The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses - We Are The Mighty
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The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

As rival powers develop increasingly capable air-defense networks, the US military is working with defense firms to arm the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter with a missile able to destroy these systems at long range.

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $34.7 million contract to modify the stealth jet’s internal weapons bay to carry “aft heavy weaponry,” the Department of Defense announced July 2019.

The “aft heavy weaponry” referenced in the announcement is the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile — Extended Range (AARGM-ER), a standoff weapon designed to target enemy radar systems from outside the range of enemy air-defense assets, a source close to the project told Aviation Week.


Northrop Grumman, which is responsible for the development of the AARGM-ER, has said that this long-range weapon can be deployed from a “sanctuary,” a protected area presumably beyond the reach of Chinese and Russian anti-access area-denial capabilities.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

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

The exact range of the weapon is classified, although there are reports that it could be in excess of 120 miles, significantly farther than the 60 to 80 miles of the AGM-88E AARGM.

The US Navy began developing the AARGM-ER, officially designated the AGM-88G, nearly two years ago with reported plans to field this weapon on nonstealthy fourth-generation fighters like the carrier-based F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the electronic attack EA-18G Growlers sometime in the early 2020s.

The service is expected to later integrate the missile into the weapons bay of the fifth-generation F-35Cs, which only recently achieved initial operating capability.

The Air Force, also a part of the project, is expected to field the AGM-88G on its F-35As around 2025. The Marine Corps F-35Bs, because of the presence of the lift fan, has very limited space in its internal weapons bay.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter in-flight missile launch.

(F-35 Program Office)

The F-35 modifications, which will involve changes to the Station 425 bulkhead in the weapons bay, will also allow the advanced fighters to carry more air-to-air missiles internally, Aviation Week reported. The “Sidekick” modification, as the program is called, will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, instead of four, internally.

The ability to store more firepower in the weapons bay rather than externally allows the F-35 to maintain its all-aspect stealth in combat. Storing the weapons on the outside in the “beast-mode” configuration allows the aircraft to carry more weapons overall, but it increases the size of the jet’s radar signature, making it easier to detect.

The modifications will be made at a facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and completed in 2022.

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

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These are the changes coming to US Army and Marine Corps infantry arsenals

The M16/M4 rifle platform, long the standard for the US Army and Marine Corps, could soon be set aside, as officials in both service branches are looking at new options for both weapons and ammunition.


Army researchers are reportedly looking at six different types of ammunition of “intermediate calibers,” according to Army Times.

Those calibers fall between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds and include the .260 Remington, the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .264 USA, as well as other variants that aren’t available commercially, Army officials told the Times.

The search for alternatives for both weapons and ammo comes in response to concerns with the 5.56 mm round and about the M16 and the M4, which has been continuously upgraded and modified since being first introduced in the 1960s.

Related: This sniper rifle company is trying to lighten the M240 medium machine gun

The M16 and M4 and their variants continue to have problems with jamming, an issue the system has dealt with since its introduction. Improvements in body armor have lessened the lethality of the 5.56 round. Groups like ISIS have also made use of large rounds that outperform the US military’s ammo. (Russia is reportedly working on its own assault rifle using a 6.5 mm round.)

According to some research, Army firefights in Afghanistan, where the US has been engaged for more than 15 years, have mostly taken place at distances of more than 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet. At that range, the 5.56 mm round is far less lethal.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

At least two studies presented to the US Army have pointed to rounds in the 6.5 mm to 7 mm range as better options.

“Right now the [M16/M4] platform we have is a workhorse and very effective in the hands of a trained soldier or Marine,” Maj. Jason Bohannon, the lethality branch chief at Fort Benning’s US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Army Times.

Going forward, Bohannon said, the Army wouldn’t be able to get more out of the platform and would likely look for a new one.

A report last month from the Marine Corps Times also indicates the Corps is looking to replace the M4 carried by almost every infantry rifleman with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 to replace the aging M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with one M27, carried by the automatic rifleman.

“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in April, saying M27s have been “the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons” carried by rifle squads.

Expanding the use of the M27 would be the most recent of several weapons changes.

