North Korea on Monday said it interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren’t flying in its airspace — but such an attack is easier said than done.
The US frequently responds to North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer — a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber — near North Korea.
The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and it has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.
On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat.
But the age of the country’s air defenses complicates that task.
“North Korea’s air defenses are pretty vast but very dated,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.
Lamrani said North Korea had a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some “knockoff” Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia’s S-300 system.
From the ground, North Korea’s defenses are “not really a threat to high-flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water,” Lamrani said.
But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise.
When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often, military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.
Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease-fire and are not actively at war. Therefore, a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter and take a close-range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.
North Korea would have “the first-mover advantage,” Lamrani said, but if the North Korean aircraft shot down the US’s, “they would pay a heavy price.”
For that reason, Lamrani said he found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea’s air force is old and can’t train often because of fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or its allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.
Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NK News that North Korea couldn’t even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NK News.
At this point, even North Korea must be aware it’s largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a “suicide mission,” Lamrani said.
A small child is going viral on social media for his awesome rendition of The Army Song, the song performed at Army ceremonies around the world to celebrate the service and its history. And the fact that the kid is wearing a comically oversized helmet with night-vision goggle mount and full camo paint is just gravy.
Gonna be honest, I watched this and then found “Army prior service recru” in my Google search bar before I could get myself back under control. Become one of the millions like me by just clicking the play button above.
(And you can go ahead and stop reading here. We have to put about 300+ words in articles to get search engines to see them properly, so I’m going to write some stuff about The Army Song below, but the big attraction is the adorable singing child, so you can scroll back up and watch that. Seriously, the rest of this is aimed at robot readers anyway. Go look at the adorable kid. Seriously, I haven’t hidden any cute kid stuff below. It’s all just history.)
The Army Song was adopted by the U.S. Army as its official song in 1956, but it’s based on a song written by a brigadier general in 1908. Brig. Gen. Edmund Louis ‘Snitz” Gruber wrote The Caissons Go Rolling Along as a way of expressing his experiences serving with an artillery unit in the Philippines.
Field artillery pieces and caissons on a parade ground in 1914 during border clashes between the U.S. and various forces involved in the Mexican Revolution.
(Library of Congress)
Caissons were horse-drawn supply wagons designed to carry ammunition for artillery units, and the song as a whole is about the inexorable power of a column of artillery marching to the battlefield. The first verse and the refrain are:
Over hill, over dale As we hit the dusty trail, And those caissons go rolling along. In and out, hear them shout, Counter march and right about, And those caissons go rolling along.
Then it’s hi! hi! hee! In the field artillery, Shout out your numbers loud and strong, For where e’er you go, You will always know That those caissons go rolling along.
When the Army adopted a broader version in 1953 as The Army Song, they simply changed out some phrases to reflect Army history and make the song less field artillery specific. The first chorus and refrain now go:
First to fight for the right, And to build the Nation’s might, And the Army goes rolling along. Proud of all we have done, Fighting till the battle’s won, And the Army goes rolling along.
Then it’s hi! hi! hey! The Army’s on its way. Count off the cadence loud and strong; For where’er we go, You will always know That the Army goes rolling along.
Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks sat down with Army veteran Bryan Anderson from We Are The Mighty to talk about her journey through recovery from her injury in Iraq to eventually becoming a Paralympic swimmer.
After receiving this year’s Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs, she spoke about the support she has received after her injury and the inspiration she hopes to provide others in their struggles.
If you’re hurting, whether it’s mental or emotional; if ever you think you’re alone, you’re not. If ever you think no one cares, I do. Please come join me behind the blocks.
The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the former Army Ranger and NFL star’s legacy.
All sorts of comics have entertained readers without having their protagonist wear spandex and capes. Outside of standard superhero comics, you could pick up a sub-genre called war comics. The recent announcement of Steven Spielberg directing a Blackhawk film based off the DC Comics series attests to the place of war comics in pop culture.
These comics were generally grounded in reality, even if they occasionally had fantastical elements. But the focus was placed on the war and the soldiers who fought in them. With that in mind, these comics would definitely grab the attention of movie-goers.
That’s a hell of a MacGuffin — and one I don’t think any film has gone after.
(Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #1 by Vertigo Comics)
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
This 2000’s mini-series written by Garth Ennis (best known for Preacher and his work on Punisher and Judge Dredd) and art by Carlos Ezquerra was a war comedy about a British commando unit in World War II.
The titular team was an over-the-top caricature of troops in WWII. Just to set the stage for the kind of comic this was, the team’s entire goal was to steal Hitler’s missing testicle.
Why? Because why not?
(Star-Spangled War Stories Vol. 1 by DC Comics)
The War That Time Forgot
The 1924 novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burrough was a classic tale about the savagery of war and a soldier who must tap into his primordial rage to destroy his enemies…and who also crashed on an island full of dinosaurs.
The adapted comic overlooked all those metaphors and symbolism and nose dove directly into “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” in a goofy action series.
Frank Miller got his first break into the comic book industry with “Weird War Tales” but his comics like “300,” “Sin City,” “Dark Knight Returns,” and “Daredevil” have all been huge successes.
(Weird War Tales #64 by DC Comics)
Weird War Tales
Another way to mix war films with another genre with a supernatural horror like with Weird War Tales. Each comic was part of an anthology and each focused on one conflict — retold with zombies, vampires, robots, and other monsters. The only reoccurring character was Death, who would introduce each tale.
(Our Army At War featuring Sgt. Rock #297 by DC Comics)
Our Army at War (featuring Sgt. Rock)
Hands down the most famous of the war comics has still never been touched — even if many have tried in the past. Sgt. Rock was a realistic war story written by Army veteran Bob Kanigher. While other writers would take over Sgt. Rock, the original Kanigher run of the character is regarded as one of the best series of and pioneered the Silver Age of Comics.
Joel Silver of Dark Castle Entertainment has been trying to get a Sgt. Rock film in production for ages now with none other than Bruce Willis cast as Sgt. Rock himself. Both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino were rumored to direct at some point. Even though it’s stuck in development hell, this is still one of the most requested war comic films.
Some days, you just feel like you need a drink. Other days, you can’t live without one. For hundreds — maybe thousands — of English troops, there’s one drink that literally saved their lives: the gin and tonic.
It all started when the Spanish learned that Quechua tribesmen in the 1700s (in what is now Peru) would strip the bark from cinchona trees and grind it to help stop fever-related shivering. The active ingredient in the cinchona power was a little chemical known as quinine. It didn’t take long before Spain began to use the remedy to fight malaria.
Eventually, the treatment made its way around the world, helping the British colonial government in India maintain order.
Any gin is a better complement to wood shavings than wine.
Whilethe French mixed the cinchona with wine, the British mixed theirs with gin,sugar, and,often, a bit of lemon. Later on, this mixture became even more pleasantwhen a Swiss jeweler of German descent, Johann Jakob Schweppe, created amixture of bubbly soda water, citrus, and quinine—and calledit “Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.”
By 1869, Indian companies were manufacturing their own soda water and lemon tonics. With easy access to the soda and one of Britain’s favorite spirits, the redcoats were free to continue colonizing the subcontinent unabated by pesky mosquitoes.
Too bad there wasn’t a cocktail that helped the British conquer Afghanistan.
Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it. To prevent malaria, you’d need between 500-1,000 milligrams of quinine, but consuming an entire liter of tonic water today would only get you about 83-87 milligrams. Quinine alone isn’t even an effective treatment for the disease anymore, as malarial parasites have grown resistant to the drug. These days, a drug cocktail is more effective at malaria prevention than quinine alone.
So, bring along your Hendrick’s and Tonic, but don’t forget to bring your malaria pills, too.
It’s that time of year again: Memorial Day weekend. A solemn moment for the troops to reflect on those we’ve lost along the way and for our civilian friends and family to join us in honoring our fallen.
Now, I don’t fault the civilians who just take the weekend to relax and barbecue as the summer officially starts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single fallen troop who’d wish to take away someone’s enjoyment. Sparking up the grill and enjoying friends and family is a big part of the American way of life that we fought for — and some paid the ultimate price for.
