Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries - We Are The Mighty
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Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

In October 2018, Airman Magazine sat down for a conversation with Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Twenty-fourth Air Force commander; Air Forces Cyber commander and Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. He is responsible for providing Air Force component and combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan, direct and execute global cyberspace operations.


Airman Magazine: In July, the Twenty-fourth AF moved from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command. At the same time you moved from AFSPC to ACC. What are the reasons for that restructuring?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: This allows Gen. Raymond, as the Air Force Space Command commander, to truly focus on space operations. The other thing is this brings cyber within Air Combat Command, which has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; command and control and the air domain. Bringing all these forces together under one four-star MAJCOM (major command) commander, Gen. Holmes, allows him some more flexibility to be able to present forces across the spectrum of operations.

The networks for those operations need to be resilient and they need to be protected. When you bring together the ISR, cyber, information operations, electronic warfare and command and control, that’s a lot under one hat. But it allows us greater integration as we move forward. At the end of the day, this is about multi-domain operations and the more we can bring those together, the more successful we’ll be.

Airman Magazine: How are your responsibilities divided between your three commands? It seems that just the information technology portion alone would be a huge demand on your resources.

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Cyber operations have four or five different lines of effort. One is to actually build the networks, build the applications and build the systems.

Another is to operate and maintain the networks, but also secure and protect them from vulnerability to adversaries. We also defend networks for our maneuver forces and then we have full spectrum operations, which is on the offensive side.

We also have combat communications airmen and engineering installation airmen who extend the network out to a multitude of places, whether that’s tactical basing or at the forward battle edge.

With that said, information technology is still a key part of the cyberspace domain and we are moving forward in the Enterprise IT as a service. We are going to utilize things industry does very well as a commodity type of action activity.

We are going to leverage what industry does great, providing some services and network infrastructure, and re-mission our airmen to do core Air Force missions on the defensive and offensive side, while providing assurance for the many missions the Air Force presents to the combatant commanders on the joint side.

The bottom line is we’re in the cyber operations business — information technology, networks, both operating and defending — and we provide full spectrum operations in this thing we call the cyberspace domain.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Tech. Sgt. Wyatt Bloom uses a spectrum analyzer to check television broadcast network routers at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., July 18, 2012. Bloom is a cyber-transport technician assigned to DMA.

Airman Magazine: Would you explain your duties as commander of the Air Force component at Cyber Command? How is that different from the hat you wear as commander of Twenty-fourth AF and Air Force Cyber?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: This could actually be a dissertation. To break it down a little bit, the Twenty-fourth AF is where we organize, train and equip our airmen. The perfect example is we have an organization down at Hurlburt Field — they train almost every cyber professional. Now we do a lot more than that, but that’s one example of the Twenty-fourth AF piece.

In the Air Force cyber piece, I am charged by the Air Force to present forces to Gen. Paul Nakasone, the U.S. Cyber Command commander, for his missions and functions as the combatant commander.

We provide offensive forces and defensive forces, DODIN (Department of Defense Information Networks) ops cyber professionals and ISR professionals to Gen. Nakasone, so he can perform his mission.

Then the third area is the Joint Force Headquarters side. That’s where Gen. Nakasone has asked us to align to three different combatant commanders to provide additional joint support for their missions.

We have planning elements that are aligned to these three combatant commanders, as well as some cyber teams supporting the commanders’ efforts in defense of the mission. Our teams are able to deploy and employ forces against a particular adversary at the time and place of the combatant command commanders’ choosing.

Our job within Twenty-fourth AF, AF Cyber JFHQC and Cyber Command, is to be ready at a moment’s notice to protect our systems and defend the networks and defend the core missions of our military and our joint war fighters. Then deter, disrupt and degrade an enemy’s ability to perform those functions against us. Part of that goes into making sure that we have persistent engagement, a persistent presence, and a persistent innovation as we continue to move forward.

Airman Magazine: Across the Air Force, joint force, partner agencies and nations, do cyber operations equate to kinetic operations or is that a completely different animal?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say it is not a completely different animal. To be successful in cyber operations and have cyberspace superiority at the time and place of our choosing, we need a team of teams that is internal to the Air Force.

Every single airman in our Air Force needs to be a cyber sentinel. We need every airman to be very conscious of cyber security, cyber hygiene and things that are going on within the cyberspace domain.

We have branched out and are part of several joint organizations that perform functions and missions within the cyber domain. The National Security Agency is a huge partner with us as we perform these missions, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency and Department of Homeland Security — a lot of different agencies across the board.

We are also great partners with commercial industry and academia because we’re all in the same field and in the same cyber domain.

Within Twenty-fourth AF, we have a United Kingdom representative and an Australian liaison officer, but most of our allies and partners are really up at the Cyber Command level. We leverage those partners through U.S. Cyber Command, NATO and other organizations.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: What is it that makes your cyber airmen “cyber warriors”?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Our airmen are absolutely warriors. We have teams in the fight operating constantly: 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and New Year’s.

If you’ve heard Gen. Nakasone speak recently you’ve heard him say we’re no longer solely responding to network intrusions, we have cyber forces persistently engaged against state and non-state adversaries, actively identifying and countering threats in the cyber domain.

This achieves several benefits at once: first and foremost, it gives us control over the cyber terrain that serves as the foundation for superiority in cyberspace. It also keeps our operators ready and their skills honed and imposes cost on the adversary so they can no longer operate freely without repercussion. There’s already a massive demand signal for our cyber operators that will only increase, so we have to ensure we’re fielding proficient, ready and lethal operators at scale.

Because of this, we are investing not only the readiness of our mission, but also in the readiness of our people. This means examining everything within our scope of control, including the effect the operational tempo of our 24/7/365 mission has on our operators.

Just like you see within the (remotely piloted aircraft) field, cyber can mean long periods away from the sunlight and abnormal sleep hours, and that can absolutely have an effect on people. Any leader will tell you—if you take care of the people, they will take care of the mission.

Airman Magazine: What part does the total force play in cyber operations and defense?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I will tell you, we could not do our job on a day-to-day basis without the total force. The majority of the forces within Twenty-fourth AF are guard and reserve components.

