Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women - We Are The Mighty
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Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.


Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.

“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Senator Jim Webb. (Official photo courtesy of U.S. Senate)

He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”

The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.

Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”

Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.

Related: This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.

Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.

“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”

But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”

Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.

Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.

Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.

“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”

Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.

“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.

Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.

She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.

“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”

Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates

—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.

—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.

—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Talented military child showcases her art in first exhibition

Victoria Reyes is a talented 11-year-old military child, who showcased her artful creations in her first exhibition, where she left people in attendance in such an awe that a few of them commissioned private artworks.


While walking through the exhibition room in Tampa, Florida, where artwork by Victoria Reyes was being showcased, attendees couldn’t help be drawn to the colorful representations of Japanese anime and the meticulous attention to details that had clearly gone into each piece. It didn’t take long for some of the people in attendance to commission the talented artist with private pieces, which she was happy to take on.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Discovering talent

Many of the great painters that have made art history began showing promising talent at a young age — Picasso, for example, was only nine when he completed his first painting. But the key figure behind most of these talented artists was usually a parent who had been able to first notice their child’s unusual creative abilities. In Picasso’s case, it was his father who noticed his talent two years before the young painter completed his first work of art.

Maxine Reyes, Victoria’s mother, first noticed her daughter’s talent when Victoria was only three years old. “I noticed how well she could draw people,” Maxine said, “and I remember how I used to just draw straight lines to make the body of a person. The level of detail that Victoria added to her figures was out of the norm.”

A talented singer who entertained not only troops in the Middle East, but also NBA teams and even a U.S. President, Maxine is an artist in her own right and a retired military member who served for over 20 years in the Air Force and the Army. “She wasn’t doing the normal scribble scrabble,” Maxine said, “and that’s why I encouraged her to nurture her talent.”

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Art as a coping mechanism

Victoria, who is also a singer like her mother and a talented piano player, began finding comfort in drawing, especially during the challenging times military life inevitably brings. When her active duty Army father, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, had to leave home for work for an extended period of time, Victoria found art to be a coping mechanism.

Given how therapeutic she finds drawing to be for her, Victoria dedicates most of her spare time to making art. “I remember watching Japanese anime shows on TV,” Victoria said, “and I was surprised by how detailed those cartoons were.” Inspired by what she saw, the young artist would eventually place that same level of attention to details to her own art, which is what made her parents take notice and reflect on how they could support her.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Supporting and encouraging young talent

“When I saw her drawings,” Maxine revealed, “they looked like something I would buy at an art show.” An art lover like her husband, Maxine was able to appreciate her daughter’s talent and support it from the very beginning. “My husband and I decided that we were going to encourage her and invest in her talent so that one day she will be able to live out her dream.”

That was the reason why Victoria’s parents planned a surprise birthday party for their talented daughter. “I printed her best artwork on canvas and turned her birthday party into her very first art show.”

Showcasing her artwork brought Victoria enormous success, and she was happy with the outcome, although she admits that, “I was a bit shy at first.” The talented military child is committed to pursuing her dream and working on her talents so that one day she can achieve her goal of becoming a professional artist.

If interested in purchasing Victoria Reyes’s artwork or getting in touch with her to commission a private piece, please visit www.victoriareyes.com or @iamvictoriareyes.

Articles

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

DARPA wants Navy SEALs to be more seal-like, so they invented PowerSwim.


“Technically it’s called an oscillating foil propulsion device,” DARPA program manager Jay Lowell says, in a video from DARPA TV. “That’s a really fancy way of saying it’s a wing that helps push a diver through the water.”

The typical swimmer fins are no more than 15 percent efficient in their conversion of human exertion. By contrast, PowerSwim helps divers swim 80 percent more efficient. This dramatic improvement in swimming efficiency will enable a subsurface swimmer to move up to two times faster than what’s currently possible, improving performance, safety, and range, according to DARPA.

