President Donald Trump says he’s found a new candidate for the civilian post of Navy secretary.
His name is Richard Spencer, and he’s a former financial industry executive. Spencer is also a former Marine Corps captain.
The White House says Spencer most recently was managing partner of Fall Creek Management, a privately held management consulting company in Wyoming. Spencer also was vice chairman and chief financial officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial market company, and president of Crossroads Group, a venture capital firm that was bought by Lehman Brothers in 2003.
Trump’s first choice for Navy secretary, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden cited privacy concerns and the difficulty of separating from his business interests.
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — In a nondescript US military hangar, steps away from Air Force One, sits America’s priciest weapons system.
“The F-35 is a needed aircraft to get us to where we need to be for the future of warfare,” said US Air Force Maj. Will “D-Rail” Andreotta, the commander of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team.
“What it’s giving to the pilots is everything I’m seeing on my screens added to that the helmet, the situational awareness, and the advanced avionics that we have on the aircraft is gonna allow us to fight wars in places that we have very limited capabilities in right now,” Andreotta told Business Insider.
In August, US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, declared initial combat capability of 15 Air Force F-35A jets — a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which has been set back by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.
“When you look at where the Air Force is headed, you look at coalition warfare and spend time in the Pacific, what this means to the interoperability, the ability to operate with others in the battle space and create the coalition warfare that we will always, always, fight with in the future, the centerpiece of that is gonna be the F-35,” Carlisle said at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber conference.
“The integration, the interoperability, the fusion warfare that this here plane brings to the fight … it changes the game.”
The fifth-generation “jack of all trades” jet was developed in 2001 by Lockheed Martin to replace the aging aircraft in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
The fighter is equipped with radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, and “the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history,” Jeff Babione, the head of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, said in a statement.
And for an enemy to engage an F-35 would be like jumping into a boxing ring to “fight an invisible Muhammad Ali,” as Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told Business Insider.
In short, the F-35 gives pilots the ability to see but not be seen.
What’s more, Andreotta added, the F-35A is easy to fly.
“The F-35 is a very, very easy airplane to fly — that kinda sounds funny, but it really is … Things that were difficult and time-consuming and task-saturating in an F-16 have now become easy,” said Andreotta, a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona who has 1,600 hours in an F-16.
“I can take information that I’m getting from the F-35 and push it out to other aircraft that don’t have the capabilities that I have. That’s huge. I would have killed for that when I was flying an F-16.”
Unlike any other fielded fighter jet, the F-35 can share what it sees in the battle space with counterparts, which creates a “family of systems.”
“Fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform. It’s about a family of systems, and it’s about a network, and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said during aPentagon briefing.
Elaborating on the advantages, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, the director of the F-35 integration office, said the aircraft was “one our adversaries should fear.”
“In terms of lethality and survivability, the aircraft is absolutely head and shoulders above our legacy fleet of fighters currently fielded,” said Pleus, an F-35A pilot and former command pilot with more than 2,300 flying hours.
Alongside Andreotta, US Air Force TSgt Robert James, also of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team and a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, offered some insight as a crew chief.
“Aircraft maintenance is aircraft maintenance, but with the F-35 there is an ease in maintenance,” James told Business Insider.
“What they did with the F-35, I feel, and again I do this every day, is that they thought about the maintainer as well as the pilot. They designed the aircraft in a way that the maintainer could do their job better,” James said.
And while the F-35 has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Program executive officer, said “the program itself is making progress.”
“Any development program is going to encounter issues,” Bogdan said. “If you’re building a development program and you don’t find anything wrong, then you didn’t do a good enough job building that program.”
He added: “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day that we encounter things wrong with this airplane. Now is the time to find those things and fix them. The perfect example is our insulation problem we have right now.
“The mark of a good program is not that you don’t have any problems but that you find things early. You fix them. You make the airplane better, the weapons system better, and you move on.”
Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.
Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians to the communities they call home.
With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.
There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!
Massive explosions at an in central have prompted the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and the closure of airspace over the region, the country’s emergency response agency has said.
