This F-35 'Lightning Carrier' test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

The US Navy sent the USS Wasp into the South China Sea early April 2019 loaded with an unusually heavy configuration of Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

“We are seeing a fleet experiment going on right now,” Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and naval-affairs expert, told Business Insider, explaining that the Navy and the Marines are experimenting with the “Lightning Carrier” concept.

Light carriers armed with these short landing and take-off F-35s could theoretically take over operations in low-end conflicts, potentially freeing up the “supercarriers” to focus on higher-end threats such as Russia and China, or significantly boost the firepower of the US Navy carrier force, experts told Business Insider.


This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

The USS Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration, with 10 Joint Strike Fighters on its flight deck.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The USS Wasp has been drilling in the South China Sea with at least 10 F-35s on board.

The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, is participating in the ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Philippines. It deployed with at least 10 F-35s, more than the ship would normally carry.

“With each new exercise, we learn more about [the F-35Bs] capabilities as the newest fighter jet in our inventory, and how to best utilize them and integrate them with other platforms,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider.

The Wasp was recently spotted running flight operations near Scarborough Shoal, a contested South China Sea territory.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

The USS America.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson)

The Navy and Marine Corps began experimenting with the “Lighting carrier” concept a few years ago.

The Marine Corps did a Lightning carrier proof of concept demonstration in November 2016, loading 12 F-35B fighters onto the USS America, the newest class of amphibious assault ship intended to serve as a light aircraft carrier.

“The experiments led to the realization that this is an option,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert and former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“I think the Marine Corps may be realizing that this is the best use of their large amphibious assault ships. I think you are going to see more and more deployments like that,” he added.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

Possible Lightning Carrier configuration.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

A Lightning carrier might carry almost two dozen F-35s.

The Marine Corps elaborated on its plan for the Lightning carrier in its 2017 Marine Aviation Plan, which suggests that the Marines should be operating 185 F-35Bs by 2025, more than “enough to equip all seven” amphibious assault ships.

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the corps said, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.” These ships, the America-class ships in particular, could theoretically be outfitted with 16 to 20 F-35s, along with rotary refueling aircraft.

“A Lightning Carrier, taking full advantage of the amphibious assault ship as a sea base, can provide the naval and joint force with significant access, collection and strike capabilities,” the service said.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

An AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron 311 landing aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.

(U.S. Navy)

The Lightning carrier is based on an older concept that has been around for decades.

The Lightning carrier concept is a rebranded version of the classic “Harrier carrier,” the repurposing of amphibious assault ships to serve as light carriers armed with AV-8B Harrier jump jets.

“We would load them up with twice or even three times as many Harriers as what they would normally send out with an amphibious readiness group and then use it as, essentially, a light carrier to provide sea and air control in a limited area,” Hendrix said.

The “Harrier Carrier” concept has been employed at least five times. The USS Bonhomme Richard, for example, was reconfigured to serve as a “Harrier Carrier” during the invasion of Iraq, the Navy said in a 2003 statement.

“This is not the norm for an amphib,” a senior Navy officer said at the time.”Our air assets dictate that we operate more like a carrier.”

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

F-35B Lightning II aircraft on the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The Lightning carrier could boost the overall firepower of the US carrier force.

Lightning carriers, while less effective than a supercarrier — primarily because of the limited range of the F-35Bs compared with the Navy’s F-35Cs and the much smaller number of aircraft embarked — offer a real opportunity to boost the firepower of the carrier force. “You are going to see an increase in strike control and sea-control potential,” Hendrix told Business Insider.

The amphibs could be integrated into carrier task forces to strengthen its airpower, or they could be deployed in independent amphibious readiness groups with their own supporting and defensive escorts, dispersing the force for greater survivability and lethality.

