Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, addresses Marines and Sailors during his visit aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), moored at Changi Naval Base, Singapore, November 22, 2016.
Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the US fleet is facing an “acute problem” with the coronavirus pandemic and that it needs to make drastic measures to combat the disease.
In a “Pod Save The World” podcast released on Wednesday, Mabus pointed out why Navy sailors and Marines were particularly susceptible to the disease. News of the podcast was first reported on by the Navy Times.
“People do not have any way to social distance on any Navy ship, but particularly a carrier,” Mabus said. “You’ve got almost 5,000 people here. And they literally are on top of each other.”
Mabus said it was “distressing that it doesn’t look like they have a plan” implemented after the political scandal that roiled aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt earlier this month.
As of Wednesday, 615 sailors aboard the ship tested positive. The majority of its crew members have been evacuated to in hotels in Guam, where the ship is in port.
The ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, was relieved of command on April 2 after he emailed a letter to his colleagues about the urgent situation aboard his ship. The letter was eventually leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published its contents. Crozier was fired for what the then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly described as circumventing the chain of command.
Modly later resigned on April 7, after he visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt and delivered a profanity-laced speech about the situation on the ship.
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) sails in the US 5th Fleet area of operations.
According to Mabus, Capt. Crozier’s instincts were correct.
“I think what they need to do is bring every ship in,” Mabus said. “Offload, like the captain said, offload most of the crew … a little bit in a rolling fashion … leave a very skeletal force on board, sanitize the ship, quarantine people for two weeks, make sure nobody’s got COVID.”
“And then once they go back on that ship, whether it’s in port or it’s going to sea, they don’t get off the ship until this crisis is mitigated,” Mabus added.
Mabus admitted that the unorthodox approach of calling in every ship in the service was not ideal, but added it was necessary given the spread of the disease.
“It’s going to be hard because they may be inport in Norfolk or in San Diego, and once they go back on the ship and the ship is COVID-free, they’re not going to get off to see their families,” Mabus said. “But if we don’t do that, I think you’re going to see the situation that played out on the [USS Theodore Roosevelt] play out over and over again — not just on those big ships, but virtually every ship that we have in the Navy.”
Mabus’ comments come as the Defense Department reported over 5,000 coronavirus cases. Over 2,800 of the personnel are US service members, 85 of which are hospitalized as of Wednesday. One Navy sailor has died after contracting the coronavirus.
Mabus served as the Navy secretary from 2009 to 2017 and also served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer in the 1970s.
U.S. military officials say American airstrikes in Syria on Jan. 21 killed up to 150 Islamic State fighters in a command center in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says the strikes were near As Shafah, which is north of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. They targeted an IS headquarters and were assisted by Syrian Democratic Forces who watched the area before the attack.
The coalition says there was a heavy concentration of fighters at the site and they appeared to be “massing for movement.” The large number of fighters killed in the attack underscores U.S. assertions that the Islamic State group continues to be a threat in Syria and hasn’t been defeated.
The coalition says only IS fighters were killed in the strikes.
On Aug. 2, 1969, David Larson was serving as a gunner’s mate on a patrol boat as it steered up the Saigon River, transporting a seven-man ambush team.
The team was a part of the Army’s LRRP — or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After cruising up river for a time, they set up an ambush position during the day near the riverbank.
As night fell, they silently settled into their discrete position. Little did they know, all hell was about to break loose.
Later that night, the spec ops team engaged four enemy troops who, unknown to them, happened to be a part of a massive force. Almost immediately after engaging, the unit began taking accurate rocket and small arms fire, which, sadly, killed half of the team outright.
One of the LRRP members called to the boat for support. This caught Larson’s attention, getting him fully engaged in the firefight.
The motivated gunner’s mate leaped out of the patrol boat with his M60 in hand and blasted the weapon system on full auto — holding off a force of nearly 50 enemy combatants.
Nothing used to clear the way like an M60. (Image via Giphy)Standing in the direct line of fire, Larson provided enough covering fire for the wounded to clear from the area. When asked, “what goes through your mind during something like that?” David Larson stoically offered a hero’s response:
“At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.”
For his brave actions, Larson received the coveted Navy Cross.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to hear this heroic tale straight from Vietnam veteran David Larson himself.
All military personnel talk on deployment. It helps pass the time. You’ll find yourself chatting with your peers for days, which turn into weeks, and then months, and before you know it, you’re back in the arms of your loved ones.
The topics of these conversations vary greatly. They range from the absurd, such as buying a Lamborghini up returning home, to the downright crazy, like debating if “nothing” is considered “something.” Some topics that arise while on deployment are even downright criminal, like how to pull off a successful bank heist worthy of a motion picture.
