A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.
The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”
The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.
“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.
The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.
The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.
The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.
The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.
“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.
A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.
The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.
In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.
Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.
A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.
The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.
A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.
An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.
The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
US military bases continue to use surveillance cameras manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision, according to the Financial Times, despite security concerns that the cameras could give the Chinese government a way to spy on sensitive US military installations. Government agencies will be banned from purchasing the equipment starting in August 2019.
The Financial Times found that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado spent $112,000 in 2016 on cameras manufactured by Hikvision.
The headquarters of Air Force Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are both located at Peterson. NORAD is charged with ensuring the sovereignty of American and Canadian airspace, and defending them from attack.
A Navy research base in Orlando, Florida purchased ,000 worth of Hikvision cameras after last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which bans the purchase of such equipment, passed.
A C-17 Globemaster III loads with cargo on June 6, 2019, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, one of the US military bases that purchased Chinese-made surveillance cameras before a ban took effect.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Bertain)
Both bases told The Financial Times that the cameras were not connected to the internet. The Florida base said that the cameras were being used as part of a training system. A spokesperson from Peterson said that the cameras were “not associated with base security or classified areas” and that the systems would be replaced.
The Chinese government owns 42% of Hikvision. Hikvision and Zhjiang Dahua Technology Co., another company banned by the NDAA, control approximately a third of the global video surveillance market, according to Bloomberg.
The ban extends to Huawei products and Hytera radios, too; the US State Department recently purchased ,000 worth of Hytera replacement parts for its Guatemalan embassy, and as of 2017, Army Special Forces used Hytera radios in training, according to The Financial Times.
Other bases, including Fort Drum in New York and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, purchased Hikvision cameras in 2018, but did not disclose to the Financial Times whether they were still in use. The Defense Logistics Agency purchased nearly 0,000 worth of Hikvision cameras since 2018 for bases in Korea and Florida, but did not confirm to The Financial Times whether the cameras were still being used.
Last year, five Hikvision cameras were removed from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, although Col. Christopher Beck, a spokesperson for the base told the Wall Street Journal, “We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” and that the cameras were removed to avoid “any negative perception.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army general who oversaw U.S. Special Ops in Central and South America was fired from his job last year for repeatedly getting drunk in public, according to new documents revealed by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, 55, was said to have retired “for health and personal reasons” but the documents revealed multiple times when he got drunk at a golf club bar near his Special Operations Command-South headquarters in Florida, as well as an alcohol-related incident during a deployment to Peru.
In a brief telephone interview, Mulholland said he had been affected by “some medical issues,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and a moderate case of traumatic brain injury. He said his actions were triggered by a lack of sleep, but he declined to comment further about the incidents.
“I’m not in favor of your printing any of this, truly,” he said. “I don’t need this harassment. . . . I just want to be left alone.”
Mulholland took command of SocSouth on Oct., 2012, according to a news release. He resigned in Aug. 2014, The South-Dade Newsleader reported.
We’ve all seen Marine officer recruiting videos either on TV, on our mobile devices, or posted on a billboard next to the highway. For many, the video’s imagery, music, and testimonials cause young minds to consider joining the Corps — for one reason or another.
The video states what you’re going to learn and what awesome prospects lay ahead. Those who attend and complete the training can move on and serve in the Marine Infantry if that’s the path the individual has set for himself.
But what the training book doesn’t teach you is the role outside of the technical. Life in the Marines as an officer is a proud one, but it’s also stressful.
We sat down with our resident Marine infantry officer Chase Millsap and discussed what you should know before taking on the vital leadership role.
1. Your primary weapon is the field radio
It’s your job as a leader to organize your Marines while taking contact. Knowing how to use your radio to instruct your Marines and coordinate supporting arms is paramount.
Not that type of radio Jean-Claude. (Image via Giphy)
2. You will always eat last
In the Marines, enlisted Leathernecks get to eat their chow before anyone else, which means officers are always at the end of the line.
It’s tradition. (Images via Giphy)
3. You will almost always be the least experienced person starting day one
Everyone has to start out somewhere (unless you’re prior enlisted). Listen and learn as quickly as you can.
No doubt you’ll be motivated the first day though. (Images via Giphy)
4. Physical fitness isn’t optional
The minimum PT score is 300 — just saying. And you’d better never, ever let that squad leader beat you on a unit run.
None of those count, sir. (Images via Giphy)
5. Pony up the big bucks to take care of your grunts
We’re not suggesting you buy everyone in your platoon houses — that’s crazy talk. We mean forking out cash for cigarettes, rip its and dip. It will boost your unit’s morale.
Goodbye hard earned cash. (Images via Giphy)
6. You don’t have to be nice.
But you do need to be fair.
