Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.

He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.


Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.

We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.

Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.

“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.

Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.

But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.

“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”

When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”

The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.

“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”

Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”

“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.

“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.

The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

A retired Navy SEAL wounded in the search for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, testified about the harrowing firefight that ended his career.


Speaking at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing Oct. 25, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch choked up when describing how enemy combatants shot a trained dog that was with the team before shooting him just above his right knee.

“I really thought that I was going to die,” Hatch said.

Hatch walks with a limp after undergoing 18 surgeries to repair his leg.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
Bowe Berghdal. Photo from US Army

The former Navy SEAL, forced to retire from the military after nearly 26 years of service because of injuries sustained while searching for Bergdahl, said he had known days before that the search was going to be hazardous.

Also Read: SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

“Somebody’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get that kid,” he recalled saying to his teammates.

Trump motion still pending

The hearing started with a surprise, as the judge, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, said he was not yet ready to rule on the defense’s argument that recent comments by President Donald Trump had made a fair hearing impossible.

“I’m still considering it,” Nance said.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
President Donald Trump’s remarks on Bergdahl may affect the sentencing now that he is the Commander in Chief. Photo from White House Flickr.

The defense has argued that the president seemed to endorse previous assertions, made when he was a presidential candidate, that Bergdahl was a traitor and deserved execution. As commander in chief, he is the superior officer of all the military officials responsible for disciplining Bergdahl.

Questioned by reporters last week about Bergdahl, Trump said he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court-martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to extend into next week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the ways to lose the “once a Marine, always a Marine” status

You see and hear this term all the time: “former Marine.” And, wherever you see it, you’ll also see Marines telling you (and everyone else) why we hate it. Sure, there are a few folks out there who agree with it, but those of us who hold the title near and dear to our hearts will tell you a different story.

In my opinion, there’s a damned good reason for the expression, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Others disagree.


To be fair, this is not a mentality exclusive to Marines. Just because you “get out” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marine, soldier, airman, coast guardsman, etc. You don’t just instantly forget everything you’ve learned and experienced over the past few years once you get your DD-214. Joining the military makes you a part of a fraternity and you’ll find that you resonate better with other veterans than you do with people from any other walk of life for one simple reason: You became a part of something much larger than yourself.

Your membership was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears, along with the countless hours you spent dedicated to the cause. To say a veteran is an “ex-” anything is highly inaccurate.

However, there are certain qualities (mostly conscious choices) that define a former Marine. These are just a few of those qualities:

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Maybe you just need some new Drill Instructors…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Severe lack of discipline

It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your discipline slide when you get out — in fact, a lot of us are guilty of this. But at some point, we pick it back up and we reintegrate it into our lives. To allow this discipline to drop off entirely is most definitely a conscious choice — one that can lead to the discontinuation of other hard-earned qualities.

Forgotten core values

No matter which branch you join, you’ll first learn the core values and then you’ll embody them. Those values shape your personal code and you live by them while you’re in the military. When you get out, if you aren’t still using them to find some direction in life, you’ve earn the “ex” in front of your title.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Just remember what you learned.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Lack of leadership

Almost everyone comes out of the military with some type of leadership capabilities. Something you hear often in the military is, “in the absence of leadership, be a leader.” This applies heavily to civilian life because there’s often severe absence of leadership. If you get out of the military without learning how to take control from time to time, you likely didn’t learn much else.

Lack of punctuality

We’re all guilty of being late to something at some point. It just happens, it’s the way of life. But, those who learned anything from time in service will remember the factors that played into that tardiness, both self-inflicted and external, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re choosing to be late because you just don’t care — you’ve given up your title.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

If you define yourself as an “ex-Marine,” by all means.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

A conscious decision to no longer be a Marine

There’s a common belief among those who served that states you should always work to justify the fact that you’ve earned the right to be called a Marine (or solider, or airmen, etc). You should continuously employ the values learned in service in forming your civilian life.

There is, however, another side to this — and it’s simple. If you decide you’re no longer fitting of that title because you’ve grown a beard or whatever other, arbitrary reason, then you aren’t.

Many of us still believe in our titles and we’re willing to continue to honor it. It’s a lifetime effort and, if you’re not willing to make the commitment, nobody else will make it for you.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China probably lying that J-20 is ready for mass production

Chinese military sources told the South China Morning Post in early September 2018 that the new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter would soon be ready for mass production.

“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.

China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.


“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.

“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.

“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.

In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.

But it’s unclear how long that process will take.

“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”

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

Articles

This is why China is doing some ‘gunboat diplomacy’ of its own

A flotilla led by China’s first aircraft carrier has set out from the port city of Qingdao for what the military called “a routine training mission,” the country’s Defense Ministry said after a report emerged that the vessel would also make an unprecedented port call to Hong Kong early next month.