Our engineering installation mission is 85 to 90 percent within the guard. More than 50 percent of our combat communications capability, which extends and expands our capabilities to the tactical edge, is in the guard. We have guard organizations up in Washington. We have some in Rhode Island. We have some here in Texas. I will tell you they provide great day-to-day work.

What’s even more important is the expertise that they bring from their civilian jobs. We have vice presidents of some corporations who are part of our total force as well. Bringing that expertise, leadership, things that the public is good at and things that industry is focused on benefits the military and vice versa. They take lessons learned from the military and take it to their company. So it’s a great yin-yang relationship.

Whether it’s an offensive operation or a defensive operation or even DODIN ops, there has to be a tight tie between all of those as we move forward because the defense learns from the offense and the offense learns from the defense. DODIN ops learn from defense to figure it out where we need to be resilient, where some of our mission critical assets are and how to defend them.

All the computer networks, email, applications and systems in the cyberspace domain are what we call the Department of Defense Information Networks. There are pay applications that we have in the Air Force that are part of DODIN. If you get paid electronically within the Air Force that’s part of the DoD information network.

Airman Magazine: Is it an advantage that those reserve and National Guard personnel tend to have long histories with one unit?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. In some places having continuity is good. I would say having too much continuity isn’t necessarily good in cyber because you want some fresh blood, some fresh ideas.

Airman Magazine: Would a technical track for active-duty cyber operators benefit the force?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Similar to other domains and weapon systems, we have to be proficient to be effective. Since cyber is a technical domain we do need technical expertise.

However as our people gain that expertise and increase in rank and responsibility, we need them to be leaders and lead teams to success while still maintaining credibility in their profession. We, ACC and Headquarters Air Force are working closely together to determine what the right “path to greatness” will look like, in order to build a force that generates maximum lethality.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: As cyber tools and methods seem to change constantly, ow can the acquisitions process be altered to make sure the Air Force has the best technologies and practices in the cyber domain?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The Air Force and DoD leadership are laser-like focused on our ability to acquire things in a more agile, fast and relevant way. We have leveraging other authorities, like 804 authorities, to bring on the future faster and to bring innovation faster.

As an Air Force we are becoming more of a software force than a hardware force. The ability to bring the new wave of agile software development operations, DevOps, is going to be key in maintaining our superiority and operating within the enemy’s OODA loop (time it takes to observe, orient, decide, and act).

We’re bringing in individuals who understand the old waterfall model is not the right model because by the time that you set the requirements and start developing to those requirements, the environment, threats and priorities have changed.

If you’re spending weeks, months and years identifying and defining hundreds or thousands of requirements, you definitely can’t meet those requirements in a timely manner. So leverage industry, leverage developers who are innovative, define the left and right limits or requirements.

So you get a three to five-page requirements document, which is much better than a 100 to 200-page document. Let them innovate and come back with a solution and in a much more timely manner—days and weeks versus months and years. Then you iterate and you continue to iterate on that minimum viable product.

Then also leverage some of those techniques to buy the right hardware in a timely fashion and focus on the approval top rate process, to reduce the amount of time to approve either software or hardware for connecting to the network. I know that Dr. Roper, Air Force Acquisition and the chief and secretary are very focused on bringing the future faster.

Airman Magazine: The Air Force is considering launching a cyber rapid capabilities office. How would that benefit the Twenty-fourth AF and the cyber community as a whole?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The traditional slow-and-steady acquisition model is great for buying a fleet of fifth-generation aircraft, but it isn’t ideal for cyberspace where the landscape is changing constantly and where the state-of-the-art is available to anyone interested in buying. We need to get faster.

The DNA of the Air Force RCO brings agility and flexibility, which drives down timelines and increases capability. Right now we can’t say what form a cyber RCO would take, but will benefit us by getting the right capabilities and weapons at the right time to our operators. We need to respond to malicious cyber activity with greater speed and tempo employing a calculated, “spectrum of risk” framework which is properly delegated at echelon to enable responsible and responsive cyberspace operations in support of assigned missions.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

The concept of Fusion Warfare gathers all intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data across all Air Force platforms into the “combat cloud” through and autonomous process where it’s analyzed and combined to create a real time big picture for commanders.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron)

Airman Magazine: What effect will advances in big data research have on cyber operations?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Data is the game changer in our business. If I own the data battle space, then I will definitely be within the OODA loop of the adversary. Being able to leverage quantum computing, artificial intelligence and analysis of big data platforms is really the future of our mission.

There is so much data out there in today’s environment there is no way that you can get through all of it (manually). So you may miss a key data point that would help you make a decision. In a future conflict, being able to have the right data at the right time analyzed at the right tempo is key to success.

We’re putting a lot of effort into better understanding the data, not just from cyber standpoint, but also in logistics, in intelligence and even in personnel. The more we can analyze the data, the better that we can perform education and training, perform timely logistics, perform ISR operations. Every single Air Force core mission is reliant on data to be more effective, more efficient and more successful.

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about Hack the Air Force and its value to the force?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: The first Hack the Air Force iteration was in late 2017, after the successful Hack the Pentagon initiative by Defense Digital Services. When the first hackathon sprint kicked off it took less than a minute for a hacker to find a valid vulnerability. By the end, over 200 holes in our boundary had been patched—and that was just the first iteration.

Hack the Air Force gets after two important focus areas: first, it builds capacity for the Air Force by leveraging expertise from a multitude of places, and second, it leverages innovative thinking to find vulnerabilities we otherwise might not uncover.

Take, for example, the person who won the first hackathon sprint, a 17-year-old high school student from Chicago. Maybe his path won’t lead him to the Air Force, but we were still able to use his talents to make ourselves more resilient. To me that’s a win.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Quynh Tran, right, a Raytheon Corporation software engineer, talks with Capt. Nick Lundin, Product Management lead, about a software coding project May 30, 2018 at Kessel Run, a program within the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a United States Department of Defense organization, in Boston.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: What lessons can be learned from commercial companies about practices that enable those fresh ideas to come forward?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great lessons learned from Silicon Valley and I would offer Silicon Valley has also learned from the Department of Defense.

As I’ve said many times over my 33-year career to date, if I came into the military today, compared with a talent level of the individuals that we have now, I would not be as successful as I have been.

The talent today is amazing and our job as senior leaders is how do we unleash that talent? How do we have the right policies and the right directives leveraging the right acquisition authorities and unleash this talent on the hard problems that our force and our nation face today.