The blasts late on Sept. 26 sparked a blaze at the depot near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsya region, some 270 kilometers west of Kyiv, the September 27 statement said.
military prosecutor’s office said investigators were treating the explosions and fire as an act of sabotage, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on September 27.
National Police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a statement on September 27 that hundreds of police officers from the Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr, Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi regions were providing security and safe evacuation of people at the site.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who arrived in Vinnytsya hours after the blast, said that “external factors” were behind the incident.
Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was “convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage,” and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.
He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.
Some 600 National Guard troops were deployed to the area to assist with the evacuation of the residents and to ensure the protection of their property from looters, the National Guard said in a statement. Some 1,200 Ukrainian firefighters were working to contain the blaze, UNIAN reported.
Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.
Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.
Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies.
Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of , General Viktor Muzhenko, arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.
A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.
Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.
Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.
An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.
Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.
Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.
You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassedU.S. Navyvessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”
The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.
Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.
Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.
It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.
The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.
You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”
Tony Wells’ journey from Marine to leading USAA’s brand wasn’t easy. But his diverse career after his service made him the perfect person for the job.
“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and obviously there is a very heavy military presence there,” Wells explained. His mother was a teacher and his father a pharmaceutical representative, both successful in their own right. “I was very fortunate to have a number of family members that either served or had connections.”
Although he eventually became a proud Marine, it wasn’t always the plan.
Recruited by the Naval Academy to play basketball as a senior in high school, it was the first time Wells really considered a career in the military. His maternal grandfather served during World War II as a Steward and Driver for a Navy captain. As a Black American, it was one of the few jobs they were allowed to hold within the military during that time period. “For him, it was an absolute moment of pride when I graduated from the Naval Academy many years later,” Wells shared. “The idea that his grandson would be a Marine officer was just a dream come true.”
So, why did Wells choose becoming a Marine over a sailor? As a midshipman during his junior year, he was assigned to a Marine unit. “We went to Bridgeport, which is where Marines do mountain warfare training. I just had an unbelievable time and seeing the relationship between the staff NCOs and officers, for me it was just a different experience…It felt more like what I wanted to embody as a military leader,” Wells shared.
In 1986, Wells commissioned as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and headed to the fleet. Wells shared that being an “Officer of Marines” was the greatest job he’s ever had. “Being of service to country and for me, having those basic leadership philosophy foundation approaches ingrained early has served me well,” he said.
Wells deployed with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean. He was a rifle and weapons platoon commander during this time. He then had the opportunity to become a company commander. “It was a very unique opportunity for me as a 1st Lieutenant,” he said. Wells served under Michael Hagee, who would go on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
After PCSing to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Wells had the opportunity to take on a secondary MOS and was trained to be a Public Affairs Officer. When he returned to San Diego after completing his training, the first Gulf War began. Wells found himself on the evening news…Wells found himself on the evening news, briefing the nation on how recruits were handling training as they prepared to deploy. “It was a great leadership experience and a great practical opportunity for me to transition. That became how I ended up transitioning to civilian service,” he explained.
Wells dove into his new civilian career with Nissan, working as their Corporate Communications Manager and eventually an Advertising Manager. After almost six years with Nissan, he moved on to other various marketing roles for different companies and industries. While working for one of them about 20 years later, he had a conversation with USAA.
“It was like coming home. I’ve been a USAA member since I was at the Naval Academy,” Wells shared. “It’s just been a tremendous experience around this idea of how important the mission is. I would say my whole business career I haven’t experienced the pull of the mission and alignment since the Marine Corps.”
Although Wells said he’s worked for some truly great companies, purpose is inherent within USAA. So is perspective. “When I have a tough day or think it’s been rough. I know that somewhere there is a cold, wet and hungry Marine who is in danger while protecting our country and our way of life,” he said.
As he looks back on his life, Wells is quick to recognize what he called deep blessings and great opportunities. “For me, Black History Month is about paying homage to the folks who have come before and the great sacrifice and accomplishments that Black Americans have had that may have gone unrecognized,” Wells explained.
Not only did his grandfather serve in the Navy, his cousin was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring fair employment practices and banning discrimination.
“The last year has been a very interesting time in America. I think the murder of George Floyd really caused folks to reassess race relations. I think it’s very interesting that the military has such a long history of being the first to integrate but at the same time recognizes there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Military leadership spanning across every branch of service was quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd and begin a deeper examination of their own houses for racism.