On June 25, the ministry said that the flotilla, led by the Liaoning carrier, includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, the frigate Yantai, and a squadron of J-15 fighter jets and helicopters.

It said the training mission, “like previous ones, is expected to strengthen coordination among the vessels and improve the skills of crews and pilots.”

On June 23rd, the South China Morning Post, citing unidentified sources, said the Liaoning — a refitted former Soviet-era vessel that China acquired from Ukraine in 1998 — will visit Hong Kong early next month for the 20th anniversary of its handover to Chinese rule from Britain.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
China’s carrier Liaoning. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“The People’s Liberation Army is to make its most visible appearance in Hong Kong in 20 years, marking the handover anniversary with an unprecedented port call by its first aircraft carrier,” the report said.

It said the port call will follow President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the former British colony since he became leader in 2013. Xi is scheduled to visit Hong Kong between June 29th and July 1st, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daly reported that upon its arrival, the Liaoning may be open to the city’s residents for the first time.

While US warships, including aircraft carriers, have been known to make port calls in Hong Kong, such symbolic displays of military might by the Chinese Navy are a rarity.

Experts said the visit was likely part of moves by Beijing to help bolster patriotism in the Chinese enclave, especially among younger Hong Kongers who experienced the pro-democracy “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014 and ensuing battle between activists and members of the pro- China establishment.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said Xi’s decision to visit “shows that he will not be deterred by the prospects of protests.”

“He is a very seasoned political leader and is not so easily intimidated,” Zhang said.

As for the Liaoning’s expected visit, Zhang said he believed this would mainly be used to boost patriotism in Hong Kong.

“Beijing is aware that some Hong Kongers do not want to embrace their Chinese identity,” Zhang said. “Many surveys have shown that this is particularly a problem among the younger people … such as the 20-30 age group.

Zhang said that Beijing has employed a number of measures in recent years “to try to shape the identities of Hong Kong people.”

“In that context,” he added, the visit by the “Liaoning could offer many ordinary Hong Kong people a chance to witness China’s achievements, thereby enhancing their (sense of) Chinese identity.”

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Liaoning carried out its first training drills in the Western Pacific last December, when it cruised into the waterway between Okinawa and Miyakojima Island.

The new carrier and exercises are seen as part of the Chinese Navy’s effort to expand its operational reach as it punches further into the Pacific Ocean.

China’s growing military presence in the region, especially in the disputed South and East China seas, has fueled concern in the United States and Japan.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where it has built up and militarized a string of man-made islands. In the East China Sea, Beijing is involved in a territorial dispute over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea offered to give up this threat to 9 million people

North Korean diplomats talking to South Korean officials in the demilitarized border zone between the two countries reportedly offered to remove the North’s long-range artillery guns, which have been a dagger pointed at Seoul’s throat for decades.

Before North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, before it even built its first facility to create fissile material, its artillery had established a strong deterrent against South Korea and the US.


North Korea is estimated to have thousands of massive artillery guns hidden in hardened shelters among the hills and mountains of the country’s rugged terrain. Artillery batteries located within range of the South Korean capital of Seoul could kill tens of thousands of people every hour if war were to break out.

Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.

The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27, 2018, during their historic first summit.

Not nuclear, but not nothing

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un providing guidance on a nuclear weapons program in an undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on September 3, 2017.

North Korea’s artillery guns have little to do with its nuclear weapons program, the elimination of which is the stated purpose of all recent North Korean diplomacy.

But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.

Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.

Experts assess that any steps made to wither the US-South Korean alliance could precipitate the decline of the US as a power in Asia and then the world.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airmen prepare for heavenly warfare in Space Flag

Air Force Space Command concluded its fourth iteration of the Department of Defense’s premier space exercise December 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Space Flag 19-1 took place over the course of two weeks, testing airmen from the 50th Space Wing and the 460th SW. SF 19-1 also included airmen from the 27th and 26th Space Aggressors squadrons, which are tenant units of Air Combat Command located at Schriever Air Force Base, Louisiana.

The goal of the exercise is to enable forces to achieve and maintain space superiority in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.


“The intent of Space Flag is to allow tactical operators the ability to learn how to fight and defend their systems as an enterprise with other tactical operators in an arena we currently do not have,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 21st Operations Group commander and SF 19-1 space boss.

To prepare airmen for any conflict, space operators are thrown a dynamic range of scenarios.

“We train the way we fight,” said Capt. Josh Thogode, 27th SAS flight commander and SF 19-1 space aggressor. “My goal as an aggressor is to make blue (United States) lose in any scenario. If they lose during the exercise, then we can win when it matters. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. The aggressors can add value to our techniques, tactics and procedures moving forward – that’s what we bring to the fight.”