In late 2015, Neller approved the move from the M16 to the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for Marine Corps infantry. About a year later, the Corps started testing the M27 infantry assault rifle, which offered a longer effective range, better firing, and more resistance to wear.

A senior Marine officer noted the M27’s rate of fire as a point of concern, suggesting the weapon, which carries 30 rounds and can be fired in full-automatic mode, could lend itself to ammo overuse. (Both the M4 and the M27 use the 5.56 mm round, and the US and NATO militaries have an abundance of that caliber stockpiled.)

One drawback to the M27 is the cost of the rifle, which is produced by German gunmaker Heckler Koch and runs about $3,000. The M4, built by Colt Defense and FN America costs less than $1,000.

Outfitting the 11,000 Marines — members of companies and fire teams, but not squad or platoon leaders — who would get the M27 under the new plan would cost roughly $33 million, though a Marine Corps official told the Marine Corps Times that cost was not a primary concern during the evaluation process, and the price may change as the Corps continues to inquire with weapons makers.

“I am considering it,” Neller told the Marine Corps Times of the possible change, “but we have to balance improved capabilities and increased lethality with cost.”

Articles

This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin


The Air Force wants the F-35 to be able to elude the best enemy air defenses well into the 2030s and 2040s.

 The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.

 “They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Harrigian explained that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Harrigian emphasized that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

Harrigian explained that the F-35 is engineered with what developers call “open architecture,” meaning it is designed to quickly integrate new weapons, software and avionics technology as new threats emerge.

“One of the key reasons we bought this airplane is because the threats continue to evolve – we have to be survivable in this threat environment that has continued to develop capabilities where they can deny us access to specific objectives that we may want to achieve. This airplane gives us the ability to penetrate, deliver weapons and then share that information across the formation that it is operating in,” Harrigian explained.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Harrigian called “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech fast developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, he added.

“The place where we have to have the most agility is really in the modeling and simulation environment – If you think about our open air ranges, we try to build these ranges that have this threats that we expect to be fighting. Given the pace at which the enemy is developing these threats – it becomes very difficult for us to go out and develop these threats,” Harrigan explained.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, he said.

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures.  The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities, Harrigian said.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats, Harrigian said.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets.  So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. (Graphic: Lockheed Martin)

4th Software Drop

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force plans to declare its F-345s operational with the most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet.  A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

The AIM 9X is an Air Force and Navy heat-seeking infrared missile.

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod.

F-35 25mm Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter recently completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said several months ago.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F 35Aairframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean letter threatens missile tests and derails peace talks

North Korea warned the US in a recent letter that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart,” adding that it may resume “nuclear and missile activities” if its demands are not met.

President Donald Trump unexpectedly canceled what was expected to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang due to insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The decision was preceded by a “belligerent” letter that criticized his administration for failing “to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported Aug. 28, 2018, citing people familiar with the matter.


The receipt of the letter, which was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, occurred just hours after Pompeo’s trip was first announced in August 2018, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27, 2018. “The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey,” The Post’s Josh Rogin reported.

Pompeo’s last trip to North Korea ended with a message from the foreign ministry characterizing meetings with the US as “regrettable.” Those negotiations came amid troubling reports from multiple outlets indicating that North Korea had yet to suspend its weapons programs in keeping with its commitment to denuclearize.

In recent months, media reports have indicated that North Korea is making infrastructure improvements at nuclear reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites and increasing the production of fuel for nuclear weapons. The North has also reportedly halted the dismantlement of a key facility Kim promised to destroy as a concession to Trump in Singapore.

Over the past few weeks, North Korean media has railed against US attitudes and actions, especially the sanctions that continue to hobble North Korea’s limited economy.

Speaking to the press at the Pentagon Aug. 28, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to suggest that North Korea is acting in bad faith, but he left the door open to the possibility of restarting war games should North Korea’s behavior warrant such a step.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

“As you know, we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said at the briefing. Emphasizing that his team will work closely with the secretary of state, he explained that “at this time, there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”

Mattis added that there are smaller exercises ongoing on the peninsula at all times. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he told the media.

Pentagon officials told Business Insider that there are numerous exercises happening all the time as South Koreans and US personnel train together to enhance their interoperability.