That’s hilarious but it’s so mean. (Images via Giphy)
7. You better know why you’re giving those orders
Having the power to give a Marine an order is a big deal. So you need to be sure that it’s well thought out ahead of time.
Today, the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or HEMTT, is one of the military’s most important but unheralded vehicles. This eight-wheeled behemoth has been around since 1982, but its highly-capable predecessor saw action well before the HEMTT hit production lines.
That predecessor was the GOER family of vehicles. GOER is short for Go-ability with Overall Economy and Reliability. These four-wheeled vehicles had an articulating front section (which allowed it to make sharper turns) and amphibious capabilities (it used its wheels to propel through water), making it extremely versatile. These vehicles could operate in front-wheel drive while on the road, but could shift to four-wheel drive for the paths less traveled.
Two of the unique features of the M520 Goer are on display: Its amphibious capacilbity, and its articulated structure.
The GOER was first developed in the early 1960s and saw some field tests in Germany and Vietnam. Four versions of this vehicle emerged: The baseline M520, an eight-ton truck; the M533, a wrecker (really, a big tow truck); the M559, a fuel tanker; and the M877, an eight-ton truck with a crane.
After yielding outstanding test results in Vietnam in 1971, the Army placed a production order with Caterpillar to create 1,300 trucks — a mix of the four variants mentioned above. But its run would prove short. By 1976, a number of the vehicle’s shortcomings came to light. One of the most notable was the lack of suspension, which made the ride very difficult. The GOER was also just too big, and there were safety issues with the way the front part of the trucks oscillated.
The GOER family of vehicles also included a wrecker.
To address these problems but maintain the capabilities of this versatile truck, the DOD sought a replacement. Thus, the HEMTT family of vehicles emerged. Most of the GOERs never saw the civilian market, but were instead scrapped.
See this vehicle be put through its paces in the video below!
Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.
Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.
He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.
Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.
“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.
Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.
Kate McClure, of Florence Township, New Jersey, ran out of gas on an Interstate 95 exit ramp late one night. Bobbitt walked a few blocks to buy her gas. She didn’t have money to repay the Marine veteran, so she created the online fundraiser page as a thank you. The fundraiser has raised more than $397,000.
Bobbitt says he’s donating some of his money to a grade school student who is helping another homeless veteran.
Watch Johnny find out that Kate raised a little over $700 in two days:
You don’t really know your buddies until you deploy together. At that point you get to see a side of them that their families and closest loved ones have never seen — a side effect of spending every hour with them for months on end in a foreign land where all you have is each other.
You get to know the good, the bad, and the weird. Here’s what you can expect:
1. You’ll learn that insults are endearing.
2. . . . as is antagonizing each other.
Generation Kill, HBO
3. You’ll learn exactly how to take the edge off when you go too far . . .
“I was just pulling your chain. Here, take a chill smoke.”
4. . . . because you’ve shared nearly every single thought that you’ve had over the last few months.
5. You’ll learn to think of buds as family.
6. You’ll learn to communicate with each other just by grunting.
7. (Aviators learn hand signals.)
8. Your comfort levels will approach new highs (and lows).
9. And you’ll learn to be totally fine with complete silence.
10. And you’ll learn to be brutally honest with each other.
11. You’ll learn who will be the first to put on his or her “deployment goggles.”
The so-called “Ammunition Resupply Projectile” would be a special section attached to the mortar round that could be guided by GPS navigation and steer itself right where soldiers need it.
Talk about “danger close.”
“This concept allows a guided package to be delivered with incredible accuracy — 10m CEP — within minutes,” said Ryan Decker, one of seven named on the patent application, according to the Army.
The Army wants to develop a tube-launched projectile that deploys a navigable payload in flight to accurately deliver the supplies to a distant target.
A tail section is secured to the payload deployment section, which includes a steerable decelerator system, the Army says. The tail section incorporates the guidance and navigation system and a parafoil control mechanism.
When the payload is first separated in flight it acts like a shell to protect the cargo and it is guided to the intended target via the parafoil with the aid of the guidance and navigation system.
Thanks to new parafoil technology developed by Professor Oleg Yakimenko of the Naval Postgraduate School dubbed “Snowflake,” the cargo’s guidance system can be packed small enough to allow room for extra supplies.
Engineers wanted something that could help “a Soldier pinned down during battle, who depletes his supply of ammunition and currently has no reasonable method of resupply until rescue arrives,” Decker said.
“This invention is even more beneficial when it is realized that the payload can be easily swapped from ammunition to any device of similar size, such as additional resupply items, surveillance electronics, or even a submunition which can all be delivered accurately and on target,” Decker added.
