Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis saw a rare display on a trip to Indonesia where he sought to improve ties with the country’s historically vicious special forces.
As part of that trip, Mattis watched a demonstration by soldiers, during which they broke bricks over their heads, walked on hot coals, performed martial arts, rolled in broken glass, killed live snakes, and drank their blood.
As the troops prepared the snakes, which were king cobras, one reportedly got loose and postured, as if preparing to bite Mattis, though it was wrangled back into the fold, the Japan Times reports.
But Mattis was in Indonesia to repair ties with the country’s military, which came under sanction when the country’s former dictator used the special forces as a criminal organization to brutally enforce his policies.
Currently, Indonesia’s special forces are banned from training with U.S. forces, but Mattis may look to soften that policy after the trip.
Many fear that Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, could become home to extremist groups like ISIS as the group looks to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.
Additionally, Indonesia has proved a key figure in pushing back on China’s expansion into the South China Sea. The U.S. may look to fold them into a coalition of countries that resist the unilateral militarization of the important shipping lane.
Mattis said on his trip he thought the human rights violators of Indonesia’s past had moved on from the special forces, and stressed the need for the countries to work together.
In the 180 days deployed, the soldiers have put in 153 days of training with allies and community engagements across a swath of the continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To supply the brigade’s more than 4,000 troops, the unit’s truckers have logged more than 100,000 highway miles.
After taking part in the biggest European training exercise for US troops since the Cold War, which wrapped up in Germany last week, the brigade’s troops had fired more than 1 million rounds from their pistols, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and artillery pieces.
“It has been absolutely tremendous,” said the brigade’s boss, Col. Christopher Norrie.
The colonel spoke to The Gazette by phone last week as his soldiers packed up their gear for yet another mock war, this time in Hungary. His soldiers had just fought mock battles alongside a full team of American allies, including the usual suspects from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and newer partners including Ukrainian tankers and Albanian infantry.
“We fired 7,000 rounds of artillery,” Norrie said of the 10-day exercise. The unit also drilled with allied Air Forces and coordinated with a French command team.
“I think the dynamic here that was most interesting was the international environment.”
With tensions on the rise across Europe fueled by an increasingly aggressive Russia led by president Vladimir Putin, the training has sent a clear message: Don’t mess with the US or its friends.
The brigade headed to the continent from Colorado Springs in January, bringing more than 2,000 tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces across the Atlantic by ship. The goal was to demonstrate how quickly a US-based unit could be ready to fight overseas.
After gathering in Poland, the unit spread out from Estonia to Bulgaria.
Moving the unit across the vast expanse of Europe showed how quickly its soldiers could show up for battle. The training exercises that followed have shown how they can win the fight, Norrie said.
“We view deterrence as presence plus lethality,” Norrie said.
At a German training area, the brigade’s M-1 tanks proved dominant in a simulated war that included traditional combat and modern-day threats including a cyber attack.
“We seized seven objectives in 48 hours,” Norrie said.
Large-scale tank training has been a rarity for the Army and 3rd Brigade in recent years. Since 2001, the unit has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its tanks and other heavily-armored rigs were parked as its soldiers fought as infantry against insurgent groups.
Now, the Army is focused on its ability to take on “near-peer” enemies, like Russia and China.
That explains the abundance of training rounds fired by the brigade — numbers unheard of in recent years as the Pentagon tightened its belt to deal with budget cuts.
Having the unit overseas also allowed 3rd brigade to practice working with allies.
“There are things we need to improve, things our allies need to improve, and things we are very good at,” he said.
Norrie said his unit was successful in bridging language and cultural barriers thanks to liaison teams. The unit put its troops in the headquarters of allied forces and the other nations reciprocated, creating an instant solution for problems as they arose.
He said cooperation was also fueled by having a clear common goal.
“That shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance, it’s a very powerful motivator,” he said.
The training for the brigade is also proceeding at a pace unseen outside wartime.
After wrapping up the training in Germany, tank crews were busy washing mud off their tracks and heading out for training in Hungary.
The brigade, which will head back to Fort Carson in about three months, has become expert at shipping gear across the continent.
“We have done 180 different rail movements throughout Europe,” Norrie said.