During the briefing, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said they would let diplomacy lead, stressing that they did not want their comments to influence negotiations. “We stay in a supporting role,” Mattis noted.

Mattis said this would be a “long and challenging effort.”

The recent moves and comments from both sides indicate that there is growing frustration between Pyongyang and Washington. For the time being, it appears that North Korea is resistant to denuclearization and the US is hesitant to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War without those disarmament steps.

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

Articles

Marine Corps approves first two women for infantry positions

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Female Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo my Sgt. Jennifer Jones


The U.S. Marine Corps is getting its first female rifleman and machine gunner later this year, service officials confirmed this week.

The two female enlisted Marines who have made lateral move requests to infantry jobs have been approved, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

The Marine who applied to be an 0311 rifleman was a lance corporal, an official confirmed. The rank of the Marine approved to be an 0331 machine gunner is not clear. Kulczewski said the Corps is now in the process of meeting staffing requirements at the units that will receive the Marines.

In keeping with a Defense Department mandate and the Corps’ own plan for integrating female troops into ground combat jobs, any infantry battalion with female members must also have a leadership cadre of at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers who have been at the unit for at least 90 days. Kulczewski said it’s likely the Marines will not join their new units until December of this year.

While the units that will get the first female grunts have been identified by the Marine Corps, Kulczewski said, they have not yet been publicly announced.

The Marines who applied for infantry jobs are part of a small group of 233 women who were granted infantry military occupational specialties earlier this year after passing the Corps’ enlisted infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, in order to participate in the service’s research on integrating women into the previously closed units. While all the women are eligible to apply for infantry jobs, only the two enlisted Marines have done so to date.

Kulczewski said a more senior female infantry captain had also applied for a lateral move to a newly opened unit, but the request was denied based on the staffing needs of the Marine Corps.

After the two Marines reach their new units, the service will continue to research their progress. Kulczewski said the Marine Corps had created a 25-year longitudinal study to “assess all aspects and possible impacts throughout implementation.”

The Corps’ implementation plan requires that the commandant be informed directly of certain developments as women enter all-male infantry units, including indications of decreased combat readiness or effectiveness; increased risk to Marines including incidents of sexual assault or hazing; indications of a lack of career viability for female Marines; indications of command climates or culture that is unreceptive to female Marines, and indications that morale or cohesion is being degraded in integrated units.

Officials are also rolling out new training beginning this month aimed at ensuring all Marines understand the changes taking place. Mobile training teams will spend the next two months visiting bases and offering two-day seminars to majors and lieutenant colonels that include principles of institutional change, discussions of “unconscious bias” and specifics of the Corps’ integration plan. These officers are then expected to communicate this information to their units.

“The Corps applauds the time and efforts of those Marines who volunteered. Request like these help the Marine Corps to continue the implementation of gender integration throughout all military occupational specialties,” Kulczewski said. “The continued success of the Marine Corps as our nation’s preeminent expeditionary force in readiness is based on a simple tenet: placing the best trained and most fully qualified Marine, our most valuable weapon, where they make the strongest contribution to the team.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why NATO went to an emergency session in the latest meeting

NATO leaders entered a special emergency session on July 12, 2018, after President Donald Trump was said to have spoken very bluntly about his demands that the countries spend more on defense.

During the summit, Trump broke diplomatic protocol by calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, saying, “Angela, you need to do something about this,” a source told Reuters.

Leaders of Afghanistan and Georgia, non-NATO members, were asked to leave for the emergency session.


Trump singled out Germany on July 11, 2018, when he accused the country of being “totally” controlled by Russia because Russia provides a large share of its oil and natural gas. Merkel fired back that Germany was independent and a strong NATO ally.

“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”

Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.

“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.

Trump’s NATO grudge

Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.

NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.

Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

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

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U.S. general admits F-35 is actually three separate airplanes

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Image: Lockheed Martin


The whole idea behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was for it to be, you know, joint. That is to say, the same basic plane would work for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and foreign countries.

Lockheed Martin is designing the F-35 to meet all the requirements of all three U.S. military branches from the outset, with — in theory — only minor differences between the Air Force’s F-35A, the Marines’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C.

The variants were supposed to be 70-percent common. But Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience on Feb. 10 that the three F-35 models are only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.

In other words, the F-35 is actually three different warplanes. The F-35, F-36 and F-37.

There are very few examples of plane designs that effectively meet the requirements of all three American armed services that operate fighters. The F-4 Phantom was a successful joint fighter, but only because McDonnell Douglas developed it for the Navy — and the Marines and Air Force adopted it after the fact without complicating the design process.

By contrast, the JSF’s design has taken the services’ competing, even contradictory, needs into account from the outset. The F-35A is supposed to be able to pull nine Gs. The B-model has a downward-blasting lift fan to allow it to take off and land vertically. The C-variant has a bigger wing and systems for operating from aircraft carriers. Even trying to bend each variant toward the same basic airframe resulted in a bulky, blocky fuselage that limits the F-35’s aerodynamic performance.

And the compromise didn’t result in a truly common design. It’s “almost like three separate production lines,” Bogdan said, according to Air Forcemagazine. A real joint fighter, the program boss said, is “hard” because each branch is adamant about its requirements. “You want what you want,” Bogdan said.

Bogdan declined to say whether the Pentagon’s next generation of fighters should be joint. But Lt. Gen. James Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, said in mid-February 2016 that the Navy and Air Force would probably design their next fighters separately.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

41 small, nice things to do for an overwhelmed partner

In times of stress, it’s the little things that make a difference. They always are, but they’re particularly important now, as the coronavirus pandemic looms, we’re more or less housebound, and levels of anxiety, fear, and grief mix together into a strange emotional slurry. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, if you sense your husband or wife might be feeling a bit more stressed than normal because of the kids and well, everything, noticing that and making some small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way. Things like giving them the time and space to take a Zoom fitness class, getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, ordering from that takeout place they love, and validating their emotions. The little things always matter, but in times of crisis they matter even more. So, to offer some assistance, here are 43 small, nice things to do for a partner who’s feeling overwhelmed. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Doing what we can to help our loved ones, well, feel loved and appreciated will help us all get through it.