The training space operators see is diverse and comes from several perspectives. In addition to aggressors testing space operators, senior space operators, referred to as tactical mentors, also provide training. The mentors observe and counsel airmen throughout the exercise and look for opportunities to give feedback to the space operators on how to improve their response to the threat.

“Space Flag really brings out the creativity in our space operations crew force,” said Maj. Justin Roberts, 50th SW weapons officer and SF 19-1 tactical mentor. “This exercise is an excellent opportunity for our space operators to think and test out new ideas. I, alongside other mentors, am there to gauge and guide their ideas. I have now been a tactical mentor for SF three times and I have seen a huge increase in the quality and capabilities of the operators coming to the exercise.”

Before Space Flag, facing an adversary in a space training environment was a rare thing.

“Space had always been benign,” Pepper said. “Back in our lieutenant days, we didn’t expect to have to defend our assets on orbit. We weren’t actively training against those threats. The war-fight is shifting though, so we have to be ready to encounter anything against our land-based and terrestrial systems. Having living, thinking aggressors acting as adversaries in the training environment prepares us for that day, if it ever comes.”

During calendar year 2017 and 2018, Space Flag occurred twice a year. During fiscal year 2019, Space Flag will increase to three times a year.

“Our adversaries have made tremendous strides in contesting us in the space domain,” said Pepper. “We have transitioned our culture and our way of thinking from just providing a service to the warfighter to actually being a space warfighter. We are a part of the fight, and the fight is on today.”

The next Space Flag is slated for April 2019.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Game of Thrones’ Oreos are coming – take your PT test now

Oreo will release “Game of Thrones”-inspired cookies just in time for the series’ final season.

The limited-edition “Game of Thrones” Oreos, which taste like the original cookie, come emblazoned with one of four different decals inspired by the show. Three of the cookies feature the family sigils of the major houses vying for the Iron Throne, while the fourth cookie comes carved with a profile of the Night King.


The House Stark direwolf sigil is embossed on one version of the cookie.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

House Stark Oreo.

(OREO)

The Mother of Dragons is represented with a House Targaryen-inspired cookie featuring the iconic three-headed dragon sigil.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

House Targaryen Oreo.

(OREO)

Meanwhile, the famous “golden lion” of House Lannister makes an appearance on another version of the “Game of Thrones” Oreo cookies.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

House Lannister Oreo.

(OREO)

Finally, the Night King represents the White Walker army with a cookie of his own.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment

The Night King Oreo.

(OREO)

Oreo is celebrating the collaboration by recreating the show’s title sequence with an animated landscape built entirely out of 2,750 Oreo cookies. Check out the video below:

Oreo x Game of Thrones Title Sequence

www.youtube.com

Fans of the show can visit Oreo’s website or post on Facebook and Twitter using #GameofCookies or #FortheThrone to pledge their loyalty to any of the houses or the White Walker opposition. Oreo will then surprise some lucky participants with a special treat; the company has not yet disclosed what the treat will be.

The new “Game of Thrones” Oreos will hit shelves nationwide starting April 8, 2019, giving fans of the series plenty of time to stock up on the limited-edition snack prior to the hit show’s season eight debut on HBO April 14, 2019.

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

Articles

The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just announced the 2018 global temperatures – and it’s not good

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.


“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities, according to Schmidt.

2018 Was the Fourth Hottest Year on Record

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Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced similar amounts of warming. NOAA found the 2018 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the 14th warmest on record.

Warming trends are strongest in the Arctic region, where 2018 saw the continued loss of sea ice. In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise. Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events, according to Schmidt.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt.

NASA’s temperature analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment


This line plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2018, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest.

These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heat island effects that could skew the conclusions. These calculations produce the global average temperature deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties. Taking this into account, NASA estimates that 2018’s global mean change is accurate to within 0.1 degree Fahrenheit, with a 95 percent certainty level.

NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period and different interpolation into the Earth’s polar and other data poor regions. NOAA’s analysis found 2018 global temperatures were 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.

NASA’s full 2018 surface temperature data set — and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation — are available at:

https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

NASA uses the unique vantage point of space to better understand Earth as an interconnected system. The agency also uses airborne and ground-based monitoring, and develops new ways to observe and study Earth with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/earth

The slides for the Feb. 6 news conference are available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/noaa-nasa_global_analysis-2018-final_feb6.pdf

NOAA’s Global Report is available at:

http://bit.ly/Global201812

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA finally approved benefits for this WW2 human test subject

Arla Harrell, a 90-year-old Missouri veteran who was intentionally exposed to mustard gas during World War II, has been awarded his backdated benefits from the VA, following a decades-long fight and legislation from US Senator Claire McCaskill on behalf of Mr. Harrell and his fellow service members.