The pounding pace of the unit’s work would be enough to grind down even the most veteran of soldiers.
But Norrie said it has actually had the opposite effect.
Instead of dragging, 3rd Brigade soldiers are walking taller, he said. The platoons, companies, and battalions have become close knit families during weeks of intense work.
Mechanics have set records for the number of vehicles available for war despite their heavy use. Gunnery scores have gone sky-high as soldiers hone their skills, he said.
Norrie said the brigade has the swagger of an undefeated team.
“If you see our soldiers they are so proud of what they have done,” he said.
The Navy will soon deploy a new missile aboard its Littoral Combat Ship that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles, service officials said.
Called the Naval Strike Missile, or NSM, the weapon is developed by a Norwegian-headquartered firm called Konigsberg; it is currently used on Norwegian Nansen-class frigates and Skjold-Class missile torpedo boats, company officials said.
“The Navy is currently planning to utilize the Foreign Comparative Testing program to procure and install the Norwegian-built Naval Strike Missile on the USS FREEDOM (LCS 1). The objective is to demonstrate operationally-relevant installation, test, and real-world deployment on an LCS,” a Navy spokeswoman from Naval Sea Systems Command told Scout Warrior.
The deployment of the weapon is the next step in the missiles progress. In 2014NSM was successfully test fired from the flight deck of the USS CORONADO (LCS 4) at the Pt. Mugu Range Facility, California, demonstrating a surface-to-surface weapon capability, the Navy official explained.
First deployed by the Norwegian Navy in 2012, the missile is engineered to identify ships by ship class, Gary Holst, Senior Director for Naval Surface Warfare, Konigsberg, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The NSM is fired from a deck-mounted launcher. The weapon uses an infrared imaging seeker, identify targets, has a high degree of maneuverability and flies close to the water in “sea-skim” mode to avoid ship defenses, he added.
“It can determine ships in a group of ships by ship class, locating the ship which is its designated target. It will attack only that target,” Holst said.
Holst added that the NSM was designed from the onset to have a maneuverability sufficient to defeat ships with advanced targets; the missile’s rapid radical maneuvers are built into the weapon in order to defeat what’s called “terminal defense systems,” he said.
“One of the distinguishing features of the missile is its ability to avoid terminal defense systems based on a passive signature, low-observable technologies and maneuverability. It was specifically designed to attack heavily defended targets,” Holst said.
For instance, the NSM is engineered to defeat ship defense weapons such as the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS – a ship-base defensive fire “area weapon” designed to fire large numbers of projectiles able intercept, hit or destroy approaching enemy fire.
CIWS is intended to defend ships from enemy fire as it approaches closer to its target, which is when the NSM’s rapid maneuverability would help it avoid being hit and proceed to strike its target, Holst added.
Holst added that the weapon is engineered with a “stealthy” configuration to avoid detection from ship detection systems and uses its sea-skimming mode to fly closer to the surface than any other missile in existence.
“It was designed against advanced CIWS systems. It is a subsonic weapon designed to bank to turn. It snaps over when it turns and the seeker stays horizontally stabilized — so the airframe turns around the seeker so it can zero-in on the seam it is looking at and hit the target,” he said.
Raytheon and Konigsberg signed a teaming agreement to identify ways we can reduce the cost of the missile by leveraging Raytheon’s supplier base and supplier management, Holst explained.
Konigsberg is working with Raytheon to establish NSM production facilities in the U.S., Ron Jenkins, director for precision standoff strike, Raytheon Missile systems, said.
Konigsberg is also working on a NSM follow-on missile engineered with an RF (radio frequency) sensor that can help the weapon find and destroy targets.
The new missile is being built to integrate into the internal weapons bay of Norway’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Konigsberg and Raytheon are submitting the missile for consideration for the Navy’s long-range beyond-the-horizon offensive missile requirement for its LCS.
“The Navy has identified a need for an over-the-horizon missile as part of their distributed lethality concept which is adding more offensive weapons to more ships throughout the fleet and they wanted to do this quickly,” Holst explained.
The Navy’s distributed lethality strategy involves numerous initiatives to better arm its fleet with offensive and defensive weapons, maintain a technological advantage over adversaries and strengthen its “blue water” combat abilities against potential near-peer rivals, among other things.