  1. Take the kids to the park for two hours. And don’t sit on your phone for those two hours: Ride bikes, kick the ball, play games — the goal is to tire them out. Give them a solid block of time during the day when they can make calls, uninterrupted, and you deal with the kids. And by dealing with them, you keep them quiet and occupied and tend to their needs.
  2. Create space to let them get their ‘me-time’ — is it exercising? a nap on a Saturday? Sleeping in? Meditation? — and don’t make a big deal out of it.
  3. Get wine and lug it home. Do laundry. All the laundry. Dry it. Fold it. Iron it if needed. Put it away. And do it without telling them.
  4. Fix that thing that’s adding minor annoyances to their day. Are Internet dead zones around the house making their Zoom or Facetime calls all the more frustrating? Fix it. Does the front door sound like a cackling spirit every time it shuts? Fix it.
  5. Take turns making dinner. If you already do so, great. If not, start now. And by doing dinner, we mean cleaning up afterwards, too.
  6. Instead of asking how you can help, offer to help with a specific thing you have noticed they’re struggling with.
  7. Pour coffee for them on busy mornings.
  8. Don’t take longer in the bathroom than you need to.
  9. Tell them you believe in them. Just remind them how strong they are
  10. Give them a hug every day. Don’t forget it.
  11. Rub their shoulders. Or their feet. Or their hands. Actually, whatever they need rubbed, rub it.
  12. Protect their space from intrusions when they need to focus on something.
  13. Plot out an after-dinner walk. Even if the destination is the Old Oak Tree, it’s getting away.
  14. Take something small off their plate — a chore, a bill — without telling them first. Just do it.
  15. Sneak out of bed in the morning. Tidy up while they rest.
  16. Appreciate them professionally by paying attention to how they work — and how they work well.
  17. Don’t try to make them rationalize why they’re overwhelmed. just let them be stressed, complain, and say ‘that sucks.’
  18. When it’s happy hour, ask them what they want to drink. Make them that drink
  19. Ask them if they want to watch their favorite show. Especially the one that you don’t like all that much.
  20. Validate their emotions. Don’t say that they’re “freaking out over nothing.” Whatever it is, it’s important to them. Listen. Understand.
  21. Draw them a bath. Fill it with the nice smelling bath bomb and fancy soap. Yeah, that one. Light some candles. Give them however long to be in it.
  22. Figure out their love language — and then speak it. Even if you think that love languages are stupid and wrong, it will help you think about how best to communicate your affection. Does your partner tend to give you gifts? Or compliments? Do they seem particularly moved by affection? Think about it, then do it, even and especially if it feels awkward.
  23. Let. Them. Sleep. Do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
  24. Is a family outing you suggested adding more stress to their world? Cancel it. Schedule something else. There’s a lot going on right now and more to plan means more to think about.
  25. Listen actively. That is, ask them a question, let them speak without interruption, and ask questions to help them say more. Listen again. Only offer guidance if they ask for it. Otherwise, just listen.
  26. Do they need you to just leave them alone for a half hour? Sometimes, this can feel rude. It doesn’t matter. They need it. Give it to them.
  27. Sing them a song. If that feels too weird, sing it and record it and send them the recording when you’re not around. If that still feels too weird, send them a song with meaningful words at an unexpected time.
  28. Order food from their favorite take-out spot, even if it’s a spot that you hate.
  29. If your kid is old enough, teach them to sing your partner’s favorite song/draw their portrait/say a favorite movie line/do a dance/etc. and then surprise them with it.
  30. Text them to say you’re thinking of them. Text them a compliment. Text them something whose sole purpose is just affection, at a time when they’re not expecting it. Even if you’re just in the other room.
  31. Say sorry — an actual sorry, where you mention specific failings, not a half-assed one — for something you fucked up that you never said sorry for. It’s never too late. They haven’t forgotten.
  32. Do whatever sex thing they like that you don’t. Prioritize their pleasure.
  33. Better yet, tell them that they are always so good at giving you what you need in bed and that, tonight, it’s all about them. A compliment and a complete night of pleasure? Smooth.
  34. This one sounds really weird, but it’s surprisingly nice: Read to them in bed.
  35. Order from or go to their favorite coffee place/lunch place/cupcake place, order what they normally order, and bring it home to them. We’re all grieving the routines we once had.
  36. Is the state of the world adding to their state of mind? Suggest some house rules around phone usage. Set them together. Follow them together. Help one another when it’s hard.
  37. Speaking of phone usage, restrict your own. Do you find yourself spacing out on your phone too much? Reading too much news? Phubbing — aka phone snubbing — your partner? Take measures to hold yourself accountable.
  38. Set up a Zoom call with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Call their friends. Make sure everyone can attend. Surprise them with it.
  39. When they’re waffling on whether or not they want to take a mental health day, tell them to do it. Back them up.
  40. Do everything you can to make sure they have the time — and space — to do their weekly Zoom workout class without interruption. If you have to, schedule the workout class for them.
  41. Tell them you love them and that you’ll get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

These Air Force ‘rods from God’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.

That’s how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
A concept design of Project Thor.

The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.

It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.

One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses
Like lawn darts, but with global repercussions.

These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).

The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

In the wake of a startling report from the organization Open the Books showing massive federal government expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, troops everywhere want you to know that they deserve steak and lobster every once in a while. But the Defense Department spending problems highlighted in the report may have little to do with surf and turf dinners.

The 32-page Open the Books report, published March 2019, showed the federal government as a whole spent an astounding $97 billion in September 2018 as the fiscal year was drawing to a close — up 16 percent from the previous fiscal year and 39 percent from fiscal 2015. DoD spending accounted for $61.2 billion of that spending spree, awarding “use-it-or-lose-it” contracts and buying, among other things, $4.6 million worth of crab and lobster and a Wexford leather club chair costing more than $9,300.


“This kind of waste has to stop. It’s an insult to taxpayers,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted, sharing a Fox Business story about the seafood buy.

Military veterans were quick to protest, however, saying the nice food is often used by military units to boost morale on grueling deployments or to soften the blow when bad news comes.

“Surf turf night was a regular thing even when I was in Iraq,” tweeted Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Corps infantryman and creator of the popular comic strip Terminal Lance. “Feeding troops lobster a few times a year is not a waste of money.”

