Flying the F-35: a pilot's perspective - We Are The Mighty
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Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Image: Lockheed Martin


The Air Force’s new F-35A multi-role, stealth Joint Strike Fighter brings an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground and beam battlefield images across the force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior in a special interview.

The stealth fighter makes it much easier for pilots to locate, track and destroy enemy targets across a wide range of combat circumstances — including attacks from farther ranges than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.

Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” feature on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide range of new technologies including advanced sensors, radar, weapons for attack and next-generation computers.

Although he serves now as Chief, Operations Division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned to know the F-35’s margins of difference because he has spent thousands of hours flying legacy aircraft such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest airplane to fly. I can now focus on employment and winning the battle at hand as opposed to looking at disparate information and trying to handle the airplane,” Canterbury told Scout Warrior.

Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system which places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single integrated screen for pilots to view.   As a result, pilots can rely upon computer algorithms to see a “fused” picture of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens for targeting coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds or incoming data from a radar warning receiver.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is an aiming cross on my helmet, an aiming symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will swivel over to the point on the ground I have designated,” Canterbury described.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

“I can look through the airplane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision,” Canterbury said.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

The F-35’s software packages are being developed in increments; the Marine Corps declared their Short-Take-off-and-Vertical-Landing F-35B with software increment or “drop” 2B.

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 enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

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, Air Force officials said.

Canterbury also talked about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress building a computer library in the aircraft called the Mission Data Files.

“Experts are working feverishly to catalog all of the threats we might face,” he said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive onboard data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, he explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts the world. The files are being worked on at reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials have said.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to accommodate new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system might one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force leaders say the service has launched some small mini-deployments within the US to prepare the platform for deployment.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Apart from its individual technologies, weapons, sensors and systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions from close-air support and air-to-ground attack to air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft can, giving it a “drone-like” ability to gather and disseminate surveillance information.  As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially engineered data-link to communicate in real-time with other F-35s and other aircraft and fighter jets.

“With the datalink’s network interoperability, we can talk to each other and talk to fourth-generation aircraft as well,” Canterbury explained.

The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air fighter, air-to-ground fighter or stealth aircraft engineered to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.

“While stealth is important in the early phases of warfare to knock out integrated air defenses and allow fourth-generation fighters to fly in, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an adversary well before he sees me.”

For instance, the F-35A is well-suited to loiter over an area and provide fire support to units on the ground in a close-in fight.  In order to execute these kinds of missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling Gun mounted on top of the aircraft operational by 2017.

The F-35 has 11 weapons stations, which includes seven external weapons stations for bombs or fuel.

“If we don’t need stealth, I can load this up with weapons and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.

Eventually, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.

Articles

Shaggy has a plan to defeat ISIS and it involves weed and reggae music

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Photo: Adam Jakubiak/Flickr


Reggae music star Shaggy has a plan to defeat ISIS terrorists, and it involves a lot of weed and reggae music.

The man behind “Boombastic” was asked how to counter the terrible band of murderous militants in Iraq and Syria in a recent interview in the Miami New Times, and he certainly delivered.

“ISIS can go f–k themselves,” he told Dyllan Furness. “That’s some crazy shit what they’re doing. It’s horrible, man. I can’t see … I don’t get that much hate. I just don’t get that level of evil. I can’t understand it.”

Interestingly the 46-year-old singer — real name Orville Burrell — who goes by “Shaggy” does have some military experience, having served as a Marine artilleryman during the Gulf War. But his strategy to fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is quite unconventional.

“If you’re able to cut a man’s head off, you’re sick,” he continued, “But right, music evokes emotion. So if they’re listening to Shaggy music or reggae music, they’re not going to want to cut somebody’s head off. There’re two thing you want to do when you listen to reggae: You get somebody pregnant, or you’re f–king high. High people don’t want to kill nothing; they want to love. They need to bag some Jamaican weed and distribute it amongst ISIS. I guarantee there won’t be any more wars out there.”

You hear that, DoD? Drop more weed, instead of high-explosive bombs.

Read the full interview here.

NOW: Watch a C-130 pilot’s terrifying view of a combat landing

Articles

Watch this boy find and defuse a rare Civil War artillery shell

Britain Lockhart, the teenage treasure hunter and American history preserver behind the YouTube channel “Depths of History,” recently made his most important and dangerous discovery to date — a live 20-pound Civil War-era Parrot artillery shell.