The key is getting the right people in the room to determine how best to provide solutions, whether it’s software development, hardware acquisition or cyberspace operations. It’s getting the right people in the room and getting through the bureaucracy, pushing the bureaucracy to the side and being able to unleash the talent.

Airman Magazine: How can, especially when it comes to the cyber domain, the Air Force compete with civilian industry to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There was always a competition between academia, research labs, commercial industry and the military. We as a military cannot compete from a dollar standpoint.

But where we can compete is with the great things you can do within the DoD, that you probably can’t do within the commercial world. We have great missions coming from the research we’re doing.

Some of the operations we’re doing on a day-to-day basis, you can’t do that on the commercial side. We have opportunities for individuals at a variety of levels to perform things they couldn’t do outside of the military. That’s our calling card.

Airman Magazine: Peer and near-peer competitors have been going to school on us since World War II; how do we offset that advantage?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say every threat is an opportunity. While we have been focused over the last 10 to 15 years on the violent extremist, the latest National Defense Strategy, National Security Strategy and National Cyber Strategy outline strategic competition, peer competitors, and has turned the focus there.

You’ll hear a lot about readiness. Readiness is very important to our chief, very important to our secretary and very important to the secretary of defense. We need to make sure that we have a lethal force. In order to do that, you need to have a ready force.

In order to be ready, you need to have a disciplined force. Especially when there is strategic competition out there and adversaries who on a day-to-day basis are performing actions and operations that are probably right below the level of conflict.

But, I would not want to go and do a mission against a threat with anyone else but the airmen we have in our service today. Our airmen, with our joint partners in the other services, still have the most critical, credible and lethal force in the world.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Airmen with the 68th Network Warfare Squadron monitor Air Force communications to analyze disclosures of critical information and perform data loss prevention at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You talked about having a disciplined force in order to be lethal. What constitutes discipline in the cyber world?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Discipline is key. I’m not talking about discipline from a uniform code of military justice aspect. This is discipline in processes, discipline in procedures and discipline in command and control. We spent a lot of time going back and trying to figure out what happened on something because there was an undisciplined tactic, technique, procedure or process. We’re trying to leverage discipline to make our force more effective and more capable and build capacity.

Then we come to a readiness standpoint. Readiness, as you know, is made up of personnel, equipment, procedures and training. We are continually leveraging our innovative airmen to improve the training they receive, how we purchase equipment, how we educate our airmen.

Part of all this is proficiency. Proficiency against a violent extremist organization is much different than proficiency against strategic competitors. Our focus continues to be how to maintain and improve the readiness and proficiency against strategic competitors.

We are also leveraging our airmen and technology to be more efficient and more effective.

Leveraging artificial intelligence can decrease the amount of time that our airmen spend doing manual work so they can focus on the higher end discussions of cognitive actions and activities.

For example, manually looking through thousands of pages of data takes a very long time. We have airmen who are leveraging technology, whether it’s using keywords or bringing a couple of technologies together, that can take those thousands of documents and run through them in minutes versus hours, days or weeks.

Then taking what the technology has given you and put the human eye on it — are there any other needles in the haystack?

That’s what our airmen are doing on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s from a data collection standpoint, whether it’s from a cyber operation standpoint, whether it’s looking through logs to see if we have an adversary presence on our networks. Looking through logs to make sure that our user experience is where it needs to be on a daily basis, but leveraging technology to reduce the amount of manual steps.

Airman Magazine: With a kinetic weapon, the effects are apparent and there is an inherent process to be able to determine origin, intent and purpose. The very nature of cyber is to hide the hand that dealt the cards. What kind of challenges does determining attribution pose for a commander?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: So attribution is a very significant challenge. There are not as well defined international norms in the cyberspace domain and therefore a multitude of nations and multitude of criminals and the multitude of other individuals are continuing to push the limits.

It is often very apparent in the other domains, from an effect or an outcome, who the actors are. In the cyber domain, you can have the same type of effects in as in other domains, but it is harder to determine the source, which is really important when you start talking about multi-domain operations.

Cyber is a critical enabler while also a critical operation because cyber can be both supporting and supported within multi-domain operations. As we continue to refine our operations, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will continue to get better at understanding attribution, understanding the outcomes, and making sure that we refine and define those outcomes and bound the outcomes to meet our mission objectives.

As cyber continues to get more profound and more pronounced in the day-to-day operations, attribution is going to become that much harder.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, then Deputy Commander of Air Force Space Command, speaks at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 6, 2018.

(Photo by Dave Grim)

Airman Magazine: How do you convince people that cyber and space have become foundational to everything that the Air Force, and our society as a whole, does on a daily basis?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ll give you a perfect example, the Global Positioning System is operated by Air Force Space Command: not only for the nation, but the whole world. The U.S. Air Force supplies and supports the system and satellites that enable the GPS navigation we use in our cars and on our phones every day, millions of times around the world.

It also provides timing. Every financial transaction is supported by the GPS system. So when you purchase something and put your credit card into that reader, there’s a timing aspect that is being supported by GPS. So the Air Force is supporting billions of activities and actions all the time.

Airman Magazine: The chief of staff and secretary have made it a priority to push command level decisions down to the lowest level possible. How is that manifested in your command?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Its not only because the chief and the secretary say they want it done. We have the greatest airmen in the world and we have the greatest commanders in the world—pushing authorities and responsibility down to the lowest level really enables them to unleash the talent around them and enables us to unleash their talent.

You don’t need higher headquarters micromanaging and directing things on a daily basis. Our commanders are boarded. We have a tradition of great commanders in our Air Force and we need to let them run. We need to let them determine how best to run their organizations and how best to be effective. The more that we can push decision authority down, the more bureaucracy we can eliminate and the more agile, lethal and effective we can be as an Air Force.

From a higher headquarters level and higher commander level, our responsibility is to give the left and right limits to those organizations and then let them run.

If we are in a conflict, especially against a peer competitor, the amount of time it would take to micromanage our tactical-level units would not allow us to be inside the OODA loop of our adversary.