My gripe is with the complete oxymoron that is the phrase, “have a happy Memorial Day.” It’s just extremely awkward in context. Like, even if someone was a open-bar-at-my-wake kinda person, ‘happy’ and ‘memorial’ just don’t really mesh.
So, I leave you with this… Have a good Memorial Day weekend, however you choose to spend it. Place flags at your local veterans’ cemetery. Crack open an extra cold one for a fallen comrade. Start up the barbecue and tell the kids about the good times you had with your buddy who didn’t make it back. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they all would have wanted us to have a good day in their honor.
Yeah, that wasn’t your typical opener where I practice my stand-up, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one irked by the expression.
Also, here’s a SPOILER ALERT. We joke about the final episode of Game of Thrones in the final meme.
Seven NavyF-35 Joint Strike Fighters spent Monday morning in a round robin off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, completing a tight succession of take-offs and arrested landings as pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 completed carrier qualifications on the aircraft.
The dozen instructors with the squadron each completed the required 10 traps and two touch-and-go maneuvers in less than two days. But thanks to an advanced landing system in the fifth-generation aircraft that limits the variables pilots need to monitor when they catch the wire, officers with the squadron said they could have gotten the practice they needed in much less time.
“What has traditionally been required for initial qualifications … that can probably be reduced, because the task becomes mundane after a while,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts, officer in charge of the testing detachment aboard this ship. “You can make corrections so easily.”
The system that makes the difference is Delta Flight Path, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with input from Naval Air Systems Command. That system is one of more than a half-dozen F-35C features that are being tested in this third and final round of carrier exercises.
During a 20-day developmental testing period aboard the George Washington that will conclude Aug. 23, pilots will test the aircraft’s ability to fly symmetrical and asymmetrical external weapons loads, execute aircraft launches at maximum weight and against crosswinds, try out a new helmet software load designed to improve visibility in dark conditions, test the capabilities of Delta Flight Path and the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and take out and replace an entire F-35C engine to simulate major maintenance aboard a carrier.
At the conclusion of these tests, officials believe the F-35C will be substantially ready for initial operational capability, a milestone the aircraft is expected to hit in 2018.
But success of the built-in carrier landing technology may have even wider-reaching effects.
Like the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or MAGIC CARPET, system now being tested on the Navy’s legacy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Delta Flight Path gives the aircraft the ability to stay on glide slope automatically and minimize the number of corrections the pilot must make.
“All pilots are trained, we make corrections for glide slope with the throttle. We practice it when we get to our fleet trainers, and we practice it a bunch each and every time before we come out to the boat,” Kitts said. “So what you’re able to do when you come out here is hopefully spend less time practicing, because the workload on the pilot is extremely reduced.”
That’s important, Kitts said, because time spent in the field and on the carrier practicing landings is time in which pilots are becoming less tactically proficient because they can’t develop and drill other skills.
The commanding officer of VFA-101, Capt. James Christie, said pilots are collecting data as they complete their required takeoffs and landings that could be used to inform a prospective proposal to reduce carrier training and qualification requirements.
“We’re not going to move too quickly; we’re going to ensure it’s the right thing to do,” Christie said. “But as soon as we have the empirical evidence that shows we can safely reduce those numbers, I’ll be all for submitting that to leadership.”
So far, the data looks good. In this round of testing, there have so far been no bolters, when an aircraft unintentionally misses the wire, and no landing wave-offs attributed to aircraft performance or safety issues, said Lt. Graham Cleveland, landing signal officer for VFA-101.
Cleveland said this new technology might enable the Navy to cut ashore training from 16 to 18 field carrier landing practices to between four and six. He said he also envisioned cutting carrier qualification requirements from ten to six traps in the future.
“That’s going to save money, that’s going to save fuel, that’s going to save aircraft life, basically,” he said.
The future aside, getting out to the carrier for the first evolution of testing to involve operational pilots as well as test pilots was its own milestone for many at the fore of efforts to ready the F-35C for the fleet.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to see them come out and really make this aircraft real from the perspective of the fleet,” said Tom Briggs, acting chief test engineer for the Navy. “This is going to be a viable program, a viable aircraft that’s really going to do what it’s designed to do… watching them come out here and do this, it’s goose-bumpy.”
Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have made a very, very smart decision.