Related: That time a soldier used a payphone to call back to the US to get artillery support in Grenada

The teenager found it while scanning for bullets and canister shots left behind by Union and Confederate soldiers in the Tennessee countryside. He nearly missed his discovery because he’d dug so deep that he wanted to quit.

“I got about 20 inches, and I was like, I gotta give this hole a break,” Lockhart said in his video. “I went over there and dug up one more bullet, and I was like, okay we can come back to it.”

“So I removed a rock, then we went into another field and started hunting, and I came back to it and ya’ll can’t even believe this,” the excited teen added. “I think I have a whole shell down in the hole.”

Lockhart was right; the shell was 3 feet under the earth. He pulled the entire live round to gasps of astonishment from onlookers off camera. “That’s the biggest find out here,” said an off-camera voice.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Britain Lockhart plucking a Civil War-era Parrot shell from a three-foot hole. Source: Depths of History, YouTube.

Worried that the round could explode, Lockhart took it to expert Steve Phillips to defuse and preserve the shell. Phillips is a relics legend who has defused over 2,000 cannon balls, according to Lockhart.

“People think that if they drill one under water, it can’t blow up,” said Phillips. “That’s not true, people have been blown up under water while drilling them with their hand.”

While cautiously preparing the shell to drill, Pillips wisely summed up his experience, “you just have to think it might blow up.”

This YouTube video shows how Britain Lockhart finds, defuses, and preserves a Civil War-era artillery shell.

Watch:

Depths of History, YouTube
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a famous general was arrested as enemy royalty

During the final push of World War I, U.S. and French troops were racing to liberate the French city of Sedan, and the U.S. commanders allowed some units to maneuver around each other in the closing moments to hit German lines. In the chaos, U.S. troops with the 1st Division arrested what they thought was a German officer, maybe even the Crown Prince of Germany, who actually turned out to be a famous general and hero.


Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Rainbow Division Soldiers Help End WWI during Meuse-Argonne Offensive

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

For this story, it’s important to remember that World War I ended without Allied troops reaching German soil (something that Gen. John Pershing and Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch protested as they believed it would lay the seeds for another war). So, the final clashes took place on French soil, and there was a surge in fighting in the last days as Allied powers attempted to put as much pain on Germany as possible.

On November 6, this push reached the city of Sedan, and the 84th Infantry Brigade managed to push into the suburb of Wadlaincourt. The 84th had been battered by intense frontline fighting in the previous weeks, but its intrepid commander had fought from the front the whole time.

Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had already been nominated for his fifth and sixth Silver Stars, both of which he would later receive. He had suffered injuries in a poison gas attack, survived artillery bombardments and machine gun attacks, and led his men to victory in key terrain.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Then-Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War I.

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

On November 6, he was in Wadlaincourt with his men, taking the fight to Germany even though few brigade commanders would’ve risked being that close to the guns.

And the 1st Infantry Division didn’t know he was there. So when 1st Infantry soldiers saw MacArthur, clad in his grey cape and cap, they thought it was a German officer they were looking at. As Raymond S. Tompkins wrote in 1919 in The Story of the Rainbow Division:

All [the platoon leaders] saw in the gathering dusk was an important looking officer walking around, attired in what looked like a gray cape and a visored cap with a soft crown, not unlike those the Crown Prince wore in his pictures.

Yeah, coincidentally, MacArthur’s common outfit on the front just happened to be similar to the Crown Prince of Germany’s. While none of his own men would mistake the general for anyone else, he was not yet famous enough to be recognized by average members of other units.

And, the German Crown Prince had, in fact, led troops in combat in 1918 on Germany’s Western Front. So it is, perhaps, not so surprising that the mistake could happen on a fast-moving and chaotic front.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

The Crown Prince of Germany Rupprecht did lead German troops in the field against his nation’s enemies.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

And so the patrol arrested him, and MacArthur protested his innocence and identity, but the platoon leader wasn’t going to take the word of a probable German officer over his own eyes, so he vowed to take the man to a unit headquarters for identification.

Obviously, the 84th Infantry Brigade headquarters was nearby, since MacArthur was typically found close to his place of duty. So the 1st Infantry Division patrol took him there, to his own headquarters, for identification. Perhaps in a failure of imagination, his headquarters immediately identified him. They really missed a chance at a great prank, there.

It turned out well for them, though. The Armistice negotiations would begin days later on November 8, 1918, and was signed in the wee hours of November 11. MacArthur was made the division commander of the 42nd Infantry Division. He and his men were welcomed back to the U.S. as heroes, and it doesn’t appear that MacArthur held any personal grudges against the 1st Infantry for his short detainment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite Russian shoot down, U.S. planes will remain in Syria

U.S. officials expressed sorrow over the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast and said it would not affect the U.S. campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The comments on Sept. 18, 2018, came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.