We need to allow our commanders, in peacetime, to train like they are going to fight. To have that authority to perform the mission as they see fit. With more guidance, directives and limitations to that commander, there’s going to be some negative learning, first and foremost, but secondly, the safety of our airmen will be put in jeopardy.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Participants in the joint, multinational exercise Cyber Guard 2016 work through a training scenario during the nine-day event in Suffolk, Va., on June 16, 2016.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Hyatt)

Airman Magazine: As commander of Joint Force Headquarters Cyber, you’re responsible for cyber affects in campaign plans from U.S. Central Command to U.S. Transportation Command. How does that integration take place?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: Aligned to each of those combatant commanders we have an element called the Cyber Operations Integrated Planning Element. We are just now standing those up and they are at the combatant commanders’ headquarters.

They’re kind of our picture window into that combatant commander to enable cyber operations planning to be part of their overall plan. Each combatant commander has either a function or a region they’re responsible for and they have what we call a scheme of maneuver, which is either day-to-day or in conflict. It is the commander’s plan of how to ensure sure we are successful in that campaign.

These planning elements are aligned there so we can be part of that plan and make sure that cyber isn’t just bolted on, but integrated into that plan. Cyber will be one of the first options that are available to that combatant commander below the level of conflict to make sure that we are meeting our objectives.

Airman Magazine: How do you get everyone with a piece of the huge cyber puzzle speaking the same language? How do you communicate capabilities and vulnerabilities to leadership, agency partners and airmen who are not cyber experts?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I would say today we have the best understanding and the best alignment from the cyber domain standpoint that we’ve ever had with all the strategy documents – the National Defense Strategy, which is underneath the National Security Strategy, the National Cyber Policy and Strategy, the DoD Cyber Strategy and the Cyber Posture Review.

All of these documents are perfectly aligned and it’s a great understanding of the capabilities that we provide, but also the importance of cyber to the multi-domain operations. The education is continual, but I offer that our Air Force leadership understands the cyber domain. They understand how important the cyber domain is to multi-domain operations.

We continue to educate the entire forest. We’re continuing the education process of all of our airmen, from the highest level to the most junior airman and the joint community, but from a joint standpoint and a national standpoint cyber is more understood than it ever has been.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

(AFIT CCR photo)

Airman Magazine: Do you see the Continuum of Learning concept and applications like the Cyber Learning Hub being developed by the Center for Cyberspace Research, Air Force Cyber College and U.S Air Force Academy’s CyberWorx, as aiding in that effort?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: There are a lot of great opportunities with that as cyber continues to be more and more integrated into the day-to-day operations.

We currently have the Air Force Warfare Center where we bring a lot of different mission systems together, integrate them, exercise and train and cyber is a significant part of that.

From an education standpoint we send people to the Air Force Institute of Technology. They not only have general education classes, but we they have Cyber 100, Cyber 200, Cyber 300 and Cyber 400 courses.

We have the 39th Information Operations Squadron, which does our cyber training. Keesler Air Force Base has a lot of our cyber courses. Just as Gen. Raymond over the last year has been working with Air University to make sure we have more space in our professional military education, we’re doing the same thing from a cyber standpoint.

We’re working with Gen. Cotton at Air University and Gen. Kwast at Air Education and Training Command to make sure that we continue to improve the amount of cyber and relevant topics in cyber education in basic military training through professional military education and to highlight cyber, both from a professional and a personal standpoint, because it impacts every part of your life.

Airman Magazine: In that vein, what would you like every airman to be aware of in their daily connectivity?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: One of the biggest vectors that our adversaries use to get into our networks is email. It’s called spear phishing. You can get those at your home and at the office. We continue to educate that you should know who the sender of an email is, that you do not click on links that you’re not certain are good links. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you get an email offering a free vacation, there’s probably not a free vacation. That’s probably someone trying to gain access to your personal information or gain access into our Air Force systems to cause havoc and disrupt our ability to do our missions.

Additionally, be aware that our adversaries can put different pieces of unclassified information together, which in the aggregate actually become classified. So you always have to be careful when you’re outside of work, or even inside work, of what you talk about in the open.

You have to monitor your computer systems. Make sure your systems are patched, especially at home, because that is the quickest way for an adversary to exploit your system. Some vulnerabilities have been out there for years. We find that both on the commercial side and the government side — there are systems out there that have not been patched in a long time, even though a patch has been out there.

We’re continuing to leverage technology to make that a little easier, to make sure that we’re updating and protecting all those systems.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, Commander, 24th Air Force; Commander, Air Forces Cyber and Commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber is photographed at his headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force places a premium on building leaders. What twists and turns has your career taken that culminated in command of the Twenty-fourth AF?

Maj. Gen. Skinner: I’ve had multiple mentors who have taken a special interest in my career. They have said you need to go to this position. I questioned it. I didn’t understand it. But it turns out that developed a place in my leadership that was not refined well enough. We spend a lot of time and energy on managing our talent. What differentiates us from other nations and other militaries is our airmen, whether officer, enlisted or civilian.

Our Airmen are our most precious asset. It is our solemn duty to professionally develop our airmen to the best extent possible. We take special interest in placing them where they professionally develop, while making sure our missions continue to be successful.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

The Burpee Mile Challenge is the perfect way to end 2020

Looking for a ridiculous fitness challenge to keep you on track this winter? Or maybe you’re just tired of the same old boring lift routine and need something new. Well, friends, let us introduce you to one of the most insane things to come out of CrossFit ever – the Burpee Mile Challenge.

You read that right – burpees for an entire mile.


The challenge isn’t so much about competing for a specific time, as it is one of those things you can say you’ve done and cross off your list. Like running the Red Bull 400 or completing a Ragnar, doing the Spartan Death Race, marathon rucking, or ultramarathoning.

So let’s talk about this challenge – what it is, the benefits of it, and how you can safely train to complete it.

The Burpee Mile challenge isn’t one of Crossfit’s better known WODS (Workout of the day) – it doesn’t classify as a Hero WOD that pays tribute to military and first responders, and it’s not one of the Girl WODs, but it’s definitely a benchmark. Doing burpees for an entire mile will test not just your physical ability to do over 800 burpees but also your mental toughness as well. First, the official rules: You must cover one-mile using burpees only. You can jump forward as far as you want for each burpee, but you’re not allowed to walk forward. So that’s on track to be a complete, full mile of burpees. Gross.

But the sneaky trick here is that you can jump forward as far as you want (or can). That means all your movement doesn’t have to come from burpees alone. That’s key if you’re really considering this challenge.

