniforms can they count in the store? Don’t be afraid of looking a little silly. The commissary is a little crazy on payday anyway!

4. Give them a job

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Oh, how kids love to help! But often it is the kind of help that gets them in trouble. Instead of letting them pick and choose their role, give your little helper a job each time you go. “You are in charge of crossing things off of the list.” Be sure to bring a clipboard. Or maybe they can get the items off of the low shelves. Can they help you pick out apples while sitting in the shopping cart? The more involved you make them on your terms, the less they will be on the receiving end of a reprimand.

5. Acknowledge and avoid their triggers

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Kids feed off of your anxiety and the more amped up you are the crazier they feel. If you know you have a big shopping trip, don’t make it 20 minutes before lunchtime. Everyone will be hungry and grumpy, and you’ll have to rush through the store. If naptime is at noon, avoid bumping up against it and opt to go afterwards. If you know your child is going to flip in the cereal aisle, distract him as you grab the Cheerios. You know what has made shopping a miserable experience every trip before so create a battle plan that will keep you and your shopping buddy happy right to the checkout.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

The U.S. Army has awarded a $49.7 million contract to Robotic Research LLC for autonomous kits to be tested on large supply vehicles in an effort to one day send unmanned resupply convoys across the battlefield.

The three-year award is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, which is designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to a recent release from Robotic Research.


Army leaders have pledged to make robotics and vehicle autonomy one of the service’s top modernization priorities.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle program will be designed around manned and unmanned combat vehicles, giving commanders the option to send robotic vehicles against the enemy before committing manned combat forces, Army officials said.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the Navy Surface Warfare Centeru00a0Dahlgren test range.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The service plans to build its first Robotic Combat Vehicle technology demonstrator in three years. The early RCVs will help program officials develop future designs of autonomous combat vehicles, officials added.

Army Secretary Mark Esper has stressed that autonomous vehicles have a definite place in what became one of the most deadly mission during the Iraq War — resupply convoy duty.

The Army lost “too many” soldiers to improvised explosive device attacks driving and riding in resupply convoys, he said.

Under the Expedient Leader Follower program, the autonomous kits, made by Robotic Research, will be installed on Army vehicles, such as the Oshkosh PLS A1s. A series of the optionally manned vehicles will autonomously follow the path of the first, manned vehicle, the release states.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

The program follows the “Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), and [Autonomous Ground Resupply] programs to develop unmanned prototype systems that address the needs of the Leader Follower Directed Requirement and Program of Record,” the release states.

The AGR architecture is being developed to “become the de-facto autonomous architecture for all foreseeable ground robotic vehicles,” according to the release.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected to perform this critical work for the U.S. Army,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “The Robotic Research team shares the Army’s commitment to rapidly fielding effective autonomy solutions to our nation’s soldiers.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.

Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.

“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”


Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.

This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.

Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.

One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.

Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”

His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”

Western expansion, cultural repression

It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.

“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”

Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.

By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.

At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”

But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.

“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”

Military recruitment

This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.

The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.

So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.

“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.

Winning the war

Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.

“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.

During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.

“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”

Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.

“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Culture and service

Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.

For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.

Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.

“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”

Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.

“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”

This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Operation Safety Net locates 25 more missing children; Operation Moving Target arrests 27 suspects

Operation Safety Net, the US Marshals Service-led child trafficking task force in Ohio, has located 25 missing children as of Saturday, according to a US Marshals press release. In addition, Operation Moving Target, led by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, concluded on Thursday with 27 online predators arrested for cybercrimes and attempted sexual conduct with children.

“Sometimes the situations they — they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” US Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO-TV. “We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.”


Operation Safety Net focuses on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the surrounding area to locate missing and endangered children. The operation’s reach has extended into the northern portion of the state with help from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force. According to the US Marshals press release, “Children have been recovered in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Akron, Mansfield, Euclid, Willoughby and as far away as Miami.” Even though the operation started in Ohio, leads developed in the state have led to locating missing children outside of Ohio.