U.S. officials said U.S. forces were not involved in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shoot-down, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. He also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah’s ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have “no effect whatever” on the U.S. campaign to defeat the extremist group IS in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the United States supports the United Nations’ effort to end the seven-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a “very sad thing” and “not a good situation.”

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane’s loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility.

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

Articles

This airman just gave her military dog a second chance at life

After nearly a year apart, it was an emotional moment when Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage of the 355th Security Forces Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the military working dog she worked with in South Korea were reunited here August 8.


The dog, Rick, was flown in from Osan Air Base, South Korea, after a lengthy adoption process.

“It’s [like] getting part of your heart back,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage and Rick served together at Osan for 11 months. On duty, they conducted exercises, and bomb threat and security checks. Off duty, they were each other’s wingman.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

“Being stationed in Korea unaccompanied, he was my support,” Cubbage said. “He was there for everything I needed. He was there when I was happy, he was there when I was sad. Everything I needed came from him.”

As a military working dog handler, Cubbage has worked with several other dogs. She described parting ways as bittersweet.

“It’s just like having a kid moving off and going to college,” she said. “You still love your kid. It’s just the fact that they’re growing up, they’re going out, and they’re doing other things.”

Rick was different from the other dogs, Cubbage said. He instantly won her over with his headstrong personality.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage, 355th Security Forces Squadron member, reunites with her recently retired military working dog, Rick, in Tucson, Ariz., August 8, 2017. Cubbage worked with Rick while she served as a MWD handler at Osan Air Base, South Korea. US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael X. Beyer.

Rick’s Retirement

After seven years of service, Rick was retired due to his age. Cubbage found out about the opportunity to adopt him from a fellow handler. “And that’s when I reached out to the American Humane Society,” she said. “They said, ‘Absolutely, we’d love to help out.'”

Military working dogs are allowed to be adopted after retirement due to “Robby’s Law,” which was passed by Congress in 2000. The adoption process can be long and drawn out, involving tedious paperwork, immunizations, and, in Rick’s case, crossing the Pacific Ocean.

“You sit there and you wait and wait, and you just count down the days, count down the time, until you’re reunited with him,” Cubbage said.

Now that he is finally reunited with his companion, Rick will live a quiet life in retirement, filled with rest, relaxation, and plenty of treats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unofficial nickname of the US’ largest cargo plane may surprise you

America’s airmen have long held unofficial nicknames for the aircraft they love — and for the aircraft they hate. Some are more well-known than others. For example, everyone knows the A-10 Thunderbolt II as the “Warthog” because when it first entered service, it wasn’t considered a very attractive airframe. Then there’s “BUFF” (Big, Ugly, Fat F*cker), the name somewhat-lovingly given to the B-52 Stratofortress.

But nicknames aren’t only doled out to combat aircraft. The C-5 Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest cargo mover has a nickname of its own, bestowed upon it by the men and women who maintain the USAF’s fleet: FRED, or “F*cking Ridiculous Economic/Environmental Disaster.”


Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Guardsmen help push a C-130 fuselage out of a C-5. The training fuselage was transported from the Rhode Island Air National Guard. Loadmasters, aeromeds and aerial port personnel will now be able to train at any time. (New York National Guard)

 

The C-5 is an incredible aircraft. Aside from being able to carry an entire C-130 cargo aircraft, it can also carry up to 75 passengers, the pilots, a flight crew, and (probably) a partridge with an entire pear tree. And it can carry all that with its 12 internal wing tanks, capable of refueling in flight.

But it takes a lot of fuel to power this monster. That’s where the “Environmental Disaster” part comes in.

The other reason for its nickname is far less funny. It costs more than $100,000 per hour to fly the plane. And since it’s been around in its current form since 1995, they’re getting older and are starting to require more and more maintenance. Meanwhile, the much newer C-17 flies for around $24,000 an hour. It carries less cargo, but it carries that cargo more efficiently.

Developing the C-5 Galaxy cost $1 billion more than the United States expected. That’s the “Economic Disaster.” Still, when you have to get a lot of stuff to the fight, the C-5 is one impressive show to watch.

When it first launched, the C-5’s weight put so much strain on the wings that they tended to crack before the military got its money’s worth from them. When the C-5 program was upgraded, so were its wings. But it’s been a long time and the plane is beginning to wear down with age, some airmen say. One Reddit user was quoted as saying,

“Sometimes the hatches don’t seal properly when the plane is trying to pressurize. In cases where they can’t afford to land and fix it properly they’ll wrap some t-shirts around a rope and soak it with water. Then they’ll pack it into the gap in the hatch and the water will freeze, thus sealing the leak enough for the aircraft to pressurize.”

