Here's what you need to know about Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is rapidly becoming the driving force behind his Middle East kingdom and one of the most powerful people in the world.


The 32-year-old royal has influenced Saudi Arabia’s military, foreign policy, economy, and even day-to-day religious and cultural life.

Crown Prince Mohammed — or MbS, as he’s widely known — is also widely seen to be the muscle behind Saudi Arabia’s recent anti-corruption purge. The heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed is consolidating power in a way Saudi Arabia hasn’t seen in decades.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Meet the powerful prince who could reshape the Middle East:

Not much is known about Crown Prince Mohammed’s early life. He is the eldest son of King Salman’s third wife, and reportedly spent much of his time shadowing his father. A 2015 New York Times article details how unexpected his rise has been, noting that his three older half-brothers “all have distinguished résumés and were once considered contenders for top government roles.”

Crown Prince Mohammed holds a bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University in Riyadh and served in various advisor roles for his father. He likes water sports, such as water skiing, as well as iPhones and other Apple products, according to the New York Times profile. The article also notes that Japan is his favorite country and he visited there on his honeymoon.

Also Read: Saudi Arabia just accused Lebanon of declaring war

Despite his supposedly lacking background, Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly was angling for a future in government. “It was obvious to me that he was planning his future — he was always very concerned about his image,” a family associate told The New York Times, noting that Prince Mohammed did not smoke, drink alcohol, or stay out late. That doesn’t mean he’s not impulsive, though. Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly bought a yacht, the Serene, for approximately 500 million euros after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France. The former owner, Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler, moved off the yacht that day.

Crown Prince Mohammed first made international headlines in January 2015, when he took over for King Salman as defense minister when his father ascended to the throne following the death of King Abdullah. He was 29 years old when he took on the job. Now 32, Crown Prince Mohammed remains the world’s youngest defense minister.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed Minister of Defense, after meeting with King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud of Saudi at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 7, 2015. (Photo from U.S. State Department)As defense minister, he has become the leading backer of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war with Houthi rebels in Yemen. Crown Prince Mohammed has also reportedly been a driving force behind the Gulf countries’ efforts to isolate Qatar. Although it’s still unclear, there are reports that Crown Prince Mohammed had a large part to play in Saudi-linked Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s resignation, submitted while he was in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 11. Each of these moves can be viewed as part of a broader campaign to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.

Along with his role as defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammed was also given control of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state-owned oil company. In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed announced a long-term economic plan, called Vision 2030, which aims to remove Saudi Arabia’s economic dependence on oil. More recently, in October, he announced a $500 billion mega-city that will be powered completely by renewable energy, called NEOM.

Crown Prince Mohammed has made headlines recently for wading into Saudi Arabia’s culture wars, calling for a return to “a more moderate Islam.” He was also seen to be behind the landmark decision earlier this year to allow Saudi women to drive.

Read Also: This female WWII veteran terrified a Saudi King while driving him around

As he’s gained influence, Crown Prince Mohammed has started to edge out some major Saudi power players. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was crown prince and interior minister until June 2017, when Prince Mohammed took over. Additionally, one of the biggest names implicated in the recent anti-corruption arrests was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the head of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.

With these two men out of the picture, Crown Prince Mohammed effectively controls the three pillars of Saudi Arabia’s security apparatus — the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, and the National Guard — in an unprecedented consolidation of power.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter places his hand over his heart as the national anthem plays during an honor cordon to welcome Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to the Pentagon, May 13, 2015. The two defense leaders met to discuss matters of mutual interest. (Photo from US Department of Defense)

Crown Prince Mohammed started developing ties to the US early on. King Salman sent Crown Prince Mohammed as one of two delegates to the US when the monarch pulled out of a 2015 Gulf summit. Crown Prince Mohammed “struck us as extremely knowledgeable, very smart,” former President Barack Obama told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network. “I think wise beyond his years.”

He has struck up a strong relationship with the new administration, meeting with President Donald Trump early in his presidency. As defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammed has also met several times with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He has also reportedly become friendly with another powerful millennial, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

When his father dies, Crown Prince Mohammed will become something Saudi Arabia has never seen — a young ruler set to stay in power for decades.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is modernizing all of its aviation systems

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.

Also read: The Army wants a series of futuristic new helicopters

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.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

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.

Related: This is what Sikorsky thinks should replace the Blackhawk

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.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter hovers before takeoff (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

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.

More: This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.

Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.

Syria’s government has been linked to 33 cases of chemical weapons use against its own people during the 7 year-long civil war, and along with Russia stands accused of war crimes such as the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals and schools.


Russian media has accused terrorists and groups with US-backing of plotting to stage, and to actually carry out, a chemical weapons attack on children and families in Idlib to justify attacking the Syrian regime.