Fred Wellman, a retired Army officer and the CEO of veteran-focused PR firm ScoutComms, also chimed in.

“Nothing that ever beat the morale boost like steak and lobster night downrange. Period,” he tweeted. “Taking care of the troops that you and your peers sent to war isn’t ‘waste.’ Gutlessly letting the war go without supervision of the actual effort is! But no…let’s take their good food.”

Focusing on the lobster, though, misses the point on how the Pentagon’s spending habits actually do troops a disservice, according to Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.

“The lobster tail example captures one’s imagination, but that’s not where congressional oversight needs to focus,” Smithberger told Military.com. “As you see spending go up, you see the amount of this use-it-or-lose-it spending going up as well, and that’s really not to the good.”

She said the billions of expenditures demonstrated DoD efforts to “use money to paper over management problems.”

“None of our weapons systems are affordable and arriving on time; we can’t take care of military housing,” Smithberger said. “[There are] recruitment and retention problems; [the military] prioritizes procurement over training. As long as you keep having money thrown at these problems, people aren’t making tough decisions.”

For the Pentagon, the biggest year-end expenditure was professional services and support, accounting for .6 billion of spending in September 2018. Then came fixed-wing aircraft, a buy of .6 billion. Other top spending items include IT and telecom hardware services and support, .7 billion; combat ships and landing vessels, .9 billion; and guided missiles, nearly billion.

The F-35 is getting a long-range missile that can blind enemy air defenses

(US Navy photo by Dale M. Hopkins)

More than the individual items and services purchased, the biggest problem may be the way the spending happens — and the perverse incentives not to end up with leftover money at the end of the year, because it might negatively impact efforts to obtain funds the following year.

“Congress is a lot of the problem,” Smithberger said. “Appropriators look and see whatever is not spent, they take and use for their pet project.”

As the Pentagon budget request continues to balloon year after year, Smithberger said she’d like to see incentives to save money and a system that would keep planners from worrying about a loss of resources the following year.

“If the department showed that it was able to save tens of billions of dollars, they would have a more credible case for the topline,” she said.

There’s plenty of evidence, Smithberger said, that money alone doesn’t solve or prevent institutional problems. For example, she said, the Navy was making big investments in shipbuilding when two guided-missile destroyers collided with commercial ships in separate deadly incidents within months of each other in 2017. While investigations did cite scarcity of resources, training was found to be a major shortfall contributing to the disasters.

When it comes to defense spending, “it’s a lot of hollow rhetoric and it’s really costly when we decide to only express our support through appropriations and not through real decision-making and responsibility,” she said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff’s spouse saves veteran’s life on Veterans Day

Although Hollyanne Milley is probably best known for being the spouse of the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, she’s so much more. On Veterans Day, she saved a veteran’s life. And, it probably wasn’t the first time. 

Milley is a nurse with over 30 years of experience. She spent almost 20 years as a critical care nurse and has been a cardiac nurse for 15 years. Milley has maintained her career throughout her husband’s journey to becoming the top leader for the United States Armed Forces. Milley was attending a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery when she witnessed a veteran collapse behind her. Without hesitation, she quickly jumped in to assist.

Upon reaching him, Milley found the veteran unresponsive. She reportedly directed bystanders to call 911 and as she turned back to him, he’d stopped breathing. Milley began CPR, completing two cycles of chest compressions – which led to him finally taking a breath. She then turned him on his side and kept him calm while they waited for EMS. He was eventually taken away to receive medical care at a nearby hospital.

Although the veteran requested anonymity, he was reportedly very thankful for her immediate aid and encouraged other bystanders to learn CPR.

Milley voiced to multiple media outlets that it was a team effort, with others also running to aid the veteran in need. A VA physician and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman were among those who assisted. Milley encouraged the public to learn CPR so that they too could assist those in their community in the event of an emergency.

In a previous interview with Military Spouse Magazine, Milley shared that, “[My husband] has always supported my desire to have and maintain a career…I see spouse employment as a vital element of military retention. Military spouses are highly educated, resourceful and resilient.” 

Thanks to her dedication to her nursing career despite numerous moves and license transfers, Milly was able to save the life of this veteran. She has maintained her nursing career even through her husband’s most recent role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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