They are pitching the missile as a weapon which is already developed and operational – therefore it presents an option for the Navy that will not require additional time and extensive development, he said.
“The missile is the size, shape and weight that fits on both classes of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Holst said.
Brain injuries are the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 380,000 service members experiencing them between 2001 and 2017, according to the Department of Defense. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can have devastating effects on those who experience them, such as vomiting, seizures, speech disorders, and aggression. Long after initial impact, the resulting injuries can leave sufferers with invisible wounds that are tough to pinpoint or treat.
According to the Military Health System guidelines, a TBI is a traumatically induced structural injury or physiological disruption of brain function, the result of an external force. It’s indicated by an altered mental state, such as disorientation or a decrease in cognitive functions, as well any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury, or the loss of or a decreased level of consciousness.
Equally challenging for medical providers is the stigma victims often feel when it comes to seeking help. But researchers say awareness and advances in the DoD’s treatment and prevention strategies have changed for the better the way patients recover.
“There has been an increase of awareness about TBI, and that has made a great difference in early identification and intervention. Even in the past few years, we’ve seen a greater willingness to seek treatment for both TBI and psychological health concerns,” said Dr. Louis French, deputy director of operations and a clinical psychologist at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) located in Bethesda, Maryland.
Opened in 2010, NICoE helps active duty members, reservists, veterans, retirees, and their families manage TBIs and other associated conditions while providing diagnostic evaluation, comprehensive treatment planning, outpatient clinical care, and TBI research and education.
According to French, understanding the relationship between the mind and the brain is important because psychological and emotional health can influence TBI recovery.
A TBI can impact a person’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral or emotional functions. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, nausea, dizziness, difficulty with concentration, memory, and language, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
“We continue to grow our understanding of the various factors that go into a person’s recovery from TBI, including physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive and other aspects,” said French. “Family involvement is also now recognized as an important part of the recovery process, and for those who may have complicated recoveries.”
At the NICoE, patients and their families have access to traditional medical specialties like primary care, advanced neurology and neuropsychology, as well as complementary holistic approaches, including wellness and creative arts therapy.
Alyson Rhodes, a yoga therapist, leads patients through the rest pose portion of a therapeutic yoga session, Dec. 11, 2017.
One of many reasons the center was created, said Capt. Walter Greenhalgh, director of NICoE, is to provide support to patients and their families.
“NICoE treatment programs are designed to encourage family-member involvement in the patient care plan by attending appointments and participating in programs like family therapy, family education classes, and Spouse and Caregiver Support groups. Our social workers provide education and skills training for all family members and connect them with resources to help them cope as a family unit,” Greenhalgh explained.
Group therapy for those coping with similar injuries can also show patients they aren’t alone and allow families the opportunity to interact with other family members.
Although TBIs are widely viewed as combat injuries, service members can still be at risk during day-to-day activities. Research conducted by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center shows TBIs are more commonly the result of operational training, falls and motor vehicle accidents.
“TBI is not just a military injury. It’s easy to forget that it was only 10 years ago that we wrote the first in-theater guidelines for TBI, and now we have standardized assessment and treatment protocols across the entire Defense Department,” said French.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence, or NICoE, a directorate of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The majority of traumatic brain injuries — 82 percent — are classified as mild TBIs or concussions. Mild TBIs:
– Can leave sufferers in a confused or disoriented state for less than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for up to 30 minutes – May result in memory loss lasting less than 24 hours
– Can create a confused or disorientated state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, but less than 24 hours – May result in memory loss lasting more than 24 hours but less than seven days – Can appear to be a mild TBI, but with abnormal CT scan results
– Can create a confused or disoriented state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours – May result in memory loss for more than seven days
A penetrating TBI, or an open head injury, is the most severe type of TBI:
– The scalp, skull and dura mater (the outer membrane encasing the brain and spinal cord) are penetrated by a foreign object. – Penetrating injuries can be caused by high-velocity projectiles. – Objects of lower velocity, such as knives or bone fragments from a skull fracture, can also be driven into the brain.