But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.

Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.

With a small armada of Russian ships in the Mediterranean, Russia too appears to have taken measures to look more committed to its cause.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

Enter the F-35B

In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.

But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.

The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.

Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.

“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Russia flirting with disaster

Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.

The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.

If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban attacks kill 26 in Afghanistan

Taliban militants have stormed security posts in western Afghanistan, killing 21 police officers and pro-government militia members, officials said on Jan. 7, 2019.

The attacks occurred late on Jan. 6, 2019, at checkpoints in two different parts of Badghis Province, which borders the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, provincial officials said.

Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said 14 police officers and seven members of pro-government militias were killed, while nine were wounded.


Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the Badghis provincial governor, said at least 15 Taliban militants were killed and 10 wounded in the fighting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said in a statement that militants killed 34 members of the security forces and pro-government militias and seized many weapons and ammunition.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

Afghan Border Police at Islam Qala in western Herat Province.

Meanwhile, a roadside bombing has killed five civilians and wounded seven in the country’s eastern Paktika Province, an Afghan official said on Jan. 7, 2019.

Nawroz Ishaq, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the attack occurred in the Jani Khail district.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but provincial official Mohammad Rasoul Adel blamed the Taliban, saying the group had left the bomb in a village square.

Taliban representatives and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this month to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and a possible cease-fire.

Officials from the warring sides have met at least three times in recent months to try to agree on a way to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban says it is fighting to oust the Western-backed government and restore strict Islamic law.

The United States and its allies say they want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international Islamist militants plotting attacks in the West.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon will report what really happened to 4 soldiers in Niger

The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.


The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.

Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.

Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.

He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”

One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Sgt. La David Johnson
(U.S. Army photo)

The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 16th

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. There are a few things you need to know with the holiday falling on a Saturday:


• Stereotyping the Irish is not the same as any other ethnicity. Do not protest. Don’t even bring it up.

• Parkour is way, way harder than it looks. Do not attempt.

The Fast and Furious movies are not documentaries.

Try not to end up in First Sergeant’s office.

1. This also applies to athletes and politicians. But not firemen — firemen are goddamn heroes. (via Decelerate Your Life)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
I don’t give a sh*t what your National Defense Medal says.

2. We found your juice boxes, Air Force.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
How’s it taste?

3. Remember that skydick the Navy made? NASA is unimpressed.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Draw a dick on Mars and no one bats an eye. Draw one in the sky and everyone loses their minds.

Now: 8 advantages of having Marine veterans as friends

4. That time Big Bird went full veteran.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Public television needs more funding.

5. I’ll take another SEAL movie if this is the cast.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Can we get just one movie about combat camera?

6. Who’s the only real Commander-in-Chief?

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Trump who? Never heard of her.

Also: See the Navy haul its crew’s vehicles on the USS Ronald Reagan

7. Britain and Russia talk sh*t all week. Russians aren’t scared.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
General Winter now has a face.

8. If you don’t laugh, read a history book.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Or Google it.

9. It’s funny ’til you read about real Soviet snipers in WWII, boot. (via Military World)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
I hope her date is okay, though.

Check Out: Why the Navy constantly checks on this sunken cruiser

10.”You’re my family and I love you, but you’re terrible. You’re all terrible.” (via Pop Smoke)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
It’s just a joke. All base housing is terrible.

11. Halfway through Mustache March, half the Air Force reconsiders. (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
And rightfully so.

12. All it needs is a Coors Light. (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
*Amerigasms*

More Memes: 11 memes that will make any infantryman laugh for hours

13. Here’s another tough pill to swallow. (via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
Only that pension they were promised is gonna be a shitty blended retirement instead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mad Dog Mattis chosen as Secretary of Defense

President-elect Donald Trump announced at a rally in Cincinnati that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is his choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.


Mattis, whose service included command of the 1st Marine Division during the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and United States Central Command until being retired early after clashing with the Obama Administration over its nuclear deal with Iran, was seen as the front-runner for the position.

Mattis is not the first retired general to be asked to hold the position. In 1950, General of the Army and former Secretary of State George C. Marshall took over after Louis Johnson was fired by President Harry S Truman, and held the position for a year before stepping down. Like Marshall, Mattis will require a waiver from Congress to fill the position.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric A. Clement)

Mattis served in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 2013. He received his commission through ROTC after graduating from Central Washington University. He commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to Task Force Ripper, during Desert Storm. He later commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and in the initial part of Operation Enduring Freedom, became the first Marine general to command a naval task force. His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster in lieu of a second award, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device, and the Meritorious Service Medal with two Gold Stars in lieu of a third award.