USAA joined them, issuing their own statement and commitment to fighting racism.
“Despite the discord and division we often see in America right now, I still remain hopeful…there are many, many more people committed to being on that journey to get back to the Constitution, which is just this idea that all are men created equal,” he shared. “I just think that the best is yet to come and I continue to believe that the military will play an instrumental role in making that transition a reality.”
This Marine spent his life living and breathing a servant-leadership mentality, honoring all who came before him. Although Wells may have left the Corps behind years ago, he found his new home in USAA by serving them and all other service members.
When Wells was asked if had any last words for readers, he smiled. “Semper Fi.”
A legendary chapter in Air Force history has come to a close.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, the last survivor of the “Doolittle Raid,” died April 9, 2019, in San Antonio.
“Lt. Col. Dick Cole reunited with the Doolittle Raiders in the clear blue skies today,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “My heart goes out to his friends and family as our Air Force mourns with them. We will honor him and the courageous Doolittle Raiders as pioneers in aviation who continue to guide our bright future.”
On April 18, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Doolittle Raiders attacked Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which boosted American morale in the early months of World War II.
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“There’s another hole in our formation,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Our last remaining Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and has reunited with his fellow Raiders. And what a reunion they must be having. Seventy-seven years ago this Saturday, 80 intrepid airmen changed the course of history as they executed a one-way mission without hesitation against enormous odds. We are so proud to carry the torch he and his fellow Raiders handed us.”
Cole was born Sept. 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. In 1938, he graduated from Steele High School in Dayton and attended two years of college at Ohio University before enlisting as an aviation cadet on Nov. 22, 1940. Soon after he enlisted, Cole received orders to report to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois, for training before arriving at Randolph Field, Texas and later, Kelly Field, Texas. He completed pilot training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941.
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
While Cole was on a training mission with the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon, word came that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
The 17th BG flew anti-submarine patrols until February 1942, when Cole was told he would be transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. While there, he and his group volunteered for a mission with no known details. Cole would later say that he thought his unit was heading to North Africa.
For weeks, Cole practiced flying maneuvers on the B-25 Mitchell, a U.S. Army Air Corps twin-engine propeller-driven bomber with a crew of five that could take off from an aircraft carrier at sea, in what some would call the first joint action that tested the Army and Navy’s ability to operate together. When the carrier finally went to sea to bring 16 bombers closer to maximize their reach, it wasn’t until two days into the voyage that the airmen and sailors on the mission were told that their carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet, and all of its bombers, were heading in the direction of Tokyo.
A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
In an age-before mid-air refueling and GPS, the U.S.S. Hornet weighed less than a quarter of today’s fortress-like aircraft carriers. With Cole as the copilot to then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, the B-25 Mitchell bomber #40-2344, would take off with only 467 feet of takeoff distance.
What made the mission all the more challenging was a sighting by a Japanese patrol boat that spurred the task force commander, U.S. Navy Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey, to launch the mission more than 650 nautical miles from Japan – 10 hours early and 170 nautical miles farther than originally planned. Originally, the Mitchells were supposed to land, refuel and proceed on to western China, thereby giving the Army Air Corps a squadron of B-25s and a commander. But now the aircrews faced increasing odds against them, in their attempt to reach the airfields of non-occupied China. Still, Cole and his peers continued with their mission.
Flying at wave-top level around 200 feet and with their radios turned off, Cole and the Raiders avoided detection for as much of the distance as possible. In groups of two to four aircraft, the bombers targeted dry docks, armories, oil refineries and aircraft factories in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe as well as Tokyo itself. The Japanese air defense was so caught off guard by the Raiders that little anti-aircraft fire was volleyed and only one Japanese Zero followed in pursuit. With their bombs delivered, the Raiders flew towards safety in China.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole answers question about the raid during a luncheon in honor of the event at the Army Navy Club in Washington.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)
Many airmen had to parachute out into the night, Cole himself jumping out at around 9,000 feet. All aircraft were considered lost with Cole’s own aircraft landing in a rice paddy full of night soil. Of the 80 airmen committed to the raid, eight were captured by Japanese forces with five executed and three sent to prison (where one died of malnutrition). All of the 72 other airmen found their way to safety with the help of Chinese farmers and guerrillas and continued to serve for the remainder of World War II.