Watch this video to see PowerSwim in action:

NOW: 19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

OR: Hilarious robot fails show why you shouldn’t worry about ‘Terminator’ just yet

Articles

The GBU-43 MOAB makes its combat debut

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.


According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (USAF photo)

FoxNews.com reported that the air strike came after a Green Beret was killed fighting the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon on display outside the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”

The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.

The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Here is a video talking about the GBU-43.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFTQZ48J3kU
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker is still an expensive piece of junk

The first operational KC-46A Pegasus — the tanker being designed by Boeing to replace the aging KC-135 — took its maiden flight on Dec. 5.


That flight came after numerous delays and cost overruns that have stymied the tanker’s development over the past several years. Even though it got off the ground in December, Boeing admitted at the time that it would miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first operational KC-46 by the end of 2017.

Now the Air Force expects to receive the first operational KC-46 by spring 2018, and Boeing is obligated to deliver 18 of the new tankers by October. But major defects remain unresolved, according to Aviation Week.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
The KC-46A Pegasus. (Concept image from Boeing)

The most worrying deficiency is the tendency of the tanker’s boom — where the fuel flows — to scrape the surface of the aircraft receiving fuel.

The problem could endanger the aircrews involved and risks compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded.

Representatives from the Air Force and from Boeing told Aviation Week that they are working on the problem, with personnel from the government and industry reviewing flight data to assess such incidents and compare them to international norms.

Their assessments will help decide whether changes are to be made to the camera used for refueling on the KC-46. The Pegasus’ boom operator sits at the front of the aircraft while directing the boom, relying heavily on the camera. Older tankers have the boom operator stationed at the back of the plane to guide the boom in person. A decision on the camera is expected by March.

Also Read: Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

A Boeing spokesman said similar contact between the boom and the receiving aircraft happens with the Air Force’s current tankers as well.

A Boeing spokesman also told Aviation Week in December that an issue with the KC-46’s high-frequency radio had been resolved, but an Air Force spokeswoman said the force was still working on it, expecting to have options to address it by January.

The radios use the aircraft’s frame as an antenna, which sometimes creates electrical sparks. The Air Force wants to ensure they can never broadcast during refueling in order to avoid fires.

Issues with uncommanded boom extensions when the refueling boom disconnects from the receiving aircraft with fuel flowing have been reduced to a Category Two deficiency, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week. The solution to that problem is expected to be implemented in May, the spokeswoman said.

The Air Force still expects the first operational KC-46s by late spring, arriving at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee)

Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times that once testing is finished and the new tankers start to be delivered, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.

Boeing won the contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. Under the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. As of late 2017, the defense contractor had eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

Despite his limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, telling them he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.

Articles

Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will be allowed to stay in the Army after the service reversed its decision to kick him out. Martland was being forcibly discharged over a 2011 incident in which he confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.


Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland (Photo: Duncan Hunter)

Late Thursday night, Martland won the fight against the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which gives the boot to soldiers with black marks on their records. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the Green Beret’s performance history and pulled his name from the QMP list.

Martland admitted that Capt. Dan Quinn and he assaulted the Afghan official during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play” — an Afghan practice where young boys in sexual slavery are often dressed up as women and forced to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but experienced a rebirth after the Taliban’s ouster by NATO forces and U.S. troops were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. When the Afghan confessed to raping the boy and beating the child’s mother for telling local authorities, Quinn “picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his official statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”

The line removed from his Army record read: “Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member. Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”

Hundreds of veterans and other concerned citizens wrote letters and started petition drives in Martland’s defense. Even actor and Marine veteran Harvey Keitel got involved and urged California Congressman Duncan Hunter to intervene.

Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and San Diego-area congressman, immediately came to Martland’s defense, calling the Army’s actions “totally insane and wrong,” and adding that Martland’s case “exemplifies the problems with the Army.”

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Martland (second from left) during a visit with General David Petraeus

An Army spokesman confirmed to Fox News that Martland will no longer be forced out.