U.S. Marshals launch initiative aimed at finding endangered, missing children

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The US Marshals have been working with Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Newburgh Heights police departments for the past 20 days to locate missing children, ages ranging from 13 to 18 years old. One in every four cases resolved by the task force are related to human trafficking or prostitution.

While Operation Safety Net is still underway, Operation Moving Target was started by the Ohio ICAC on Aug. 24 and concluded on Aug. 27. The Ohio ICAC is a federal anticrime task force funded by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The operation was short in duration but concluded with the arrest of 27 suspects.

For Operation Moving Target, undercover law enforcement officers posed as children online to lure sexual predators. During conversations via various social media platforms, the suspects requested meeting times and locations for sexual activity, and some even sent photos of their genitalia to the purported children. Many of the suspects had firearms, condoms, personal lubricant, sex toys, and drugs in their possession at the time of arrest.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, in action above, is comparable to Ohio’s Operation Safety Net. Photo courtesy of Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals Service.

When the suspects arrived at the meeting place, law enforcement arrested them for crimes including attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, importuning, and possessing criminal tools. The suspects were transported to Cuyahoga County Jail, and each case will be viewed by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

“As we have seen the number of Cybertips dramatically increase this year, it is clear that online predators remain a serious threat to our children,” said prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor press release. “Hopefully the success of yet another operation serves as a stern warning to offenders that you will be found, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”

Federal, state, and local law enforcement have been pursuing missing children and their predators for years. The US Marshals partnered with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children in 2005. Since this partnership began, the US Marshals Service has assisted in recovering more than 1,800 missing children, according to a US Marshals press release. In 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was approved, granting the US Marshals enhanced authority.

This legislation enabled the creation of the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, which has been setting up joint task forces to carry out operations across the country, including Ohio’s Operation Safety Net and Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, which located 39 missing children in a matter of weeks.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

USS Lincoln just completed massive live-fire exercise

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully completed a Live Fire With A Purpose (LFWAP) exercise, Dec 6, 2018.

LFWAP is a reinvigorated missile exercise program conducted by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), designed to increase the proficiency of the Combat Direction Center watch team by allowing them to tactically react to a simulated real-world threat.

SMWDC, a supporting command to strike groups and other surface ships in the Navy, is responsible for training commands and creating battle tactics on the unit level to handle sea combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), amphibious warfare and mine warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Its headquarters are located at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California.


Two IAMD Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) led teams aboard Abraham Lincoln through LFWAP. They’ve spent the last month working closely with Combat Systems Department to plan a simulated threat, train them on response tactics and execute a safe live fire.

“The most challenging aspect of these exercises is getting the ship’s mindset to shift from basic unit-level operations to integrated, advanced tactical operations,” said Lt. Cmdr Tim Barry, an IAMD WTI instructor aboard Abraham Lincoln. “On the opposite side of that, the best feeling is seeing the watch team work together, developing confidence in themselves and their combat systems.”

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile during Combat System Ship Qualification Trials.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyler Sam)

LFWAP is an important evolution that departs from scripted events to focus more on scenario-driven events. Watch teams have the opportunity to use their pre-planned responses and the commanding officer’s orders to defend the ship from dangers that mirror potential threats on deployment.

“This isn’t a pass or fail event; it’s a validation — a means for sailors to develop confidence prior to deployment,” said Lt. Lisa Malone, the IAMD WTI execution lead from SMWDC. “This is the ‘Battle Stations’ for Combat Systems. We want them to come out of this with a new sense of teamwork, a feeling of preparedness and an excitement for what the future will bring.”

LFWAP allowed Abraham Lincoln to react to a sea-skimming drone in real time. The lead for this evolution was Abraham Lincoln’s Fire Control Officer, Ens. Ezekiel Ramirez.

“To show everyone we’re ready to defend the ship and our shipmates is best feeling ever,” said Ramirez. “Today, we put the ‘combat’ in Combat Systems.”