Mission tempo, lack of parts, and crew turnover is turning the Galaxy into a Hangar Queen.

But the C-5 has been an essential element in almost every U.S. venture since its inception. From conflicts in Vietnam (yes, Vietnam) to Afghanistan, the C-5 was there. And since the program just finished a massive overhaul, giving the planes new engines, skeleton upgrades, and avionics, FRED-Ex is likely to be in business for a long time to come.

Articles

American Sniper widow Taya Kyle outshoots NRA champion

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Taya Kyle (Photo: TrackingPoint)


Can a rifle turn a novice into a world-class sharpshooter? Yes, based on the shootout scoreboard at a major fundraising event for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation Saturday.

A sharpshooting showdown pitted a young American woman against the reigning NRA global champion … the novice crushed her opponent at the inaugural American Sniper Shootout Saturday in Mason, Texas.

The victorious novice shooter was Taya Kyle. Founder of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, she is the wife of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in US military history,” author of autobiography “American Sniper,” and the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper.”

TrackingPoint says that its Precision-Guided Firearms can transform inexperienced shooters into world-class marksmen. To prove this claim, the company put $1 million on the table in an ultimate shootout. If the NRA champion Bruce Piatt could outshoot novice shooter Kyle then he would take home the hefty prize.

But Kyle defeated the champion, with the proceeds from the event going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation – here’s how she did it.

The rifles?

Piatt competed with the current military rifles M4A1, M110, and M2010.

Taya Kyle opted for TrackingPoint’s new M600, M800 and XS1 firearms. TrackingPoint touts advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of first-round shots at any distance.

Kyle explained why she chose to be armed with TrackingPoint at the shootout. “The technology of the gun was developed based on conversations with Chris [Kyle] about what factors a marksman has to consider on with every shot,” she told FoxNews.com, via email. “The end result is technology that I know would have saved lives of friends we have lost and will save life and/or limb of those who put it all on the line for the 99% of us they choose to give their life for.”

The rifles incorporate a range of innovations like the company’s “RapidLok Target Acquisition.” As a warfighter pulls the trigger, the target is automatically acquired and tracked. The range is also calculated and measured for velocity.  Accuracy is enhanced because all this work is accomplished by the time the trigger is completely squeezed.

The showdown?

Kyle faced off against Piatt in a series of battlefield-simulated challenges.

The competitors had to take shots consistent with those warfighters must take in battle. It meant grappling with realistic challenges like shooting at targets placed at unknown distances as well as moving targets.

To win, both competitors also had to shoot in a range of positions, including prone and off-hand shots. They also had to tackle blind shots when the shooter takes shots while completely hidden without a direct line of sight to the target. The competitors also emulated Chris Kyle’s famous long-distance ‘Sadr city shot,’ which was featured in the film American Sniper.

And Kyle emerged the victor – by a lot. She made ALL of her shots from prone, kneeling, sitting and from cover…as in every single one – 100 percent.

How did the NRA champ fare? Piatt made 58.4 percent of the shots.

The challenges

There were 29 targets with a total of 10,140 points available.

Kyle scored a perfect 10,140. Piatt scored 3,040 points, making 58.4 percent of his shots. The scoring was weighted based on degree of difficulty.

In the challenges where the shooters took on targets without a direct line of sight while concealed from ‘enemy fire’ – Kyle made 100 percent of the blind shots while Piatt did not make a single one.

For practical application in war, this means the TrackingPoint technology has potential to allow American warfighters to stay concealed while still accurately taking on targets. The ability to stay concealed and still shoot accurately could help reduce the risk to warfighters.

Kyle explained further why the tech was developed. “Our first responders and military members regularly face situations most of us cannot imagine,” she told FoxNews.com via email. “They need every advantage for precision and efficiency to protect and serve while minimizing collateral damage and risk to themselves.”

Armed with TrackingPoint tech, Kyle was also able to make moving target and canted shots that Piatt did not.

The event

The day-long American Sniper Shootout was open to the public and also featured music from country singer Easton Corbin, Grammy winner Asleep At the Wheel.

The proceeds from the event benefit the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Kyle explained her inspiration for the event as “being able to simultaneously showcase the technology and raise money for CKFF to fulfill its mission … this event was an opportunity to take care of our warriors and their families on many different levels.”