“You can turn the light amphibious ships into sea-control, sea-denial, or even strike assets in a meaningful way to distribute the force and bring this concept of distributed lethality to bear,” Hendrix said, adding that this is a “wise” move given the rising challenges of adversaries employing tactics such as long-range missiles and mines to deny the US Navy access.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

The USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

Deploying light carriers armed with F-35s to deal with low-end threats also frees up the supercarriers to address more serious challenges.

“What we’ve been seeing over the past year is the Navy using Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARGs) with [amphibious assault ships] in the Middle East in place of Carrier Strike Groups,” Clark said.

The Navy has then been able to focus its supercarriers on the Atlantic and the Pacific, where great powers such as Russia and China are creating new challenges for the US military.

Last fall, the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, sailed into the Persian Gulf, and it was during that deployment that a Marine Corps F-35B launched from the ship and entered combat for the first time, targeting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The USS Harry S. Truman, initially slated for service in the Persian Gulf, relocated to the north Atlantic for participation in NATO exercises.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy drops high-explosive footage of awesome weapons tests

The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.


NAWCWD China Lake Ranges 2018

youtu.be

The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.

There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.

The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.

(U.S. Navy)

The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.

And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*

*Must bring your own jet and bombs.

The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.

Articles

Why the US confronted Iranian-backed militants in Yemen, and the risks that lie ahead

In the early-morning hours of October 12, the USS Nitze fired a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen and thereby marked the US’s official entry into the conflict in Yemen that has raged for 18 months.


The US fired in retaliation to previous incidents where missiles fired from Iranian-backed Houthi territory had threatened US Navy ships: the destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

Also read: Here’s what would happen if U.S. tried to strike Russian-backed targets in Syria

After more than two decades of peaceful service, this was likely the first time the US fired these defensive missiles in combat.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
The guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze underway in the Atlantic | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith

“These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “Our actions overnight were a response to hostile action.”

But instead of responding to the attack with the full force of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the Navy’s response was measured, limited, and in self-defense.

Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Yemen and Iran at the Foundation for Defending Democracies, said the US’s response fell “far short of what an appropriate response would be.”

“Basically, the US took out part of the system that would allow for targeting, protecting themselves but not going after those who fired upon them,” Schanzer told Business Insider.

Even the limited strike places the US in a tricky situation internationally and legally. TheObama administration has desperately tried to preserve relations with Iran since negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure Iran doesn’t become a nuclear state.

But the pivot toward Iran, a Shia power, has ruffled feathers in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally and the premier Sunni power in the Middle East.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett launches a Tomahawk missile. | U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen J. Zeller

By taking direct military action against the Houthi rebels, a Shia group battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, the US has entered into — even in a limited capacity — another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.

Iran and the Houthis

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Fighters from the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah.

Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as “integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen.

According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.

These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.

For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis,” Iran’s regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.

“The Iranians are looking at this from a very, very strategic angle, not just bleeding Saudis and other Gulf States, but how can they expand their ideological and military influence,” Smyth said.

Yemen presents an extremely attractive goal for enterprising Iran. Yemen’s situation on the Bab-al-Mandab Strait means that control of that waterway — which they may have been trying to establish with the missile strikes — would give them control over the Red Sea, a massive waterway and choke point for commerce.

The risk of picking a side

The US officially became a combatant in Yemen on Wednesday night. In doing so, it has tacitly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition that has been tied to a brutal air blockade.

The Saudis stand accused of war crimes in connection with bombing schools, hospitals, markets, and even a packed funeral hall.

Internal communications show the US has been very concerned about entering into the conflict for fear that it may be considered “co-belligerents” and thereby liable for prosecution for war crimes, Reuters reported.

Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and a US Navy veteran, told Business Insider the “limited context in which these strikes occurred was to protect freedom of navigation and neutral ships” and likely doesn’t “rise to the legal state of belligerence.”

Yet Russian and Shia sources are quick to lump the US and Saudi Arabia together, Smyth added. Just as the US and international community look to hold Russia and Syria accountable for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, the indiscriminate Saudi air campaign in Yemen makes it “very easy to offer a response” to the cries of war crimes against them, he said.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Yemeni soldiers during a parade in 2011.

