A single man earned the nickname “wilderness ninja” after he successfully evaded more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, helicopters, and vehicles in Pennsylvania – not unlike the character of John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Unlike Rambo, however, Eric Frein wasn’t just minding his own business. He’s a convicted terrorist and murderer who killed a state trooper and wounded another before he was apprehended.
Frein was a war re-enactor who loved the Balkan Conflict.
There’s no mistaken identity in this case. In 2017, Eric Frein was convicted of murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper while wounding another. He was sentenced to die in a decision that was upheld three times. Frein was an avid war re-enactor, self-taught survivalist, and expert marksman who had extensive firsthand knowledge of the Poconos, where he eluded law enforcement officers. He even managed to avoid being tracked with heat-sensitive cameras. The war gamer was driven by his beef with law enforcement, who called in every available agent to assist in the hunt.
U.S. Marshals, the ATF, FBI, and state and local police scoured county after county for the man they say spent years planning the murder of police officers as well as his escape into the forests and hills. Many survival specialists told the media that Rein seemed to be an expert-level survivalist who was likely hiding in caves and below dense underbrush to hide his movement.
U.S. Marshals injured Frein’s face during his apprehension.
But Frein was no genius. On Sept. 12, 2014, he opened up on the Pennsylvania State Troopers Barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa. with a .308-caliber rifle, killing Cpl. Byron Dickson III and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. He was living in his parents’ home at this time and driving his parents’ Jeep. While speeding away from the scene, he lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a nearby swamp. He escaped and walked home, leaving his Social Security Card and shell casings from the incident inside the Jeep. It was discovered by a man walking his dog three days later.
By then, Frein was long gone.
The shooter escaped into the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania for nearly two full months, evading capture, leaving booby traps and pipe bombs, and using the terrain to his advantage. He was almost caught on a few occasions, including a visit to his old high school. He managed to stay free until Oct. 30, 2014, when U.S. Marshals chased him down in a field near an abandoned airport.
Frein was arrested with the handcuffs of Byron Dickson, the officer he killed.
Eric Frein, of course, pled not guilty to all the charges slapped on him, including first-degree murder and attempted murder. It didn’t matter though, but after some legal wrangling, Frein was convicted of all charges, including two counts of weapons of mass destruction in April 2017. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection and awaits his sentence to this day.
This outsized power-generation capacity provides the Fords an opportunity to grow into new technologies that come up during their service life.
With ample power to draw from, the Fords could one day house directed-energy weapons like the Navy’s upcoming railgun.
Watch an F-35 seamlessly take off using an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).
The Nimitz class cruisers use an elaborate steam-powered launch system to send F/A-18s and other planes on their way, but the Ford class, drawing on its huge power-generation capacity, will use an electronic system to do the same.
Not only will the EMALS launch heavier planes, but it will also carefully launch planes in order to reduce wear and tear. Additionally, the increased capacity of these launchers to make planes airborne will allow new plane designs in the future.
Example of a steam-powered launch:
Improved technology means that the island, or the tower on the deck of the carrier, can be moved further aft (toward the tail end of the craft).
This smaller, more out-of-the-way island means that there will be more room and accessibility for the aircraft on the deck, which will improve maintenance times and turnarounds.
Navy planners estimate that the new design will help carriers generate an additional 33% more sorties.
“When aircraft land, they’ll be able to come back, refuel, rearm, in kind of a pit-stop model … really modeled after NASCAR,” Capt. John F. Meier, the commanding officer of Gerald R. Ford said of the new design.
Dual Band Radar.
The Navy’s Dual Band Radar (DBR) operates simultaneously on two frequencies, enabling the radar to effectively classify low-altitude planes and missiles.
The radar works both to track incoming aircraft and missiles and to support outgoing weapons and planes.
Only the first Ford class carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will carry the DBR. Navy planners are currently evaluating candidates to provide an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, which they estimate could save $120 million.
Advanced arresting gear (AAG).
Another improvement on the Nimitz design, the AAG on the Ford class will help accommodate a broader range of aircraft and offer a less jarring landing than the Navy’s current Mk-7 Mod 3 and Mk-7 Mod 4 designs.
It may seem like a simple change, but the new carriers will use electromagnetic fields to raise and lower platforms instead of cabling. This allows a simpler design to compartmentalize the different areas of the ship, which will help reduce maintenance and manning costs over the life of the ship.
Also, new cargo elevators will replace cargo converters, which were labor intensive.
Individually, the changes made between the Ford and Nimitz classes seem isolated and inconsequential. But when taken together, the Ford line of aircraft carriers shows the direction forward as envisioned by the U.S.’s naval planners.
The development of the Ford class carriers has been fraught with cost and time overruns, but this is to be expected with a first-in-class vessel.
The great success of the Ford class will not be defined by any one innovation on board, but by the foresight displayed by the designers who are boldly creating a carrier to launch planes that haven’t even been designed yet, to fire weapons not yet built, and to secure the U.S.’s interests at sea for decades to come.
The National Archives and Records Administration recently marked the 45th anniversary of a devastating fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, that destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) documenting the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912 to 1964.
Shortly after midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the NPRC’s military personnel records building in St. Louis, Missouri. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours and it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. Due to the extensive damage, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.
The National Archives focused its immediate attention on salvaging as much as possible and quickly resuming operations at the facility. Even before the final flames were out, staff at the NPRC had begun work toward these efforts as vital records were removed from the burning building for safekeeping.
“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC fire was an unparalleled disaster,” Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said. “In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction efforts took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today’s NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country’s military and civil servants.”
A fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 12, 1973, destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files.
(National Archives photo)
Removal and salvage of water- and fire-damaged records from the building was the most important priority, according to NPRC Director Scott Levins. Standing water—combined with the high temperatures and humidity—created a situation ripe for mold growth. This work led to the recovery of approximately 6.5 million burned and water-damaged records, Levins said.
The estimated loss of Army personnel records for those discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1950, was about 80 percent. In addition, approximately 75 percent of Air Force personnel records for those discharged from September 25, 1947, through January 1, 1964 (with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.) were also destroyed in the catastrophe.
However, in the years following the fire, the NPRC collected numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information.
(National Archives photo)
Bryan McGraw, access coordinator at the NPRC, emphasized the gravity of the loss of the actual primary source records. “Unfortunately, the loss of 16–18 million individual records has had a significant impact on the lives of not only those veterans, but also on their families and dependents,” McGraw said. “We can usually prove eligibility for benefits and get the vet or next of kin their entitlements; however, we cannot recreate the individual file to what it was—we don’t know what was specifically in each file, and each of these was as different as each of us as individuals. So from a purely historic or genealogical perspective, that material was lost forever.”
Recovery efforts at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, salvage documents after a fire on July 12, 1973, destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files.
(National Archives photo)
In the days following the fire, recovery teams faced the issue of how to salvage fire-damaged records as well as how to dry the millions of water-soaked records. Initially, NPRC staffers shipped these water-damaged records in plastic milk crates to a temporary facility at the civilian records center where hastily constructed drying racks had been assembled from spare shelving. When it was discovered that McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis had vacuum-drying facilities, the NPRC diverted its water-damaged records there for treatment using a vacuum-dry process in a chamber large enough to accommodate approximately 2,000 plastic milk cartons of water- and fire-damaged records.
Preservation staff must restore and preserve documents nearly destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center staff in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 12, 1973 .
(National Archives photo)
“This is a somber anniversary,” Levins said. “In terms of the number of records lost and lives impacted, you could not find a greater records disaster. Although it’s now been 45 years since the fire, we still expend the equivalent of more than 40 full-time personnel each year who work exclusively on responding to requests involving records lost in the fire.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent another signal that the U.S. is increasingly attentive to the Arctic and looking to catch up with other countries that are active in the region.
Melting ice has raised interest in shipping, mining, energy exploration, and other enterprises in the Arctic — not only among countries that border it, but also in countries farther afield, like China.
The Arctic “is important today,” Tillerson said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Nov. 28. “It’s going to be increasingly important in the future, particularly as those waterways have opened up.”
“The whole Arctic region — because of what’s happened with the opening of the Arctic passageways from an economic and trade standpoint, but certainly from a national-security standpoint — is vitally important to our interest,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is behind countries in the region that have responded more quickly.
“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Tillerson said. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”
While China isn’t an Arctic country, the secretary of state said, “they see the value of these passages. So, we’re late to the game.”
Other countries build up in the Arctic
China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, made its first voyage through the Northwest Passage in October, and it is now the first Chinese polar-research vessel to navigate all three major Arctic shipping routes. China has three light icebreakers, with another under construction, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
“I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”
At present, the U.S. Coast Guard has three icebreakers, and the National Science Foundation operates another. Only two of those Coast Guard vessels are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.
The Polar Star entered service in 1976, and while it was refurbished in 2012, it is beyond its 30-year service life. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said earlier this year that the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”
Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational heavy ones. Finland has seven, though they’re privately owned medium or light icebreakers. Sweden and Canada each have six, none of which are heavy.
During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Nov. 29, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the service’s 17th district, outlined a number of challenges facing his command, but he emphasized that the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the Arctic.
Relations with Moscow on issues like waterway management in the Bering Strait — which separates Alaska from Russia — are positive, said McAllister, whose command encompasses more than 3.8 million square miles throughout Alaska and the Arctic.
“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” he added.
China, too, is seen by the Coast Guard as a “good partner” that cooperates on a number of issues.
“We have great operational-level relationships with the Chinese coast guard,” McAllister told an audience at CSIS. Chinese and U.S. ships do joint patrols and U.S. ships have welcomed aboard Chinese personnel, he said, which allows both countries to extend their presence at sea.
“I don’t think we fear the movement of the Chinese into the Arctic. I think we pay attention to what’s going on,” he said, describing efforts to monitor maritime activity in and around his area of responsibility, as well as the U.S. exclusive economic zone, which extends some 230 miles from U.S. shores.
‘That’s what keeps me up at night’
McAllister pointed to mismatches between his resources and responsibilities as his main causes of worry.
Two of his biggest concerns are responding to oil spills and mass rescues. “The distances are so great, and the difficulty in staging assets is so significant, that that’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.
While he said the Coast Guard was doing well tracking ship movements, other issues, like monitoring ice data and marine wildlife movement, were still challenges.
Even though satellites have made communications with commercial ships easier, McAllister said he still lacked a local network that allowed him to readily contact small vessels. Military and secure communications are also still limited, he said.
Maintaining a sovereign presence also presented an ongoing challenge.
“At any given time, I will only have one or two ships in the Arctic during the open-water seasons, and a few helicopters in addition to that,” he said.
“If you know Alaska, if you know the [exclusive economic zone], it’s just too big an area to try to cover with such a small number of assets.”
But, he said, the replacement of decades-old cutters with new offshore-patrol cutters and national-security cutters, as well as discussions about icebreakers, were both encouraging developments.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard released a joint draft request for proposal in October, looking for the detail, design, and construction of one heavy icebreaker with an option for two more. The two service branches have already set up an integrated program office for the project.
The Coast Guard’s 2018 budget request asked for $19 million toward a new icebreaker it wants to start building in late 2019. The service wants to build at least three heavy icebreakers, which can cost up to $1 billion each (though officials have said they can come in below that price). The first heavy icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023.
Some of the money for the icebreaker has been appropriated and “acquisition is already off and running,” McAllister said. “But even with that capability, there’s still a lack of presence there, and that’s something that we, the Coast Guard, aspire to provide more of.”
The Russian Navy plans to test missiles in international waters off Norway’s coast, Norwegian and NATO officials say, as the Western military alliance conducts its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Oct. 29, 2018, the alliance was informed last week about the planned tests.
“Russia has a sizable presence in the north, also off Norway,” Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
“Large [Russian] forces take part in maneuvers and they practice regularly,” he added.
Russian officials did not immediately comment on the planned missile tests, which come amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.
A spokesman for Avinor, which operates Norwegian airports and air-navigation services, said Russia had informed them about the tests in a so-called NOTAM, a notice to pilots about potential hazards along a flight route.
The spokesman, Erik Lodding, told the dpa news agency that it was “a routine message.”
The tests are to take place from Nov. 1-3, 2018, west of the coastal cities of Kristiansund, Molde, and Alesund.
“There is nothing dramatic about this. We have noted it and will follow the Russian maneuvers,” Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
On Oct. 25, 2018, NATO launched its Trident Juncture exercise, which Stoltenberg has called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.The live-field exercise is set to run to Nov. 7, 2018.
It involves around 50,000 soldiers, 10,000 vehicles, and more than 300 aircraft and ships from all 29 NATO allies, plus partners Finland and Sweden.
The aim of the drills stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea is to practice the alliance’s response to an attack on one of its members.
Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.
Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:
На официальном сайте Минобороны РФ запущен специальный сервис, предназначенный для выбора наименований новейших образцов российского оружия. С сегодняшнего дня любой посетитель официального сайта Минобороны России с помощью простого и понятного сервиса https://t.co/Fg0eglezqTpic.twitter.com/ozDnpNScCk
The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.
It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.
After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.
The Air Force has planes for every mission, but those planes aren’t always doing missions for the Air Force.
In October 2018, the Defense Department comptroller released the latest reimbursement rates for each service branch’s planes and helicopters.
These costs are generally calculated based on fuel use, wear and tear, and personnel needs — the branch providing the aircraft also typically provides a pilot and crew, an Air Force spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The document lists four categories for reimbursement: other Defense Department components, other federal agencies, foreign-military sales, and “all other.”
“When determining the hourly rate, agencies should utilize the appropriate rate category,” the document said. “The ‘all other’ annual billable rate will be used to obtain reimbursement for services provided to organizations outside the Federal government.”
Below, you can see Air Force aircraft reimbursement rates for users that fall into the “all other” category — that’s you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier)
A-10C Thunderbolt — ,454
The A-10C Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is the US Air Force’s premier ground-attack aircraft and perhaps the best in the world, renowned by foot soldiers for its ability to absorb punishment and dish out even more with its 30 mm cannon.
The Air Force has a total of 281 A-10s in its inventory. As of mid-2018, 173 of them had gotten or were in the process of getting new wings.
The future of the roughly 100 that still need wings has been the subject of debate between Air Force officials, many of whom want to retire the Thunderbolt and move on to other platforms, and members of Congress, who want to see the fearsome gunship continue flying.
The AC-130J Ghostrider.
(US Air Force photo)
AC-130J Ghostrider — ,541
The AC-130J is the latest variant of the AC-130 gunship, upgraded with enhanced avionics, as well as integrated navigation systems, defensive systems, and radar. It is also modified with the Precision Strike Package, which has a mission-management system that puts sensors, communications, and order-of-battle and threat information into a common picture.
The Ghostrider — a name officially designated in May 2012 — is still relatively new, having completed developmental tests and evaluation in June 2015. As of 2016, the Air Force planned to have 32 Ghostriders in the active-duty force by fiscal year 2021.
The aircraft has struggled, particularly with its 30 mm and 105 mm guns. But the commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing said last year the gunship would probably be “the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
B-1B Lancer — ,475
Of Air Force aircraft, the B-1B Lancer packs the largest payload — 75,000 pounds — of both guided and unguided weapons and is the “backbone” of the US long-range-bomber force.
It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, which isn’t the highest of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is the fastest, capable of topping 900 mph, or a little over the speed of sound at sea level.
In order to comply with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by the US and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Lancer was modified to make it incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, a conversion process completed in 2011.
As of late 2016, the Air Force had 64 Lancers — two for testing — all of which were in the active force.
A B-2 Spirit.
(US Air Force photo)
B-2A Spirit — ,012
The B-2A stealth bomber arrived at the Air Force in 1993, six years after the first Lancer was delivered.
Unlike the Lancer, which is designed for high-speed, low-altitude strikes, the Spirit flies higher — up to 50,000 feet — and slower. It’s also capable of hauling nuclear weapons.
As of the end of 2015, there were 20 Spirits in the Air Force active-duty fleet, one of which was for testing. The only operational base for the B-2 is Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, so add that flying time into your budget.
(US Air Force photo)
B-52H Stratofortress — ,919
Pricewise, the B-52 is a bargain compared with its bomber counterparts, but the Stratofortress is well over a half-century old, reaching initial operating capacity in spring 1952.
Flying at 650 mph and up to 50,000 feet with a payload of 70,000 pounds of both conventional and nuclear weapons, it can conduct strategic strikes, close air support, and maritime operations.
Its unfueled range is more than 8,800 miles. With aerial refueling, its range is limited only by its crew’s endurance.
At the end of 2015, there were 58 B-52s in use by the Air Force’s active-duty force and another 18 being used by the Air Force Reserve. They’re all H models and are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base and to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
A C-130J Hercules.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grimes)
C-130J Super Hercules — ,651
The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130J family, replacing older C-130Es and some C-130Hs with more flying hours.
Technology on the C-130J reduces manpower needs and operational and maintenance costs. The J model also climbs higher and faster and can fly farther with a higher cruising speed, in addition to taking off and landing in a shorter distance.
As of June 2018, the Air Force had 145 C-130Js in active duty, with anther 181 being used by the Air National Guard and 102 by the reserve component.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(US Air Force photo)
C-17A Globemaster III — ,236
The C-17 is the most flexible member of the Air Force airlift fleet, able to deliver troops and cargo to main operating hubs or to forward bases.
“The C-17 was designed for multi-role functions,” Maj. Steve Hahn, an instructor pilot with the Air Force Reserve’s 301st Airlift Squadron, said in 2010. “Its strategic and tactical abilities join the missions of the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-130 (Hercules) into one aircraft. It does everything, and not many aircraft can do that.”
As of mid-2018, there were 157 C-17s in active service, 47 in use by the Air National Guard, and 18 being used by the Air Force reserve.
A C-5M Super Galaxy.
C-5M Super Galaxy — ,742
The C-5M Super Galaxy — the modernized version of the legacy C-5 aircraft — is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, tasked with transporting troops and cargo.
It can carry oversize cargo, including 50-foot-long submarines, over intercontinental distances, and doors at the front and back allow for it to be loaded and offloaded at the same time.
Its maximum cargo is 281,000 pounds, and the longest distance it can fly without refueling is just over 5,500 miles — the distance from its base at Dover Air Force Base to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
In August 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the last of 52 upgraded C-5s, bringing 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A up to the M variant and wrapping up a 17-year overhaul effort. The work extends the C-5 fleet’s service life into the 2040s.
(US Air Force by Louis Briscese)
E-4B — ,123
The E-4B is an expensive aircraft with an invaluable mission.
It serves as the National Airborne Operations Center, providing a highly survivable command, control and communications center where the president, defense secretary, and joint chiefs of staff can direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities if ground command centers are destroyed.
The Air Force has four E-4Bs in its active force, and at least one is on 24-hour alert. In addition to an advanced satellite-communications system and an electrical system to support it, the E4-B is hardened against electromagnetic pulses, if that’s something you’re worried about.
An F-15E dropping a bomb.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
F-15E Strike Eagle — ,936
The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighterdesigned to gain and maintain air superiority. It became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and interceptor for decades.
The F-15E is two-seat integrated fighter for all-weather, air-to-air, and deep-interdiction missions. The Air Force has 219 F-15Es in total.
The first F-15E was delivered in 1989, about a decade after the F-15C, a single-seat fighter, and the F-15D, another two-seater. The latter two are also available, but they’ll cost you a little be more — ,233 for the C model and ,045 for the D model.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(US Air Force photo)
F-16C and F-16D — ,000 and ,696, respectively
Despite the low price, the F-16 is considered one of the most capable fighter aircraft out there.
It arrived in 1979, built in partnership between the US, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.
The F-16C/D started arriving in 1981 and are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, bringing improved cockpit control and display technology.
As of late 2015, the Air Force had 1,017 F-16s across its active, reserve, and guard components.
An F-22 Raptor.
(US Air Force Photo)
F-22A — ,005
Reaching initial operating capability in December 2005, the single-seat F-22 is considered the Air Force’s first fifth-generation fighter, incorporating low-observable technology that gives it an edge over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.
Caught between low-intensity wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crushing global recession in 2008, and the Pentagon’s move toward the F-35 in the late 2000s, the F-22 program was shut down in 2009. As of September 2015, there were 183 F-22s in use by the Air Force.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
F-35A — ,501
The F-35A Lightning II is the Air Force’s second and newest fifth-generation fighter, reaching initial operational capability in August 2016.
The US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Australia were involved in the F-35’s development.
The F-35A is meant carry out air-to-air combat and ground-attack missions, replacing the F-16 and the A-10, while bringing next-generation stealth technology, enhanced awareness, and reduced vulnerability to the US and allies, several of whom have already received their versions of the fighter.
There is also a carrier variant — meant to replace the Navy’s F/A-18s — and a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, which is meant to replace the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, as well as the UK’s Harriers and Sea Harriers.
The F-35 has also become the most expensive weapons program in history, and hiccups during its development process have not improved its perception.
The KC-46A Pegasus.
(Boeing/John D. Parker)
KC-46A Pegasus — ,740
The KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker is the newest addition to the Air Force, with officials accepting the first one from Boeing on January 10.
The program was delayed for years by technical problems, and Boeing has eaten more than .5 billion on the program, as the firm is responsible for any costs beyond the Air Force’s .9 billion fixed-price contract.
Six tankers have been accepted by the Air Force, but Boeing is not out of the woods. Deliveries were suspended earlier this month by the Air Force because of problems with foreign objects, tools and other debris, left aboard the aircraft.
Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said it would likely be “some time” before the Air Force began accepting tankers again.
An HC-130J Combat King II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)
HC-130J Combat King II — ,001
The HC-130J — an extended-range version of the C-130J — replaces HC-130P/Ns as the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s tasked with rapidly deploying to recover downed aviators in enemy territory and with all-weather expeditionary personnel-recovery operations.
An MC-130H Combat Talon II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)
MC-130H Combat Talon II — ,166
The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.
The Combat Talon II is based on the C-130, with structural changes that include a stronger tail to allow high-speed and low-signature airdrops. It also has terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radars that allow it to fly as low as 250 feet in poor weather.
The MC-130 first flew in 1966 and has operated around the world — an MC-130E landed in the Iranian desert in April 1980 to support Operation Eagle Claw, a failed attempt to rescue Americans being held by Iran.
MC-130Hs were also used to seize an airfield in southern Afghanistan for ground operations there in 2001, and in 2003, an MC-130H was the first US aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport. As of the beginning of 2016, the Air Force has 18 MC-130Hs.
An LC-130 Hercules.
(US Air Force photo)
LC-130H — ,774
The Air Force has a lot of cargo planes, so you have a lot of options. But what if you need to go to Antarctica? Well then you’ll need the LC-130H, the polar version of the C-130.
The US is the only operator of ski-equipped LC-130s, which the 109th Air Wing describes as the “backbone” of US transport within Antarctica, where it supports an array of scientific endeavors, and as a provider of transportation between McMurdo Station and New Zealand.
(US Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
OC-135B — ,435
Night or day, austere or hospitable, ice or solid ground, the Air Force’s airlift fleet can do it all.
But what if you need to conduct an unarmed observation flight over territory belonging to one of the signatories of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty? That’s where the OC-135B comes in.
A modified version of the WC-135B, its main mission is to take pictures, and it’s outfitted with equipment and systems to support its cameras and camera operators.
That includes one vertical and two oblique KS-87E framing cameras, which are used for low-altitude photography — about 3,000 feet above ground — and one KA-91C panoramic camera, which scans from side to side to give each photo a wide sweep. It’s used for high-altitude photography — roughly 35,000 feet.
As of spring 2014, there were two OC-135Bs in the Air Force inventory.
A T-38 Talon.
(Department of Defense)
T-38C Talon and T-6A Texan — ,156 and 7, respectively
The T-38 Talon is a high-altitude supersonic jet trainer, used for a variety of operations because of its design, ease of maintenance, high performance, and safety record. Air Education and Training Command is its primary user of the T-38, employing it for specialized undergraduate pilot training, preparing pilots to fly F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, A-10s, and B-1Bs.
The T-38 first flew in 1959, and 1,000 of them were delivered between 1961 and 1972. The planes and their components have been modified and upgraded since then, and the Air Force had 546 in usewith the active force as of January 2014.
The T-6A Texan II is also a jet trainer, though it only has one engine and is also used by the Navy.
The first operational T-6A was delivered in May 2000. Joint Primary Pilot Training, the Texan’s main mission, began in October 2001. Production of the aircraft ended in 2010, and the Air Force has 446 of them in use by its active force.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
U-2S Dragon Lady — ,496
Along with the B-52, the U-2 is one of the only Air Force aircraft introduced early in the Cold War that’s still in use.
Despite its age, its prowess is unquestioned. At 70,000 feet, the curvature of the earth gives it a field of vision of about 500 miles. In one mission, it can map all of Iraq.
Built in complete secrecy, the U-2A first flew in August 1955. The spy plane’s early history is marked with two high-profile blemishes — a 1960 shootdown over the USSR, which led to the capture of pilot Gary Francis Powers, and a 1962 shootdown over Cuba, which killed pilot Rudolf Anderson Jr. But it remains in use as one of the US’s premier surveillance aircraft.
All U-2s have been upgraded, adding a new engine that resulted in it being designated the U-2S. Pilots train on one of five two-seat aircraft designated as TU-2S. (The Air Force announced recently that it would change the training process.)
The U-2 is based at Beale Air Force Base in California, but it rotates worldwide. As of September 2015, there were 33 U-2s in use by the active force, including the five trainers and 2 ER-2s in use by NASA.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)
WC-130J — ,472
Not every Air Force aircraft is for combat or transport. The WC-130 Hercules is used by the Air Force Reserve for weather missions, flying into tropical storms, hurricanes, and winter storms to gather data.
The WC-130J is a C-130J reconfigured with palletized weather instruments. At its optimum cruising speed of 300 mph it can stay aloft for almost 18 hours. A typical weather mission can last 11 hours and cover 3,500 miles.
As of mid-2014, only 10 WC-130Js were in use, all of them belonging to the Air Force Reserve. They operate out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — the Hurricane Hunters.
A US Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix.
WC-135C/WC-135W Constant Phoenix — ,173
Getting ahold of the Constant Phoenix may be tough. The Air Force has only two of them, and they have a highly specialized mission: collecting particles, gas, and debris in order to detect any nuclear or radioactive events.
Then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned the Constant Phoenix program in September 1947. Two years later, one of the program’s aircraft picked up evidence of the first Soviet nuclear test while flying between Alaska and Japan. Forty years later, the WC-135W helped track radioactive debris from the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the USSR.
The WC-135s are the only planes in the Air Force inventory conducting air-sampling operations, which are now done in support of the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty prohibits countries from testing nuclear weapons above ground.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder and the eighth-richest person, has a secret disaster-response team, according to The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast’s investigation found Brin was the sole donor to a disaster charity called Global Support and Development (GSD). The Daily Beast identified Brin as the company’s sole donor through a California court filing.
The company’s staff, almost half of whom are ex-military, arrives at disaster areas on a superyacht called Dragonfly to clear debris and use high-tech solutions to assist victims. GSD is headed up by Grant Dawson, an ex-naval lieutenant who was on Brin’s personal security detail for years.
The idea for GSD was apparently sparked in 2015 when the yacht’s captain was sailing past Vanuatu, which had just been hit by Cyclone Pam. The captain contacted Brin to ask if anything could be done to help, and Brin then got in touch with Dawson.
Dawson said in a speech in 2019 about GSD: “So I grabbed a number of Air Force para-rescue guys I’d been affiliated with from the security world, and a couple of corpsmen out of the Seal teams … We raided every Home Depot and pharmacy we could find and on about 18 hours’ notice, we launched.”
The Daily Beast reported that GSD now has 20 full-time staffers, plus about 100 contractors working for it.
The Daily Beast said that like at Google, GSD’s employees enjoy perks, including strawberry ice cream and fresh laundry aboard the superyacht while working in disaster areas. In addition to military-trained staff, the charity has access to sophisticated technology including drones and sonar mapping.
Since 2015, GSD has assisted during several disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Now the company says it is lending a hand during the coronavirus pandemic by helping set up testing in California.
“GSD provided operational support to stand up the first two drive-through test centers in California and planning and logistic support for other test centers as they opened across the state,” GSD says on its website. “Our paramedics and support staff also partnered with the Hayward, California Fire Department to perform more than 8,000 swab tests at their drive-through test site and local eldercare facilities.”
Rob Reich, the codirector of Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, told The Daily Beast that disaster relief is good work, but it shouldn’t be secretive.
“There should be an expectation of transparency to understand how his charity interacts with existing efforts at disaster relief, and so we citizens can examine whether it’s consistent with what democratic institutions want to accomplish,” Reich said.
GSD did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and the news organization was unsuccessful in trying to contact Brin personally. GSD did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary’s heart.
How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the US, military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid “commercial trademarks,” “anything offensive to good taste,” or that are similar in spelling to a code word.
They also set aside words for certain commands. “Cheese,” for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation’s office. Ditto “rabbit.”
(Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about “frivolous” words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named “Bunnyhug.”)
Here’s a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.
Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines.
(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)
1. Exercise Bold Alligator
Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.
Ferrets make great pets.
(Photo by Alfredo Gutiérrez)
2. Operation Black Ferret
Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.
Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.
Mermaid performer Paisley Easton.
(Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)
3. Operation Mermaid Dawn
In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside “The Big Lebowski” scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don’t especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.
Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.
This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.
“Don’t tell medical sh*t!” That’s the advice I got before I went to Marine Corps OCS in the summer of 2011.
“If you tell them you’re jacked up in any way they will DQ you before you even get started.” I wanted to become a Marine, I wanted to be at the school, but I did not want to be there any longer than I needed to be. Fessing up to any old injuries or conditions would be one way to end up in Quantico longer than I wanted or having to come back again next summer.
This was a common trend I witnessed throughout my entire career. Marines hiding injuries and other medical issues so they could keep their job and achieve mission accomplishment.
As it turns out, there is actually some evidence to suggest that this isn’t as stupid as I used to think it was.