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has conducted simulated intercontinental ballistic missile strike missions from underground bunkers, Chinese media reported.
The exercises, which are aimed at imaginary foreign enemies, are designed to improve China’s counterattack capability in the event a war breaks out, the nationalist Global Times reported, citing state broadcaster CCTV. Many of China’s ICBMs are strategically positioned in hardened, protective bunkers to preserve China’s second-strike capabilities. China has a no first strike policy.
The country’s intercontinental-range ballistic missiles include a variety of silo-based, road-mobile, and submarine-launched missiles. China is believed to have tested a new longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in November 2018, and the country is expected to unveil the mysterious road-mobile DF-41 ICBM in 2019.
These moves are all possible signs that China is bolstering its nuclear deterrent. These developments come as both Russia and the US are also looking into modernizing their respective nuclear arsenals.
A Topol-M (in its container) on MZKT-79221 mobile launcher during rehearsals for the 2012 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
In addition to ICBM strike exercises, troops stationed in the defensive bunkers guarding parts of China’s nuclear arsenal also conduct regular long-term survival training.
The man behind China’s strategic bunkers is a man named Qian Qihu, who was recently honored for his achievements with regard to the development of storage facilities for China’s nuclear warheads — bunkers built to serve as a critical last line of defense should China’s missile shields and air defense systems fail.
The bunkers are said to be able to withstand a direct, head-on collision by a standard passenger jet.
In an interview with state media following a recent award ceremony, he stressed the need for tougher defenses to counter evolving threats.
“As the Chinese idiom goes, the thickening of a shield must closely follow the sharpening of a spear. Our defense engineering must keep evolving when attack weapons continue to pose new challenges,” Qian explained, according to the Asia Times.
He described the existing bunkers as an “underground Great Wall,” the South China Morning Post reported. “My goal has been to design a nuclear weapons-proof wall for my country,” the 82-year-old defense engineer added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing lowers its landing gears in preparation for landing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 21, 2017. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack during combat operations.
Four F-18 Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, fly over Klamath Falls returing to Kingsley Field after a morning of air-to-air combat training with a variety of other fighter jets from around the country during Sentry Eagle 2017. Sentry Eagle is an air-to-air combat exercise bringing a variety of different fighter jets from around the country to train and work together. This year’s line-up includes the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcons, F-18 Hornets, and the F-35 Lighting. Along with the training exercise the 173rd Fighter Wing is hosting a free open house for the public with static displays and other events on Saturday the 21st.
Illuminating projectiles, each weighing close to 100 pounds, are staged by Pfc. Juan Valenzuela and others from the California Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment July 21 at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. About 1,500 of these and similar rounds were to be expended by the end of the 144th’s annual training.
U.S. Soldiers, assigned to the 1-26 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), participate in a simulated force on force exercise during the Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 17.2 at Fort Bliss, Tx, July 20, 2017.
Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Sean Martin heaves a line around with the First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) prepares to moor at Broadway Pier to provide public tours July 22-23. Giffords is the newest Independence variant littoral combat ship and one of seven LCSs homeported in San Diego.
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Platoon 3052, Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, holds a M16A4 rifle during a final drill evaluation at Peatross parade deck on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., July 19, 2017. The recruits are scored for final drill according to execution of movements, confidence, attention to detail, and discipline.
U.S. Marines load into a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to be transported onto the USS Somerset (LPD 25) as part of UNITAS 2017 in Ancon, Peru, July 19, 2017.UNITAS is an annual, multi-national exercise that focuses on strengthening existing regional partnerships and encourages establishing new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise during multinational training operations.
A U.S. Coast Guardsman jumps into Lake Goodrich during a water survival demonstration at the 2017 National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glenn Jean, W.Va. July 21, 2017. More than 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors are expected to attend the 2017 National Jamboree. Approximately 1,400 military members from the Department of Defense and the US Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event.
An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter aircrew conducts maintenance on a MH-60 windshield at Forward Operating Location Kotzebue, July 20, 2017. FOL Kotzebue houses two MH-60 helicopters and their aircrews in support of Operation Arctic Shield.
Since relocating from Yuma, Arizona, to Iwakuni, Japan, in January, the Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters has been hard at work ironing out the basics of operations in the Pacific, from streamlining supply chains to practicing “hot reloads” and rapid ground refueling from a KC-130.
In fall 2017, the unit — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 — will deploy aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
And the squadron is well aware that a sea deployment in the tense Pacific could well entail responding to a regional crisis or a combat contingency, Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer, told Military.com in an interview this month.
“When I was a young guy in [AV-8B] Harrier land in 2003, several MEUs … were in a normal deployment and something happened, and they ended up in a bigger picture,” Rusnok said, referring to MEU-based combat units dispatched to Iraq to assist with ground operations during the invasion. “That’s something that could really happen. Given the small numbers of F-35s that are out there, I think [combatant commanders] are going to look at that and say, ‘I’ve got six airplanes out on the MEU. I could do something with them.’ ”
VFMA-121 has hit milestones not just for the Marine Corps, but for the entire Defense Department since late 2012, when it became the first squadron to activate with the 5th-generation fighter.
The unit’s reception in the Iwakuni community has been warm, Rusnok said. Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda attended the March change-of-command ceremony for the unit, and an aviation day at the air station drew a crowd of 210,000, with locals surrounding a displayed F-35B “six or seven deep,” he said.
While the squadron has not begun shipboard training, set to happen later this summer, it’s already preparing for the upcoming MEU deployment in practical ways, standing up and proving out logistics capabilities and supply chains for the F-35 in the Pacific.
Working Out Supply Chains
Rusnok noted that, in the space of months, the Joint Strike Fighter program went from being based almost solely in the continental United States to having aircraft in Israel, Italy, and Japan, among other locations.
“That’s such an incredibly complicated, such an exponential growth in geography that it’s almost hard to fathom, if you rewind back several years, to see we’re this far along,” he said. “What we’ve done, I think, at Iwakuni is to break down some of these barriers and find out how that airplane is supportable in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The squadron has worked with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office and aircraft maker Lockheed Martin to find faster ways to ship gear and replacement parts, and to send broken parts back to the United States to repair. With a global supply chain and a relatively small number of active aircraft, sometimes a plane in need of a part at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona must get it shipped from Iwakuni, and vice versa.
“Iwakuni is distinctly different from CONUS-based units, not only because of the tyranny of distance in the Pacific region, but we also have a wide variety of places we could potentially go,” Rusnok said. “Expeditionary maintenance logistics are incredibly important to what we do.”
The squadron got to hone its fighting skills earlier this month at Northern Edge, a 12-day training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
The exercise included the Air Force’s 5th-generation F-22 Raptor, as well as numerous fourth-generation fighters, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
In the exercise, the largest VFMA-121 has participated in since moving forward to Iwakuni, the F-35s were able to drill on joint operations in the Western Pacific, focusing on aerial interdiction, strike warfare, air-to-air, and offensive counter-air missions.
Rusnok said the F-35’s kill ratio from the exercise was not immediately available, though one of the missions he flew racked up eight kills and zero losses, he said, a fairly indicative statistic.
But he doesn’t particularly like to talk about those stats.
“Everyone likes to focus on that air-to-air piece. It robs that statistic out of a bigger scenario,” he said. “You never hear about the surface-to-air kills we got, the enemy systems degraded. There’s a bigger picture.”
The exercise, Rusnok said, also tested the F-35’s ability to create a “God’s-eye view” of the battlespace, with its ability to network and transmit information. Northern Edge showed, he said, that the capability remained strong, even in a dense radio frequency environment that hindered transmissions.
“Where other air systems have problems, we’re able to cut through that so easily,” he said. “Our ability to resist that kind of attack on the electromagnetic spectrum is huge.”
Testing Maintenance Software
The squadron also brought with it a deployable version of its Autonomic Logistics Information System, a software designed to revolutionize F-35 maintenance that has been hampered by production and upgrade delays. A 2016 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether ALIS was truly able to deploy in practice, citing a lack of redundancy in the system.
“Every time we deploy this airplane, we make a decision whether to deploy ALIS or leave it home,” Rusnok said.
In this case, he said, the squadron worked with the Air Force to make necessary modifications to host the ALIS deployable operating unit, hardware that travels with the squadron when connectivity is an issue. Overall, Rusnok said, the system worked well during the exercise, and preparing to use it offered insights on its future use.
“Let’s say we’re going to an Air Force base in Country X — we know those facilities are now compatible with ALIS,” he said. “Maybe we can take advantage of this and put it in our playbook as something we can do, optimize to really cut down on that logistics footprint.”
Now back in Japan, the squadron has already begun early preparations for its upcoming deployment, conducting rapid ground refueling tests using the KC-130 Hercules and practicing “hot reloads” in which the aircraft receives new ordnance while the pilot remains in the cockpit.
The unit’s pre-deployment preparations will likely provide insights for units that come after. The next F-35B deployment, aboard the amphibious assault ship Essex, will come months after VFMA-121 deploys to the Pacific and is expected to take the Corps’ second F-35 squadron, VFMA-211, to the Middle East.
“Come the fall, we’re going to have all the pieces in place so we can effectively deploy the squadron,” Rusnok said.