The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese, who moved four fighter groups and recalled top officers from the front lines of the Pacific to protect the cities in the event American bomber forces returned.
After the Doolittle Raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater supporting the 5318th Provisional Air Unit as a C-47 pilot flying “The Hump,” a treacherous airway through the Himalayan Mountains. The USAAF created the 5318th PAU to support the Chindits, the long-range penetration groups that were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, with Cole as one of the first members of the U.S. special operations community. On March 25, 1944, the 5318th PAU was designated as the 1st Air Commando Group by USAAF commander Gen. Henry H. Arnold, who felt that an Air Force supporting a commando unit in the jungles of Burma should properly be called “air commandos.” Cole’s piloting skills blended well with the unconventional aerial tactics of Flying Tiger veterans as they provided fighter cover, bombing runs, airdrops and landing of troops, food and equipment as well as evacuation of casualties.
Lt. Col. Dick Cole smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole retired from the Air Force on Dec. 31, 1966, as a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft, more than 250 combat missions and more than 500 combat hours. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters; Air Medal with oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, First Grade. All Doolittle Raiders were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2014.
In his final years, he remained a familiar face at Air Force events in the San Antonio area and toured Air Force schoolhouses and installations to promote the spirit of service among new generations of airmen. On Sept. 19, 2016, Cole was present during the naming ceremony for the Northup Grumman B-21 Raider, named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.
“We will miss Lt. Col. Cole, and offer our eternal thanks and condolences to his family,” Goldfein said. “The Legacy of the Doolittle Raiders — his legacy —will live forever in the hearts and minds of airmen, long after we’ve all departed. May we never forget the long blue line, because it’s who we are.”
The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.
According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.
According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.
One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.
(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)
According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.
He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.
After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.
There have been a few developments in the stealth world in February 2018 with Russia deploying its Su-57 to Syria and China announcing its J-20 is combat ready.
With more countries now fielding and trying to market stealth jets, Business Insider spoke to Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at the thinktank CNA and fellow at the Wilson Center focusing on Russia’s military and defense, about how the Su-57 and the J-20 match up with the US’s stealth planes.
The partial transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Brown: What are your general thoughts on the recent deployment of the Su-57 to Syria?
Michael Kofman: They deployed them to Syria really for two reasons. One is to change the narrative that’s been going on in Syria for the last couple weeks and take a lot of media attention to the Su-57. And second is to actually demo it in the hope that there might be interested buyers, as they have deployed a number of weapons systems to Syria.
They’re always looking for more investors in that technology. Fifth-generation aircraft are expensive.
Kofman: I think it’s a stealthier aircraft than your typical fourth-generation design. I don’t think it matches the stealth capability of the F-22 or F-35, nor does it match the price tag of them. I think it’s a poor man’s stealth aircraft. I think it’ll be a very capable platform. I don’t think it’ll match or compete in the low-observation rules that US aircraft do.
On the other hand, it will definitely be a step above a fourth-generation aircraft — in terms of how maneuverable it is, Russian aircraft are always very capable, very maneuverable.
The F-22 is actually really good in maneuverability, too. The F-35 not so much, but the F-22 is actually a brilliant aircraft. We still have a lot of them. But the Su-57 is not meant to be a direct competitor to the F-22 or F-35.
Brown: That’s how Russia seems to be marketing it.
Kofman: Yeah, I’m sure some guy thinks his Honda Civic is better than my BMW.
Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: There is a fifth-generation market out there. Where can you go to get a fifth-generation aircraft? The US is very tight on technology with the F-35. The only other people that have one in development is the Chinese.
So, here’s the real question: Is the Su-57 better than the J-20?
Kofman: Well, it’s certainly far — if not further — along in technology design.
Here’s what it’s important: At the core of every plane is the engine — it’s all about the engine. Everything else is super cool, but it’s all about the engine.
The Su-57 is not in serial production because they’ve not finished the engine for it. It is flying on an upgraded engine from the Su-35S, so it cannot be a fifth-generation aircraft yet.
Now, is it low-observable relative to the Su-35? Yes. Is it low-observable relative to F-35? No. But you know what, if it was, probably no one would be able to afford it, least of all Russia. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the affordable.
Brown: What do you think about the J-20 compared to the F-22 or the Su-57? Where does it stand?
Kofman: I suspect that the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, early Chinese low-observation aircraft designs are all based on ancient Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.
That’s where I think it stands. In terms of observation, when I look at it, I suspect it also has a lot of stealth issues.
Just days after President Donald Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “nuclear button” and flaunted the size and efficacy of his own nuclear fleet, the two countries have made strides toward peace.
With little more than a month before the start of South Korea’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea has reopened communications with Seoul and expressed interest in mending relations.
In the same New Year’s Day address in which Kim touted his willingness to engage in nuclear war, he “earnestly” wished for South Korea’s games to succeed and said it was a “good opportunity to show unity of the people.”
The U.S. and South Korea have also announced they will pause their military exercises not just through the end of the games in late February but reportedly all the way through the Paralympics, set to end in mid-March.
As a result, the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea may have just scheduled an unprecedented 2 1/2 months of markedly lowered tensions.
North Korea hates the U.S. and South Korea’s military exercises, which regularly feature huge numbers of troops and advanced weapons systems. Lately, the drills and development of new weapons systems have increasingly focused on taking out Kim.
North Korea often intentionally times missile launches to coincide with the drills.
North Korea, China, and Russia all support the “freeze for freeze” path to negotiations, wherein the U.S. and South Korea suspend the military drills in exchange for North Korea halting missile and nuclear tests.
The U.S. has always rejected this strategy on the grounds that North Korea’s missile tests are illegal and the military drills are not. But the Winter Olympics have opened a window of opportunity for diplomacy.
But is it a trap?
North Korea has made overtures of peace to South Korea before. In fact, Andrea Berger, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pointed out on Twitter that Pyongyang had a history of extending olive branches after periods of tension.
“2017 painted the extremely worrying security backdrop that everyone is desperate to move away from,” Berger wrote. “The DPRK will test each South Korean administration, pushing to see how far doors will open.”
“But, it is worth remembering that most January windows of opportunity for North-South progress get smashed fairly quickly,” Berger wrote — North Korea’s peace overtures normally occur in January.
Even as North Korea prepares for its highest-level talks with South Korea in years, reports have surfaced that it’s planning to test a missile or at least a rocket engine.
Additionally, a lull in activity may tempt South Korea to side with China, Russia, and ultimately Pyongyang, rejecting the U.S.’s calls for total denuclearization and holding out for talks until strict preconditions have been met.
But for now, the U.S. and South Korea are set to go months without provoking North Korea with military exercises. It will be up to North Korea, which has backed out of peace talks before, to demonstrate its commitment to de-escalation.
The U.S. Army Ranger history predates the Revolutionary War. In the mid 1700s, Capt. Benjamin Church and Maj. Robert Rogers both formed Ranger units to fight during the King Phillips War and the French and Indian War. Rogers wrote the 19 standing orders that are still in use today.
In 1775, the Continental Congress formed eight companies of expert riflemen to fight in the Revolutionary War. Later, during 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen, commanded by Dan Morgan, was known as the Corps of Rangers. Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element, known as Marion’s Partisans.
During the War of 1812, companies of U.S. Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army. Throughout the war, they patrolled the frontier from Ohio to western Illinois on horseback and by boat. They participated in many skirmishes and battles with the British and their Indian allies. Many famous men belonged to Ranger units during the 18th and 19th centuries, including Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.
The Civil War included Rangers such as John Singleton Mosby, who was the most famous Confederate Ranger. His raids on Union camps and bases were so effective – part of North-Central Virginia soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy.
After the Civil War, more than half a century passed without military Ranger units in America. However, during World War II, from 1941-1945, the United States, using British Commando standards, activated six Ranger infantry battalions.