For more information about participating next time, the event and the foundation visit www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Feds plan crackdown on refi schemes that target vets

Federal officials plan to crackdown on what they view as predatory lending schemes — reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom — targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.


The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave borrowers in worse financial shape than they were before the transaction. Lenders are dangling teaser interest rates, “cash out” windfalls, and lower monthly payments, sometimes using shady marketing materials that resemble official information from the Department of Defense. Not infrequently, officials say, borrowers end up in negative equity positions, owing more on their loan balance than their house is worth.

Officials at the Government National Mortgage Association, better known as Ginnie Mae, say some veterans are being flooded with misleading refi offers and are signing up without assessing the costs and benefits. Some properties are being refinanced multiple times a year, thanks to “poaching” by lenders who aggressively solicit competitors’ recent borrowers to refi them again and roll the fees into a new loan balance.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Image courtesy of USAF.

The costs to the veterans can far outweigh the relatively modest reductions in monthly payments. In an analysis of questionable refinancings, Ginnie Mae found “many” examples where the borrowers were persuaded to switch from a long-term fixed interest rate to a lower-rate, short-term adjustable, but saw the principal amount owed to the lender jump by thousands of dollars. In an average fixed-rate to adjustable-rate refi, according to data provided to me for this column, borrowers added $12,000 to their debt in order to reduce their monthly payment by $165. Just to break even on that deal would take more than six years, according to Ginnie Mae, and could push unsuspecting borrowers into negative equity.

A typical pitch for one of these loans was received recently by a veteran and his wife who live in Silver Spring, Md. Along with a fake “check” made out to the veteran in the amount of $30,000 — all he had to do to get the cash was sign up for a refi — were come-ons like this: a new 2.25 percent interest rate, no out-of-pocket expenses, a refund of his escrow money, and up to two months with zero mortgage payments.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston

“Call now and lock in your rate before rates go any higher,” urged the lender. In small print on the back of the check were a couple of key disclosures: Homeowners would have to switch from their current 3.75 percent fixed rate to a “3/1” adjustable rate that could increase 36 months after closing and rise to as high as 7.25 percent during the life of the loan. There was nothing about fees or the fact that opting for the refi could add to the family’s debt load.

VA home loans are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and often have no down payment. Lenders who originate them receive guarantees of a portion of the loan amount against loss in the event of a default. Ginnie Mae bundles VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans into mortgage bonds, which are then purchased by investors who receive guarantees of timely payments.

In an interview, Michael R. Bright, acting Ginnie Mae president, said some of the abuses he is seeing hark back to 2005 and 2006 — heyday years of the boom before the bust. “We’re seeing borrowers refinance three times in less than six months and (their) loan balances going up.” Homeowners also are dumping fixed-rate loans for riskier adjustables.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Image from Wisconsin State Legislature.

“That was the play back then” during the boom, he said. Now it’s back.

Bright declined to name mortgage lenders who are most aggressively involved in abusive refis, but he said violators of agency rules face financial penalties and loss of eligibility to participate in bond offerings — essentially closing down their funding source.

Bottom line for VA borrowers: Look skeptically at all refi promotions. Run the numbers to see whether refinancing will leave you better off — or deeper in debt.

Articles

Royal Marine Commandos turn experiences into action-packed web series, SUNRAY

The Sunray Series is a web series created by a cast of former Royal Marine Commandos. WATM had the opportunity to interview them about their fascinating new series based on some of their life experiences. The gents bring a strong sense of realism and the struggles many veterans go through once getting out of the service. The tagline for the show is, “A collective of former Royal Marines Commandos take the law into their own hands as they struggle to reconcile with their past.” The show is described as, “Set against a backdrop of realistic, fast-paced action, guided by high-quality military drills; SUNRAY, is at it’s core a human story. A three-part serial drama exploring the veteran psyche, SUNRAY challenges the perceptions of mental health and the struggles that soldiers face when re-integrating back into civilian life.”

The series goes into some deep subjects that may be interesting and at times shocking for a viewer. The show follows Andy, who, “after dedicating his entire life to service in the armed forces now struggles to slot back into a world he no longer recognizes. He is now forced to confront the death of his daughter following a fatal encounter with drugs. Hell-bent on finding those responsible and with nothing to lose, a violent criminal underworld unravels in his wake.”

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
A picture of the Zoom interview. Clockwise, starting with top left is Sunray Series Sammy Seeley, WATM’s Joel Searls, Sunray’s Tip Cullen and Sunray’s Daniel Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Joel Searls.

