If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.
China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.
The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.
In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.
When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).
That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.
However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.
The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.
“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.
The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.
They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.
The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.
Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.
Here’s a review of the questions and responses from the candidates during the first-ever NBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander-in-Chief Forum that was held on September 7th with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in attendance. (Full video is available here.)
What is the most important characteristic that the commander in chief can possess?
Clinton: “I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents . . . What you want in a commander in chief is someone who listens, who evaluates what is begin told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented and then makes the decision . . . Temperament and judgment is key.”
Trump: “I built a great company, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve dealt with foreigncountries, I’ve done tremendously dealing with China and I’ve had great experience dealing on a national basis. I have great judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots.”
On the Iraq War:
Clinton: “The decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake. I also believe that it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes, like after action reports are supposed to do. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I think I’m in the best possible position to be able to understand that and prevent it.”
Trump: “I was totally against the war in Iraq . . . because I said it was going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.”
Editor’s note: Read a fact-check on his response here.
On the Iran nuclear deal: “If they cheat, how would you respond?”
Clinton: “I have said we are going to enforce [the nuclear deal] to the letter . . . I think we have enough insight into what they are doing [on the nuclear issue] to be able to say we have to distrust, but verify. What I am focused is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians: ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places . . . I would rather as president be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry about their race to creating a nuclear weapon. We have made the world safer, we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”
Trump was not asked this question
On veterans and suicide:
Clinton: “I rolled out my mental health agenda last week [you can read it here]. I have a whole section devoted to veterans’ mental health. We’ve got to remove the stigma. We’ve got to help people currently serving not to feel that if they report their sense of unease or depression that it’s somehow going to be a mark against them. We’ve have to do more about addiction, not only drugs but also alcohol. I have put forth a really robust agenda working with VSOs and other groups like TAPS who have been thinking about this and trying to figure out what we’re going to do to help our veterans.”
Trump: “It’s actually 22. It’s almost impossible to conceive that this is happening in our country. Twenty to 22 people a day are killing themselves. A lot of it is they’re killing themselves over the fact that they’re in tremendous pain and they can’t see a doctor. We’re going to speed up the process. We’re going to create a great mental health division. They need help . . . We’re doing nothing for them. The VA is really almost, you could say, a corrupt enterprise . . . We are going to make it efficient and good and if it’s not good, you’re going out to private hospitals, public hospitals and doctors.”
On terrorist attacks on American soil:
Clinton: “I’m going to do everything in my power that that’s the result. I’m not going to promise something that I think most Americans know is going to be a huge challenge. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe and out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement. We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online — where they recruit, where they radicalize and I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can . . . We have to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground and online in cyberspace.”
Trump was not asked this question.
Clinton: “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counter-terrorism goal. We’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. We’re going to work to make sure they have the support. They have special forces as you know, they have enablers, surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance. They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops in Syria. Those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.”
Trump: “The generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful . . . The generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s an embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows . . . I can just see the great General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat . . . I didn’t learn anything [from a recent briefing to suggest that he cannot quickly defeat ISIS]. What I did learn was that our leadership, Barack Obama did not follow what our experts . . . said to do.”
On prepping for office:
Clinton was not asked this question.
Trump: “In the front row you have four generals, you have admirals, we have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to . . . I’m doing a lot of different things. We’re running a big campaign, we’re doing very well . . . I’m also running a business . . . In the meantime, I am studying . . . I think I’ve learned a lot . . . Also, I really feel like I have a lot of common sense on the issues you’ve asked about.”
Veteran questions to Clinton:
How can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
Clinton: “I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled I went into one of those little tents. . . because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it was that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified. I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will.”
Editor’s note: For a fact-check on her response to handling classified information, go here.
How do you respond to progressives . . . that your hawkish foreign policy will continue and what is your plan to end wasteful war campaigns?
Clinton: “I view force as a last resort, not a first choice. I will do everything in my power to make sure that our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face on our behalf. I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decision any president or commander in chief can make.”
Do you think the problems with the VA have been made to seem worse than they really are?
Clinton has faced criticism for making the comment that “the problems with the VA are not as widespread as they are made out to be.”
Clinton: “I was outraged by the stories that came out about the VA. I have been very clear about the necessity of doing whatever is required to move the VA into the 21st century, to provide the kind of treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve. I will not let the VA be privatized. I think that would be very disastrous for our military veterans. I’m going to have a meeting every week in the Oval Office, we’re going to bring the VA people and the DoD people. We’ve got to have a better fit between getting mustered out and getting into the VA system.”
Veteran questions to Trump:
Assuming we do defeat ISIS, what next? What is your plan for the region to ensure that a group like them doesn’t just come back? (Editor’s note: This question was posed by Marine vet Phil Klay, the award-winning author of “Redeployment.”)
Trump: “Part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody and we don’t know what we’re doing after that . . . You look at Iraq. You look at how badly that was handled. And then, when President Obama took over, likewise it was a disaster . . . If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is . . . I may like my plan or I may like the generals’ plan . . . There will probably be different generals then. ”
Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves or wants to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves to stay in this country legally?
Trump: “I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces that’s a very special situation and I could see myself working that out. If they plan on serving, if they get in, I would absolutely hold those people. Now we have to very careful, we have to vet very carefully, everybody would agree with that. But the answer is it would be a very special circumstance.”
In your first 120 days of your presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions and, more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to the negotiating table?
Trump: “I think I would have a very good relationship with many foreign leaders . . . I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia . . . Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do. If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? . . . I’m a negotiator. We’re going to take back our country.”
How will you translate those words [about helping veterans] to action after you take office?
Trump: “I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls . . . I have a very, very powerful plan that’s on my website. One of the big problems is the wait time. Vets are waiting six days, seven days, eight days . . . Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to their local doctor, they choose their doctor, they choose their hospital, whether its public or private, they get themselves better. In many cases, it’s a minor procedure, or it’s a pill a prescription. And they end up dying because they can’t see the doctor. We will pay the bill . . .”
Editor’s note: Read Trump’s 10 Point VA Plan here.
What specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?
Trump: “It’s a massive problem. The numbers are staggering and hard to believe. We’re going to have to run it very tight. At the same time, I want to keep the court system within the military. I don’t think it should be outside the military, but we have to come down very, very hard on that . . . The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military. Right now, the court system practically doesn’t exist.”
Trump: “It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that is absolutely correct. Since then, it’s gotten worse. Something has to happen. Nobody gets prosecuted. You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There is no consequence . . . You have to go after that person. Look at the small number of results.”
Military recruiters have to convince normal people that their best option for the future is signing a multi-year contract for a job with workplace hazards like bombs, bullets, and artillery. And since many people aren’t eligible to serve, the service branches need a lot of people coming into recruiting offices.
To make recruiters’ jobs a little easier, each branch has an advertising budget. Here are some of the most iconic commercials from that effort.
1. “The Climb” (2001)
With arguably the best uniforms, awesome traditions, and swords, it’s no surprise that some of the best commercials come out of the Marine Corps. “The Climb” reminded prospective recruits that yes, becoming a Marine will be hard, but it’s worth it.
2. “Rite of Passage” (1998)
Some commercials stop making sense after the era they were written in. The idea of climbing into a coliseum to fight a bad-CGI lava monster may seem like an odd advertising angle now, but it was rumored to be pretty effective at the time.
3. “America’s Marines” (2008)
Some videos target adventure nuts, while some go after aspiring professionals. This one targeted people who wanted to be part of a long-standing tradition. It also reminded people that Marines get to wear some awesome uniforms.
4. “Army Strong” (2006)
“Army Strong” was an inspiring series of advertisements, though it opened the Army to a lot of jokes (“I wanted to be a Marine, but I was only Army Strong”).
5. “Army of One” (2001)
“Legions” was part of the “Army of One” campaign. Though “Army of One” brought recruits into the Army during the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it never quite made sense to professional soldiers. In the Army, soldiers are schooled daily in the importance of teamwork and selfless service. During basic, they’re even required to be with another recruit at all times, so what is an “Army of One”?
6. “Be All That You Can Be” (1982)
The slogan “Be all that you can be,” sometimes written as, “Be all you can be,” was one of the Army’s longest-running slogans and most iconic campaigns. The jingle is as dated as the video technology in the video, but some soldiers went from their enlistment to their retirement in the Army under this slogan.
7. “Footprints” (2006)
One of the Navy’s best ads focused on some of the world’s best warriors. “Footprints” manages to highlight how awesome Navy SEALs are without showing a single person or piece of equipment.
8. “A Global Force for Good” (2009)
Though popular with recruits, the slogan for this recruiting drive ended up being unpopular with the Navy itself. Much like the Army with its “Army of One” slogan, the Navy dropped “Global Force for Good” after only a few years.
9. “Accelerate Your Life” (early 2000s)
“Accelerate Your Life” commercials were always full of sexy imagery. From fighter jets, helicopters, fast boats, automatic weapons, and camouflage, just about everything was tossed in. Like the commercial Air Force campaign “We have been waiting for you” below, dating the commercial to an exact year is tough, but the campaign began in 2001.
10. “Air Force: I Knew One Day” (2014)
“I Knew One Day” is an odd title for this commercial, but it’s not bad as a whole. It puts a face on the airmen who crew the AC-130, perform surgeries, or pilot Ospreys, and it tells recent high school and college graduates that they can become the next face of these jobs as well.
11. “We Have Been Waiting For You” (early 2000s)
With the tagline “We have been waiting for you,” the Air Force aimed to bring in recruits for all the jobs in the Air Force that weren’t about flying. Since two of the ads they released starred pilots, it seems like they weren’t trying that hard. While it’s hard to pin down the exact year this commercial was released, the “We’ve been waiting for you,” line began showing up in 2001.
12. “Science Fiction” (2011)
The Air Force is proud of its technological advantages on the battlefield, and it made a series of commercials comparing themselves to science fiction. The commercials were critiqued for including a lot of things Air Force technology couldn’t do, but they did highlight actual missions the Air Force does using technology similar to, though not as advanced as, what is featured in the commercial.
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — In a nondescript US military hangar, steps away from Air Force One, sits America’s priciest weapons system.
“The F-35 is a needed aircraft to get us to where we need to be for the future of warfare,” said US Air Force Maj. Will “D-Rail” Andreotta, the commander of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team.
“What it’s giving to the pilots is everything I’m seeing on my screens added to that the helmet, the situational awareness, and the advanced avionics that we have on the aircraft is gonna allow us to fight wars in places that we have very limited capabilities in right now,” Andreotta told Business Insider.
In August, US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, declared initial combat capability of 15 Air Force F-35A jets — a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which has been set back by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.
“When you look at where the Air Force is headed, you look at coalition warfare and spend time in the Pacific, what this means to the interoperability, the ability to operate with others in the battle space and create the coalition warfare that we will always, always, fight with in the future, the centerpiece of that is gonna be the F-35,” Carlisle said at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber conference.
“The integration, the interoperability, the fusion warfare that this here plane brings to the fight … it changes the game.”
The fifth-generation “jack of all trades” jet was developed in 2001 by Lockheed Martin to replace the aging aircraft in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
The fighter is equipped with radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, and “the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history,” Jeff Babione, the head of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, said in a statement.
And for an enemy to engage an F-35 would be like jumping into a boxing ring to “fight an invisible Muhammad Ali,” as Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told Business Insider.
In short, the F-35 gives pilots the ability to see but not be seen.
What’s more, Andreotta added, the F-35A is easy to fly.
“The F-35 is a very, very easy airplane to fly — that kinda sounds funny, but it really is … Things that were difficult and time-consuming and task-saturating in an F-16 have now become easy,” said Andreotta, a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona who has 1,600 hours in an F-16.
“I can take information that I’m getting from the F-35 and push it out to other aircraft that don’t have the capabilities that I have. That’s huge. I would have killed for that when I was flying an F-16.”
Unlike any other fielded fighter jet, the F-35 can share what it sees in the battle space with counterparts, which creates a “family of systems.”
“Fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform. It’s about a family of systems, and it’s about a network, and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said during aPentagon briefing.
Elaborating on the advantages, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, the director of the F-35 integration office, said the aircraft was “one our adversaries should fear.”
“In terms of lethality and survivability, the aircraft is absolutely head and shoulders above our legacy fleet of fighters currently fielded,” said Pleus, an F-35A pilot and former command pilot with more than 2,300 flying hours.
Alongside Andreotta, US Air Force TSgt Robert James, also of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team and a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, offered some insight as a crew chief.
“Aircraft maintenance is aircraft maintenance, but with the F-35 there is an ease in maintenance,” James told Business Insider.
“What they did with the F-35, I feel, and again I do this every day, is that they thought about the maintainer as well as the pilot. They designed the aircraft in a way that the maintainer could do their job better,” James said.
And while the F-35 has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Program executive officer, said “the program itself is making progress.”
“Any development program is going to encounter issues,” Bogdan said. “If you’re building a development program and you don’t find anything wrong, then you didn’t do a good enough job building that program.”
He added: “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day that we encounter things wrong with this airplane. Now is the time to find those things and fix them. The perfect example is our insulation problem we have right now.
“The mark of a good program is not that you don’t have any problems but that you find things early. You fix them. You make the airplane better, the weapons system better, and you move on.”
A pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort a budget airline flight heading from London to Turkey back to British soil on June 22, 2019, because of an “extremely disruptive passenger.”
Flight LS1503, which was flying from London’s Stansted airport to Dalaman in Turkey, turned back 20 minutes after taking off at 5:52 p.m. (12:52 p.m. ET) when a female passenger tried to open the aircraft doors in mid-air, Jet2 told Business Insider in a statement.
Jet2 said their Airbus A321 had “returned to base because of this appalling and dangerous behaviour.”
A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told Business Insider: “We can confirm that RAF quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby scrambled to escort a commercial flight into Stansted shortly after take-off due to reports of a disruptive passenger.”
One of Jet2’s A321 aircraft.
Essex Police tweeted on June 24, 2019, to say they had arrested a 25-year-old woman “on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and endangering an aircraft.”
She has been released on bail until July 30, 2019, they added.
One said: “This lady who was clearly intoxicated gets called to the front of the plane and she starts shouting and screaming and runs to the plane door.”
“The cabin crew grabbed her to stop her and then she starts scratching them and hitting them.”
“She then got pinned to the floor by cabin crew and passengers and a passenger even sat on her.”
Another passenger told The Sun: “The stewards gave her several chances and did the best they could before she became abusive and then made a dash for the cockpit and had to be restrained by staff and passengers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army engineers at Picatinny Arsenal are working on a new hand grenade design that will allow soldiers to choose between fragmentation or concussion effects.
It also features some other updates like an electronic fuse and an ambidextrous design that’s easier to throw.
The Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose grenade will be the Army’s first new hand grenade design in 40 years. It’s also the first time that soldiers will get a concussion grenade in about the same amount of time.
The ET-MP will feature a fragmentation setting which will work similarly to the current design, the M67, where an explosive charge creates shrapnel that flies at high speeds into enemy fighters.
A concussion mode will work in a similar way to the Army’s old MK3A2 concussion grenade. Concussion grenades work by overpressuring the surrounding air, causing a blast wave that can kill enemies in bunkers. The Mk3A2 also served in a limited role for blasting and demolition, a role the new grenade could be capable of as well.
The MK3A2 was retired in 1975 because of asbestos used in the design.