Indeed, now Russian propagandists can offer up a narrative that suggests a dangerous quid pro quo narrative, suggesting that the US and Russia are trading war crimes in the region, and to “throw out chaff” and muddy the waters should the international community looks to prosecute Russia and Syria, Smyth added.

Gone too far — or not far enough?

So, while the US has now entered the murky waters of the conflict in Yemen — where 14 million people lack food and thousands of civilians have been murdered — Schanzer says the US may not have done enough.

The Navy “didn’t hit the people who struck them,” Schanzer said. “They’re not looking for caches of missiles, not looking for youth hideouts, not looking to engage directly.”

For Schanzer, this half-measure “seems like it’s not even mowing the lawn.”

But with the US already involved in bombing campaigns in six countries, it is “loathe” to get mired in another Middle Eastern conflict and equally concerned about fighting against Iran’s proxies, whom it sees as extensions of Iran’s own IRGC.

For now, the Pentagon remains committed to the idea that the strike on Houthi infrastructure was a “limited” strike, and that it’s strictly acting in self-defense, which Schanzer said is “not really the way to achieve victory.”

But with just three months left in President Obama’s second term, there is good reason to question if the US’s objective is to help the people of Yemen and end the war, or to simply sit out the festering conflict as it balances delicate regional alliances.

Articles

Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.


But we aren’t The Old Guard.

A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”

The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.

Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.

A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.

The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.

The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.

Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.

Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.

Articles

Putin says Russia is pulling its forces from Syria

Russia announced today that they are pulling most of their forces out of Syria because Russian air and missile strikes there over the last six months have allowed the Syrian government to push back rebels in many key areas.


“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all parties to the conflict,” Putin said on state television. “I hope that this will considerably increase the level of trust between all parties of the Syrian settlement and will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue.”

Russia will keep forces at its new air force base in Latakia, Syria. The base was carved out of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in 2015 and has been the central hub for Russian air operations in Syria. Russian forces will also remain at the Cold War-era naval base in Tartus, Syria.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Russian Hind helicopters launch rockets. Photo: Alex Beltyukov CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian mission in Syria flew over 9,000 sorties and helped the Syrian government retake 400 settlements and 3,860 sq. miles of territory.

The Syrian government was teetering on the edge of collapse before the Russians intervened, but now it has forces surrounding the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. In February, government forces took sections of the city before their supply lines were cut by ISIS attacks.

Putin’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing came the same day that peace talks resumed in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier talks had resulted in a shaky ceasefire but the Syrian government was accused multiple times of breaking the terms of the deal. The timing has led to speculation that Putin’s announcement was timed to place pressure on President Bashir Al-Assad to seek a peace deal.

Any deal would not directly affect operations against ISIS as the terror group is not party to the negotiations. But, a truce between government forces and moderate rebels would allow both groups to focus more resources and manpower against ISIS.

Articles

ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have been told to flee Mosul or to blow themselves up.


According to al-Sumaria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist group, issued the orders in a recent “farewell speech” to fighters in what is the last stronghold ISIS has in Iraq. Fighters were told to head to mountainous areas of Iraq and Syria as a first option, but if surrounded, they were to carry out a murder-suicide bombing.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released)

The report comes as continuing operations are underway to free western Mosul from the terrorist group’s reign of terror. CNN reported that Iraqi government officials have confirmed that ISIS forces are trying to run away.

“The terrorist organization Daesh (is) living in a state of shock, confusion, and defeat, and its fighters are fighting in isolated groups,” Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jaudat of the Iraqi Federal Police told the network.

“Our field intelligence units indicate that the terrorist organization is falling apart, and its leadership (is) running away from Mosul,” Jaudat added.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals used in assault on Tel Askuf. | USNI

The fight against ISIS has claimed some American lives, but a September 2016 report by the Independent noted that coalition forces had killed 15,000 ISIS personnel for every American lost. This was before the Nov. 2016 death of Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton.

According to a DOD release, American forces carried out four strikes around Mosul, destroying, damaging or suppressing 19 fighting positions, 14 mortar teams, two vehicle bomb factories, four vehicle bombs, three tunnels, two recoilless rifles, an ISIS-held building, four supply caches, four mortar systems, 10 supply routes, two tunnels, a barge, a command and control node, and three tactical units.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.

“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Ralph Stepney, a Vietnam War veteran who was homeless a decade ago, watches TV in his room.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.

Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Ralph Stepney (left) and Frank Hundt sit on the front porch of the Baltimore home they share with caregiver Joann West on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.

“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”

The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.


Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.

“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”

VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Caregiver Joann West sits in the living room of her Baltimore home, which she shares with veterans Frank Hundt (left) and Ralph Stepney.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.

“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”

To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.

The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.

Pilot program takes off

Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.

The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.

Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Ralph Stepney holds photos from a cruise he took to Bermuda with West and Hundt. Stepney put the photos into a keepsake album that he keeps at their home.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.

More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.

It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.

In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.

And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.

A guardian ‘angel’

Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful
Frank Hundt watches TV in his bedroom at caregiver Joann West’s home in Baltimore on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”

Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.

“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”

It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”

Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.

For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”

When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”

“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News. Follow @KHNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Case remains open in death of US Ambassador to Afghanistan

On Feb. 14, 1979, Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped at gunpoint, held hostage in a Kabul hotel, and killed in a botched rescue attempt.

Forty years on, the precise circumstances surrounding the death of the 58-year-old diplomat remain shrouded in mystery. Several questions remain unanswered, including who was behind Dubs’ kidnapping, who fired the fatal shots, and whether the Soviet Union was involved.


The death of Dubs, a former charge d’affaires in Moscow, came at a critical time during the Cold War — it was a year after communists seized power in Kabul and months before the Soviet Union sent in troops to prop up the Marxist government.

The incident prompted international shock and outraged the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which closed the U.S. Embassy in response, although it did keep a charge d’affaires. Months later, Washington began its covert support to the mujahedin, the Islamist guerrilla fighters who were battling the Kabul regime and would later fight the Soviet Army.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

President Jimmy Carter.

Room 117

On the morning of Feb. 14, 1979, Dubs’ car was stopped by four gunmen in Kabul as he was traveling to the U.S. Embassy. There were reports that at least one of the gunmen was dressed as a uniformed Kabul traffic policeman. Dubs’ abductors took him downtown to the Hotel Kabul, now known as the Serena Hotel.

By noon, Afghan security forces had surrounded the hotel. Soon after, Afghan forces stormed Room 117, where Dubs was being held. After a brief exchange of fire, Dubs was found dead. The ambassador had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

Two of the four gunmen involved in Dubs’ abduction were also killed in the assault.

‘Suppression of the truth’

Washington protested to Kabul, saying that Afghan forces stormed the building despite a warning from the U.S. Embassy “in the strongest possible terms” not to attack the hotel or open fire on the kidnappers while attempts were being made to negotiate Dubs’ release.

This F-35 ‘Lightning Carrier’ test frees up supercarriers, makes US more powerful

Garden area of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In 1980, the State Department issued a report on its yearlong investigation into Dubs’ death, attributing blame to Afghan authorities and Soviet advisers assisting them.

The State Department said that at least three Soviet advisers had played an “operational role” during the storming of the hotel.

Moscow acknowledged that its advisers were present but said they had no control over the Afghan decision to storm the hotel room. Kabul said Soviet advisers were not present.

Washington said it was also not able to reach Foreign Minister Hafizullah Amin for hours, a claim denied by Amin, who would later become the leader of the country.

The State Department report said Dubs died of “at least 10 wounds inflicted by small-caliber weapons.”

The report said physical evidence in the hotel room, including weapons, had disappeared.

