A photographer took a 360-degree aerial video of Pyongyang for the first time.
The video reveals another side of North Korea, as well as many striking scenes and landmarks.
Many outsiders know North Korea only as the scary, totalitarian state where Kim Jong Un rules with an iron fist, but the Singaporean photographer Aram Pam just completed a world first: filming Pyongyang from a microlight plane with a 360-degree camera.
The aerial view of Pyongyang reveals a strange juxtaposition — brilliant high-rises line major streets like facades, but low, dull buildings hide behind them. North Korea’s tall, modern-looking buildings tower over broad streets with virtually nobody on them. Highways intersect without a traffic light. Gleaming space-age stadiums contrast sharply with other nearby massive structures that seem to rot.
In the video below, see all of North Korea’s great and mysterious structures — like the “Hotel of Doom” and the May Day stadium, one of the largest in the world — and countless waterfront skyscrapers.
This past summer, the 75th Ranger Regiment found an innovative way to entertain and ensure the wellbeing of its single troops.
Throughout the summer months, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Unit Ministry Team (UMT) organized and led 24-hour retreats for over 100 single Rangers. Some of the events that the troops participated in include hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, and camping.
Army UMTs assist commanders with morale and provide religious and informal psychological support to troops.
“It was so encouraging to hear these guys go deep, and get real, and just talk about how they are really doing and the struggles they are currently dealing with or have dealt with in their past,” said Captain Bo Waldo, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Deputy Regimental Chaplain, in a press release. “It really is a privilege for me to care for these Rangers. The single Rangers are such a critical component of our force, and they are having to deal with this crazy season of isolation in some very challenging ways. This trip was well worth the effort to put it together.”
A Ranger participating in a river kayaking event (U.S. Army)
The Coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only thing Rangers have to worry about on a daily basis. There is always the ever-present fear of messing up and getting released for standards (RFU), the 75th Ranger Regiment’s internal mechanism to cycle out Soldiers who aren’t suitable to serve in the unit. Consequently, even a brief break from the rigors of the job can be revitalizing and ensure sustainability.
“Just the chance to get away from the barracks and spend time with friends, to think about what I want my life and legacy to be, is a phenomenal opportunity,” said an anonymous Ranger from 3rd Battalion.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is the world’s premier light infantry special operations force. It’s one of the few units in the entire US military to have been continuously deployed since the start of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) after 9/11. Specializing in direct action missions and airfield seizures, the 75th Ranger Regiment is comprised of a headquarters, three infantry battalions (1st, 2nd, and 3rd), a Military Intelligence battalion, and Special Troops battalion.
Rangers preparing to launch their kayaks into the ocean (U.S. Army).
“I have never been on a trip like this before, but I really liked it. It was fun to jump in and find ways I could help,” said Specialist Adam Gathercole, from the Military Intelligence battalion.
But the retreats aren’t the only initiative that the unit is taking to ensure the well-being of its Rangers. Recently, the 75th Ranger Regiment launched PHALANX, an innovative program that aims to enhance the combat capabilities, careers, and education opportunities of Rangers. The logic behind the initiative is that well-educated, superb-trained, and physically and mentally healthy troops will be a more productive member of the team. Additionally, by investing in the education and wellbeing of its Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment aims to improve its retention levels, and indeed its investment as hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in training just one Ranger.
The US Marine Corps for the first time is eyeing a plan to let women attend what has been male-only combat training in Southern California, as officials work to quash recurring problems with sexism and other bad behavior among Marines, according to Marine Corps officials.
If approved by senior Marine leaders, the change could happen as soon as next spring. And it could be the first step in a broader campaign to give male Marines who do their initial training on the West Coast the opportunity to work with female colleagues early in their career.
Marine leaders are also considering allowing women to attend boot camp in San Diego, the officials said. Currently all women recruits go through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., while male recruits go either there or to San Diego. The combat training comes after troops have finished boot camp, and is done both in South Carolina and at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, but women attend the course only on the East Coast.
The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter because final decisions have not been made, so they spoke on condition of anonymity. The boot camp decision is still under discussion.
Marine leaders have come under persistent criticism from members of Congress because the Corps is the only military service to separate men and women for portions of their boot camp. And only the Marine Corps allows a full half of its recruits to go through initial training without any female colleagues.