The best part is you don’t need any special equipment – just a stretch of distance to measure your progress. Gloves are a good idea if you’re doing this on anything other than soft ground since your hands are likely to get destroyed. A good goal time should be around 2 to 3 hours for beginners (that’s anyone who’s new to the painful love of burpees), 1.5-2.5 hours for intermediate burpee lovers, and for folks who knock out 100 burpees a day just for fun, your time should be less than two hours.

Keep in mind if you’ve never done a burpee in your life, this might not be a good challenge for you to try.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Mease)

So what are the benefits and what’s the point?

Well, the benefits are scant, to be honest. Sure, you’ll get a really good cardio because, of course, that’s going to happen when you perform so many burpees and broad jumps. But you’ll also fatigue your entire body, since burpees are a full-body movement. The combination of great cardio and improved muscle endurance will definitely put you one step closer to becoming stronger, leaner, and faster.

Benefits aside, the point is that the Burpee Mile is a workout that you’re going to want to quit … over and over and over again. It’s mentally challenging, just like running a marathon or doing a Spartan Race, and that’s the whole point. Challenging your mental stamina is all about perseverance and the Burpee Mile will definitely help with that.

Things to consider

A track is best for all these burpees because you’ll be safer than on the road, and it’s easier to measure distance. Make sure you have water and snacks like fast-acting carbs set up at various points along the route. You’re definitely going to need to refuel at least once during this challenge because it takes so much out of you.

As for clothing – long pants are best since you’re dropping to the ground. Knee sleeves can be a good idea, too, if you have those. No matter what, though, make sure you have a pair of gloves on – otherwise, your hands are going to get destroyed.

Don’t start off too fast. Just like with any other endurance race, save your go-go juice for when you really need it. Keep your jumps measured. Don’t try to jump too far. That just wastes energy and you’ll fry your legs.

Of course, the most common mistake is failing to train properly for this weird challenge. Don’t expect to walk onto a track and perform two hours’ worth of burpees right out of the gate. Work toward this goal by adding in several sets of burpee broad jumps to your existing routine. You know you’re ready to try the challenge when you can do 45 minutes of burpees without dying.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The latest MOH Recipient’s citation is immortalized as a graphic novel

“Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.


The mission which was a joint operation between the United States Special Forces and the Kurdish Special Forces was chaotic from the start. Usually when it comes to military awards, we read the citation and might get a book later which goes into more detail. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Hawk Down, we get a movie. But the United States Army decided to give us an amazing visual on the mission via graphic illustrations.

That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.

On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.

Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.

There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.

The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.

Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.

Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.

Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.

Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.

Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.

He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.

By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.

He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.

He had to make sure no one was left behind.

Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”

70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….

Articles

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

They called him “the East European.”


He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.

But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
The East European conducted clandestine electronic surveillance deep inside Baghdad with no official cover. (DOD photo)

The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.

The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.

These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Inspectors and other IAEA staff prepare for the resumption of inspections in Iraq 18 Nov, 2002. (Photo Credit: Mark Gwozdecky / IAEA)

But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.

It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.

The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.

“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”

After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)

“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”

So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.

The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.

Articles

Fort Carson troops train to fight microscopic enemies

Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.


As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.

But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.

“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.

The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Photo courtesy of Fort Carson Police.

The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.

“We have a huge population,” she said.

Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.

On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
CDC Logo from Wikimedia Commons.

Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.

They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.

“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.

While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Hurricane Harvey left streets and houses flooded after making landfall. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf.

Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.

“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.

Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.

The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Firefighters and other emergency personnel assisted one another in getting into and out of protective gear. Photo by Laurie Pearson.

Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.

This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.

“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.

But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.

“It’s kind of plug and play,” Howell said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has said he wants to build agile networks to connect the force’s battlefield assets, allowing personnel to make the best decisions as quickly as possible.


The shift from wars of attrition to wars of cognition, Goldfein said in September, has led the Air Force to ask different questions about the weapons and platforms it acquires. “Now we are starting the dialogue with … does it connect … and … can it share,” he told an Air Force conference.

Goldfein reiterated this month that the force was looking at the light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that fits into that networked battlefield, where all of a force’s assets are connected.

While the force is not yet set on acquiring a new light-attack aircraft that could fly alongside the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt, it carried out tests with four candidates in August. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a press briefing on November 9 that the force expected to have a report on the experiment by the end of December, after which it would make decisions about the program and potential battlefield tests.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
The Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft conducts handling and flying quality maneuvers above White Sands Missile Range. Scorpion is participating in the U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Christopher Okula)

Goldfein — who has previously touted the importance of the OA-X on the battlefield of the future — added that the Air Force was looking to the light-attack program to augment information-sharing among partner forces with different capacities.

“There’s two parallel paths that we’re looking at on light attack. One is the traditional aircraft, sensor, weapon, but there’s another part of that, which is the network that it rides on,” Goldfein told reporters at the briefing. “As we bring more and more exquisite technology to the battlefield, it actually becomes harder and harder to share information with out allies and partners who don’t have … either the same quality or level of technology.”

Read Also: The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

“So the question that we’re asking is not only is there a light-attack capability off the shelf that we can use that can increase lethality and readiness, but is there also a shareable network that allies and partners who are already with us and those that may choose to join us … in the campaign against violent extremism, can we actually get into a new, shareable network that allows information to flow at a far faster rate so we can take out the enemy?” he added.

The light-attack experiment started taking shape earlier this year, when the Goldfein said the Air Force was looking for a cheap, commercially built fighter capable of performing close air support and other basic operations. The Air Force plans keep the A-10 Thunderbolt, the force’s premier close-air-support platform, in service, but a light-attack aircraft would allow high-end fighters like the F-16 to focus on more complex missions.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

Congress allotted about $400 million to OA-X in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, and legislators have said they want OA-X program to continue.

One of the aircraft under consideration, the A-29 Super Tucano, is already in service with the Afghan air force, and the US has ordered six more of them to send to the country as the military adjusts to President Donald Trump’s plans to expand the US-led war effort there. The US also recently sent A-29s to the Lebanese army.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described an “annihilation campaign” against ISIS in which the US and partner forces would work to reduce violence to a level that local authorities could handle it. Speaking on November 9, Goldfein used similar terms to underscore the role a light-attack aircraft would play on a connected battlefield.

“Remember the overall strategy is that we push violence down to the point where local governance and local police forces can manage it,” Goldfein said. “How can the light attack actually contribute to that?”

Articles

ISIS has released a new Android app aimed at children

A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.


Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.

This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.

The Long War Journal explained how the kids’ app works:

The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.

The site took posted these screenshots from the app:

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Al Bayan

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Al Bayan

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Al Bayan

The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.

But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.

The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

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Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

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In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

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An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

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The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

Lists

These are the 11 Russian military aircraft in Syria right now

Israeli satellites on Feb.24, 2018 revealed two Russian Su-57s at its Hmeimim air base in Syria.


A Russian official said the Su-57s were deployed to the war-torn country as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states, which periodically fly into Syrian airspace uninvited.”

Additional satellite images from July 2017 also showed 10 other kinds of Russian jets and planes, 33 aircraft altogether, stationed at its air base in Latakia.

There’s probably, however, more than 33, as some jets and aircraft could have been conducting sorties or flying elsewhere when the images were taken.

Also read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

Moscow first sent fighter jets to Syria in 2015 to help the Assad government, which is a large purchaser of Russian arms. In the first few months of 218, Russia and the Syrian regime have increased bombing runs in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, killing, injuring and displacing thousands of civilians.

Here are the 11 kinds of military jets and planes Russia has in Syria now:

1. Su-57

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(United Aircraft Corporation)

The Israeli satellite images showed two Su-57s at Hmeimim air base.

The Su-57 is Russia’s first fifth-generation stealth jet, but they are only fitted with the AL-41F1 engines, the same engine on the Su-35, and not the Izdelie-30 engine, which is still undergoing testing.

2. Su-24

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
A Su-24 taking off from Hmeimim air base in 2015. (Russian Ministry of Defense)

The satellite images from July showed 11 Su-24 Fencers, but that number might now be 10, since one Fencer crashed in October, killing both pilots.

The Su-24 is one of Russia’s older aircraft and will eventually be replaced by the Su-34, but it can still carry air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as laser-guided bombs.

3. Su-25

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
A Su-25 taking off from Hmeimim air base in Syria in 2015. (Russian Ministry of Defense)

The July satellite images showed three Su-25 Frogfoots.

The Frogfoot is another of Russia’s older attack aircraft. It’s designed to make low-flying attack runs and is comparable to the US’s legendary A-10 Warthog.

Su-25s had flown more than 1,600 sorties and dropped more than 6,000 bombs by March 2016, just six months after their arrival in Syria.

One Su-25 was also shot down by Syrian rebels and shot the pilot before he blew himself up with a grenade in early February 2017.

This photo, taken near the Hmeimim air base in 2015, shows an Su-25 carrying OFAB-250s, which are high-explosive fragmentation bombs.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

This shows a Russian airmen fixing a RBK-500 cluster bomb to an Su-25 in Syria in 2015.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

4. Su-27SM3

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

The satellite images from July showed three Su-27SM3 Flankers, which were first sent to Syria in November 2015.

The upgraded Flankers, which are versatile multirole fighters, were deployed to the war-torn country to provide escort for its other attack aircraft, among other tasks.

Related: This is who would win a dogfight between an F-15 Eagle and Su-27 Flanker

5. MiG-29SMT

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Moscow sent an unknown number of MiG-29SMT Fulcrums to Syria for the first time in September, so they were not seen in the satellite images from July.

The upgraded Fulcrum is able to carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles as well as laser-guided bombs.

The video below shows the MiG-29SMTs in Syria for the first time.

(WELT | YouTube)

6. Su-30SM

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
A Su-30SM at Hmeimim air base in Syria in 2015. (Russian Ministry of Defense)

The satellite images from July 2017 showed four Su-30SMs.

The Su-30SM, a versatile multirole fighter that’s based off the Su-27, carries a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs.

7. Su-34

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The July 2017 satellite images showed six Su-34 Fullbacks.

The Fullback, which first deployed to Syria in September 2015, was Russia’s most advanced fighter in the war-torn country for over a year.

It carries short-range R-73 and long-range radar-guided R-77 air-to-air missiles. It also carries Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L, and S-25LD air-to-ground missiles.

The picture shows a Russian airman checking a KAB-1500 cluster bomb on a Su-34 in Syria in 2015.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

This shows Russian airmen installing precision-guided KAB-500s at the Hmeimim air base. One airman is removing the red cap that protects the sensor during storage and installation. The white ordnance is an air-to-air missile.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The video below shows a Fullback dropping one of its KAB-500s in Syria in 2015:

(Russian Ministry of Defense | YouTube)

More: Watch this Russian Su-35 fighter make what seem like impossible aerial moves

8. Su-35S

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The July 2017 satellite images showed six Su-35S Flanker-E fighters.

The Flanker first deployed to Syria in January 2016 and is one of Russia’s most advanced fighters, able to hit targets on the ground and in the air without any air support.

9. A-50U

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The July 2017 satellite images showed one A-50U Mainstay.

The A-50U is basically a “giant flying data-processing center” used to detect and track “a number of aerial (fighter jets, bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles), ground (tank columns) and surface (above-water vessels) targets,” according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

10. IL-20 “Coot”

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

The Coot “is equipped with a wide array of antennas, IR (Infrared) and Optical sensors, a SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) and satellite communication equipment for real-time data sharing,” according to The Aviationist.

It’s one of Russia’s most sophisticated spy planes.

11. An-24 “Coke”

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

The An-24 Coke is an older military cargo plane.

Below is one of the July 2017 satellite images, showing many of Russia’s fighters lined up.

 

Since 2015, Russian airstrikes in Syria have taken out many ISIS fighters — although their numbers are often exaggerated — but they have also killed thousands of civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that between September 2015 and March 2016 alone, Russian airstrikes had killed about 5,800 civilians.

Russia and the Syrian regime have increased bombing runs in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, killing 290 civilians in one 48-hour period late February 2018.