By the looks of things, they’re giving the belovéd Ghostbusters universe a complete makeover by honing in on supernatural mystery while still maintaining the comedic levity of the original film. After the underwhelming 2016 reboot (ahhhh there was so much potential there and yet…so much disappointment), it looks like Juno’s Reitman (who will also direct) just might strike the perfect chord for this franchise.
Hop in your Ectomobile (because the kids in this film sure do) and let’s go for a ride:
Opening on a sleepy rural town plagued by unexplainable earthquakes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a true sequel to the original films, including references to the supernatural activity of the 80s.
Single mother Carrie Coon (who is fantastic in everything she does — did you see Gone Girl? Why isn’t everyone talking about her at every moment?) and her kids (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Haunting of Hill House’s Mckenna Grace, who is also a killer talent) inherit a family farmhouse that’s definitely definitely haunted.
With the help of Paul Rudd, they learn that they are descended from an OG Ghostbuster, which explains the ghost traps and Ectomobile on the property.
I’d watch him do anything. Honestly, anything. He’s perfect.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sony Pictures
The trailer hints at a great Stranger Things-like vibe, which is very sexy right now, mixed with just the right amount of nostalgia and humor. And if that’s not enough to tingle your Twinkie then I’ll remind you that the film is rumored to include cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife will open in theaters July 2020.
Shoichi Yokoi was 26 when he was drafted into the Japanese Army in 1941.
At the time, soldiers were taught that surrender was the worst possible fate for a soldier — so when US forces invaded Japanese-occupied Guam in 1944, Yokoi fled into the jungle.
He dug a cave near a waterfall, covered it with bamboo and reeds, and survived by eating small animals. He had no idea, when he was discovered on Jan. 24, 1972, by two hunters near a river, that the war had ended decades ago.
He attacked the hunters, who were able to overpower the weakened soldier and escorted him to authorities, where he revealed his bizarre story.
Yokoi was treated at a hospital in Guam before heading home to Japan, which he had not seen since 1941.
Yokoi was sent to Guam after being drafted into the Japanese Army in 1941.
During the US invasion he and a number of other soldiers made their way into the jungle to avoid being taken as prisoners of war.
This newspaper photograph was described as Yokoi’s first haircut in 28 years.
Japanese government officials flew to the island to help repatriate the soldier, who had not seen his homeland for nearly 30 years.
During his 27 years in isolation, he survived by eating frogs, rats, and eels as well as fruits and nuts, according to his obituary in The New York Times.
He made his own shelter, using bamboo and reeds to cover a cave he dug himself. In his memoirs, he said he buried at least two of his comrades eight years before he was discovered.
In this book, Yokoi’s autobiography is supplemented by a biographical account of his later life.
Talofofo Falls Resort Park, where Shoichi Yokoi dug a cave and hid for nearly 28 years after the US invasion of Guam during World War II.
Although he was repatriated to Japan almost immediately, he reportedly flew back to Guam several times throughout the remainder of his life, including for his honeymoon.
According to his obituary, Yokoi had a hard time readjusting to life in Japan.
The entrance to Yokoi’s cave is in Talofofo Falls Resort Park in Guam.
Yokoi covered his cave with bamboo and reeds.
The soldier was a tailor before the war, skills that helped him make his shelter and clothing, according to Stars Stripes.
This diagram sketches the cave where Yokoi hid for nearly 28 years.
The cave has reportedly collapsed, but a diagram at the site shows an idea of what it looked like.
When a writer needs to think up some great, imposing force to pit against their protagonist, sometimes they go a little overboard. Yeah, it’s great to see some young farmboy find the strength within needed to lead a rebellion against an evil, galactic empire, but most times, the troops fighting alongside the protagonist don’t have magic space powers (we’re looking at you, Luke).
And yet anyone who’s never seen the show will still think they’re just silly little robots…
The Daleks (Doctor Who)
At first glance, the Daleks are kind of silly. A rolling pepper shaker with two sticks for arms might not seem imposing — until you realize they’re almost impossible to kill inside their shells.
Fighting a near-undying force that’s backed by a ridiculous amount of troops hellbent on your extermination isn’t ideal — it doesn’t matter that you could just put a hat over their eyestalk.