Concussion grenades are also good for killing enemies in the open. Concussion grenades usually have a 2 to 3-meter kill radius in the open while a fragmentation grenade is usually lethal for 5 meters or more.
The ET-MP will also feature a new, electronic fuse which provides a much more accurate timing mechanism, allowing the fuze to be accurate to microseconds. The M213 fuze used in current grenades is timed for 4-5 seconds but, due to variances in how long it takes the internal powder train to burn, can actually detonate in as little as 3 seconds.
As an added bonus, the grenade will work the same way for left and right-handed throwers. The M67 requires that left-handed soldiers prepare the grenade and throw it upside down.
The requirements for the new grenade were developed with input from active-duty troops and training cadre who instruct service members on how to use grenades.
The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is leading the research into the new design. The Project Manager Close Combat Systems, an agency that fields munitions and equipment for use by troops, is expected to receive the final grenade in 2020.
Be careful how you dial the newly minted Tricare East’s 800 number, or you could unintentionally end up on what appears to be a phone sex hotline.
That’s a lesson one Tricare East user learned the, er, hard way Jan. 24, when she misdialed the Tricare East contractor by one digit. Instead of dialing Humana’s number 1-800-444-5445, she dialed 1-800-444-5455.
“Hey there hot stuff,” a sultry female voice greets callers. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Are you ready for some tantalizing fun?”
It gets, uh, hotter from there. But for a $7.99 access fee plus $4.99 a minute, with a surcharge of $8.99 for “certain selections,” you hear even more than we did.
To be sure, the greeting is more entertaining than the one on Humana’s Tricare East number.
“Welcome to Humana Tricare East,” it states. “Medical emergencies should hang up and dial 911.”
Tricare East and its new 800 number rolled out Jan. 1 as the system shifted from a three contractor, three region system — Tricare North, South, and West — to the two contractor, two region system of Tricare East and West. Tricare East is managed by Humana, while Tricare West is managed by Health Net Federal Services.
We stopped our unofficial investigation into the incorrect number short of entering our corporate credit card information — we didn’t think the bean counters would understand such research. But we’re not worried about the number showing up on the phone bill. After all, the recording promises that the whole thing is “discreetly billed.”
Neither Humana nor Tricare officials responded by deadline for requests for comment. But what is there to really say about this, anyway?
On Thursday, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian military planes as they entered into America’s Alaska air defense identification zone (ADIZ), just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region. This time, the Russian aircraft, which were both reportedly IL-38 maritime patrol planes, had come within 50 miles of the Alaskan island of Unimak and then proceeded to spend a full four hours in the area.
A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long range, nuclear capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.
Russian Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)
The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet. The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth generation fighters simply can’t.
That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.
America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.
Are Russian bomber intercepts common for the U.S. or its allies?
The short answer is yes. The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.
USAF F-22 Raptor intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska earlier this month. (NORAD)
Russia regularly conducts long-distance bomber missions all over the world, sometimes prompting an intercept response from nations that feel threatened by their bomber presence. According to the BBC, Royal Air Force intercept fighters have ushered away Russian bombers and other aircraft encroaching on their airspace no fewer than ten times since the beginning of 2019.
What is Russia trying to accomplish?
Like many military operations, these flights are motivated by multiple internal and external factors.
Training and Preparation
The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.
It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long range flights.
Long range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations, but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.
An important part of Russia’s foreign policy is maintaining the threat they represent to diplomatic opponents (like the United States and its NATO allies). Deterrence is the ultimate goal of many military operations, and demonstrating the capability to launch long-range strikes against national opponents is meant to support that doctrine.
The concept of using a strong offense as a good defense dates back to when mankind first starting sharpening sticks to defend their territory, and is perhaps best demonstrated in a modern sense by America and Russia’s nuclear deterrent approach of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The premise behind MAD is simple: by maintaining a variety of nuclear attack capabilities, it makes stopping a nuclear response to an attack all but impossible. In other words, if the U.S. launch nuclear weapons at Russia, Russia would be guaranteed to fire their own back at the U.S., and vice versa.
The promise that one nuclear attack would immediately result in a large-scale nuclear war is seen as deterrent enough to keep nuclear powers from engaging in such a terrible form of warfare… at least thus far.
The third, and perhaps most nefarious, reason behind these flights that prompt intercepts from U.S. or allied fighters is as a means of desensitizing military personnel and even civilian populations to the presence of Russian bombers or other aircraft on our doorstep.
Because each of these flights prompts a flurry of headlines form major media outlets, many Americans have taken to dismissing these flights as so commonplace they hardly warrant the webspace. Likewise within the military, conducting frequent intercepts of Russian aircraft can leave some pilots and commanders increasingly complacent about the threat these aircraft potentially pose.
Imagine a bear breaking into your trash can every couple of months. The first few times, you’d be pretty scared and concerned. You might even set up cameras and invest in some bear-spray you can use to deter the bears from coming back. After a few months of sporadic bear visits, that fear turns to annoyance, as you begin to feel as though the bear isn’t a threat to you, but is an inconvenience in your life.
After years of dealing with the same bear digging through your trash, you would likely stop seeing the bear as a threat to your safety and adopt a more neutral approach to rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath every time it comes lumbering up to your old trash can.
The bear itself is no less dangerous to you than it was the first time you saw it and panicked, but your perception of the bear has shifted. Now, while you’re aware that it could hurt you, you’ve also developed an understanding that it probably won’t. You may even start to ignore it from time to time. That unintentional complacency brought about through familiarization will leave you less primed to react if the bear suddenly does pose a threat to your safety.
The slight delay in your response, brought about by complacency, could be all the bear needs to do some real damage. The same can be said about Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers.
How to combat complacency with a Russian “Bear” in your yard
Complacency isn’t just a concern when it comes to Russian aircraft or curious bears. Letting your guard down is a constant concern for service members on the front lines of any conflict.
Military protocol is one powerful tool in the fight against complacency, because it mandates a threat response and outlines its proper execution. In other words, the U.S. Military doesn’t have to make any specific decisions at the onset of identifying a potential threat. Instead, they execute the tasks on their threat response checklist to gather vital information, prepare a response, and in these cases, intercept the bombers.
USAF F-22 intercepts Russian bomber (NORAD)
In this way, America can turn the potential threat of complacency into a valuable training operation, wherein U.S. personnel act as though this Russian bomber flight could be a real attack. Of course, the risk of complacency remains, but that’s why continuous training and preparation is an essential part of American defense.
Whether it’s Russian bombers or a wayward Grizzly, if you treat every interaction like it could be dangerous, you’ll be better prepared in the event that it is.
These veterans served in different branches and different conflicts, but one thing unites them — their love of music.
We Are The Mighty and USAA flew the Mission: Music finalists to the world-famous Ocean Way Studio in Nashville for a recording session where we took the opportunity to chat about the music that influenced them along the way.
U.S. Marine JP Guhns likened songs to little checkmarks — little memories — along his military career, while husband and wife duo Home Bru brought up how music connected them to their family.
Meanwhile, Steve Schneider of Jericho Hill related to Thrice’s “Stare at the Sun,” a tune about looking for something to believe in. Many veterans can relate to the feeling of questioning what they’re fighting for, and for this soldier, music helped him come up with an answer.
“There are days in the military where you might not have a whole lot to do, but they’re gonna find stuff for you to do,” laughed U.S. Navy veteran McClain Potter as he explained why “Everyday is Exactly The Same” from Nine Inch Nails is on his Battle Mix.
Most of us would quietly go home after losing limbs, our eyesight, or other vital capabilities while in service to our country.
But for these six badasses, grievous physical injury was just the warm up:
6. French Legionnaire Jean Danjou led one of the Legion’s most famous fights after losing a hand
French Foreign Legion sappers (Image: Imgur)
French Foreign Legion Capt. Jean Danjou was working as a staff officer in Mexico in April 1863 after losing his left hand while fighting rebels in Algiers. When the command needed an officer to lead a convoy of pay for legionnaires, Danjou volunteered.
Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski asked doctors to remove his leg after it failed to heal from a grenade blast, then conducted four combat deployments with his prosthetic. Airborne 1st Lt. Josh Pitcher led a 21-man platoon through a deployment to the Afghan mountains with one leg. And Capt. Daniel Luckett came back from a double amputation to earn the Expert Infantry Badge and deploy with the 101st.
4. Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez defied doctors to go to Vietnam, then kept fighting after dozens of potentially lethal wounds
Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez walked onto a mine in 1965 and suffered an injury that was supposed to stop him from ever walking again. Against the orders of doctors, he rehabilitated himself in secret at night and walked out of the ward on his own power instead of accepting his military discharge.
He was rolled up in a body bag but spit in the doctor’s face to let him know he was alive.
3. Canadian Pvt. Leo Major lost an eye, broke his back, then earned three Distinguished Conduct Medals in two wars
Canadian sniper Leo Major liberated a Dutch town on his own during World War II. (Photo: Jmajor CC BY SA 3.0)
Canadian Army Pvt. Leo Major was severely wounded during the D-Day invasions when a phosphorous grenade took part of his vision. He also could have turned back later in 1944 when a mine broke his back.
His last DCM came during the Korean war when he lead a group of snipers to take and hold a hill from the Chinese Army for three days.
2. Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader lost both legs in an air show accident and then became a stunning flying ace in World War II.
As a young pilot in 1931, Douglas Bader was a bit showy and lost both of his legs after an accident during an airshow caused him to lose both of his legs. He begged to stay in the service but was denied with the suggestion that he try again if war broke out.
Despite this handicap, he fought a massive Spanish fleet in 1797 and managed to capture two of their man-of-wars, using the first one captured to attack the second. But then he lost his right arm at the Battle of Tenerife later that year.
Shipbuilders and sailors have fixed the propulsion plant problems on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of supercarriers that is behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with development issues.
Work on the ship’s propulsion plant was completed toward the end of July 2019, the Navy announced in a statement Aug. 12, 2019.
Problems with the carrier’s propulsion system first popped up in January 2018 during sea trials. A “manufacturing defect” was identified as the problem. Troubles were again noted in May 2019 just three days after the ship set sail for testing and evaluation, forcing it to return to its home port early.
In March 2019, James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition boss, told US lawmakers that scheduled maintenance on the Ford would require another three months beyond what was initially planned to deal with problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other unspecified areas.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The Navy said that the “Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, rather the issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.”
While the completion of the work on the Ford’s power plant moves the ship closer to returning to sea, the carrier is still having problems with a critical piece of new technology — the advanced weapons elevators. The elevators are necessary for the movement of munitions to the flight deck, increased aircraft sortie rates, and greater lethality, but only a handful of the elevators are expected to work by the time the ship is returned to the fleet this fall.
Lawmakers recently expressed frustration with the Navy’s handling of the Ford-class carrier program.
“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late July 2019.
Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)
“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”
Inhofe said that the Navy’s failures “ought to be criminal.”
The Navy has been struggling to incorporate new technologies into the ship, but the service insists that it is making progress with the catapults and arresting gear used to launch and recover aircraft, systems which initially had problems. The elevators are currently the biggest obstacle.
“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy said in its recent statement on the completion of relevant work on the Ford’s propulsion system.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After being lost for 66 years on a battlefield a world away, Sgt. Philip James Iyotte returned home to South Dakota last week. In so doing, the Army veteran killed so long ago in the Korean Conflict brought with him the tears of a nation melded with the happiness of his homecoming.
As a young man, Iyotte was given the Lakota name Akicita Isnala Najin, meaning “Soldier Who Stands Alone.” But in two days of observances on Oct. 24 and 25, Iyotte was feted as a proud warrior who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that his countrymen could live in peace. And he will never again stand alone.
Just 20 years old when he enlisted in the Army in 1950, Iyotte was assigned to the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division and soon was deployed to the Korean theater. Seriously injured in battle by fragments from an enemy missile on Sept. 2, 1950, Iyotte was hospitalized for treatment but returned to his regiment in just 19 days.
Then, on Feb. 9, 1951, while in the heat of battle yet again near Seoul, Iyotte and several of his fellow soldiers were captured by Chinese forces and marched to a prisoner of war camp. Shot in the stomach by his captors and suffering from gangrene, Iyotte could not join two of his fellow Native American POWs in their flight for freedom. Instead, the young warrior sang them a Lakota honor song before their successful escape.
Then, the Lakota warrior disappeared for more than six decades, leaving behind anguished parents and 13 siblings who knew not what had become of their fearless son and eldest brother.
In the years since the last word of the Lakota warrior filtered down to rural South Dakota, the Iyotte family never gave up hope for the warrior who mysteriously disappeared at the hands of his Chinese captors. They maintained contact with the Army and attended meetings conducted by the Army’s Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, also known as the Army Casualty Office. And they provided DNA samples and contacted their state’s congressional delegation asking for assistance in finding their lost sergeant.
Eva Iyotte, 63, the youngest child of the large family, wasn’t even born when her oldest brother disappeared into the Chinese POW camp. But as she grew up, revering a soldier she had never met, Eva promised her father on his deathbed that she would work to bring her brother home.
In August, the Army informed the family that Sgt. Iyotte’s remains had been identified with the assistance of Chinese officials. In short order, the serviceman’s remains were transported to Hawaii before being transferred to his South Dakota homeland.
On Oct. 24, Eva and her 40-year-old daughter, Dera, made the trek from their White River residence to a funeral home in Rapid City to retrieve the serviceman’s remains and begin two days of observances in honor of Sgt. Iyotte and his service to a grateful nation.
But what they encountered left them in wonderment. And what Sgt. Iyotte’s return created over the ensuing two days united Native nations, veterans of all colors and stripes, and a handful of remote reservation communities that dot western South Dakota.
“When we arrived at Kirk Funeral Home, there were probably 75 people waiting, including the Black Hills Chapter of the American Legion Motorcycle Riders, two honor guards, including Chauncey Eagle Horn and the Rosebud Legion Post honor guard, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe veteran’s group,” Dera said. “It was so amazing.”
Promptly at 10 a.m., the procession left Rapid City with an escort from the South Dakota Highway Patrol and stopped in Interior to top off the bikes, before being met at the reservation border by an escort from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police. Along the way, the procession grew to two miles in length. At Wanblee and a stop at the Eagle Nest College Center, virtually the entire town and tribal elders greeted the procession, before Richard Moves Camp offered prayers and the Eagle Nest singers sang a Korean honor song.
“It was a riveting moment, and we were so overwhelmed with love,” Dera recalled last week. “I could not believe how much love our people poured out to Philip. It was the most beautiful moment of my life, the whole day.”
“This was a man they never met, but a warrior, a hero,” she added. “They came out en masse to greet him. I loved the unity and happiness he brought to the whole state of South Dakota.”
As the procession departed Wanblee, Dera and Eva began noticing rural residents standing along the highway at the end of their driveways, many waving, others with their hand over their heart. Veterans stood alone on that endless highway, several in their uniforms, saluting the fallen soldier.
“Somewhere along the way, we passed a young man, maybe 14 years old, who was standing on the side of the road with his hand on his heart, just crying,” Dera said. “It was clear that Philip had brought the tears of a nation and happiness to his home. It’s been a long time since our nation cried tears of happiness, and that’s what he brought.”
Leaving Wanblee and proceeding toward the Rosebud Indian Reservation, still more local residents stood along the highway paying tribute to the soldier. At the reservation line, Rosebud Tribal Police Capt. Hawkeye Waln greeted the procession and escorted it to the Corn Creek community, with families standing at every turnout, many with American flags. Rosebud Councilman Russell Eagle Bear joined the motorcade, which headed south to the Black Pipe community, where they discovered every student and teacher with the Head Start program standing outside, all smiling and waving.
“I even saw a couple of homeless veterans carrying flags,” Eva said, her voice breaking as her eyes teared. “That really touched me. They showed such heart and such compassion in bringing this warrior home.”
“They say there are bad relations in South Dakota, but everyone knows Philip was just a veteran like them. Perhaps it’s time for healing and reconciliation.”
At Parmelee, known to the Lakota as Wososo, once the capital of the reservation, the entire town turned out to welcome their lost warrior.
“They had it decked out so beautifully, with random soldiers, brothers, and sisters of the struggle standing at attention,” Dera remembered. “I just cried. To see them come to attention after so many years, their pride so evident, was all you could ask out of your people.”
And the procession continued to grow. Dera’s brother, tribal policeman Bryan Waukazoo, estimated the line of the procession at seven miles.
Moving forward on BIA Highway 1 past the Ironwood community, with observers manning every approach, the convoy drove through the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Forest, sacred as the final resting place of many of the tribe’s legendary warriors.
“I wanted Philip to go by our leaders because he was a great warrior, so that they could see him as well and sense the forest because that is our greatest resource as a nation – our land and water,” Dera noted.
But the surviving Iyottes were unprepared for their greeting at the town of Rosebud. As they crested the hill above the community, they were met by the students and teachers of St. Francis Indian School and stopped for two Korean honor songs, and enough time for them to show appropriate respect for Eva, who had spent a lifetime looking for her brother. In turn, each student gave the lone sibling survivor a handshake or a hug.
As the throng headed down the hill to Rosebud, a fire engine from nearby Valentine, Neb., had its ladder extended, supporting a giant American flag, while townspeople lined the streets.
“As we neared the fairgrounds at Rosebud, we were met by at least 2,000 people, a huge crowd, and they greeted my uncle like he was sitting in the back of a convertible,” Dera observed. “The unity was simply amazing.”
Still 30 miles from their destination, trailing nine miles of cars, the procession turned north onto US Highway 18 for White River. Ten miles from that town stood Navy veteran Leonard Wright, decked out in his dress whites, saluting his fellow serviceman in the middle of nowhere.
Horseback riders joined the solemn parade six miles from White River and Philip’s remains, contained in a simple pine casket, were transferred from a hearse to a horse-drawn wagon driven by John Farmer, whose parents, the late Eddie and Tressie Farmer, had long supported Eva’s quest to bring her brother home.
Ever so slowly, the procession now estimated at 12-15 miles long, then followed the wagon through White River to Sgt. Iyotte’s sister’s home, where a tipi stood on the lawn in the Swift Bear community. A medicine man offered a homecoming prayer and the Red Leaf Singers, led by Pat Bad Hand Sr., sang several Wakte Gli (coming home) songs, which told the story of Philip’s enlisting, of his injuries suffered in battle, of his rejoining the war, getting captured, and, ultimately, his untimely death.
“It was powerful and one of the most riveting experiences I’ve ever seen, a tribute to Philip’s sacrifice in serving his country and his people,” Dera said.
As the sun set that Oct. 24, Philip’s casket was loaded into a pickup and taken to the White River School gymnasium, which had been decorated by family members and local veterans. Prayers were said and a POW/MIA dinner took place, conducted by retired US Marine Corps veteran Brenda White Bull, the granddaughter of Sitting Bull, One Bull, and White Bull, all noted Sioux warriors.
During a veterans roll call, Korean vets Dennis Spotted Tail, Homer Whirlwind Soldier, and Eugene Iron Shell Sr., the latter of whom attended school with Philip, were recognized. As the roll call, conducted in darkness, concluded, the final name called was Sgt.Philip J. Iyotte, whose name was repeated three times. Then someone spoke for the fallen warrior and said, “Sgt. Iyotte has gone to the great beyond.”
As the long day and reverential evening ceremony came to its finale, taps was played, followed by the Lakota Flag Song. Then every woman in attendance gave Philip a trill, the highest form of respect a woman can give a warrior.
“Never have I heard that many trills in my life,” Dera said, the memory still sending a chill up her spine. “I think some were from woman of the past, from every corner, from every place, a powerful thing in our nation.”
Laid to rest
Last week, on the sunny morning of Oct. 25, at the urging of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, flags in South Dakota were lowered to half-staff in recognition of Sgt. Iyotte’s service and sacrifice. In Washington, DC, flags also were lowered and the serviceman’s name and honors were entered into the Congressional Record.
Half a nation away, at the tiny White River School gymnasium, Larry Zimmerman, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, gave remarks, followed by short speeches from representatives of US Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, all lauding the young serviceman lost so long ago.
Before embarking on Sgt. Iyotte’s final journey to his resting place, Vietnam Army veteran Trudell Guerue, whose own uncle, John, is still missing in action from an American conflict, presented Eva with a handmade 24th Infantry Division flag made by his wife. Episcopal Church Bishop John Tarrant provided a blessing.