“In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,” Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said.

Quinn, now a civilian, said, “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks.”

“I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,” Martland told Fox News.  “I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, did for me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wires and cross chat to blame for deadly Pave Hawk crash

A U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk slammed into a steel cable in western Iraq in March 2018, causing the helicopter to tangle and crash, killing all seven airmen on board, according to a new investigation report.

An Accident Investigation Board report released Oct. 29, 2018, says the Pave Hawk, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, was part of a two-aircraft formation flying toward Al Qaim, Iraq, on March 15, 2018. The mission objective was to position a helicopter landing zone closer to ground operations, according to the document.


During the flight, the formation refueled from an HC-130 King recovery aircraft. Then, roughly 40 minutes into the night operation, for which “night illumination for the flight was low,” the mishap Pave Hawk, flying in the lead, overshot its targeted landing area, the report states.

It was too dark for night-vision goggles to detect the cables.

The HH-60G “erroneously overflew the intended [helicopter landing zone] and descended to low altitude,” the report states. “As a result, the aircraft descended into an unplanned location, striking a 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel cable strung horizontally between two 341-foot-high towers.”

Images within the report show the cables to be part of a powerline structure. The towers were roughly 1,000 yards apart.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

An HC-130P/N Combat King and an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter simulate an in-flight refueling during the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show here March 20, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)

The co-pilot turned left to avoid one of the towers. But a helicopter blade “struck the second of four” of the 3/8 inch cables, the report said. “The cable quickly entangled in the HH-60G’s main rotor assembly, resulting in catastrophic damage and an unflyable condition.”

The investigation, conducted by Brig. Gen. Bryan P. Radliff, concluded the pilot “misinterpreted aircraft navigation displays,” causing the formation to overfly the intended destination.

Communication on the helicopter’s route and scheduled waypoints was never resolved between the crew and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground, Radliff said.

“The [mishap pilot] was interrupted multiple times during his navigation duties, including communications with the [mishap wingmen] regarding landing zone plan changes and [mishap crew] requests for prelanding power calculations and JTAC information requests,” the report states.

The conversation continued as the JTAC reiterated that there were towers in the area, but the Pave Hawk was already slightly northeast of the designated landing spot, according to an illustrated diagram in the accident report.

Follow-on waypoints had been incorporated into flight plan as backups should the formation need to divert and land elsewhere. The report says those waypoints could have been the reason the pilot began flying slightly farther north than planned.

The helicopter was traveling at an estimated 125 knots, or about 144 miles per hour, at an altitude between 250 and 270 feet above ground level.

Having witnessed the crash and the illumination from the helicopter’s impact, the second aircraft was able to spot the cables and divert. The second crew called in search-and-rescue forces immediately, the report said.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

A U.S. HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea)

Radliff said limited visibility also contributed to the crash. Current HH-60G “tactics, techniques and procedures contain a warning stating, ‘electric power lines, unlit towers, poles, antennas, dead trees, and all types of wires are extremely difficult to see while conducting NVG operations,’ ” the report states.

The Pave Hawk has a “wire strike protection system” in an effort to prevent such accidents. Radliff said the post-crash analysis determined “it was not effective because it does not appear that the cable had the opportunity to be pulled through any of the WSPS wire cutters.”

Killed in the crash were: Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, a special missions aviation flight engineer; Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, an HH-60G pilot; Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot; and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, a special missions aviation flight engineer, all of whom belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, according to a Saturday news release. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.

Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron, known as an Air Force’s “Guardian Angel” personnel and recovery unit, is part of the Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing.

Also killed was Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weber was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

The HH-60 is known as the backbone of combat search-and-rescue operations. It is a variant of the Army‘s Black Hawk helicopter, used to conduct personnel recovery and medical recovery missions. The crew is normally composed of two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner.

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is expected to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

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

Articles

5 totally badass weapons you’ve probably never heard of

Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.