Afghan officials produced for the Americans the body of a third kidnapper who had been detained by police. Kabul also provided the corpse of the fourth kidnapper, who U.S. officials did not see at the hotel.

It is still unknown whether Dubs was killed by his abductors, his would-be rescuers, or a combination of both.

The State Department said the Kabul government’s account was “incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate,” with “no mention of the Soviets involved in the incident.” The U.S. report concluded: “Sufficient evidence has been obtained to establish serious misrepresentation or suppression of the truth by the government.”

Cold case

The identities of Dubs’ kidnappers were never revealed, and Washington, Moscow, and Kabul all have their own take on the incident.

Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, blamed Dubs’ death on “Soviet ineptitude or collusion,” according to his memoirs. He described the Afghan handling of the incident as “inept.”

In the book Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion In Perspective, author Anthony Arnold suggested that “it was obvious that only one power…would benefit from the murder — the Soviet Union,” as the death of the ambassador “irrevocably poisoned” the U.S.-Afghan relationship, “leaving the U.S.S.R. with a monopoly of great-power influence over” the Kabul government.

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(Hoover Institution Press)

In the months after Dubs’ death, Carter would dramatically draw down America’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and cut off economic and humanitarian aid.

In Russia, the kidnapping was blamed on the CIA, which state media said wanted to provide an excuse for U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan.

Kabul claimed the abductors were members of a small Maoist group, while officials at the time also blamed the mujahedin.

The abductors had demanded the release of “religious figures” who they said were being held by the Kabul government.

In a newly published book, Afghanistan: A History From 1260 To The Present, author Jonathan Lee writes that U.S. officials suspected the communist government in Kabul was behind the incident “either in a naïve attempt to discredit the Islamist resistance or to force the U.S.A. and NATO powers to disengage with Afghanistan.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

You may think that when a plane is retired by the Air Force, the Department of Defense is simply done with it. The only options from here are being sold second-hand, getting scrapped, becoming a museum installation, or getting lucky and becoming a civilian warbird. Well, there is another option – planes can continue to serve, but that service usually comes to a fiery end.

That’s because old fighters make for useful target drones. These eight successful fighters all found use well after retirement.


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A F6F Hellcat meets its end at the hands of an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile in 1957, more than a decade after the end of World War II.

(U.S. Navy)

1. F6F Hellcat

Over 11,000 F6F Hellcats were produced, so it’s no surprise that this classic ended up doing target drone duty. In the late 1950s, Hellcats served as targets for the early versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Today, the FAA shows only 11 registered Hellcats.

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The QF-86 Sabre was still in service with the United States military in 1991 – four decades after F-86 Sabres blasted Commies out of the sky.

(U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Bruce Trombecky)

2. F-86 Sabre

The most famous plane of the Korean War didn’t leave service when the Air National Guard retired its last F-86 in the 1970s. Instead, F-86s served as target drones in the 1990s — long after they dominated MiG Alley.

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A F-16 Fighting Falcon takes down a QF-100 Super Sabre in a test of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

(USAF)

3. F-100 Super Sabre

The F-100 Super Sabre also saw years of post-retirement service as a target for missiles. The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile’s deadliness was honed on QF-100 Super Sabres.

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The F-102 served as a target drone into the 1980s.

(USAF)

4. F-102 Delta Dagger

Former President George W. Bush’s old steed saw some service as a target drone for a decade after its retirement. The last of the QF-102/PQM-102s were shot down in 1986.

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The Air Force bought less than 300 F-104s, but some became target drones.

(USAF)

5. F-104 Starfighter

This plane didn’t see much service with the United States, but was purchased in large numbers by American allies. The QF-104 extended the F-104’s otherwise brief service with the United States military.

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The F-106 Delta Dart was replaced by the F-15 in the 1980s, but those that were turned into target drones came within a couple of years of serving into the 21st century.