The VA’s decision cited McCaskill’s legislation, and her testimony on the family’s behalf, in the awarding of Mr. Harrell’s benefits.

McCaskill testified in July at Mr. Harrell’s Veterans Affairs claim appeals hearing after the VA’s repeated denial of his benefits-asking the judge to take a careful look at his case and grant him the right to hear that his government believes him.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Arla and his family, that after so many decades being told ‘no’, so many claims denied, so many bureaucrats refusing to believe he had been mistreated by his own government-the VA is finally saying ‘yes'” said McCaskill, herself the daughter of a World War II veteran, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “This law, that so many folks put party aside to pass, is already getting results: long-overdue justice and the simple recognition of what Arla and so many of his fellow soldiers, sacrificed for their country. And three simple words that the government should have said to Arla decades ago, ‘we believe you.'”

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey greets Senator Claire McCaskill (right). Photo from SecDef Flickr.

In August, President Trump signed McCaskill’s Arla Harrell Act into law after it was approved by the Senate, capping a two-year battle and paving the way for decades-overdue relief to veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas.

As the document granting Mr. Harrell’s claim states, the reversal comes after McCaskill, who is listed as a witness for Mr. Harrell, passed her legislation. “During the pendency of the Veteran’s appeal, the President of the United States… signed legislation [the Arla Harrell Act] that directs the VA to reconsider previously denied claims for disability compensation for veterans who allege full-body exposure to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas, or Lewisite during World War II… [ Arla Harrell’s claims] will be reconsidered in light of this new legislation.”

During World War II, thousands of US servicemen were exposed to mustard agents through secret US military experiments. By the end of the war, 60,000 servicemen had been human subjects in the military’s chemical defense research program, with an estimated 4,000 of them receiving high levels of exposure to mustard agents.

For decades, these servicemen were under explicit orders not to discuss their toxic exposure with their doctors or even their families. The US military did not fully acknowledge its role in the testing program until the last of the experiments was declassified in 1975. The military did not lift the oath of secrecy until the early 1990s.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
Alra Harrell. Photo from the Harrell family via St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Following her investigative report, McCaskill battled what she called a “decades-long record of ineptitude and failure” at the VA, and enlisted the support of Republican and Democratic colleagues, including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who introduced companion legislation in the US House.

McCaskill also rallied veterans service organizations in support of her bill, and successfully pressured President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in support of the legislation.

The law required a re-examination of Arla Harrell’s claim for VA benefits, and the inclusion of Camp Crowder on the list of sites where full body testing took place. It also mandates a quick review of previously denied claims, places the burden on the VA (instead of the veteran) to prove or disprove exposure, revamps the VA’s application and adjudication process in the future, and mandates an investigation by both agencies to determine what went wrong with this process and officially acknowledge the horror these servicemen endured.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

Update: This article previously stated that the Falcons would again be wearing the initials of fallen heroes at the Super Bowl. This act of honor was solely done during their Salute to Service game in November.


The Atlanta Falcons, who will face off against the New England Patriots this weekend in Super Bowl LI, honored veterans by wearing the initials of fallen heroes on their helmets during their Salute to Service game in November 2016. Together with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), the Falcons put together a meaningful event that including the surviving families of the fallen.

Army veteran Craig Morgan releases new album, includes a song he wrote with 2 Army Rangers before deployment
The Atlanta Falcons honored 63 fallen heroes and recognized their surviving families at their Salute to Service game in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

The tribute is part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign; in partnership with USAA, the NFL works throughout the year to honor veterans and raise funds for the USO, the Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Wounded Warrior Project (millions and millions of funds, in fact).

In fact, the Falcons played such a key role in honoring America’s vets and their families, Head Coach Dan Quinn was nominated for USAA’s Salute to Service Award.

The video below features players from the Falcons as they share the names of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The list is a sobering reminder of the cost of freedom, but the comments from people who personally knew the heroes named is what will make you reach for the tissues.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Benefits breakdown

In episode 157, we spoke with Army veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week’s Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.

The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory — also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest — is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps veterans to do just that.


The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.

Helping Veterans Become Whole

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VA created four main hubs for instructing those granted into the program: Minneapolis, MN; Tampa, Fl; Richmond, VA; and Palo Alto, CA.

In this episode we look at:

  • How the program started.
  • How a Veteran can apply to the program.
  • Some Examples of the technology being developed.

Enjoy.

#BtBattle Veteran of the Week: Marine Corps veteran Meredith Keirn.

Check out the full episode.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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