Sgt. Iyotte took his last ride on earth in a horse-drawn wagon to the family plot in a Two Kettle cemetery, escorted by horseback riders and making a slow, plodding trek up a hill, flags at half-staff streaming in a gentle breeze.
More prayers were made at the cemetery, followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. As the final notes spread across the prairie, a Black Hawk helicopter flew in from the east, passing over the assembled crowd and leaving several hundred people in awe in its wake. A member of the honor guard reverentially presented Eva with the folded flag that had cloaked her brother’s casket.
Wrapped in a buffalo robe, handmade moccasins with porcupine quillwork at his feet, and enough wasna (pemmican with crushed berries and buffalo jerky) “to last him long enough on his final journey to the new camp where he will find his relatives,” Sgt.Philip James Iyotte was laid to rest, ending a 66-year odyssey that took him from the rolling plains of South Dakota to a Korean battlefield and back home again.
As the graveside ceremony concluded, the serviceman’s nephews and grandsons began covering his casket with sacred soil. As they did, two bald eagles soared on the updrafts overhead, as if acknowledging the return of a young man taken too soon and a warrior never to be forgotten.
The Army is accelerating plans to build early prototype components for its futuristic Next-Generation Combat Vehicle for the 2030s and beyond – a lighter weight, deployable high-tech armored vehicle platform to control nearby robots, fire new weapons, and outmatch future Russian and Chinese tanks.
While the particular configuration and technology woven into the new combat vehicle is in the early phases of conceptual exploration, there is widespread consensus that the future armored platforms will be able to sense and destroy enemy vehicles and drones at much further ranges, make use of active protection systems, leverage emerging artificial intelligence and command and control systems, use more automation and – perhaps of greatest significance – fire lasers and the most advanced precision weaponry available.
Senior Army leaders tell Warrior Maven that the NGCV program – is being massively sped up. The acceleration of NGCV prototyping is strongly supported in the new 2019 budget request which seeks $119 million for the program.
The revved-up effort is likely to evolve into a family of vehicles to fight alongside or succeed the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Stryker among other armored platforms.
Development of the new armored vehicles is being pursued in alignment with the Army’s shifting modernization strategy, an effort which places a higher premium on more rapidly prototyping and testing platforms, weapons, and technologies; the idea is to access the best of the “realm of the possible” when it comes to weapons and technology and circumvent some of the bureaucratic challenges known to encumber traditional Army acquisition approaches.
“In the past, we would have spent many years and hours toiling away trying to write down requirements for the system and then fight over the fine points of that system. Then we pour a lot of money in shaping those requirements and then you become bound by them,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ferarri explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts, technologies and early possibilities for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies, integrate weapons and build in flexibility.
“We are taking time to hone in on what is possible by building prototypes, not the final system. You start tweaking the variables in the near term rather than waiting,” Ferarri said.
Engineering methods now being explored for the vehicle reflect a growing recognition that rapid development, while still measured and intended to ensure the highest quality, is necessary to keep pace with rapid global technological change. More specifically, adaptation of new technologies as they become available is increasingly taking on new urgency in light of current Russian and Chinese armored vehicle modernization efforts.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including antitank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
In essence, early exploratory efforts seek to engineer a technical foundation sufficient to accommodate future technologies – and maximize weapons, sensors, and computers likely to be available for combat in the 2030s. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, a range of C4ISR technology and a special emphasis on computer processing, automation, and AI.
“We are taking a different approach, much more like silicon valley. We will start with assumptions, then we will prototype and experiment to validate and test the assumption or hypothesis,” Ferarri explained.
This rapid-prototyping Army approach exemplifies the strategic epicenter of the now emerging Army Futures Command.
“We are trying to have a command focused upon what the future might hold and driving technology and concepts. We are having sessions with outside experts and inside leadership,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Ferarri specified that some of the early NGCV prototyping will look at ways to adapt or improve upon existing upgraded armored vehicle platforms. In fact, Army developers have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley or even elements of a Stryker vehicle.
The Army’s “Far-Term” strategic emphasis, aimed at the 2031 to 2046 timeframe according to Army strategy papers, heavily depends upon an Armored Brigade Combat Team’s “ability to ability to deploy rapidly while improving the formation’s mobility, protection, and lethality. As the ABCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers and mortar indirect fire platforms.”
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to both allow for each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term life-cycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles.
Army developers also explained that the service is doing some early developmental work assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Weight, speed and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Abrams robotic wingmen
Army senior developers also tell Warrior Maven that it is conceivable future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, teleoperation and manned-unmanned teaming.
Accordingly, future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wingman” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed, and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation.
GPS enabled way-point technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is by all means far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible – you are talking about a terrain that is shifting all the time,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Weapons for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The Army canceled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, however, some of its innovations, technologies, and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for application in future armored vehicles. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute and uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Greater automation, when it comes to sensor data organization, ammunition loading, and even some weapons functions, can reduce the hardware footprint, lower weight, and improve crew survivability.
The new vehicles will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.’
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
Another possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-canceled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System (MCS), was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
There is a certain irony built into what was the Future Combat Systems effort because, while it was canceled in part for not being survivable enough, many of its concepts and technologies continue to both inform and integrate with modern Army platforms.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special, new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.