Through the interview with Sammy Seeley, Dan Shepherd and Tip Cullen, they shared their experiences in the Royal Marines, their struggles transitioning from active duty back to civilian life, and where they want to go with their careers. Seeley went into depth with his struggles to transition and how the world of directing and the arts is a place for him to deal with his experiences. Shepherd discussed his experience in the RMC deploying to Afghanistan and training the Afghan National Police. After leaving service, Shepherd fell into photography work and found his passion reignited for the arts. Cullen plays the lead in Sunray as “Andy” and joined the Royal Marines in 1986 after attending college and has been just about every rank in the RMC. He spent 29 years in the Royal Marines before deciding to become an Actor. Cullen studied acting with The Actor’s Wheel Company at Plymouth Marjon University. His first theatre performance was in a Theatre Royal, Plymouth production, Boots at the Door playing the role of “Donny.” He then appeared in a further TR, Plymouth ensemble, 18 at TR2; a dynamic “promenade” play working with an energetic and vibrant group of young actors which received critical acclaim for its spirit and originality.

Watch the trailer here:

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Photo of Dan Shepherd, co-founder of Sunray, on set for the series. Photo courtesy of sunrayseries.com.

Shepherd shared, “I was a Royal Marine for nine years, and being able to document the lives of other military personnel is something that has been my passion ever since I joined. Deploying and having the ability to experience the weird, the wonderful and the surreal, then documenting the human reaction to that through a lens is the ultimate bounty. To develop those stories in a creative and entertaining way with a cast and crew that has lived it enables a level of emotional and tactical authenticity that is immeasurable. SUNRAY is the human element in its rawest form and a production I am proud to be part of.”

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Sammy Seeley, co-found of Sunray. Photo courtesy of sunrayseries.com.

Seeley said, “Having studied film, media and drama from a young age I took the next natural step and joined the Royal Marines aged 20 (pretty sure I got lost on the way to film school). Deploying to Afghanistan I found myself in an alien place, in a land of extremes. This inspired me to pick the camera back up and I haven’t put it down since. After specializing as Recce Operator I continued to grow my military knowledge and experience those things in life that money could never buy. Whilst struggling with my own mental health, on the cusp of losing everything, I began to translate my thoughts to paper, a means of therapy to vocalize the demons niggling within. Fifty Post-It notes later I had the framework of a story, 50 days later I had a script and a supportive team that cared about the project as much as me. Dan and James gave me the support I needed, both brimming with integrity, knowledge and individual skill sets that have complimented the progression of the idea to this point.”

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
James Clarke, co-founder of Sunray. Photo courtesy of sunrayseries.com.

Clarke stated, “Having studied Graphics at university and initially wanting to enter a creative industry, the prospect of taking a desk job for the rest of my life prompted a complete change in direction which somehow resulted in joining the Royal Marines. I spent most of my career in the Corps deploying around the globe with 40 Commando being involved in humanitarian operations in the Caribbean to cold-weather training in the Arctic. I found I couldn’t escape the desire for creativity and looked for a way to merge the travel and adventure of the military with a creative output. I enjoy telling human stories and developing narratives into creative mediums for an audience to enjoy. Working closely with Dan and Sam, it’s apparent we all have our own individual strengths, skills, knowledge and operational experience; this diverse skill set enables us to check all boxes and create something that we believe everyone can relate to.”

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Photo of Cullen as “Andy” for Sunray. Photo courtesy of sunrayseries.com.

Internationally, Cullen has appeared in Blindsighted: a response to Oedipus, playing an elder and blinded Oedipus for the duration of this conceptual adaptation of the plays of Sophocles and Senecas. He performed regularly with The Actor’s Wheel Company appearing in numerous pieces including Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, as Antigonus, for a short regional tour which brought him acclaim on both local and national media. During this period he also performed with The Thespis Project in their Plymouth Fringe production The Wrong Side of Prohibition playing a dual role as Senator Jenkins, a corrupt New York politician, and Owney Madden, a New York Gangster. Tip has also been acting for the camera, being directed by several innovative new local directors. His experiments in “big” films have included supporting actor roles in the following major movies: Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (in a specialist role, directed by Matthew Vaughn, released in summer 2017), Ready Player One (as a 101 Supervisor, directed by Steven Spielberg). More film projects have included the recent Sky series Guerrilla and an episode of Amazon-Channel 4 series Electric Dreams.

View the full interview here:

Featured photo: SUNRAY promotional materials, courtesy of SUNRAY

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship is so lethal because of its primary weapon – US Marines

One look at the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), and you know you are looking at a powerful vessel. Just the size alone – about 40,000 tons – makes it a significant asset. But much of what makes the Wasp such a lethal ship isn’t so easy to see when you just look at her from the outside. In this case, what’s on the inside matters more.