Because there are only a small number of female Marines, they all go through boot camp at Parris Island, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been highly critical of that policy and demanded changes, and the Corps has been reviewing the issue.
Marines have argued that the separation from the men is needed so the women can become more physically competitive before joining their male counterparts. They also have argued that it gives the female Marines the support they need during their early weeks of boot camp. Women make up 8.4 percent of the Marine Corps, and that is the smallest percentage of all the armed services.
But Marine Corps officials are now suggesting that training half of their recruits on the West Coast with no females in their units could be contributing to some of the disciplinary problems they’ve had. Giving the male Marines greater exposure to females during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time, some have suggested.
Over the last several years, Marine leaders have battled persistent accusations that the Corps is hostile to women. The Marines were the only service to formally request an exception when the Pentagon moved to allow women to serve in all combat jobs. That request was denied in late 2015 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
More recently, the service was rocked by a nude-photo sharing scandal in which Marines shared sexually explicit photos on various social media and other websites and included crude, derogatory, and even violent comments about the women. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into the matter and several Marines have been disciplined.
A Marine task force has been reviewing a range of options and changes for several months to try and reduce the problems.
Months ago, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, told Congress that the service has been looking at the recruit training issue. But to date, no major changes have been made.
The nude-photo sharing investigation represents a broader military problem. In a report issued earlier this year, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry or upset.” But, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.
More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.
The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.
The US Navy’s destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land-attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out-ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian systems.
China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.
Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.
The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out-range and beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.
Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, US Naval Institute News reports.
“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile,” Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, USNI News reported at the time. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”
With missiles out-ranging China and Russia’s fleets many times over, the US could engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access and area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and the Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.
While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don’t expect their ship-based missile defenses to hold a candle to the US’s Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.
But also don’t expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.
“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News.
USNI News estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.
Eight Ivy Division snipers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team field tested an upgrade to the Army’s sniper rifle in the shadows of the fabled Rocky Mountains.
Engineered as an upgrade to the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) was redesigned to enhance a sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability, according to Maj. Mindy Brown, CSASS test officer with the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational test Command.
Upgrades being tested include increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.
A sniper team fires the M110E1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear during operational testing at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Brown said the purpose of the operational test is to collect performance data and soldier feedback to inform the Army’s procurement decision regarding the rifle.
“We do this by having the snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” Brown said.
“In doing this, we achieve a twofold benefit for the Army as we test modernization efforts while simultaneously building unit — or in this case — sniper readiness.”
She went on to explain how the 2nd IBCT snipers stressed the rifles as only operators can, during the 10-day record test.
The snipers fired 8,000 rounds from various positions while wearing individual protective and tactical equipment as well as their Ghillie suits and cold weather gear.
A sniper engages targets from behind a barrier during the short-range tactical scenario of the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
To also test how the CSASS allowed snipers to shoot, move, and communicate in a realistic combat environment, they also executed Situational Training Exercise (STX) force-on-force missions in what they described as, “the best sniper training they’d received since attending Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga.”
The 2nd IBCT snipers really pushed each other, testing the CSASS in what evolved into a competitive environment on the ranges.
“Despite single-digit frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and wet snow, the snipers really impressed me with their levels of motivation and competitive drive to outshoot each other,” said Sgt. 1st Class Isidro Pardo, CSASS Test Team NCOIC with OTC’s Maneuver Test Directorate.
An agreed upon highlight of the test among the snipers was the force-on-force day and night STX Lanes.
A test sniper occupies an observation post and conducts counter-sniper operations on a dismounted Situational Tactical Exercise Lane at Fort Carson, Colo..
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sniper teams were pitted against one another on tactical lanes in natural environmental and Urban Terrain to see who could infiltrate, detect, and engage whom first.
Staff Sgt. Cameron Canales, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment said, “The force-on-force STX lanes were an extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft.”
One other sniper, Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, from Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment said he really enjoyed all the “trigger time” with the CSASS.
A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Photo by Maj. Michael P. Brabner)
Sherwood said he was able to learn from the other test snipers and improve his field craft.
“In a regular sniper section, I would never get this much trigger time with a sniper rifle or be issued nearly as much ammunition to train with in a fiscal year, let alone a 10-day period,” he said.
While OTC celebrates its 50th Anniversary, 2nd IBCT snipers and OTC’s CSASS Test Team are a testament to the importance of the half century relationship between the Operational Force and the test community.
“As we move into a period of focused modernization, now, more than ever, that relationship is decisive to ensuring only the best materiel capability solutions make it into the hands of the men and women in uniform serving on the front lines around the world and at home,” Brown said.
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.
“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”
The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.
The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.
The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”
Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.
The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.
The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.
It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.
As the rest of the world processes the fact that the U.K. is now leaving the European Union, there’s a real chance that Scotland might leave the U.K and take the base where the U.K. maintains an arsenal of 160 deployed nuclear warheads on 58 Trident missiles with them.
Many Scottish politicians supported leaving the U.K. in a 2014 referendum that was defeated in an approximately 45 percent vs. 55 percent vote. The “Yes” camp, which asked voters to say, “Yes, Scotland should be an independent country,” pledged to get rid of Britain’s nuclear submarines within the first term of a Scottish president. When the measure was defeated, it allowed the Royal Navy to breathe a sigh of relief. But the issue is coming around again.
That will leave voters trying to decide whether to remain part of the EU, which 62 percent of the Scottish population supported, or to remain part of Britain, which only 55 percent of the population supported. While there’s no guarantee that Scotland would leave if a new referendum is held, it is likely that a “Yes” vote would force Britain to move all four of its nuclear submarines to a new base. And that would be a huge problem.
Estimates in 2014 said that it would take Britain 10 years and 3 billion pounds that it doesn’t have to relocate the base. So, the Royal Navy began looking at alternatives. The best and easiest for the U.K. would be if they could negotiate a deal to lease the base from Scotland, but that would likely fail since many members of the independence movement want all nuclear weapons off Scottish soil. The next best option would be for England to send all their warheads, their sub crews, and the submarines themselves to Georgia. Yes, that Georgia, the state just north of Florida.
American politicians promised support of the plan in 2014. If it came up again in 2017, there’s a decent chance Congress would go for it since the British nuclear deterrent is part of the NATO nuclear deterrent. Besides that, Britain has few options. France could be a possibility, assuming that the French people don’t take Brexit too personally. Britain’s strong status in NATO could potentially get it four parking spots in a Baltic port, but then it would have the constant headache of its submarines being within range of a Russian invasion.
The US military has made clear its renewed focus on adapting to the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with powerful state actors, most notably Russia and China, that was outlined in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy early 2018.
The release of the Defense Department’s 2019 budget proposal detailed some of the specifics of those preparations, and the Army appears to have settled on a long-awaited upgrade for its main battle tank.
The budget for the fiscal year will equip 261 M1 tanks, three brigades’ worth, with Israeli-made Trophy active-protection systems, according to Breaking Defense.
Active-protection systems are designed to fend off antitank missiles and other incoming projectiles. The Trophy system, called Windbreaker, uses four mounted antennas, which offer 360-degree coverage, and fire-control radars to pick up incoming targets. Internal computers then devise firing angles and signal two rotating launchers on the sides of the vehicle to fire ball-bearing-filled canisters. The system has been installed on Israel’s Merkava main battle tanks since 2009.
“If you look at what we’ve done in the last 15 years, it is a light, aviation-centric fight, so we took a fair amount of risk on the heavy force,” John Daniels, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for plans, programs, and resources, told Breaking Defense.
“Now you are at a point where the system is starting to age out,” Daniels said. “If you look at the ages of platforms and how long it takes to rebuild a heavy brigade, you (need to modernize) about one, 1.5 a year to really make a substantive change.” He added the pace of those upgrades would depend on decisions made in 2019 and 2020.
The 2019 budget proposal requests $182.1 billion for the Army — $5.6 billion would go to weapons and tracked-combat-vehicle procurement. The Trophy system is estimated to cost $350,000 to $500,000 for each tank.
US military officials have said the Abrams remains at the top of its class, but they’ve also warned that foreign militaries are gaining on it. Other militaries have looked to add their own active-protection systems and boost their antitank capabilities to counter adversaries’ versions of the systems.
The US has been looking at APS to protect armor for some time, lingering in the design and development stages since the 1950s. In 2016 and 2017, the Army leased and purchased some Trophy systems for testing.
APS has grown in relevance amid ongoing tensions with Russia, which maintains a large tank force — with some APS use — as well as extensive anti-armor capabilities. The US military’s interest in active-protection systems is not limited to Abrams tanks, however.
The Army is evaluating the Israeli-made Iron Fist APS for Bradley fighting vehicles and the US-made Iron Curtain APS for Stryker combat vehicles. Those programs are still in research and development, Pentagon officials told Breaking Defense, with decisions about procurement and funding yet to be made.
Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8, said late 2017 that the Abrams-mounted Trophy system was furthest along in testing, but he noted at the time that safety concerns could be an issue, saying firing and detonating APS projectiles near tanks could complicate coordinated operations between armor and dismounted infantry.
In addition to “hard kill” active-projection systems, which use physical countermeasures, the Army has said it is looking at “soft kill” APS, which would use countermeasures like electromagnetic signals to interfere with incoming threats.
Both would be a part of a Modular Active Protection System, which is “a framework for a modular, open-systems architecture” that would allow APS to function once installed. Col. Kevin Vanyo, a program manager for emerging capabilities at the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center, told the Army News Service.
The Army has already started to take delivery of the latest version of the Abrams, receiving six M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams main battle tank pilot vehicles in October 2017. Among its features were an upgraded radio system, enhanced power generation, and turret and hull armor upgrades.
“The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is the first in a series of new or significantly improved vehicles that we will be delivering to,” Army armored combat brigade teams, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, a program executive officer for ground-combat systems, said at the time. “It is a great step forward in reliability, sustainability, protection, and on-board power which positions the Abrams tank and our ABCTs for the future.”
Under the fiscal-year 2019 budget, $1.5 billion would go toward upgrading 135 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEP v3, with delivery of the first six set for July 2020.
The brain cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Maj. Beau Biden, might have been caused by burn pit exposure in Kosovo and Iraq, Biden said in a recent interview.
“Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them. Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body,” he said in a PBS NewsHour interview early this month.
Beau Biden, a judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the Delaware National Guard, died from brain cancer in 2015. He had been deployed to Iraq in 2009, and worked as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Kosovo.
A book published last year, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, by former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, includes a chapter on Beau Biden’s cancer and its possible links to burn pit exposure.
In the interview, Joe Biden said he had been unaware of any potential link before reading that book.
“There’s a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn’t know that,” he said in the interview.
Burn pits were routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste. Although government officials have declined to establish a firm link between burn pits and veterans’ health problems, including rare forms of cancer and respiratory diseases, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 established a registry for veterans to log their exposure and complaints.
More than 120,000 veterans have logged themselves in the registry. An estimated three million are eligible to join, according to the VA.
A federal judge last year dismissed a major lawsuit by veterans, contractors and their families against KBR, a defense contractor, for operating burn pits they claimed caused deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.
But the judge dismissed the suit, saying that KBR cannot be held liable for a Pentagon decision to use burn pits for waste disposal.
Russian special forces staged a mock invasion of an island in the Gulf of Finland just days before President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital.
The Russian forces parachuted onto the island of Gogland, which is part of Russia but located roughly 70 miles from Helsinki, from a Mi-8AMTSH helicopter at an altitude of 2,500 meters. The soldiers used satellite equipment to steer themselves to the landing site, according to a July 10, 2018 press release from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Once on the ground, the Russian forces camouflaged their parachutes and headed into the interior of the island to destroy a series of mock communications stations, radars, and ASM batteries, Defense One reports.
The island is equipped with a helipad, but after destroying the targets the soldiers prepared a landing site for the helicopter for their escape.
The soldiers who participated in the mock invasion had “not less than a hundred jumps with parachutes of various types,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry statement.
This exercise comes amid increasing concern from many European countries about Russian agression in the region in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Meanwhile, as Trump prepares to meet with Putin, some NATO member states seem to be concerned he’s too soft on the Russian leader and doesn’t fully value the historic alliance.
Trump was widely criticized for his rhetoric and demeanor at the summit. Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, accused the president of “diplomatic malpractice” and expressed concern over Trump’s disposition toward Putin.
“You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO,” Burns said on July 11, 2018. “I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends, and he’s misrepresenting the facts.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
In March 2018, the United States Paralympic Team sent 18 U.S. military veterans to PyeongChang, South Korea to compete for Olympic gold. That’s just under a quarter of the whole U.S. team. They competed in alpine skiing, curling, and sled hockey, bringing home more than a couple of gold medals — 36 medals in all.
They represented all branches of the U.S. military and have deployed to all areas of the Earth in support of the United States. According to the New York Times, the games are, in a way, getting back to their military roots. The Paralympic Games started off as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 which, at the time, were specifically for wounded World War II veterans.
Today, funding for Paralympic athletes is more readily and widely available to aspirants who are also military veterans. Even as the number of returning, wounded veterans gets lower overall, the number of vets on the Team USA roster swells. It’s just more difficult for a non-veteran to get a start, considering the support that comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs and nonprofits like the Semper Fi Fund.
But once on the team, they’re Team USA — all the way. There is no rift between the veterans and non-veterans. This year’s USA Sled Hockey Team featured five Marines and two Army veterans among the 17 members of the team. They took home the gold.
I’m honored and proud to be able to wear our colors and the big ‘USA’ on the front of our jerseys,” says Rico Roman, one of the two Army veterans. “It’s great to be out there with other veterans and to be able to represent our country on the highest level of Paralympic athletics in our sport of sled hockey.
Justin Marshall, who is a non-veteran member of the USA’s Wheelchair Curling Team, says he would never be resentful of the extra funding available to veterans. They’re his teammates.
“Almost every guy in my family served in the military, and I probably would have followed except I had my spinal cord stroke when I was 12,” Marshall told the New York Times. “It helps them so I can’t be mad at them for it. I wish I had that extra funding, but I don’t, so I just try to find another way to take care of that.”
When Air Force Staff Sgt. John Cox, an air transportation specialist assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, deployed to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, he assumed he would be helping Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria; he did not expect to bring home a four-legged addition to his family.
Cox said he had just returned from a six-month deployment in Kuwait when he volunteered to go to Puerto Rico, where he worked with heavy machinery loading and unloading cargo from aircraft.
“We were placed close to the airport in tents in an open field so we could hear the aircraft when they landed,” he said.
Their main job was helping Defense Department personnel transfer water and Meals Ready to Eat from large aircraft onto vehicles and small aircraft for distribution to the people hard-hit by the hurricane, Cox said.
Beef Jerky Wins Hearts
While he was performing a security check of the area, Cox said he came across an abandoned building. Inside, he discovered a scared, emaciated, light-brown dog.
“I brought the dog some beef jerky from an MRE and some water every day, and pretty soon she started following me back to my tent and waiting outside,” Cox said.
When the dog started following him to work every day Cox worried he would get into trouble and decided he should talk to the officer in charge.
Once he introduced the dog, which he’d named Maria, to his leaders, he was given a thumbs-up to having her by his side.
“That’s when I realized I couldn’t leave this dog in Puerto Rico when my deployment ended,” Cox said.
“I drove over an hour to a veterinary clinic and had the dog completely checked and vaccinated, which was a condition I was given to keep her with me,” he said.
Cox said the next hurdle was to find a way to get Maria home — a task that would not prove to be easy because he couldn’t just put her on an aircraft without authorization.
“I researched all the regulations I could find and felt like I hit a wall until I found a local adoption agency that specialized in rescuing pit bulls,” Cox said. “They were able to get her home.”
“I not only made a positive impact on the people of Puerto Rico, but I was able to save an animal,” he said. “I saw her go from near-death to super healthy in a matter of months.”
Cox said he is looking forward to hiking the high peaks with his new hiking buddy once the weather is better.
“My advice to someone who plans on adopting a dog is to prepare to have your hands and your heart full,” he said. “Having a dog is sometimes like having a child, but all the effort will be worth it when you see them waiting for you at the end of the day.”
” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.
“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”
Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.
Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”
Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.
“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”
Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.
The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.
“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.
In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.
“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.