Yep. And the other villains in the game try to capture these things — doesn’t work like that.
The Reapers (Mass Effect)
Normally, giant, spacefaring warships are hard to kill. They’re even harder to kill if they’re sentient and are capable indoctrinating entire galaxies under their control.
Reapers are massive beings often confused with space ships. They dominate entire star systems by slowly brainwashing their inhabitants. Or, if that takes too long and they just need some troops fast, they can shoot out robot appendages to turn anyone fighting them into lifeless, obedient husks. Every conquered world joins their ranks, becoming a new enemy that our heroes must fight physically and psychologically.
A rocket launcher may be overkill, but you don’t want to take any chances.
The Flood (Halo)
What’s worse than fighting zombies? Fighting space zombies. One of the most deadly things about the Flood is that they can destroy their enemies with a single touch.
They cover battlefields in disease, meaning any step may lead to infection. The Flood is so terrifying that it takes two great armies, the humans and the Covenant, to band together and defeat them.
Poor bug. No one ever takes them seriously.
The Arachnid (Starship Troopers)
No good military satire is complete without an insane enemy that comes in insane numbers and is armed with insane psychic abilities.
One of the most deadly things about the Arachnids was how mindless they seem. Everyone who initially thought, “oh, just a giant bug” was in for a rude awakening when they discovered they can communicate telepathically and shoot down spaceships in orbit.
The Borg even managed to assimilate the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard. And adding Picard to their ranks definitely gives them an edge.
The Borg (Star Trek)
These guys are the culmination of all the terrifying things on this list. Put together highly advanced technology, overwhelming numbers, near invulnerability, and mass assimilation and you end up with the Borg.
With most sci-fi hiveminds, destroying their leader usually means the destruction of their entire force. But with the Borg, it just means another Queen must take their place.
Who would win: 40 millenia of technological advancements or one Orky boy?
The Orks (Warhammer 40k)
To be fair, every army in Warhammer 40k is a force to be reckoned with. But even in a universe filled with futuristic demons, robot zombies, and blood-thirsty elves, the Orks are considered the most successful intergalactic conquerors.
When the space savages aren’t fighting among themselves, they’ll band together to overwhelm their foes — even if those foes are Chaos gods, alien samurai, or whatever the hell Tyranids are.
After hitting a low in 2012, Colombia’s cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, jumped 134% between 2013 and 2016, US officials said late 2017.
2016 alone saw a 52% increase in the area under coca cultivation, rising to 360,774 acres from 237,221 acres in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Potential cocaine production jumped 34%, from 712 tons in 2015 to 954 tons a year later.
The amount of cocaine seized in the country also rose by nearly half, the UNODC said, from 253,591 kilos in 2015 to 378,260 kilos in 2016. That was accompanied by a 26% increase in the number of illegal cocaine labs destroyed, from 3,827 in 2015 to 4,842 the following year. (The real amounts are likely much higher than official estimates.)
Colombia has faced pressure from the US to clamp down on that surge, but there were a variety of factors that drove it through 2016, when the government signed a peace accord with left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Under that deal, the government has pursued crop-substitution and alternative-development programs to pull farmers away from coca.
But a lack of resources has hindered implementation of those programs, and in lieu of an alternative, Colombian growers have forged ahead with the only one they can grow profitably.
“What really happened, I think, is that the government did stop fumigating, which was a factor,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “It also cut way back on manual eradication, and it didn’t make a presence” in often-marginalized parts of the country where cultivation has been the most intense, Isacson told Business Insider.
Isacson, who spent a month on the ground in Colombia in February 2018, pointed to Putumayo, a department on Colombia’s southern border.
“That fringe area with Ecuador is no-man’s land, and nobody’s seen an eradicator or a development official, same for most of Catatumbo,” he told Business Insider, referring to a region in the northwest Colombian department of Norte de Santander, where cultivation is also intense.
“So if it’s no-man’s land and you see your neighbor’s now got waist-high coca bushes, and they’re two years old and nobody’s messed with him, it’s probably pretty tempting to grow it yourself,” Isacson said.
Efforts to get farmers to grow other crops have faltered because they aren’t economically viable — in part because getting those crops to market from rural, isolated areas eats away the profit margin.
“You probably often make more with almost any other crop, but it’s always a different crop. Sometimes it’s coca. Sometimes … something else might be getting a better price than coca, but coca never goes down,” Isacson told Business Insider. “It’s just this always above-average price. It’s like an insurance policy for them.”
“The government has tried alternate-crop development and what have you, but it’s never worked, because growing breadfruit, bananas, and other crops does not come close to fetching the prices that coca does,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The value of coca increases dramatically as it is refined and moves toward consumer markets.
The ton of fresh coca leaf needed to make a kilo of cocaine costs a few hundred dollars in Colombia. After its processed and turned into power, that kilo can fetch $30,000 or more in the US. On the street, once that kilo is “stepped on” by cutting it to grams and adding fillers, its total value can exceed $100,000. (Though not all that money filters back to the source.)
“Coca cultivation has always been the most marketable and the highest-priced commodity that the criminal groups have engaged in, because really there’s no other crop that brings the price that cocaine does,” Vigil, who worked on the ground in Colombia while in the DEA, told Business Insider.
That doesn’t necessarily translate into a boon for farmers, however. Traffickers and criminal groups, as the main buyers, have outsize control at the point of purchase, often dictating the price.
“The farmers really don’t have a say, because they have to be able to sell the cocaine that they produce,” Vigil said. “If they don’t acquiesce to the prices of the major drug-trafficking organizations, they’re going to move on, and there’s always somebody else that they can buy it from.”
Farmers have also been left vulnerable by the Colombian government, which has forged ahead with manual eradication, which has vastly outstripped the building of roads and infrastructure that would support alternative development and cultivation of other crops, in part because of an economic downturn that has lashed the government’s budget.
And while nearly 30,000 families are now receiving benefits from Colombia’s Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, that’s only about one-quarter of the families who have signed collective agreements, which is just the first step in a long process to get aid.
With a lack of state support, farmers interested in moving out of the coca trade are often exposed to FARC dissidents and other criminal groups, who have rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilizing FARC units and want farmers to continue tending coca bushes.
“They don’t have the money to support us, and the pressure to continue [growing coca] is fierce,” a community leader in the isolated southwest municipality of Tumaco — a global hub for coca — said in late 2016, after a deadly clash between state security forces and farmers protesting efforts to destroy their coca.
In January 2018, the Colombian government sent 2,000 troops to Tumaco to contain violence there.
“What we have seen — in Norte de Santander it’s happened [and] in Putumayo to some extent — is people signing on to the crop-substitution programs [and] getting threatened or killed for … abandoning it.”
The U.S. Army believes that future, high-end conflicts will require aviation assets, particularly helicopters, that are long range, fast-moving, and highly lethal. Future military helicopters will need to lift more weight, generate greater power, and use less fuel.
This is why the Army has been spending billions on technologies for virtually every aircraft system: airframe, engines, flight controls, avionics, sensors, and weapons. Many of these are part of the Army-led, multi-service Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, the ultimate goal of which is to replace most of the U.S. military’s fleet of helicopters beginning in the 2030s. The Army has identified FVL as one of its highest modernization priorities.
The FVL program is focused initially on developing a new scout helicopter as well as replacements for the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Ultimately, the plan is to also develop a heavy lift helicopter and a super-size platform with a payload capacity equivalent to that of existing fixed-wing tactical aircraft such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas.
In order to ensure that FVL can achieve its ambitious goals, the Army began the Joint Multi-Role Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program in 2004. JMR’s primary objective is to develop and test advanced rotorcraft designs that can achieve a revolutionary leap in capabilities. In addition, JMR seeks to develop a common digital backbone and open architecture that will allow new systems, components, and weapons to be rapidly integrated.
The Army selected designs by two teams to build and fly JMR demonstrators. Bell Helicopter is offering the V-280 Valor, a third-generation tilt-rotor platform. The V-280 conducted its first successful test flight this past December. A Sikorsky-Boeing team will soon begin flight tests of the SB1 Defiant, a revolutionary design with two coaxial rotors on top and a pusher propeller in back. The current plan is to begin production of a new aerial platform around 2030, although there is growing belief that the current schedule could be substantially accelerated.