But there is one topic that reigns supreme when on deployment: The “zombie apocalypse.”
When talking about this horrific nightmare scenario, Marines discuss the three different possible routes to take, and each has its own consequences — and each one definitely has a Marine mentality behind it.
1. The hunter-killer team
The first path is the hunter-killer team. Marines train in the art of war. They study it, breathe it, and live it. And yet, for many Marines, it’s not the first option when discussing the hypothetical end of the world.
This team sets out to hunts down the zombie menace. All of them.
These Marines stop at towns or settlements along the way, lending a helping hand in exchange for food and currency. After dingo a circuit in their area, they go to the nearest military base for ammo and fuel (if they have vehicles).
2. The endurant
Other Marines think of survival — how to outlast the apocalypse. These Marines get very intellectual about it, too, considering all angles. The first idea they come up with is that zombies can’t swim. Knowing this, they decide to head towards a Naval station. From there, they want to commandeer a floating city – a Navy aircraft carrier. They think using this will keep their family safe and out of harm’s way.
They wait until the plague is gone and then return to help rebuild. The major flaw here is that it’s not so easy to get to an aircraft carrier. But hey, Marines dream big.
3. The outlanders
Finally, we’ve got the Marines that say they’d go and live a life of solitude in the middle of nowhere — usually a mountaintop. They’ll stock up on food and water to last them through the plague and live far removed from the zombie threat. But this approach has some major logistical problems: Running out of supplies is the foremost issue. Depending on the duration of the plague, post-apocalyptic Marines would need to go out a few times to restock. With that comes the off-chance that zombies discover the mountaintop getaway. Now, they must fight off the horde to make it through.
This topic is easily one of the most discussed topics while on a deployment. This is because a deployment can feel like a survival-horror flick, where Marines must band together take on their own deadly enemy horde that lies in wait outside the gates.
As the US military begins deploying the F-35, which brings with it the promise of revolutionizing aerial combat, it may also be deploying a ballistic-missile defense asset.
US jet fighters have spent decades trying to master the air-to-air kill. In the days of “Top Gun” and the F-14 Tomcat, that meant turning dogfights, with a mix of guns and missiles to outfox the other pilot.
But today a new threat has taken aim at the US, and it’s more dangerous than any fighter jet.
As North Korea works toward building out its missile technology to put the US mainland in range of its nuclear arsenal, the F-35’s new air target may be a missile, not a fighter.
According to Justin Bronk, an expert on aerial combat at the Royal United Services Institute, the missiles already aboard the F-35 just need a slight tweak to start taking on missiles.
“By changing the firmware a bit, tweaking it a bit, you could gain a theoretical” capability to engage ballistic missiles, Bronk told Business Insider.
A source involved in ballistic-missile defense at the Pentagon confirmed Bronk’s statement. Basically, the F-35 and its AIM-120 air-to-air missile stand a few wires away from potentially being able to disrupt North Korea’s next missile test, but there’s a catch.
Perhaps the reason the F-35 doesn’t already come equipped to shoot down ballistic missiles is that doing so still presents a logistical nightmare.
“You’d have to be impractically close to their launch area,” Bronk said. The problem then comes down to the missile itself.
“Given that an AIM-120 burns for seven to nine seconds and then coasts, and a ballistic missile does the opposite, all while climbing,” Bronk explained, the F-35 would have to engage the missile from very close.
As a ballistic missile blasts upward, quickly gaining speed, the AIM-120’s short burn time means the missile has only precious few seconds to catch its target before slowing down. During those seconds, the ballistic missile only gets higher and faster.
F-35 as the quarterback, not a tackle
A more likely ballistic-missile defense situation spearheaded by the F-35 could capitalize on what the US military does best: networking complicated systems and getting support from linked assets.
“If you had F-35 loitering as close as possible but not in the airspace, with its sensor package is tuned to pick up a ballistic missile’s infrared signature,” Bronk said, it could function as a “forward part of the warning chain.”
This approach would allow the F-35 to stay out of North Korean airspace, which could be seen as an act of war. Instead, the F-35 simply tracks the ballistic missile, and a US Navy destroyer shoots it down.
Perhaps sooner rather than later
The F-35’s deployment to Japan and its involvement in the ballistic-missile-defense discussion comes at a time of extreme tensions between the US and North Korea, with both sides reportedly announcing intentions to escalate further.
Last week, sources from President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly said they were planning a “bloody nose” attack to damage North Korea’s missile program and humiliate the country.
South Korean media reported on Thursday that North Korea may be planning a satellite launch, which looks very much like a missile launch but instead deposits a satellite in space.
In North Korea, missile launches are key propaganda events and vital to the military’s research and development. For the US, the F-35 is the most expensive weapons system ever made and one that has yet to deliver on its promise of changing the game in aerial warfare.