1. The Fire Lance

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: wikimedia

First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.

Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.

If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.

2. The Mancatcher

Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: London Science Museum

This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.

The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.

3. The Bagh Naka

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: Wikipedia/Daderot

Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.

The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.

4. The Ballista

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß

This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.

Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.

5. The Macuahuitl 

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: Wikimedia/Zuchinni one

The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.

The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Photo: Wikimedia

There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

The American Confederacy Lives On in Brazil

Why is the Korean War the ‘Forgotten War’?

Meet Russia’s All-Women Battalion of Death

Queen Victoria Liked a Chinese Empress’s Dog So Much that She Stole It

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why ‘Crayon-Eater’ is actually just a bad joke

The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.

It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.

But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”

Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:


Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Snipers know why there’s some truth there…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)

1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak

Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.

If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

2. It’s ironic

The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)

3. Marines have better insults for each other

The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.

The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?

Didn’t think so.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

They’re laughing at you, not with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.

Articles

China is deploying advanced anti-aircraft missiles on its South China Sea bases

The Chinese are illegally deploying missiles on at least one of its island bases in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.


According to recent analysis, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been deploying SA-21 “Growler” surface-to-air missiles. The system is also known as the S-400 Triumf, and is considered to be one of the most advanced Russian designs in the world.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The news of the deployment comes days after the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that China was building what appeared to be underground structures at three of their bases, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef. The Chinese bases are capable of supporting a number of aircraft, and serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. China also has launched its first Type 55 destroyer, a vessel roughly comparable to the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers, and also deployed new maritime patrol aircraft to the disputed region.

China’s seizure of the uninhabited islands in the South China Sea was ruled illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year. The proceedings prior to the sweeping ruling, though, were boycotted by China, which has been aggressively asserting its nine-dash-line claims on the maritime flashpoint.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.

A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.

The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

In 2017, when Hurricane Irma, a monster Category 5 storm, barreled toward Florida’s southern peninsula and Homestead Air Reserve Base, The Air Force Reserve commander had a lot of decisions to make.

Thankfully, history – in the form of Air Force historians – was on her side.

The Air Force Reserve Command history office pulled data and information from three previous hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5, which devastated the base 25 years ago. In just a few hours, the office had a timeline and a list of issues that came up in each of the three previous storms. Historians worked through the data with the Innovation, Analyses and Leadership Development directorate, or A9, and determined that the biggest issue was maintaining communications as Andrew had continued into Georgia, knocking out power to the AFRC’s battle staff.


The commander and staff then worked to prevent history from repeating itself.

The results were good communications throughout the storm, clean up and reconstitution. The base opened airfield operations and sustained 24-hour operations, offloading 112.8 short tons of cargo and relief supplies, including two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, cargo and personnel from the 66th and 920th Rescue Squadrons and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Those “good comms” resulted in the AFRC coordinating aircraft, relief supplies, Airmen and equipment with the right skills and the right gear to save lives. In previous years, relief efforts were delayed because nobody could talk.

“Now, did History do all that?” asked Dr. Jim Malachowski, a senior aerospace historian for the Air Force History and Museums Program at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. “No but knowing what worked and didn’t work in the past gave her a good starting point to ask the right questions.”

Malachowski explained when the right knowledge is injected with historical perspective at the right point in the decision cycle it helps commanders make better decisions.

The history of Air Force history

Located in the heart of Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is a gold mine and although it does not contain precious metals, the Air Force Historical Research Agency is filled with the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of original documents concerning U.S. military aviation. The more than 100 million pages of Air Force history inside the repository chronicles the evolution of American military flight and provides a treasure trove of information for researchers, authors and historians.