“No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones,” the UN recently said in a statement. “Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”

A number of monitoring groups have also accused Russia of deliberately targeting hospitals and civilians, but Moscow barely acknowledges the civilian deaths and often denies it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The terrifying surgeries to remove grenades from soldiers

At first thought, the idea of a human being hit by some kind of large explosive that not only doesn’t detonate and kill the person, but then somehow becomes lodged inside their body necessitating its removal via surgery seems like the invention of some hack Hollywood writer somewhere. However, while rare, the scenario is something that has happened a surprising number of times.

Now, as you may have already guessed, cases of unexploded ordnance becoming lodged inside of human beings are limited almost exclusively to military personnel. In fact, according to a 1999 study of 36 instances of this exact trauma, it is described as a uniquely “military injury” with it being additionally noted that there were — at the time the paper was written — no known cases of something similar occurring in reviewed civilian literature. This said, during our own research, we did find a handful of cases of non-military personnel sustaining an injury that resulted in an explosive becoming lodged inside their body.


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The M79 grenade launcher.

(USAF)

Going back to the military though, by far the most common weapon to cause such an injury is the M79 grenade-launcher, which according to the aforementioned study was responsible for 18 of the 36 injuries discussed therein.

Further, according to the fittingly titled paper, “Stratification of risk to the surgical team in removal of small arms ammunition implanted in the craniofacial region,” small munitions, such as certain types of armor piercing and tracer rounds, can occasionally ricochet and become lodged inside a person without the explosive innards going off. Even in a case such as this, removal of the round is of paramount importance and the surgery team is noted as being in extreme peril in doing it. (And, note here, contrary to popular belief and Hollywood depictions, in most cases, it’s safer to leave regular bullets and the like in the body than try to get them out. Of course, if the thing inside the body is explosive, that’s a whole different matter.)

Going back to grenades and the like, amazingly, while you’d think something like having a large live explosive lodged somewhere in your body would be a surefire recipe for an untimely and rather messy death, fatalities from this particular kind of injury are surprisingly rare.

For example, according to the first study quoted in this piece, of the 36 known cases from WWII to the modern day, there were only 4 fatalities (about 11%). Even more important here is that all 4 died before surgery could even be attempted owing to the injuries being especially severe, with half being hit in the face and the other two being struck by rocket launchers. Which, any way you slice it, is not the kind of injury you’d expect a person to be able to walk off, whether the explosive went off or not.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Retired Gen. William Kernan shakes hands with Pfc. Channing Moss after presenting him the Purple Heart at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Nevertheless, stories of soldiers surviving even these kind of injuries exist. For example, consider the case of one Pvt Channing Moss who was hit by a “baseball bat-sized” rocket propelled grenade that buried itself in his abdomen almost completely through from one side to the other, with part of the device still sticking out. He survived.

Then you have the story of Jose Luna, a Colombian soldier who was accidentally shot in the face by a grenade launcher and was up and walking around after several rounds of surgery to remove it and repair the damage as best as possible.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the literature we consulted is that in every case where a patient with unexploded munitions inside their body was able to make it to surgery, the surgical team were able to remove the explosive without it exploding and they further went on to survive. In fact, according to the aforementioned study covering the 36 known cases, there wasn’t a single one where the explosive in question detonated “during transportation, preparation, or removal.”

A fact that almost certainly influences this statistic is that Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts are often on hand to offer advice before and during surgery. On top of this, from the moment a foreign object inside of a person’s body is identified as an explosive, multiple steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of it detonating. These measures include things like keeping the patient as still as possible and limiting the use of electronic or heating devices during surgery.

In addition, to protect the surgical team and others should the worst happen, the surgery to remove an explosive is usually (if time and circumstances allow it) conducted away from people in an area designed to absorb the damage from the explosion.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries
(US Navy)

Surgeons are often also given protective equipment, though some choose to forgo this as it can impede their fine motor skills, which particularly need to be on form when removing undetonated explosives and operating on individuals who are severely wounded to boot. We can only assume these surgeons are already heavily encumbered by the size and density of the balls or ovaries they presumably have given their willingness to operate on a patient who might explode at any second.

On a related note, official US Army policy states that any soldier suspected of having unexploded ordnance in their body are not supposed to be transported for medical treatment, as the risk of the ordinance exploding and killing other soldiers is considered too great. However, this rule is seemingly universally ignored in the rare event such a scenario occurs.

As one Staff Sgt Dan Brown so eloquently put it when discussing the aforementioned case of Pvt Channing Moss who had an explosive in him powerful enough to kill anything within 30 feet of him,

“He was American, he was a solider, he was a brother and he was one of us. And there was nothing gonna stop us from doing what we knew we had to do…”

Thus, the soldiers involved carefully bandaged his giant wound and chose not to inform their superiors of his exact condition in case they’d order them to follow the aforementioned rule. Instead, they just reported he had a severe shrapnel injury. The soldiers then carried him to an extraction point while under heavy fire for part of the time. The crew that then airlifted the soldiers were made aware of the situation and likewise agreed they weren’t going to leave Channing behind as the rules stated should be done, even though it would have meant all their deaths if the device had exploded mid-flight.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Role players take part in a simulated unexploded ordnance victim scenario during Exercise Beverly Herd 17-1 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, March 2, 2017. During this scenario the surgeon was required to remove the UXO and safely hand it over to the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team for further disposal.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gwendalyn Smith)

Once back at base, there was no time to setup an isolated medical station to get Channing away from the rest of the wounded, as he was in critical condition as it was. So they just operated right away, including at one point having to deal with the fact that his heart stopped mid-surgery and they were limited on their options to get it going again given the explosive embedded in his body. In the end, it all worked out and Channing got to go home to his six month pregnant wife and eventually met his daughter, Yuliana, when she was born a few months later.

In any event, as discussed at the start of this piece, there are also rare cases of civilians accidentally getting explosive devices stuck inside their bodies, though in all cases much less heroic than the military based events. For example, consider the case of a 44 year old Texas man who had an unexploded large firework mortar lodge itself inside his right leg after he approached the tube containing the firework, thinking it was a dud, only to have it violently shoot off and embed itself in said appendage. Luckily for him, it did not then explode as it was designed to do. The good news was that all went well from there on, with the main precautions taken simply not using any electrical or heat applying device during the removal stage of the surgery.

So yes, to answer the question posed at the start of this article, someone having an explosive device surgically removed from their body is not just a Hollywood invention, but does occasionally happen in real life. Although we couldn’t find any known incidences of megalomaniacal crime lords embedding explosive devices in their underlings to ensure loyalty and obedience. So that one’s on Hollywood I guess.

Further, while the occasional terrorist will shove some explosive in one of their orifices, to date these have generally been pretty ineffective, even in one case where the device, stuck up the suicide bomber’s rectum, went off when the bomber was standing right next to the intended target — Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Nayef sustained only minor injuries while the suicide bomber had his midsection blown to pieces. Naturally, he didn’t survive.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef looking happy about not being blown up.

It should also be noted that the often depicted scenario of surgically implanting explosives in such cases, at least thus far, hasn’t really been a thing according to the various counter terrorism agencies out there who’ve mentioned it as a possibility. This is despite many a media report implying such does happen.

In the end, as a Terrorism Research Center report noted, the procedure involved in surgically embedding in a human body an explosive large enough to do real damage is extremely complex, requiring extensive medical support and expertise with high risk to the patient surviving the procedure and being then fit enough to execute the mission. They also note that even then it takes too much time to be worth it when considering planning and recuperation time after. Thus, at least to date, terrorist organizations have stuck with more conventional methods of suicide bombing. For these reasons, while security experts are attempting to plan for this possibility, to date it’s noted not to be “on the radar” yet.

That said, one case of a device embedded in humans that sometimes explodes and causes damage is the case of pacemakers. It turns out that, while rare, these sometimes explode during cremation of a body that has one. While usually the damage is minimal, in 3% of the cases looked at in the paper Pacemaker Explosions in Crematoria: Problems and Possible Solutions, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the cremator oven structure was destroyed beyond repair by the explosion, including in one case also causing injury to a worker. However, it would appear this is still a pretty rare event, and in most cases the worst that happens is a loud bang startling crematoria employees.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

The Air Force announced Jan. 23, 2019, the details of the fiscal year 2019 Aviation Bonus program.

The fiscal 2019 AvB program is designed to augment continuing aircrew retention efforts across the Air Force, by offering experienced aviators bonuses for signing tier-based contracts, ranging from three to 12 years of continued service.

Congress raised the annual maximum aviation bonus from $25,000 to $35,000 in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and required the Air Force to present aviation bonuses based on a business case analysis. The Air Force evaluates its rated inventory every year to ensure the AvB program is tailored to meet the service’s needs.


For the fiscal 2019 RegAF program, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered to active duty aviators whose initial undergraduate flying training service commitment expires in fiscal 2019:

Bomber pilots (11B), fighter pilots (11F) and mobility pilots (11M)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to 12 years
  • Lump-sum, up-front payment options of 0,000 exist for seven to nine year contracts and 0,000 for 10-12 year contracts
Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (18X/11U) and special operations forces pilots (11S)

  • o Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to twelve years

Command and control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pilots (11R) and combat search and rescue fixed wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years and ,000 for contract lengths of 10-12 years
  • A lump-sum, up-front payment option of 0,000 exists for seven to nine year contracts

Combat search and rescue rotary wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to six years and ,000 for contract lengths of seven to nine years

For aviators whose contracts have expired or who have never signed a previous AvB agreement, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered:

Pilots (11X) and RPA pilots (11U/12U/13U/18X)

  • Annual payments of ,000 to ,000 based on the three to six year rates of the member’s core community identification as set above for contract lengths ranging from three to nine years
  • Contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to five years
  • Eligible airmen must have 19 years or greater of total active federal military Service and contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

The application window for airmen interested in applying for the fiscal 2019 AvB program will be open until Aug. 30, 2019. For full eligibility requirements and details about program changes in fiscal 2019, airmen should visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.

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

MIGHTY FIT

5 perfect fitness jobs for veterans

Do you still love fitness? Are you transitioning out of the military and thinking about what the next steps of your future career will be?

Think about a hobby you love. Can you make your hobby into a job or even just a part-time position for starters?

How about a job in the fitness industry? There are many veterans in the fitness industry, including myself, a tactical fitness writer. But writing is far from the only option in the multibillion-dollar fitness business. From personal trainers, gym owners, strength coaches, supplement affiliates, inventors and program developers to athletes who compete in all types of competitions, there are plenty of fitness-related career paths.


If fitness is part of your life or used to be, consider finding that love again. You might find something inside you that reconnects with the world you left behind when you first joined the military.

Here are some of the many fitness career paths that can help you get moving again, fine-tune your fitness knowledge and skills, and teach people who need your motivation, passion and example.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal)

​1. Group Trainer

One of the easier ways to get involved in training people is to lead a group at an established fitness center. Or you could build your own outdoor fitness boot camp program, especially if the weather permits most of the year. A group training instructor could be as basic as a boot camp fitness class or a learned training program on spin bikes, yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, barre, aquatic fitness or CrossFit. No matter what you pick, these are fun ways not only to teach others, but to get your own workout accomplished with a group of people who need your leadership. It can also be a good supplemental income if you can spare an hour or two a few days a week.

2. Personal Trainer

Like the title suggests, this business model is more personal, and you get to really know and develop training programs for the goals, needs and abilities of a client. Personal training is also better paying than group fitness. You can offer personal training as part of an existing fitness center or set up your own hustle and train people at their own homes or in an outdoor area.

3. Online Fitness Business

If you like to create content for people to read or view, you may find a promising business model with a website store and social media. Whether it is through your own products, articles and videos or using an affiliate model, you can make significant income online with just a little bit of technology skill.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

4. Invent a Fitness Device

Two friends of mine created companies around their inventions. Randy Hetrick of TRX and Alden Mill of Perfect Pushup fame both created products that fit into the fitness industry very nicely and maybe even revolutionized it to some degree.

5. Can You Still Compete?

Many veterans are still going hard-core after service and compete in professional racing and sports from CrossFit Games, to the Olympics and Paralympic Games, to becoming sponsored and professional athletes in the racing world. Moving that athletic fame into social media and internet fitness businesses is a great way to continue training and helping others, as well as earning a living.

Fitness is important for the transitioning veteran. Whether you decide to make fitness part of a way to make extra income, or you just get involved in volunteer coaching in your community, you will find that the physical activity you do and the coaching and teaching you provide are helpful to you and others.

Find the Right veteran Job

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

Cyber airmen engage in persistent contact with adversaries

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

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

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