Before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was blotted out by a US airstrike on June 7, 2006, he made an impression, especially on Stanley McChrystal, who, as a lieutenant general in charge of US Joint Special Operations Command, led the effort to take out the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi’s zealotry made him a lodestar for an extremist movement that still roils Iraq and the region, McChrystal said on a recent episode of Business Insider’s “This Is Success” podcast.
“For about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth,” said McChrystal, who profiled al-Zarqawi in his most recent book, “Leaders.”
“But then, what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs — if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot — other people were attracted to him,” McChrystal added. “He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do.”
Arriving in Iraq in 2003 to lead a US Joint Special Operations Task Force, McChrystal recognized the strengths of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the mismatch the group presented for the US military’s traditional conception of its enemies.
“By habit, we started mapping the organization in a traditional military structure, with tiers and rows. At the top was Zarqawi, below him a cascade of lieutenants and foot soldiers,” McChrystal wrote in 2011, a year after retiring. “But the closer we looked, the more the model didn’t hold.”
AQI’s network was characterized by the free flow of information and resources.
Tactics changed quickly across broad swaths of Iraq. It became clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was less a hierarchical fighting network than “a constellation of fighters” organized by relationships and reputations.
At the center was al-Zarqawi.
“When he became the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way. He wore all black [and] looked like a terrorist leader,” McChrystal told Business Insider correspondent Richard Feloni.
In 2004, al-Zarqawi beheaded American contractor Nicholas Berg, McChrystal said.
That was “a gruesome thing to do,” he added, but it served as a message that “‘our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific.'”
“He was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam when most of them really didn’t,” McChrystal said. “The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to Al Qaeda, but yet he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.”
In summer 2005, McChrystal was recalled to the White House to brief the National Security Council on al-Zarqawi.
“Are you going to get him?” President George W. Bush asked McChrystal.
President George W. Bush.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
“We will, Mr. President,” McChrystal replied. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
As US forces whittled away the middle ranks of al-Zarqawi’s organization, which he had built into semiautonomous cells, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was seeking to ignite a sectarian war, stoking violence between Sunnis and Shiites.
By spring 2006, al-Zarqawi was a bigger priority for JSOC than Al Qaeda cofounders Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the latter of whom is still alive.
By May that year, JSOC had mapped out al-Zarqawi’s organization around Baghdad, including his spiritual adviser, with whom he met frequently.
On June 7, 2006, a drone tracked the adviser to a house in Hibhib, a village roughly 12 miles from McChrystal’s own headquarters, where US personnel watched intently as a man dressed black walked out and strolled through the driveway.
Just after 6 p.m., an F-16 dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on the house, following it with another less than two minutes later.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
Less than 20 minutes after that, US Army Delta Force operators arrived at the demolished house to find Iraqi police loading a still-alive al-Zarqawi into an ambulance. They watched him die.
“We didn’t just depose him. We killed him,” McChrystal told Feloni. “I stood over his body right after we killed him.”
McChrystal expressed no admiration for al-Zarqawi’s methods — “in many ways, he was a psychopath,” he said — but he acknowledged al-Zarqawi’s strengths as a leader.
“Your first desire is to demonize him, but you know the reality is I had to respect him. He led very effectively,” McChrystal said.
“Initially you just say we’re just going to get this guy, and then after a while you watch him lead, and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent, he’s making me better, [and] you’re also going after someone who truly believes,” he added.
McChrystal held his position in Iraq until 2008 and was credited with making JSOC more agile and more lethal, evincing “an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists” and pushing his command to kill as many of them as possible.
He took over command of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009, but his tenure was short-lived.
He resigned in the summer of 2010, after the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which his aides were quoted disparaging US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Vice President Joe Biden.
The killing of al-Zarqawi looms large among McChrystal’s accomplishments, though he said that operation was reflective of how he learned to decentralize responsibility rather than indicative of his martial prowess.
“The myth is the counterterrorist who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — went out, wrestled him to the ground, bare to the waist, and that’s total BS,” McChrystal told Feloni, when asked how he would describe his own biography.
“At times, do I like the myth, because people go, ‘Wow, look at him’?” he said. “Yeah, it’s kind of cool, and you never want to go, ‘no, that’s not true.’ But it’s not true.”
“The reality is that I built the team” that took out al-Zarqawi, he added. “Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team than I would be of wrestling [al-Zarqawi] to his death.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald J. Trump today announced his intention to nominate Philip Bilden as the 76th secretary of the Navy.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bilden will replace Ray Mabus, who was the longest serving Navy secretary since World War I.
The announcement follows the president’s nomination of Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary and Vinnie Viola as Army secretary.
“All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. “They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process.”
Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.