The current definition of TBI was updated in 2015 to be consistent with military and civilian guidelines, and a later review showed that many previously “unclassifiable” cases were likely moderate TBIs.
“Having standardized assessment and treatment guidelines pushed out to an entire military health system and being able to track people through an integrated medical record is amazing,” said French. “Then you have the development of places like NICoE and the Intrepid Spirit Centers that provide intensive, integrative treatment.
“The military and academia are working hand-in-hand to answer questions and improve assessment and care. There are a lot of things that have been done in support of TBI advancement — any of my civilian colleagues look at what the Defense Department achieved in this amount of time, and it’s phenomenal.”
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency recently reported that the country may seek to buy Raytheon SM-3 ballistic defense missiles from the US as tensions rise with North Korea and in the broader Pacific region.
The missiles, if acquired, would replace the SM-2 missiles currently fielded by South Korea’s Aegis destroyers and improve their range from about 100 miles to more than 300 miles, significantly extending their layers of missile defense.
The move to acquire better missile defenses comes after North Korea launched two “No Dong” intermediate-range ballistic missiles, one of which landed near the Sea of Japan.
The South Korean Navy plans to build three more Sejong the Great-class guided missile destroyers that use the same radar and launch system as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class BMD guided missile destroyers, the US Naval Institute reports. As the current ships cannot accommodate the SM-3 missiles, the newer ships may be modified for their use.
The SM-3 missiles would leverage the South Korean Navy’s powerful radar to accurately and reliably destroy incoming ballistic missiles while they’re still in space, and safely distant from targets on the surface.
The Naval Institute also notes that the news of South Korea’s SM-3 deliberation was met with immediate and harsh rebuke from a Chinese state-run news agency: “It is unmistakably a strategic misjudgment for Seoul to violate the core interests of its two strong neighbors, at the cost of its own security, and only in the interests of American hegemony.”
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.
“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.
Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.
Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.
“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.
Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”
“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.
The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.
The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”
Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.
Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”
Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”
U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.
In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.
The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.
In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.
Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.
According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”
That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.
Aleksandr Torshin (right)
Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”
Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.
In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.
Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.
Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.
Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.
In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.
Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.
“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.
“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”
Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”
Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.
Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.
A pirate attack on an Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico that left two sailors wounded isn’t the first such incident, and with Mexico struggling to address rising insecurity, it’s not likely to be the last.
About eight armed pirates arrived in two small ships and boarded the vessel, an Italian-flagged supply ship named Remas, in the evening on Nov. 11, 2019, and robbed the crew, according to reports about the incident.
The ship was being operated by the Italian firm Micoperi, which services offshore oil platforms. The incident took place about 12 miles off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche in southeast Mexico.
The Mexican navy said Nov. 12, 2019, that two of the roughly 35 people on board were wounded — one shot in the leg and another struck in the head.
The navy said it sent a fast boat to the site of the attack late on Nov. 11, 2019. The sailors were taken to a private clinic for treatment, according to local media.
The incident is only the latest attack on oil infrastructure and extraction operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
“They’re starting to attack ships that are transporting petroleum for Pemex” and providing other services, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “Now I presume this is going to be the wave of the future. They are going to be attacking more and more tankers.”
Thieves, sometimes disguised as fishermen, typically arrive in small boats with powerful outboard motors, quickly boarding platforms or other ships to take valuables from crew and other equipment, which is often resold ashore.
Mexico’s state oil firm, known as Pemex, has acknowledged the threat, and together with the navy has said it would increase security efforts. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in March 2019 that the navy would establish a permanent operation at the port of Dos Bocas, Tabasco, his home state, to confront the pirates.
Nevertheless, there have been reports of hundreds of robberies of this kind.
Pemex documents obtained by the newspaper Milenio showed that 197 such robberies took place in 2018, the most out of the past three years and a 310% increase over the 48 attacks in 2016. Those robberies cost the firm at least .5 million between 2016 and 2018, according to the documents.
The waters at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Campeche and neighboring Tabasco state — where Pemex operates more than 100 platforms — are the most affected.
‘Wave of the future’
The rise in theft from fuel platforms in the Gulf mirrors the increase in fuel theft from pipelines and Pemex facilities on the ground. The number of unauthorized taps discovered on fuel lines nearly quintupled between 2011 and 2016.
The theft has cost the Mexican government billions of dollars and is sometimes deadly for the thieves and others at the scene.
Drill vessel prepares for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, July 9, 2010.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tiffany Carvalho)
Cracking down on fuel theft was one of Lopez Obrador’s first security initiatives after taking office in December 2018. The president declared victory in spring 2019, saying his administration had reduced fuel theft by 95% and defeated theives.
That response included deploying troops and federal police to pipelines and other high-theft areas, but that alienated some communities, and security forces have struggled to strike a balance between providing security and allowing the industry to operate. In some areas, violence has risen even as fuel theft declined.
“The military is providing more security to the pipelines, but it will be difficult to provide security to vessels shipping petroleum,” Vigil said, noting that government still needs to respond to violence rising throughout Mexico and that the military doesn’t have the training or resources to effectively pursue pirates in the Gulf. “I have to assume it’s going to become more and more dangerous for Pemex transports [and] transport ships.”
Fuel theft on land is not always the work of organized crime. At times, local residents have tapped pipelines to access fuel for their own use or for resale. Stealing fuel and other hardware at sea is harder but still lucrative, meaning it’s likely to continue and grow as an area of interest for cartels and other criminal groups.
“Not everybody uses drugs, but everybody uses gas,” Vigil said. “It is evolving. It’s going to be the wave of the future. There’s so much money involved”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.
He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.
“That was such a “good war,” he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.
In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.
“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”
His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:
“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”
He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”
He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.
“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”
For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.
The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.
The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.
“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”
The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.
The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.
“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”
The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.
The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.
“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”
It’s a touching scene that even the most stoic of us will get choked up over. The titular character runs into enemy fire to save his brothers-in-arms. Without hesitation, he carries each wounded soldier to safety — all while being severely wounded.
That fantastic scene earned Forrest Gump‘s place in cinematic history. What makes this and the rest of Forrest Gump’s Army scenes so great is that they were entirely based off the career of Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, to include the Medal of Honor ceremony.
Unlike Gump, Davis was an artilleryman. His fateful night began around 2AM when the enemy engaged Davis’ unit with a 30-minute barrage of mortar fire. The moment he got the all clear, he showed them what his 105mm Howitzer could do. He fired the first beehive shot and the enemy returned fire with a recoil-less rifle that hit eight inches from his head.
After recovering from an insanely close call, he grabbed his M-16 and fired on the advancing enemy. When he fired all but three rounds, he then turned back to his Howitzer to get off that beehive. The weapon had taken a heavy beating and much of the powder was scattered. But he loaded what he could find. Under normal circumstances, seven bags of powder is fine. Davis loaded nearly 21. It almost destroyed the cannon but also devastated the enemy.
The Howitzer blew up and rolled over Davis and nearly 30 fragments of the beehive were in his back. Davis, just like Gump would in the film, took the shrapnel in the buttocks. His body and his cannon were in terrible condition.
That’s when he noticed some American G.I.s on the other side of the river.
He had been shot in the leg and was partially deafened, his ribs were broken and his spine fractured, and there was still plenty of beehive in his back — yet he grabbed his Army-issued air mattress and swam to his brothers without even a second’s thought.
Surrounded by enemies, he had to sneak around with nothing but an air mattress until he found the soldier waving at him. There, he found three wounded men in a foxhole — two were ambulatory but one was shot in the head and somehow still holding on. Davis grabbed the soldier with the head wound and placed him on the mattress and the four of them headed back across to safety.
Much of the film touches on Sammy L. Davis’ life, which he openly embraces. Every military scene is based off Davis, including the scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson bestows the Medal of Honor upon Forrest Gump. That was literally Sammy Davis under Tom Hank’s CGI face. Granted, Davis is a much more eloquent speaker.
For more about Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, please watch the American Legion video below.
The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.
The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.
Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.
Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.
Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.
Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.
Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.
While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.
While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.
The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.
In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.
Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.
In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.
Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.
Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.
F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses
Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.
While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.
The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.
Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.
Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.
In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.
The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.
These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.
Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.
Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.
In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
F-35 25mm Gun
The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.