Allow me to walk you through the three most common ways people deal with injuries to get a little deeper into this sh*t.
You’re not gonna get out of Fallujah if you can’t get over some chapped lips
(Marine Corps Times)
The mentally weak
We all know “that guy,” the one who always had a chit from medical explaining why they couldn’t PT. This is the guy who would turn chapped lips into a week of light duty on doctor’s orders.
You become more deconditioned than necessary. You get in worse shape than you were previously in. For those of you who are barely scraping by as it is this could be the last nail in your coffin for getting accepted to an elite program or finishing a difficult school.
You develop a fear of movement. If you roll your ankle running on a trail and then you cease running altogether, you will become afraid of the trail that supposedly injured you and of running. This may translate to a shorter or slower stride, which will both cause you to be slower in general. Again, this is not good.
Lastly, you will become less resilient. By folding due to a minor injury your mental toughness takes a major blow. Learning to overcome the small stuff is what gives you the strength to overcome the big sh*t. Resiliency is a muscle that must be trained.
At least get a band-aid you ninny.
The mentally stubborn
The guy who could be bleeding from both ears and keeps on swinging. Dude your brain is bleeding, stop and reassess the situation.
Similarly, this is the person who ignores the doctor’s orders altogether and goes right back to the same activity that caused the injury at the same intensity as before.
When you suffer an injury, even something as simple as a minor ankle roll (I know I keep talking about ankles, but it’s the most common injury among otherwise capable military personnel) you are no longer operating at 100%. That’s okay.
By smartly reducing your training load to an amount that doesn’t cause more pain, you can live to train another day. The stubborn mind doesn’t do this though. Often the stubborn mind increases training volume in order to beat the weakness out of them.
Statistically, this is stupid. If you continue to blast your body into oblivion, you will be of no use to anyone. Knowing when to dial it back is an art that this individual has yet to master.
Don’t take time off from this place, just adjust your training.
When you get injured, you are by definition deconditioned. You are slightly less capable than you were before the injury.
The smartest thing to do is to dial things back as little as possible so that you can still train but aren’t making the issue worse. In this training Goldilocks zone, you risk neither becoming a baby-backed-b*tch like the mentally weak do nor an armless-legless-fool like the stubborn mind does.
Military doctors take the most conservative route possible to hedge their positions. If you continue training and get injured further, the doc may get chewed out or lose their position. BUT if doc says do nothing and you fail out of your school due to missed training days or overall mental weakness…well it’s a lot harder to blame medical personnel for your lack of tenacity.
You know what doc is gonna say, and you can pretty much assume that your SNCO is going to say the exact opposite, choose the more measured approach. This may mean reducing your running pace, lowering the weight on the bar, or slightly modifying the exercise you are training. The less you change things, the easier it will be to get back to where you previously were.
Be as mentally strong as possible without being stupid. Add that to your list of adages to live by.
MIGHTY FIT is making big moves to put out content that you not only want to read but also want to live. Take 2 minutes and let us know here what you’d like to see from MIGHTY FIT.
More than one senior military leader has said the services are facing a “war for talent,” as a stronger economy and two decades of war, among other factors, make military service less appealing to young Americans.
The Army, striving to reach 500,000 active-duty soldiers by the end of this decade, has rolled out an esports team to attract recruits. The Air Force, facing a protracted pilot shortage, capitalized on the recent blockbuster “Captain Marvel” with a recruiting drive.
“What we have to think about — and we’re sort of a platform-centric service, both us and the Marine Corps — is how do we reduce the number of people we have and that distributed maritime force that we have? How do we get lethality out there without having to have 300 people on a ship to deliver it?” Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in response to a question about personnel costs, which rise faster than inflation.
“It also requires, I think, an increase in the level of capability and skill that we have in the force, and that’s why we’re investing so much in education, because you’re going to ask these people to do a lot more and to be a lot more adaptable in the jobs that … we’re asking them to do,” Modly said.
That thinking was “sort of the philosophy” behind the Navy’s future guided-missile frigate, Modly added.
Frigates do many of the same missions as destroyers and cruisers but are smaller and less equipped and therefore generally do those missions in lower-threat areas.
The Navy wants the new frigate to be able to operate in open-ocean and near-shore environments and to conduct air, anti-submarine, surface, and electronic warfare and information operations.
“That’s going to be a fairly lightly-manned ship with a lot of capability on it,” Modly said.
“I had a great example of a ship, and I won’t mention which manufacturer it was, but I went into the ship and they showed me a stateroom with four bunks and its own shower and bathroom facility,” Modly said.
He continued: “I was in the Navy back in the Cold War, and I said, ‘Wow, this is a really nice stateroom for officers.’ They said, ‘No, this where our enlisted people live.’ And I said, ‘Well, why did you design the ship like that?’ And they said, ‘We designed the ship like this for the type of people we want to recruit to man it.'”
“That’s really what we have to think about,” Modly added. “They’re going to be more lightly manned but with probably more highly-skilled people who have lots of opportunities to do things in other places, so we have to be able to attract those people. That is a big, big part of our challenge.”