He was commissioned in 1986 in the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer and served for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain. Bilden’s family includes four consecutive generations of Navy and Army officers, including his two sons, who presently serve in the Navy.
“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come. I am proud of the men and women of our armed forces. The people who serve in our military are our American heroes, and we honor their service every day.”
“I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”
Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.
The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.
VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.
Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.
Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.
Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.
These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.
Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.
But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.
During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.
“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”
During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.
No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”
Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.
Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.
First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.
Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.
Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.
For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.
Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.
Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.
Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”
Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.
But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.
Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.
The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.
A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.
Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.
A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.
Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.
Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.
To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.
Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.
After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.
Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.
Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.
Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.
Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”
Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.
Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.
Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.
About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.
Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”
The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.
But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.
Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”
Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.
“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”
In April, the Department of Defense released three videos taken by U.S. Navy pilots showing what the military defines as unexplainable aerial phenomena, or UAPs — more commonly known in civilian vernacular as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
The Pentagon videos clearly show the objects flying in unusual ways, and the audio includes the pilots’ puzzled and astounded reactions, including:
“What the [expletive] is that?”
“There’s a whole fleet of them…my gosh.”
“Look at that thing, dude.”
“That’s hauling ass, dude…look at that thing…it’s rotating.”
“Wow, what is that man?”
“Look at it fly [laughing].”
‘UFO’ videos captured by US Navy Jets Declassified
Naturally, the revelation of these unexplained encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating aerial vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, when it comes to so-called UAPs, lawmakers in Washington have more earthbound concerns.
As China and Russia increasingly militarize space, and as Russia develops a new arsenal of high-tech “doomsday” weapons, there is mounting concern in Washington that these seemingly unexplainable aerial encounters could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting their advanced new weapons into action — potentially over U.S. soil.
As a result, a group of U.S. senators has drafted an order for the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among U.S. agencies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made the request in a report, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
The report also calls for the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. Based on information included in the report, the Office of Naval Intelligence maintains an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. That naval task force appears to be the nexus for America’s collation of reports of UAP sightings — comprising data from military branches, intelligence agencies, and the FBI.
The full text of the Senate report on UAPs. Courtesy U.S. Senate.
The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
While the Senate report marks a major step in congressional oversight of America’s UAP sightings, the Pentagon and federal law enforcement have been alert to the threat for years.
In December 2017, the New York Times reported on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which reportedly collected reports of UAPs from 2008 until 2012. And over the past two years, the FBI was reportedly tapped to help investigate a spate of UAP reports in Colorado and Nebraska. Some of those UAP sightings occurred near U.S. Air Force installations and were subsequently investigated by security forces at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
F.E. Warren is a strategic missile base and home to the 90th Missile Wing, which operates some 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are armed with nuclear warheads. Those missiles are on 24/7 alert, 365 days a year, according to the U.S. Air Force.
Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new so-called doomsday weapons.
An Atlas V AEHF-6 rocket successfully launches from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 26, 2020. The launch of the AEHF-6, a sophisticated communications relay satellite, is the first Department of Defense payload launched for the United States Space Force. Photo by Joshua Conti/U.S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range.
Apart from the Burevestnik, in March 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.
Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.
According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.
Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.
The first #SpaceForce utility uniform nametapes have touched down in the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of United States Space Force/Twitter.
The recent creation of the U.S. Space Force reflects the novel threats the U.S. now faces from its adversaries in space.
On June 23, China successfully launched an unmanned probe bound for Mars, underscoring Beijing’s increased interest in its space program. That same day, the U.S. Space Force announced that on July 15 Russia had tested a new antisatellite weapon.
According to a Space Force statement, a Russian satellite released an object that moved “in proximity” to another Russian satellite. Based on the object’s trajectory, Space Force officials said it was likely a weapon rather than a so-called inspection satellite.
That test was “another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Space Force said in a release.
“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” said General John Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, in the release.
Few have served their country and community at the level of Floyd Carter, Sr. His service began in 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt. Bombardier. He was among the first African-Americans to complete pilot training. At the time, the 1,000 black pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen were just a drop in the bucket of those fighting World War II.
After the war and after the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Carter joined the Air Force Reserve. He was a part of the massive flow of moral and material support for West Berlin that would come to be called the Berlin Airlift.
If you’re doing the math, that’s already 24 years of service.
As an Air Force Reservist, he needed a civilian job. In that, he continued to serve, joining the New York Police Department in 1953. Within three years, he was promoted to detective and spent 27 years serving the people of New York in some of the most trying, crime-ridden times in the city’s history.
He retired from the Air Force in 1974 and the NYPD in 1980.
Carter was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from then-President George W. Bush in 2007. He and other Tuskegee Airmen were also invited to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration ceremony as well as the premiere of George Lucas’ 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails.