Iran threatened to respond to economic sanctions against its oil exports imposed by the US with military action to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the sea passage into the Persian Gulf that sees around 30% of the world’s oil supply pass — but if they did, the US would shut them down in days.
“As the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, (Iran) has been the guarantor of the security of shipping and the global economy in this vital waterway and has the strength to take action against any scheme in this region,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Reuters.
But Iran’s military wouldn’t last more than a few days against the US and its allies, and according to experts, Iran must know this, and is likely bluffing as they have in past threats to close the strait.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” former Adm. James Stavridis told CNBC on July 23, 2018.
Stavridis, who served as NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, said that Iran would likely try to mine the waterway to ward off traffic, and may also resort to sending out its small, fast attack craft on suicide runs against US Navy ships that could do some damage.
But the US wouldn’t go it alone, and Iran would quickly find the waterway unmined, its fast attack craft at the bottom of the strait and its coastal missile batteries destroyed.
This map shows maritime traffic along the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil experts pass through.
Former US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, now an expert at the Washington Institute, told Business Insider that it’s “highly unlikely” Iran would move on the Strait of Hormuz, “but just the threat of doing that sent oil prices up.”
President Hassan Rouhani, in warning Trump about the “mother of all wars” tried “to warn not so much Trump, but all of the customers of Iranian oil that if they all stop buying Iranian oil when US sanctions take effect on Nov. 4, 2018, it will hurt prices,” said Jeffrey.
Manipulating oil prices and wielding its massive oil production infrastructure represent “the weapon that the Iranians can most easily use,” in combatting US sanctions, Jeffrey said. Rather than violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran deal, Iran prefers to force nations to trade with it in spite of US sanctions by putting pressure on overall supply.
“If they would have violated the JCPOA,” said Jeffrey, “they’d lose the support of western Europe.”
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” of Iranian oil, said Jeffrey.
“If the Iranians want to escalate” tensions into fighting along the Strait of Hormuz, “we saw that movie in ’88 and in the end they lost their navy,” said Jeffrey, referring to the Operation Praying Mantis, when the US responded to Iran mining the strait with an aircraft carrier strike group that decimated its navy.
The Mi-24 Hind had a reputation as a cinematic bad guy in “Rambo III” and the original 1980s Cold War flick “Red Dawn.”
Helping the Mujahidin kill it was the focus of 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But how much do you really know about this so-called “flying tank?”
Let’s take a good look at this deadly bird. According to GlobalSecurity.org, this helicopter can carry a lot of firepower, including 57mm and 80mm rockets, anti-tank missiles, and deadly machine guns or cannon. But it also can carry a standard Russian infantry section – eight fully-armed troops.
So, it’s really not a flying tank. It’s a flying infantry fighting vehicle.
There really isn’t a similar American – or Western – helicopter. The UH-1 and UH-60s were standard troop carries, but don’t really have the firepower of the Hind. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra have a lot of firepower, but can’t really carry troops (yeah, we know the Brits did that one time – and it was [very] crazy!).
While the Mi-24 got its villainous cinematic reputation thanks to 1984’s “Red Dawn,” and the 1988 movie “Rambo III,” its first action was in the Ogaden War – an obscure conflict that took place from 1977-1978. After the Somali invasion of Ethiopia, the Air Combat Information Group noted that as many as 16 Mi-24s were delivered to the Ethiopians by the Soviets.
It has taken part in over 30 conflicts since then.
The Hind was to Afghanistan what the Huey was to Vietnam: an icon of the conflict. GlobalSecurity.org reported that as many as 300 Mi-24s were in Afghanistan.
In the Russian war movie “The Ninth Company,” the Mi-24 gets a more heroic turn than it did in Red Dawn or Rambo III.
At least 2,300 have already been built, and versions of the Mi-24 are still in production, according to the Russian Helicopters website. This cinematic aviation bad boy will surely be around for many years to come.
The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.
“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.
“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”
The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.
That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.
The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.
Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.
“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”
The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.
Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.
The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.
The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.
Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.
The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.
As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.
The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.
The Battle of Mogadishu is one of the most infamous and controversial engagements in modern U.S. military history. The battle has been documented in books and film, most notably the 2001 film Black Hawk Down. The film depicts the Rangers, Delta operators, 160th SOAR pilots, and Air Force Pararescuemen that made up the ill-fated Task Force Ranger. Even the 10th Mountain Division and Pakistani UN Peacekeepers were mentioned and depicted respectively. However, the film does not depict or even refer to the Navy SEALs from the elite SEAL Team Six that joined the raid on October 3, 1993, all of whom received Silver Stars for their actions during the battle.