(NASA photo)

6. F-106 Delta Dart

The F-106 Delta Dart succeeded the F-102 as an interceptor in the 1960s, so it seems natural the QF-106 would succeed the QF-102/PQM-102 force as targets. The Delta Dart’s last mission as a target drone was in 1997.

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The QF-4 Phantom served for over two decades as an oversized clay pigeon for various missile tests.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Jon Hurd)

7. F-4 Phantom

The F-4 was a workhorse for the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for decades. However, it also put in roughly two decades as a drone. It finally flew its last mission in 2016.

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The QF-16 Fighting Falcon will be serving as a target drone for the foreseeable future.

(USAF photo by MSgt. J. Scott Wilcox)

8. F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 replaced some F-4s in active United States Air Force service – as well as in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Now, the first QF-16 target drones are taking flight as targets for missile tests.

The fighters that end up as target drones meet a noble end. Though they no longer fly missions in-theater, they ensure that the missiles used by American military personnel are reliable.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Marines would stomp the Russians in the Arctic

About 90 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune carried out a mock air assault in Iceland in October 2018 as part of the initial phase of NATO’s largest war games since the end of the Cold War.

The NATO war games, called Trident Juncture 2018, will begin on Oct. 25, 2018, in Norway and include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.

According to NATO, the purpose of Trident Juncture is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”


But the war games are also largely seen, by the East and West, as de facto training for a fight with Russia.

Along with the carrier USS Harry S. Truman, the US has sent about 14,000 troops to the games, and the initial mock air assault was to help prepare Marines for a large-scale amphibious assault to be carried later in Norway.

But that’s not all the Marines did.

Here’s how they trained in Iceland for a potential cold-weather fight with Russia.

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Marines load onto a CH-53E Sea Stallion aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) while conducting an air assault in Icelandic terrain on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

The 90 US Marines aboard the USS Iwo Jima were first loaded onto MV-22 Ospreys and CH-53 Sea Stallions.

Source: US Marine Corps

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A V-22 Osprey departs from USS Iwo Jima for an air assault in Icelandic terrain on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

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A US Marine posts security at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Where they set up a security post.

Source: US Marine Corps

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US Marines post security at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland on Oct. 17, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“During the air assault we landed on an airfield and immediately set up security which allowed for the aircraft to leave safely,” Cpl. Mitchell Edds said.

Source: US Marine Corps

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A US Marine aims his weapon while posting security during a mock air assault in Iceland.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“We then conducted a movement to a compound where Marines set up security to allow U.S and Icelandic coordination,” Edds said.

Source: US Marine Corps

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US Marines hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

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A Marine adjusts a fellow Marine’s gear as they prepare to move for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

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Cold-weather insulated boots used by US Marines in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

In fact, they appear to have tried out their new cold-weather boots, which were just issued by the Corps.

Source: US Marines

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US Marines overlook a training area from a hill in Iceland on Oct. 19, 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

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US Marines set up camp during cold-weather training in Iceland in October 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

Where they began setting up camp.

Source: US Marine Corps

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US Marines set up tents in Iceland in October 2018.

(Photo by US Marine Corps)

“We’re just getting the gear out — the tents, stoves and stuff like that, making sure we know how to use it … and making sure we know how to use it before we get to Norway,” one US Marine said.

Business Insider contacted the US Marine Corps to find out more about the cold-weather training they conducted, but the Corps did not immediately respond.

Source: US Marine Corps

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US residents reportedly detained in Chinese prison camp

Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.

“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.

It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.


China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.

Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.

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China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.

China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.

Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.

“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.

Residents of other countries, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Australia, have also been swept up in the crackdown.

Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.

Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.

The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Koreans are tired of all the Kim Jong Un photos

Kim Jong Un may enjoy being photographed frequently, but his desire to be at the center of state media attention may be irritating ordinary North Koreans.


Kim’s recurring presence in North Korean newspapers, like the Rodong Sinmun, now means major state visits must be commemorated with dozens of Kim photographs per issue, Daily NK reported Dec. 18.