Then-Maj. William O. Darby, who was later a brigadier general, organized and activated the 1st Ranger Battalion at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, June 19, 1942. The 1st Ranger Battalion participated in the North African landing at Arzeu, Algeria, the Tunisian Battles, and the critical Battle of El Guettar.
The 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions were activated and trained by Col. Darby in Africa near the end of the Tunisian Campaign. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions formed the Ranger force. They began the tradition of wearing the scroll shoulder sleeve insignia, which has been officially adopted for today’s Ranger battalions.
The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944. It was during the bitter fighting along the beaches that the Rangers gained their motto, “Rangers, lead the way!” They conducted daring missions to include scaling the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, to destroy German gun emplacements trained on the beachhead.
The 6th Ranger Battalion operated in the Philippines and formed the rescue force that liberated American prisoners of war, or POWs, from a Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in January 1945. The 6th Battalion destroyed the Japanese POW camp and evacuated more than 500 prisoners.
The 75th Infantry Regiment was first organized in the China-Burma-India Theater as Task Force Galahad, on Oct. 3, 1943. It was during the campaigns in the China-Burma-India Theater that the regiment became known as Merrill’s Marauders after its commander, Maj. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. The Ranger battalions were deactivated at the end of World War II.
The outbreak of hostilities in Korea, June 1950, again signaled the need for Rangers. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War. The Rangers went to battle throughout the winter of 1950 and the spring of 1951. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment and then to another. They performed “out front” work – scouting, patrolling, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces, to regain lost positions.
Rangers were again called to serve their country during the Vietnam War. The 75th Infantry was reorganized once more, Jan. 1, 1969, as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Fifteen separate Ranger companies were formed from this reorganization. Thirteen served proudly in Vietnam until inactivation, Aug. 15, 1972.
In January 1974, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army chief of staff, directed the formation of a Ranger battalion. The 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was activated and parachuted into Fort Stewart, Ga., July 1, 1974. The 2nd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, followed with activation, Oct. 1, 1974. The 3rd Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger), received their colors on Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 3, 1984. The 75th Ranger Regiment was designated during February 1986.
The modern Ranger battalions were first called upon in 1980. Elements of 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), participated in the Iranian hostage rescue attempts.
In October 1983, 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions spearheaded Operation Urgent Fury by conducting a daring low-level parachute assault to seize Point Salines Airfield and rescue American citizens at True Blue Medical Campus.
The entire 75th Ranger Regiment participated in Operation Just Cause. Rangers spearheaded the action by conducting two important operations. Simultaneous parachute assaults were conducted onto Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Airfield and Gen. Manuel Noriega’s beach house, to neutralize Panamanian Defense Forces. The Rangers captured 1,014 enemy prisoners of war and more than 18,000 arms of various types.
Elements of Company B, and 1st Platoon Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Saudi Arabia, Feb. 12, 1991 to April 15, 1991, in support of Operation Desert Storm.
In August 1993, elements of 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Somalia to assist United Nations forces in bringing order to a desperately chaotic and starving nation. The Rangers conducted a daring daylight raid with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Oct. 3, 1993. For nearly 18 hours, the Rangers delivered devastating firepower, killing an estimated 600 Somalis in what many have called the fiercest ground combat since Vietnam.
The 75th Ranger Regiment deployed Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, Team 2, and a command and control element to Kosovo in support of Task Force Falcon, Nov. 24, 2000.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rangers were called upon to lead the way in the Global War on Terrorism. The 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment spearheaded ground forces by conducting an airborne assault to seize Objective Rhino in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Oct. 19, 2001. The 3rd Battalion employed the first airborne assault in Iraq to seize Objective Serpent in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 28, 2003.
Due to the changing nature of warfare and the need for an agile and sustainable Ranger force, the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, or RSTB, was activated, July 17, 2006. The RSTB conducts sustainment, intelligence, reconnaissance and maintenance missions, which were previously accomplished by small detachments assigned to the regimental headquarters and then attached within each of the three Ranger battalions. The activation of the RSTB signifies a major waypoint in the transformation of the Ranger force from a unit designed for short-term “contingency missions” to continuous combat operations without loss in lethality or flexibility.
Today, Rangers from all four of its current battalions continue to lead the way in overseas contingency operations. The 75th Ranger Regiment is conducting sustained combat operations in multiple countries deploying from various locations in the United States, a task that is unprecedented for the regiment. Rangers continue to conduct combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional and coalition force in support of both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Ranger Regiment is executing a wide range of diverse operations that include airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations.
In addition to conducting missions in support of overseas contingency operations, the 75th Ranger Regiment continues to train in the United States and overseas to prepare for future no-notice worldwide combat deployments. The regiment also continues to recruit, assess and train the next generation of Rangers and Ranger leadership.
November 2019, the US Navy unveiled the official seal for the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, which was officially launched on Oct. 29, 2019 — three months ahead of schedule.
The Kennedy will be christened in Newport News, Virginia, on Dec. 7, 2019, and even though it likely won’t be commissioned into service until 2020, the carrier’s seal reveals what naval aviation will look like aboard the Kennedy in the decades to come.
The seal, which is meant to honor Kennedy, his Navy service, and his vision for space exploration, depicts several of the aircraft that will operate on the carrier.
In front of the superstructure is what appears to be an E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, its wings folded back. Next to it, on the carrier’s bow, are F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, while an F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter and an H-60 helicopter variant are on the other side of the deck.
The crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.
(US Navy graphic)
Between the F-35C and the helicopter is a new addition to the carrier air wing: an MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle, its wings folded above it.
In an email, Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, public affairs officer for Naval Air Force Atlantic, confirmed that the MQ-25 was pictured on the seal, which “displays future naval aviation capabilities that the aircraft carrier will likely support throughout its estimated 50 year service life.”
The MQ-25’s inclusion means the Navy “firmly expects UAVs will play a key role in directly supporting the primary combat function of the carrier, which will still be conducted by Super Hornets, Growlers, and the F-35,” said Timothy Choi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary’s Center for Military and Strategic Studies.
“Contrast the MQ-25’s presence with the absence of other carrier aircraft, such as the C-2 or its replacement, the CMV-22, that don’t play a combat role,” added Choi, who first spotted the MQ-25 on the seal when it was released.
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling tanker, being tested at Boeing’s facility in St. Louis, Missouri.
(Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower)
A heavyweight champion
The Navy awarded Boeing an 5 million contract for the Stingray in August 2018, and one of four development models made the drone’s first flight in September. The first of four development models is expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2021, followed by planned initial operational capability for the aircraft in 2024.
In all, the Navy expects to get 72 MQ-25s and for a total cost of about billion, according to James Geurts, Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, who called it “a hallmark acquisition program.”
The MQ-25 is a refueling drone, meant to ease the workload of the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets, which currently conduct both combat missions as well as refueling operations, using detachable tanks.
The drone would also allow carrier aircraft to fly longer and farther, conducting more missions and putting more space between the carrier and the growing variety of weapons that threaten it.
A dedicated carrier-based aerial refueling tanker could allow carrier aircraft “to reach [combat air patrol] stations 1,000 [nautical miles] from the carrier and conduct long-range attacks to respond promptly to aggression while keeping the carrier far enough away from threat areas to reduce the density of air and missile threats” to a level the carrier strike group’s defense could handle, according to a 2018 report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Boeing and the US Navy’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler during its first test flight, Sept. 19, 2019.
The Stingray “gives us additional reach, just like that of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said on a recent edition of his On the Horizon podcast.
The Navy may eventually ask for more than range, however.
The CSBA report also recommended redesignating the MQ-25 as a “multi-mission UAV,” modifying later versions to conduct attack, electronic warfare, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions where appropriate.
Those modified MQ-25s “would be able to complement [unmanned combat aerial vehicles] when the risk is acceptable, providing the future [carrier air wing] a potentially less expensive option for surveillance, EW, or attack missions in less stressing environments,” the report said.
But the Stingray is still a long way from joining the fleet, and what it can do when it gets there, if it gets there, remains to be seen.
“The positioning of the MQ-25 into the background and off to the side might also be interpreted as a certain hesitancy” by the Navy, Choi said. “In the event UAVs turn out not to be as successful as expected, it can be easily ignored and the seal is not burdened with a white elephant sitting front and center on the deck.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.