While touching the pages of history is unique, said Malachowski, applying the historical lessons learned from the study of past wars is fundamental to the preparation for the next. This is why it is so crucial for the Air Force’s operational and institutional memory is preserved.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

Sam Shearin, a researcher with the Air Force Historical Research Agency looks through World War II unit lineage documents, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. There are more than 70 million pages devoted to the history of the service, and represents the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of documents on US military aviation.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

When he established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, widely considered the architect of the Air Force, He assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.” Historians had to be independent so history would be recorded accurately and factually “without an axe to grind.”

The collection of historical data for the Air Force began before the service’s inception, even pre-dating the Army Air Corps. Without a plan to preserve it, the bulk of airpower history from the First World War was lost. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Committee on Records of War Administration to preserve an accurate and objective account of military experiences. By 1943 the AAF Archives had been established and historians began collecting, assimilating and organizing contemporary and historical information.

The creation of this archive dedicated to receiving, organizing and preserving the information gathered by these early historians has evolved into today’s collection.

The majority of AFHRA’s library consists of unit histories, written by unit historians, which chronicle Air Force operations and activities in peace and war from World War I to the present day. These materials provide the data and historical perspective to support planning and decision-making processes throughout the Air Force.

The archive was later moved to Maxwell AFB from Washington D.C., putting it in the direct control of the Air Force and at the disposal of professional military education students, faculty, and the public.

The history kept inside of AFHRA’s walls isn’t just sitting idle – it’s continually being added to, vigorously being researched and, most importantly, actively being interpreted by Air Force historians to get valuable information to leaders and decision makers to create a more efficient and lethal Air Force.

Collecting the data

Capturing Air Force history begins with aerospace historians. Today, there are just over 200 historians placed at wings and 10 major commands, which is 75 percent less than in 1990. Air Force civilians now fill all roles in collecting the history at wings and commands.

Air Force civilian and Reserve historians also support a continuous deployment rotation as combat historians to support combatant commands and joint staff tasking across the globe.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

A researcher at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., looks through microfilm to track down the shipment history of bomber aircraft that were shipped overseas to fight during WWII, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. Private researchers can visit and use the AFHRA for research.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

Dr. Bill Harris, the Deputy Director of the Air Force History and Museums Program, says whether at home station or deployed the most important aspect of a historian’s job is being actively involved in their organizations.

“What Aerospace historians bring to the table is we are the only person in the room whose sole job is to capture and preserve the institutional memory,” said Harris. “Just documenting the events of this war will not help the leaders of the next. We also interpret. So, in history professor terms, interpreting is how we help decision makers understand and learn from the past.”

Harris explains when historians are operationally integrated into situations they observe while also collecting and recording what happens, documenting the “right now for the future.” A historian will understand the organization’s history and have a deep knowledge base of the mission set. They recognize patterns and can provide a quick write-up to inject information to leadership on that highlights how other people have navigated similar situations before decisions are made this time.”

The first priority for field historians at the wing and MAJCOM level is to complete and submit an accurate periodic history report, which are the official history of an organization and serves as its institutional memory in AFHRA’s archive.

“To do the job, you have to get out there and be part of the mission, collect hundreds of important documents, reports, and emails and then figure out where the holes are., We do that with interviews.” said Malachowski. “Research interviews are more QA to find out what’s going on inside the organization. Oral history interviews are a little bit more in-depth interviews conducted with key personnel whose memories and perspectives are recorded for future generations.”

Job two for historians is heritage.

The Air Force history slogan is history makes us smart, heritage makes us proud.

In addition to a dozen field museums, historians often work within their organizations to build squadron heritage rooms and displays to showcase physical reminders of the unit’s historical past to promote morale and serve as daily reminders of a unit’s identity.

That identity is also visible in a unit’s heraldry. “Organizations use visible, enduring symbols to promote spirit de corps, morale and a sense of heritage,” said Jack Waid, a historian at Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters. “Air Force heraldry in the form of emblems gives Airmen a connection to the past and the motivation to live up to the proud lineage from which they come.”


Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women


The Air Force Historical Research Agency keeps a repository on the unit’s emblem history, including original and re-designed emblems and the paperwork approving the artwork.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

With the newly authorized transition from the Airman Battle Uniform, which did not permit the wear of unit patches, to the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Airmen will once again be to wear their units on their sleeve.

Waid explains it’s important to understand, emblems and patches are completely separate entities and authorization to display them is approved and maintained by different Air Force offices as well.

“Our office deals with a unit’s official emblem, but anything that goes on the uniform, like patches, are approved through the AF/A1 (Office of Personnel) uniform office,” said Waid. “A unit’s history and lineage goes with an emblem whereas a patch is a wearable symbol of pride, history, warrior spirit and honor.”

With more than 7,000 emblems to convert into OCP patches, there is a huge demand for the production and supply chain. The Air Force estimates it will take the full-30 month OCP transition period to manufacture and distribute all the patches. For units with approved emblems, the MAJCOM/A1 office will notify them when their patches are ready to order.

Units without an approved emblem should contact their historian.

“Since June we have been doing everything in our control to help units make sure they have an accurate emblem,” said Waid. “More than two-thirds of AFMC’s units are without an emblem or possessing one that does not meet standards.”

“It is important to make sure the time-honored Air Force unit patch returns to the uniform properly so that units can display their heritage with pride. Wearing the squadron patch completes the family group, you have your name tape and then you have the greater family, the Air Force, but now these patches give Airman an opportunity to show how extended their family is and how rich their heritage is by wearing their unit’s emblem.”

Changing the paradigm

For decades, periodic history reports were written in narrative monograph format, a print-era framework that could reach hundreds of pages. It was long and time consuming to write and worse to search for answers. “Even with academic historians, the monograph just isn’t the answer anymore. Technology has changed, but our reports haven’t.” said Malachowski.

The Secretary of the Air Force recently directed that commanders would integrate their historians in operations at the wing-level and above and ensure they had access to data and information to complete timely history reports.

With fewer historians, a high-demand deployment schedule and mountains of data to ingest, historians have little time to write long, cumbersome reports and even less time if they want to be fully involved in their organizations.

Something had to change.

“With the help of the Air Force Survey Office, we asked more than 150 wing and group commanders what they needed from historians. The commanders are very adamant that they don’t want these hundred-page tombs. They want something much, much shorter because they don’t have whole lot of time and they want something focused more on their priorities,” said Harris.

A survey of historians said the same thing. Historians want to be more involved with their units and want a better process.

“If we lock ourselves away for half of our time to write we are not out in our units doing our job. So we have to refocus the writing and we have to improve our ability to put the right things into the archives for future researchers,” said Malachowski. “So all we can really do is record the present for the future and the real funny thing is it is exactly what Gen. “Hap” Arnold told us in 1943. He wanted us to record the present for the future. So we’re going back to the future, if you will.”

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers, and commander of Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. He established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, when he assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.”

Arnold’s direction was to document the operations and activities of an organization immediately into a rough form that future historians would improve on. He believed the only reason a history program should exist is to further the operational efficiency of the Air Force.

The Air Force History program had to redesign itself in a dynamic new way and embrace change by revising their policies and revolutionizing their processes.

Now, a modular history report is being adapted that stresses accuracy, speed and relevance across the joint enterprise. It provides uniformity and consistency, which synchronizes history operations across the Air Force and focuses on unit activities and operations at the right level of warfare. This new system also creates one standard of writing for peacetime and wartime reports.

The four-part modular system reduces the writing complexity of history reports to a more short and concise process on what matters most to the commander, unit and mission. Short studies are written and published immediately, freeing up historians to be historians.

Another change is the creation of an Operational History Branch that is solely focused on war and contingency operations. All wartime history reports will be routed and evaluated through this fusion cell to write monthly and annual summaries that provide a holistic picture of combat operations.

“The way it’s designed the Operational Historian Branch will help us mature history at the Joint warfighting level, improve historical support to deployed commanders, and prevent several historians from deploying each year,” said Malachowski. “Most wings only have one historian so this saves us from turning out the lights at so many home station history offices.”

Focused on the past since its inception, the Air Force History Program has now reinvented itself by embracing its own past in order to create a more efficient future.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

19 Terms Only Naval Aviators Will Understand

Every warfare specialty has its own language, but Naval Aviators have elevated slang to an art form. Here are a few terms that only make sense when said between brownshoes ambling about the boat:


1. “Speed of heat”

To move through the sky at a rapid clip, as in “you were going the speed of heat when you came into the break.”

2. “Full blower”

When an aircraft is at max afterburner.

3. “Bust the number”

“The number” is Mach 1.0, so busting it means going supersonic.

4. “Making ‘Vapes”

Under the right meteorological conditions, an airplane in a high-G turn can disturb the air to the degree that vapor clouds (“vapes”) form around control surfaces.

5. “Pop the boards”

To deploy the speed brakes, generally used to slow an airplane down.

6. “Three in the green”

In older model airplanes the verification of the landing gear in a “down and locked” position was a green light, so if a pilot reports “three in the green” it means he has his gear safely down.

7. “Wheels in the well”

When the landing gear is raised the wheels move into the wheel well. Aviators refer to the the act of taking off as being “wheels in the well,” as in, “we’ll shoot for being wheels in the well at 1400 local.”

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

8. “Speed jeans”

Another name for a G-suit.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

9. “Zoom bag”

Another name for a flight suit, the uniform Naval Aviators pride themselves on never, ever switching out of during a deployment.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

10. “Pull chocks”

Chocks are blocks placed around the tires to ensure an airplane doesn’t roll while parked, and they’re “pulled” when an airplane is ready to launch.  In more general terms, to “pull chocks” means to leave, as in, “All right, dudes, this place is out of beer. It’s time to pull chocks.”

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women

11. “FOD”

Acronym for “foreign object debris” — stuff that can get sucked into a jet engine and do catastrophic damage to the turbine blades. More generally, when something is bad, Naval Aviators might refer to it as “FOD,” as in, “that slider I just ate at midrats was total FOD.”

12. “The Dirty Shirt”

There are two wardrooms on an aircraft carrier. Wardroom One is all the way forward on the same deck level as the squadron ready rooms and is referred to as “The Dirty Shirt” because, unlike Wardroom Two where officers have to be in the uniform of the day (usually khakis), crews can wear flight suits and/or flight deck jerseys.

13. “Clue-do”

When an airplane can’t communicate because of equipment failure it is called “nordo,” which is short for “no radio.” Clue-do is short for “no clue,” as in, “Is it just me or is the skipper totally clue-do?”

14. “Nugget”

A first-tour aviator, an unpolished hunk of material waiting to be shaped by his or her surroundings.

15. “Dash Last”

An airplane’s position within a formation is annotated by a dash number — for instance, the flight lead is dash one. Aviators refer to being at the end of something as “Dash last,” as in, “I was dash last in that 5K I ran last weekend.”

16. “Severe Clear”

Great weather conditions, not just clear of clouds but severely clear of clouds.

17. “Bug out”

The act of exiting a dog fight rapidly in order to survive to return another day.

18. “Hanging on the blades”

Flying a max endurance profile to reduce fuel consumption is often described by pilots as “hanging on the (turbine) blades,” which is a reference to setting the engine power as low as possible to stay airborne.

19. “Banging off the stops”

When a pilot moves the control stick aggressively — either by design or absence of technique — he is “banging off the stops” — “stops” being the physical limits of stick movement.

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F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.


Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.

Related: The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.

Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.

“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.

The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.

Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.

F-35 to Control Drones

As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. | Lockheed Martin image

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission in Afghanistan, Sept. 31. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and in addition to its traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, is designed to attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

Former US Sen. Jim Webb may lose an award for past comments on women
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.