The Navy’s most recent frigates were the Oliver Hazard Perry class, or FFG-7 — 51 of which entered service between 1977 and 1989 and were decommissioned between 1994 and 2015.
While the design for the future frigate, designated FFG(X), has not yet been selected, the Navy plans to award the design and construction contract in July, according to budget documents released this month.
The Navy is only considering designs already in use, and the firms in the running are Fincantieri with its FREMM frigate design, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Navantia with the latter’s F-100 variant, Austal USA with a frigate version of its Independence-class littoral combat ship, and Huntington Ingalls with what many believe may be a variation of the National Security Cutter it’s building for the Coast Guard, according to Defense News.
The Navy plans for design and construction of the first ship to take until 2026 but expects construction to increase rapidly thereafter, with the 10th arriving by 2030, eventually producing 20 of the new frigates.
Without an exact design, cost is hard to estimate, but the Navy wants to keep the price below a billion dollars per ship for the second through 20th ships and hit a total program cost of .81 billion.
The Navy also wants to use dual-crewing to maximize the time its future frigates spend at sea.
Switching between a “blue crew” and a “gold crew” extends the amount of time the ship can operate — allowing frigates to take on missions that larger combatants, like destroyers, have been saddled with — without increasing the burden on the crew and their families; it’s already in use on ballistic-missile submarines and littoral combat ships.
Dual-crewing “should double” the new frigate’s operational availability, Vice Adm. Ronald Boxall, then the surface-warfare director for the chief of naval operations, told Defense News at the end of 2018.
In the blue-gold crew model, the crew of the ship would still be working to improve their skills in what Boxall described as “higher-fidelity training environments.”
“In an increasingly complex environment, it’s just intuitive that you have to have time to train,” Boxall told Defense News. “We think Blue-Gold makes sense for those reasons on the frigate.”
If you spend any time at all in the military after passing basic training, chances are good that you’re going to end up in a bar with members of your unit. Chances are very good that one of those evenings will involve karaoke.
Karaoke doesn’t care if you’re a good singer or a bad singer (although the people subjected to your voice might have an opinion). Karaoke just needs your active and (hopefully) positive participation. Remember, even if you suck, you still had the intestinal fortitude to get up on a stage before a crowd full of drunken strangers — and that’s a victory of its own.
What that crowd is most likely to judge you on is your choice of song. If you get up in front of your coworkers and sing “I Touch Myself” at the top of your lungs, you will never, ever live it down. In fact, you might as well change your name and go into hiding.
Your audience will forgive a lot, especially your coworkers and battle buddies, as long as you don’t make it too difficult to forgive. So, make sure you get up on that stage with energy and good humor. Have a good time and the audience will have one with you.
Before we begin, let’s go over a few ground rules. First, if you’re with your unit, remember that you’ll likely have to see these same people every day for the next four-to-six years — but never forget to read your audience. If you’re in a bar where everyone keeps rapping Dr. Dre and they’re really good at it, maybe save your rendition of “Friends In Low Places” for a more receptive crowd.
Nor should you just pick the obvious go-to karaoke songs. Yeah, everyone likes “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but you can do better than that at 10 p.m. Songs like “Wrecking Ball,” “Sweet Caroline,” and just about anything else by Journey that isn’t “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” should probably be forgotten at this point.
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers
You can seriously just yell this song at the top of your lungs and the crowd will still sing along with you.
You’ll know just how into this song your crowd is by the time the “dah dah dah” part of the chorus comes. Use the following barometer to judge your success.
Level 1: The audience sings with you.
Level 2: The audience sings louder than you.
Level 3: You sing the call “Dah Dah Dah” and they sing “Dah Dah Dah” in response.
Level 4: They sing in Scottish accents.
Level 5: The crowd pretends to walk while singing.
“Love Shack” by the B-52s
Everybody knows the words to “Love Shack” but, for some reason, it’s not a karaoke song that’s so overplayed anymore. Also, it’s really fun to sing and opens you up to duet possibilities.
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
I bet it could be proven that 85 percent of white males can sing just like the guy from Jimmy Eat World. Plus, this is another one of those songs that you don’t have to be a good singer to sing — if you are a good singer though, it’s more fun than mumbling Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations
This is another one of those songs that you can get away with singing like the tone-def airman we all know I am. But if you sing this right, you’ll not only get a huge reception, but you could also end up with a crowd of screaming fans singing along with you, back-up dancers, and (potentially) a few phone numbers.
“It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy
Everyone secretly loves this song. It’s old but fun and will keep everyone in a decent mood. I labeled this as moderate difficulty because while everyone knows the pace and cadence with which Shaggy sings this song, I still can’t tell you what the actual words are.
“I’m The Only One” by Melissa Etheridge
Someone at the bar is going to be angry enough to thank you for singing this song. And while you may not draw a crowd of drunken revelers singing along with you, nailing this song will ensure everyone the crowd will love you all night.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
You have been warned. Attempting this song and failing will only do you more harm than good. No one will ever forget that time you murdered “Purple Rain.” Your nickname (and maybe even callsign) will become Purple Rain and you will be laughed at for making doves cry.
On the other hand, watching someone perfectly sing “Purple Rain” at karaoke is as unforgettable as the first time I had sex.