One of the biggest changes between the Wasp-class vessels and their predecessors, the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships, is the fact that they can operate three air-cushion landing craft, known as LCACs. Tarawas can only operate one. This is because when the Tarawa-class was being designed, the LCAC wasn’t even in the fleet.


The Wasp, of course, was able to be designed to operate more LCACs. As such, while these ships are the same size, the Wasp is able to unload the Marines on board with much more speed. Since Marines and their gear are her primary weapons, this makes her much more lethal. It doesn’t stop there.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Despite both displacing about 40,000 tons, USS Wasp (LHD 1), the fatter ship on the left, is far more capable than USS Saipan (LHA 2).

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The Wasp is surprisingly versatile. In Tom Clancy’s non-fiction book Marine, he noted that the Wasp-class ships in the Atlantic Fleet that are not at sea are part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s emergency planning. The reason? These vessels can be configured as hospitals with six operating rooms and as many as 578 hospital beds.

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

Yeah, she has helos, but she can also haul a couple dozen Harriers. So, pick the method of your ass-kicking: Air strikes, or 2,000 ticked-off Marines.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

These ships can also carry MH-53E Super Stallion and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters configured for the aerial minesweeping role. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, two of the Wasp’s sister ships operated a couple of dozen AV-8B Harriers each as “Harrier carriers.”

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective

In a pinch, the Wasp can even refuel her escorts. Why risk a tanker when the amphibious assault ship can top off a tank?

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The eight ships in the Wasp class will be around for a while. According to the Federation of American Scientists USS Wasp is slated to be in service until as late as 2039! Learn more about this versatile and lethal ship in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzNLPSkIUg

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Articles

7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

“When you’re young, you have this sense of invincibility, ” says Stacy Pearsall. “You can hear the gunshots, but they can’t touch you.” Pearsall is a former Air Force Combat Photojournalist who spent much of her storied ten-year Air Force career assigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in Charleston South Carolina. Her awards include the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor. She is one of two women to win Military Photographer of the Year and the only woman to win it twice. She has an honorary doctoral degree from The Citadel and was declared a Champion of Change by the White House.


During her first Iraq deployment in 2003, then-23-year-old Pearsall documented everything from Blackhawk helicopter sorties to foot patrols with Army infantry units on the ground. This would be the cornerstone of an epic that would impact thousands of veterans from across the US and around the globe.

“Throughout my deployment I photographed a civil affairs mission to rebuild a bombed out school where Saddam’s wife once taught,” Pearsall reflects. “We targeted it during “shock and awe” because Ba’athists used it as a headquarters. When we were gearing up for the convoy, there was one open seat in the lead vehicle and one in the rear. My partner and I drew straws to see who would sit where. As we departed the school, an IED buried under piles of debris detonated near my vehicle, sending projectiles and dust everywhere. It was fortunate the bomb wasn’t bigger. Everyone walked away that day.”

She waited to seek medical attention until she returned to the Air Force’s Camp Sather. She’d seen far worse wounds and didn’t want to make a big deal about whiplash and some blood in her ears. She played down her injuries and continued to document missions nearly every day until the end of her deployment.

“Suffice to say I slammed a lot of vitamin M,” Pearsall recalls.

Like many blast traumas, it was the injuries she couldn’t see that followed her home from deployment. Once back home in Charleston, Pearsall was cooking dinner and suddenly fell over. Her world was off-kilter and she couldn’t stand upright. Doctors thought her injuries gave way to viruses so she underwent the treatment for that with little to no relief. Today, a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI) would’ve been more likely. For Pearsall, that diagnosis would not come for another five years.

“So I learned to deal with the vertigo and headaches,” Pearsall says. Despite the chronic headaches and neck pain, she continued her Air Force photojournalism career. Her work earned her Military Photographer of the Year (MPOY) in 2003, an annual award, open to all military personnel. During the judging, the panel referred to Stacy as ‘he‘. They did not do it years later, when she won for the second time.

While supporting Operation Enduring Freedom Horn of Africa, she teamed up with combat videographer Staff Sergeant Katie Robinson, an Air Force Reservist who would eventually become Pearsall’s battle buddy for life. The two worked to deploy together at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse, near Baqubah, Iraq.

Despite a mud-floored CHU with a leaky roof and a critical satellite transmitter sitting in a pool of water, set out to prove they could hang with the soldiers at Warhorse.