Although the FVL has received the lion’s share of media attention, the Army has a second major aviation modernization program underway. This is the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). ITEP is an Army-led program to develop a new engine for the military’s Blackhawk and Apache fleets, one that is 50 percent more powerful and 25 percent more fuel-efficient at no increase in weight. In addition, the ITEP engine will be designed with ruggedized parts to support operations in austere and stressful environments.
Why is the Army pursuing both the FVL programs for a new generation of rotorcraft and ITEP to put new engines in current helicopters? Put simply, even on an accelerated schedule, it will be decades before the products of the FVL program can replace the more than 2,000 Blackhawks and nearly 1,000 Apaches in the U.S. inventory. Since many U.S. allies also operate Blackhawks and Apaches, there is a long-term global requirement to modernize both platforms.
ITEP is critical to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Blackhawk and Apache fleets. As new technologies are added and additional protective measures deployed, the weight of military helicopters has steadily increased. It is estimated that the Blackhawk has gotten 78 pounds heavier every year since it was first deployed. Also, the U.S. military finds itself operating in more challenging environments and at higher altitudes than existing helicopter engines can readily support. Blackhawk and Apache crews often have had to reduce their loads of personnel, munitions, and even fuel to get off the ground.
ITEP is currently in the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase. Two companies, both with extensive experience producing high-performance engines, are competing to be the single provider of the new Blackhawk/Apache power plant. One is GE Aviation. Its design for ITEP, the T901 Turboshaft Engine, is a single spool engine meaning that it consists of a compressor and turbine section connected by a single shaft. GE Aviation believes that this design provides reliability and ease of maintenance.
The other competitor is the Advanced Turbine Engine Company, a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt Whitney. Its T900 engine is a dual-spool design with two rotating turbine-compressor assemblies instead of one. A dual-spool engine automatically distributes the load between the two assemblies, allowing real-time adjustments to optimize performance, run cooler, and reduce fuel use. As a result, the new engine can be designed with less need to make compromises in key performance requirements such as speed and power. The dual spool approach also tends to result in less wear-and-tear and reduced maintenance costs.
The Department of Defense needs to move forward aggressively with both FVL and ITEP. This means providing sufficient funding to accelerate FVL while also ensuring that ITEP can successfully develop a higher performance engine for legacy Blackhawks and Apaches.
Christian McCaffrey is one of the best players currently playing in the NFL. As a running back for the Carolina Panthers, McCaffrey has made a tremendous impact on the field turning into one of the best rushers in the NFL. He’s notched numerous league and franchise records in his still-young career. I mean, just look at these highlights. But McCaffery isn’t just NFL skills – he has a heart for the military community as well.
McCaffrey had an amazing college career, playing for Stanford. He took after his dad, Ed, who was a solid receiver for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos while earning three Super Bowl rings. The influence of Ed on Christian is evident and draws a lot of comparison to how military members will follow in their parents footsteps.
Military service runs in the family — 80% of military recruits come from families where at least one family member has served; 25% have a parent who has served. In celebration of Father’s Day this year, USAA brought together two fathers who’ve inspired their kids to follow in their footsteps.
Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey and his dad, Ed, a former NFL wideout, teamed up with USAA and the USO of North Carolina to virtually surprise a military family (both dad and daughter are active duty service members and Panthers fans) for a special Father’s Day celebration in honor of their service. The military and the men and women who serve in it mean a lot of McCaffery.
The surprised father/daughter service members are longtime Carolina Panthers fans. Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy is active duty with the United States Marine Corps and has 16 years of service who is currently based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Senior Airman Ella, is active-duty with the United States Air Force with three years of service. She is based at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.
Watch as this NFL star (and his NFL Dad) virtually visit with these unsuspecting military members for a surprise Father’s Day celebration that they’ll never forget:
The experience was hosted by USAA, Official NFL Salute to Service Partner as part of its commitment to authentically honor the military through “Salute to Service.”
This isn’t the first time that USAA and Christian have teamed up to help military service members. Back in January, McCaffery sent a Marine SgtMaj to the Super Bowl. We can’t wait to see what Christian and USAA come up with next!