The decision drew praise from many. David French, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, wrote at National Review Online, “He is clear about the Iranian threat, has worked closely with Israel, and has served as the supreme allied commander of transformation for NATO and the chief of Central Command. In other words, few men have been as closely involved in American military planning and war fighting as Mattis.”

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness called the nomination “great news” when contacted by the author. In a follow-up e-mail with WATM, she said, “I could not be more pleased by the news.”

“President-elect Donald Trump has just lifted the spirits of men and women in all branches of the services, worldwide. Our allies and Americans who voted with national security in mind have good reason to be pleased by this choice,” she added. “Since 2009, the armed forces have suffered due to resources taken away and burdens of social engineering loaded on.

“Friends of mine who know Gen. Mattis or have served under his command are confident that he will turn things around by restoring sound priorities: combat readiness and lethality, not politically-correct mandates and social goals,” Donnelly said. “I expect that that there will be carefully-considered, incremental changes, which will put the needs of our military and national security first.”

Mattis does have a history of colorful comments. In a speech on Feb. 1, 2005, he said, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” The comments did not result in any formal discipline.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army fast tracks new howitzer that can out-reach Russia

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.

The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.


“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(United States Marine Corps photo)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.

“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.

Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.

Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

Here’s what you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.

Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.

After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of Navy’s most stunning victories had a breakfast break

America’s first great military debut on the international stage took place in 1898 when it launched a war against Spain. No longer was the U.S. military limited largely to the American continent. The new Navy, pushed forward by its new Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt, would not only fight in both oceans, it would win decisively.


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Commodore George Dewey at Manila Bay, his stunning first blow against the Spanish fleet.

(U.S. Naval Historical Center)

And, at the point of its first and greatest victory in the Spanish-American War, a Navy commodore took a quick break for breakfast while slaughtering Spain. And we don’t mean a few sailors were sent belowdecks at a time for food. We mean the entire fleet disengaged, everyone had breakfast, and then came back to finish the shellacking.

The buildup to war centered around control of Cuba, a Spanish colony that desired independence. Americans, meanwhile, were split on the issue. Some wanted Cuban independence, some hoped for a Cuban state, but almost everyone agreed that Spain should screw off.

But there was tension between the hawks and the pacifists in the country. Not everyone thought it was a good idea to risk a war with Spain, a major European power. So, as a half measure, the USS Maine was sent to Havana Harbor to safeguard Americans and American interests during the struggles between rebels and Spain.

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The wreck of the USS Maine is towed out of Havana Harbor.

(R.W. Harrison, Library of Congress)

But on February 16, 1898, the Maine suddenly exploded in the harbor. Investigations in the 20th century would find that the explosion was most likely caused by a bad design. A coal bunker had exploded, an event which occurred spontaneously in other ships of similar design. But the conclusion of investigators at the time was that the explosion was caused by a mine, and the implication was that Spain planted it.

America, already primed for conflict, declared war. And Roosevelt got his man Dewey the orders to take two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and a gunboat to the Philippines to strike the first blow.

The Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo had a large fleet in the Philippines with 13 ships, but they were old and outdated. The armor was thin at key points, many of the guns were too small to do serious damage against newer battleships and cruisers like America’s, and they were tough to conduct damage control on, so fires could easily rage once started.

American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Montojo knew that the Americans would likely come for him, and he also knew that his fleet would struggle against the newer U.S. ships, so he decided to place his own vessels under the protection of shore batteries.

He sailed to Subic Bay where modern shore batteries were supposed to have been recently completed. But when he arrived, he found that not a gun was erected. Because of the constant fighting with Filipino rebels, the engineers had been unable to build the important defenses.

Montojo sprinted to Manila Bay where his men could be more easily rescued and ships more easily salvaged if lost, but he deployed his ships far from the city and in a shallow part of the harbor where his men could easily swim to shore if sunk, but also putting most of his ships out of range of the shore guns’ protection.

During the early hours of May 1, Dewey sailed into the harbor with his six ships in a battle line. He initiated the attack, and American ship after American ship paraded past and launched shells into the ineffective Spanish ships. Dewey turned back for another pass, and the ships repeated their process.

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American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Dewey and the Asiatic fleet kept this up for hours. They were like a saw ripping into the Spanish fleet but with cruisers for teeth instead of shards of metal. But around 7:35, Dewey received a message that the 5″ guns had only 15 rounds remaining per gun.

Dewey knew that his gunners would need time to re-arm, and there was no point to doing it while under threat of the Spanish guns. So he took a look at the time, and ordered the fleet to withdraw. While this would later be reported as a withdrawal for breakfast, that wasn’t the initial intent. As Dewey would later write:

It was a most anxious moment for me. So far as I could see, the Spanish squadron was as intact as ours. I had reason to believe that their supply of ammunition was as ample as ours was limited.
Therefore, I decided to withdraw temporarily from action for a redistribution of ammunition if necessary. For I knew that fifteen rounds of 5-inch ammunition could be shot away in five minutes.