After detecting the target using radar, Combat Systems used the ship’s Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) to engage it.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

A Close-in Weapons System fires during a pre-action Aim Calibration fire evolution aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt)

“This training has really brought us all together and made us work more cohesively; we feel like a real unit now,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Miller, who fired the RAM that brought down the drone. “We’ve worked hard this last month and had this scenario down-pat, and to see that drone finally go up in an explosion was the perfect payoff.”

LFWAP is another example of how Abraham Lincoln is elevating Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12’s operational readiness and maritime capabilities to answer the nation’s call.

The components of CSG-12 embody a “team-of-teams” concept, combining advanced surface, air and systems assets to create and sustain operational capability. This enables them to prepare for and conduct global operations, have effective and lasting command and control, and demonstrate dedication and commitment to become the strongest warfighting force for the Navy and the nation.

The Abraham Lincoln CSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 2, associated guided-missile destroyers, flagship Abraham Lincoln, and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

1. E-4 Nightwatch

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets


Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.

2. B-2 Spirit

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., refuels a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber from Whiteman AFB, Mo., during a refueling training mission (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-2 literally costs more than its weight in gold. The Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers run along a similar price tag: $130,159 per hour.

3. C-5 Galaxy

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
Ground crews unload a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.

4. OC-135 Open Skies

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Kindig, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Riley Neads, right, operate air cannons from deicing trucks to blow snow off of an OC-135 Open Skies (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.

5. E-8C Joint STARS

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
An E-8C Joint STARS from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., pulls away, May 1, 2012 after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 459th Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

6. B-52 Stratofortress

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairdford, England from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., prepares to air refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.

7. F-35A Lightning II

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)

8. CV-22 Osprey

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey receives fuel from a 522 SOS, MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft, over the skies of New Mexico.

The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.

9. B-1B Lancer

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft banks away after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, not shown, during a mission over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released)

The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.

10. F-22 Raptor

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The “best combat plane in the world” only cost $58,059 an hour to fly. Small price to pay for the best.

Honorable Mention: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”)

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo byAirman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

The BRRRRRT costs a measly (by comparison, anyway) $19,051.

Articles

How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets
Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia absolutely hates these American weapons in Europe

The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.


Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.

(Missile Defense Agency Mark Wright)

Aegis is a bit of a legend in the military community, especially air defense. The core of the system is an extremely capable radar that can operate through a months or even years-long cruise at sea if properly maintained. This, of course, allows the operators to track threats from ballistic missiles to navy vessels to surfaced submarines. But, when properly wedded to missiles, the Aegis gets the ability to attack these targets on land, at sea, or in the air.

For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.

Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.

And for the past few years, an American and European agreement has seen Aegis systems deployed on land in places like Romania and Poland with more sites to come. But Aegis Ashore has one huge difference from the Aegis systems at sea: what missiles its launchers can house and fire.

While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)

For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.

But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.

When America fired Tomahawks in the recent Syria strikes, Russia declined to engage the missiles or American bombers with its own air defenses, possibly because it isn’t certain it can actually take down the Tomahawks in significant numbers. Though, again, Aegis Ashore is specifically configured to be incapable of firing Tomahawks.

Russia is so against Aegis Ashore installations that it deployed strategic bombers to Crimea earlier this year to threaten the installations and NATO.

But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.

But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first husband-wife team to fly the B-2 bomber in combat

Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.

Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.

And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.

“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”


Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.

Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.

The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.

“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”

Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.

Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.

Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.

She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”

She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.

In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.

Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.

“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”

Move to Missouri

John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.

“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”

He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.

Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?”
The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.

John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.

“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”

Whiteman Air Force Base

Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)


On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.

Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.

Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.

So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.

“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”

After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.

By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.

Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.

For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”

For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”

It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”

Working together

The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.

Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.

There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.

Chinese bombers might be training for American targets

From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)

“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.

“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.

The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.

The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.

“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.

Retired, together

At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”

Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.

“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”

“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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