“I was never faced with anything regarding my competency because I am a female,” Pearsall says. Initially, everyone was apprehensive because I was a photographer. I caught earfuls of inter-service rivalry for being Air Force but after our first firefight, word got around that I was worth having around. Instead of seeking them out, they started asking for our support.”

FOB Warhorse proved to be the right place for action. The Battle of Baqubah was the last major offensive of the Iraq War and would last seven months. Having freedom to do so, Pearsall and Robinson moved around the AOR documenting one key mission after another.

“I put those soldiers on a pedestal,” Pearsall reveals. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Pearsall and Robinson were supposed to accompany Delta Company into Baqubah on a raid to take down a house harboring enemy fighters. At the last minute, they were transferred to an Iraqi Army operation in nearby Buhriz. As they prepared for their new assignment, they listened to their friends’ progress as the reports trickled in.

“As the breach team moved in, the house blew,” Pearsall remembers. “The Bradleys came back to the FOB and began unloading the injured. The soldiers were a mess. We looked for our friends, but couldn’t see them. Then the last Bradley dropped ramp and unloaded those who were killed in action. Blue Platoon lost three really great guys that day. The rest of their team had to soldier on. Katie and I did too. We still had to go out and meet the Iraqi Army for our next operation.”

The two were split up between two Iraqi Army companies, with the idea they’d link back up in a few days. That was the plan, anyway.

“They shot my fucking thumb off!” Robinson said the minute she was struck by a nearby sniper. The sniper was aiming for an officer sitting next to Robinson. The bullet went through her left forearm, through her video camera and exploded the battery, which partially amputated her right thumb.

“I laughed when I heard that,” Pearsall remembers. “That’s what made us so close. Our collective humor, our unwavering bond, our utmost respect for each other.” When given the opportunity to redeploy home and rehab back in the United States, Robinson refused. Instead, she opted to return to FOB Warhorse.

“For me, the rest of the deployment was intense, just like that,” Pearsall says. “So many good soldiers taken so quickly, so young. Photographing the rare moments between gunfights was my favorite thing to do. It was my sense of home, of humanity.”

 

Flying the F-35: a pilot’s perspective
Pearsall in action — camera in hand — during combat ops in Iraq. (Photo: USAF)

Toward the end of her deployment, Pearsall further injured her neck during an operation. Robinson finally convinced her to see a doctor. An x-ray led to a CAT scan and more tests. Doctors concluded she needed surgery. For Pearsall, that was not an option. She wanted to leave Iraq on her own terms.

“Katie was strong. I wanted to remain strong too,” Pearsall says. I already lived with the pain for so long, one flight home wasn’t going to kill me. It was the one thing I could control in a situation that seemed out of my control.”

“My neck wouldn’t heal enough for me to stay in the military,” Pearsall explains. “It was devastating. They offered alternatives, like admin or finance. But after you’ve tasted combat, you can’t go back. If I couldn’t fight, what was I supposed to do? My career in the military was over.”

“One day, while waiting for an appointment at my VA hospital, a World War II veteran leaned over and asked if I was taking my grandfather to his doctor’s appointment. He seemed surprised to learn I was a veteran. He told me how he helped liberate a concentration camp during WWII and I realized that I judged him unfairly – just as everyone was doing to me. So I set about healing myself through the experiences of other veterans.”

Now her mission continues. First on her mind is a portrait project, photographing veterans from every conflict and preserving their stories their image for generations to come.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” she says. “And I wanted to continue that service to my fellow veterans.”

Her work and personal recovery, isn’t limited to her portrait project. There were some whose stories could no longer be told firsthand. In 2012, she published Shooter: Combat From Behind the Camera, a book of her Iraq War imagery.

“I couldn’t look at my photos without having an emotional response,” she says. “I wanted to put what happened on a page and shelve it, so I wouldn’t have to live that part of my life every day anymore. Shooter was my therapy. It was my way of honoring those who didn’t have a voice anymore, to share their experience with the world.”

Her second book, A Photojournalist’s Field Guide was published in 2013. Along with contributions from her heavy–hitter photojournalist friends, Pearsall created a guide to educate younger photographers. The book isn’t limited to photography tips. It includes insight on how to survive in austere conditions, cope with stress and maneuver through tough situations.

“I’m not the first woman to go into combat for the United States,” Pearsall explains. “There are a whole slew of women who fought for this country. Unfortunately, they’re not spoken much of in the history books.”

Not anymore. Pearsall’s project will ensure history won’t forget any veteran who fought for the U.S., regardless of gender.

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