But during this withdrawal, Dewey learned two pieces of joyous news:

But even as we were steaming out of range the distress of the Spanish ships became evident. Some of them were perceived to be on fire and others were seeking protection behind Cavite Point…
It was clear that we did not need a very large supply of ammunition to finish our morning’s task; and happily it was found that the report about the Olympia’s 5-inch ammunition had been incorrectly transmitted. It was that fifteen rounds had been fired per gun, not that only fifteen rounds remained.

So Dewey suddenly realized that, first, he had the upper hand in the fight and, second, his men didn’t actually need to redistribute ammo. So, he ordered his men to take a break and get a bite to eat. Meanwhile, he called his captains together and learned that no ship had serious damage or fatalities to report. (One man would later die of either heatstroke or heart attack.)

So, after his men ate, Dewey returned to the attack and hit the city of Manila, quickly forcing its surrender. But he would have to wait for Army forces to arrive to actually hold it. It was the opening days of America’s first great overseas war, and the Spanish fleet was already in tatters, and the U.S. Navy was already a hero.

Articles

4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

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A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

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Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

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As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

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A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.

MIGHTY GAMING

The Navy will recruit drone pilots using video games

Can a video game help the U.S. Navy find future operators for its remotely operated, unmanned vehicles (UxV), popularly called drones?

To find out, the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Adaptive Immersion Technologies, a software company, are developing a computer game to identify individuals with the right skills to be UxV operators. The project, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is called StealthAdapt.


“The Navy currently doesn’t have a test like this to predict who might excel as UxV operators,” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Walker, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This fast-paced, realistic computer simulation of UxV missions could be an effective recruitment tool.”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, UxV have played ever-larger roles in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other missions. Consequently, there’s an increasing need for well-trained UxV operators.

In recent years, the Air Force established its own formal screening process for remotely piloted aircraft operators, and the Marine Corps designated an unmanned aviation systems (UAS) career path for its ranks.

The Navy, however, doesn’t have an official selection and training pipeline specifically for its UxV operators, who face challenges unique to the service. For UAS duty, the Navy has taken aviators who already earned their wings; provided on-the-job, UAS-specific training; and placed them in temporary positions.

However, this presents challenges. It’s costly and time-consuming to add more training hours, and it takes aviators away from their manned aircraft duties. Finally, the cognitive skills needed for successful manned aviation can vary from those needed for unmanned operators.

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A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

StealthAdapt is designed to address this issue. It consists of a cognitive test, personality assessment, and biographical history assessment. The cognitive exam actually is the game-based component of the system and takes the form of a search-and-rescue mission. Each player’s assignment is to rescue as many stranded friendly forces as possible, within a pre-set time limit, while avoiding fire from hostile forces.

If that’s not stressful enough, players must simultaneously monitor chat-based communications, make sure they have enough fuel and battery power to complete missions, memorize and enter authentication codes required for safe rescue of friendlies, decode encrypted information, and maintain situational awareness.

“We’re trying to see how well players respond under pressure, which is critical for success as an unmanned operator,” said Dr. Phillip Mangos, president and chief scientist at Adaptive Immersion Technologies. “We’re looking for attention to detail, the ability to multitask and prioritize, and a talent for strategic planning — thinking 10 moves ahead of your adversary.”

To maintain this pressure, players complete multiple 5- to 10-minute missions in an hour. Each scenario changes, with different weather, terrain, number of friendlies and hostiles, and potential communication breakdowns.

After finishing the game portion, participants answer questions focusing on personality and biographical history. Mangos’ team then crunches this data with game-performance metrics to create a comprehensive operator evaluation.

In 2017, over 400 civilian and military volunteers participated as StealthAdapt research subjects at various Navy and Air Force training centers. Mangos and his research team currently are reviewing the results and designing an updated system for validation by prospective Navy and Air Force unmanned operators. It will be ready for fleet implementation in 2018

Mangos envisions StealthAdapt serving as a stand-alone testing and recruitment tool, or as part of a larger screening process such as the Selection for UAS Personnel, also known as SUPer. SUPer is an ONR-sponsored series of specialized tests that assesses cognitive abilities and personality traits of aspiring UxV operators.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

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Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

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Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

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Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.


The Air Force has pursued a number of policies to correct that shortage, including quality-of-life improvements, opening positions for retired pilots, and drawing more active-duty pilots from the National Guard and Reserve. The force also has the option to recall retired pilots, but says it will not avail itself of it.

Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.

A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.

Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.

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Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.

Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.

However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.

‘The natural progression’

The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.

The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.

Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”

Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.

The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.

Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.

Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”

This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.

Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.

“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”