On Dec. 9, Kim’s visit to Samjiyon in Yanggang Province was announced in the newspaper with 60 photographs from the location, with 50 out of the 60 pictures including Kim.

The attention-seeking Kim is drawing criticism from North Koreans, who say he is trying to repair his image following the execution of his uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek.

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(Photo from North Korean State Media)

One North Korea source told Daily NK the “very common” photographs are a problem for smokers.

“People don’t like it,” the source said. “Among workers, who are looking for spare newspaper to roll up a cigarette, it is becoming increasingly hard to find a fragment without a portrait of Kim Jong Un.”

North Korea law forbids people from using pictures of Kim in derogatory ways, and travelers to North Korea have previously told UPI they are not allowed to fold a crease across a picture of Kim’s face or damage an image of him in newspapers.

Also Read: 7 nasty ways Kim Jong Un executes people

Kim may be tightening his grip as he concludes his fifth full year in power.

Analysts at Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy said Dec. 18 that Kim has purged top officials Hwang Pyong So and Kim Won Hong, less than a week after a South Korean newspaper reported Hwang may have been expelled from the Workers’ Party for taking bribes.

The INSS also said economic sanctions could hit the elites, and Kim could purge more economic officials to assign blame as conditions worsen in the country, Yonhap reported.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Air Force General remembers being shot down and rescued

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has a direct answer when asked what echoes to this day, what continues to influence his thinking and actions even now, 20 years after he found himself on the ground in hostile surroundings, his F-16 Fighting Falcon in the distance smoldering and destroyed.

“Where it echoes most for me is trying to lead with character,” Goldfein said May 7, 2019. “When I talk to young commanders I tell them, ‘As an officer, we never know when some young airman will risk everything to save our lives, to pull us out of bad-guy land, to pull us out of a burning vehicle. They risk everything they hold dear and their families hold dear to save us.’


“And the question at that moment is, am I worthy of their risk?”

For Goldfein, of course, the question and his answer are both meaningful and literal. It is especially potent this month, which marks the 20th anniversary of his shoot-down and rescue during a mission over Serbia.

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The facts of that incident are well known. Goldfein was a squadron commander for the May 2, 1999 mission to find and destroy anti-aircraft batteries. The mission was part of Operation Allied Force, which was NATO’s response to Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians that had risen to an ethnic cleansing. The 78-day air campaign ultimately convinced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate.

Getting to that point, however, was difficult and dangerous. Air power made the difference.

While officially a NATO campaign with many participants and facets, the U.S. Air Force played a prominent role, flying 30,018 sorties and striking 421 fixed targets.

It was a defining moment for the Air Force in several ways. It validated the air expeditionary force concept; it was the first time a B-2 stealth bomber was used in combat and the first significant use of what today are referred to as drone aircraft.

And for Goldfein, it was a life-shaping event that forced him to eject into a moonlit night, test his training and forge a unique command outlook.

It triggered a tight bond with pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, Senior Airman Ron Ellis and Staff Sgt. Andy Kubik, a combat controller. All three bolted from a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and ran toward Goldfein as he emerged from a row of trees and brought him home safely, eluding vigorous gunfire on the way out.

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A MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

For Goldfein, the memory and the lessons from that night endure.

He remembers how the training he received 20 years before that night on the proper way to safely eject, parachute to earth and evade capture, returned clearly and instantly when needed.

“What I found that was amazing in looking back was how little I had to recall,” he said, reciting the stern admonitions of his instructors for a successful “parachute landing fall” – “knees together, don’t look down, roll like a football!”

There also was something more profound that only someone who’s been shot down and rescued can fully understand.

“I wear these stars every day for somebody else,” Goldfein said. “I wear them for some young airmen who risked everything and did a great job that night. So every day you get to serve is a day to pay it forward.”

It also forces him to return to the question, am I worth it?

“The answer is, God, I hope so,” he said.

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

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