Wasdin (second from the left) with the rest of the DEVRGU sniper team (Howard Wasdin)
HT1 Howard Wasdin enlisted in the Navy in 1983 as an antisubmarine warfare operator and rescue swimmer. He served with distinction in Anti-Submarine Squadron 7 (HS-7) and even survived a helicopter crash over water before he re-enlisted to attend BUD/S. Wasdin graduated with Class 143 in July 1987 and was assigned to SEAL Team TWO in Little Creek, Virginia. He completed deployments to Europe and the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War before he volunteered for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in November 1991, better known as SEAL Team Six. Wasdin completed an eight month specialized selection and training course to join DEVGRU and later completed the USMC Scout Sniper Course.
In August, 1993, Wasdin deployed to Mogadishu with three other snipers from SEAL Team Six and their skipper, Commander Eric Thor Olson, as part of Task Force Ranger. The special task force’s primary mission was to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid who had been attacking UN supply convoys and food distribution centers. The task force also included Air Force Combat Controllers who, like the SEALs, were omitted from the 2001 film. In the time leading up to the October 3rd raid, Wasdin and the other SEALs conducted a number of missions in and around Mogadishu. On the day of the raid, the four-man team returned to the airfield from setting up CIA repeaters in the town to find the task force gearing up. The intel driving the raid had developed earlier in the day and the mission was planned quickly.
The SEALs received the hour to hour and a half-long mission brief from Cdr. Olson in just a few minutes. “You’ll be part of a blocking force. Delta will rope in and assault the building. You guys will grab the prisoners. Then get out of there,” Cdr. Olson said, slapping Wasdin on the shoulder. “Shouldn’t take long. Good luck. See you when you get back.” With that, the SEALs, and three soldiers joined the convoy of trucks and drove into the city.
Not long into the mission, the convoy received sporadic fire. The SEALs’ Humvee, referred to as a “cutvee”, had no roof, doors, or windows. The only protection that it offered was the iron engine block and a Kevlar ballistic blanket underneath the vehicle. Neither of these were able to protect one SEAL, known as Little Big Man, from taking a round on the way to the target building. “Aw hell, I’m hit!” He shouted. Wasdin pulled over to check his buddy out and found no blood. Rather, he saw Little Big Man’s broken custom Randall knife and a large red mark on his leg. The knife, strapped to Little Big Man’s leg, had absorbed most of the bullet’s energy and prevented it from entering the SEAL’s leg.
(Kneeling, left to right) Little Big Man, Casanova, Wasdin, and Sourpuss, with other operators of Task Force Ranger (Howard Wasdin)
The convoy made it to the target building and the SEALs joined their assigned blocking position with the Rangers and Delta operators as the Delta assaulters infilled on the roof. Wasdin engaged a handful of enemy snipers with his CAR-15 for 30 minutes before the call came over the radio to return to the convoy. It was then that he took a ricochet to the back of his left knee. “For a moment, I couldn’t move,” he recalled. “The pain surprised me, because I had reached a point in my life when I really thought I was more than human.” Wasdin’s SEAL teammate, nicknamed Casanova, quickly neutralized two militia fighters as Air Force CCT Dan Schilling dragged Wasdin to safety for a medic to patch him back up.
37 minutes into the routine mission, a call came over the radio that changed the mission, and Wasdin’s life. “Super Six One down.” CW3 Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott’s bird had been shot down by an RPG, turning the raid into a rescue mission. Wasdin hopped back behind the wheel and the SEALs joined the convoy to secure Wolcott’s crash site. Holding the wheel with his left hand, Wasdin returned fire with his CAR-15 in his right hand.
On the way to the crash site, five Somali women walked up to the roadside shoulder to shoulder, their colorful robes stretched out to their sides. When a Humvee reached them, they pulled their robes in to reveal four militia fighters who would open fire on the soldiers. Seeing this, Wasdin flicked his CAR-15’s selector switch to full-auto and emptied a thirty-round magazine into all nine Somalis. “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six,” he said of the incident. Shortly after, the call came over the radio that CW3 Mike Durant’s Super Six Four had also been shot down. With two birds down, ammunition running low, casualties mounting, and an entire city out to kill Americans, things looked grim for the men of Task Force Ranger.
Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for trying to rescue Mike Durant before they were overrun (U.S. Army)
To make matters worse, the convoluted communication network between the observation aircraft, the JOC, the C2 bird, and the convoy leader was further mired by the misunderstanding of sending the convoy to the closest crash site rather than the first crash site. This led to the bullet-ridden convoy going literally in circles and passing the target building that they raided at the start of the mission.
Even the AH-6J Little Birds providing direct fire support from the air were feeling the strain of the not so routine mission. “We’re Winchestered,” one pilot told Wasdin as he called for air support. With no ammunition left, the Little Bird pilots flew low over the enemy positions in order to draw the attention of the militia fighters skyward and off the beleaguered convoy. “The pilots didn’t just do that once. They did it at least six times that I remember,” Wasdin said, recalling the bravery of the Night Stalkers. “Our Task Force 160 pilots were badass, offering themselves up as live targets, saving our lives.”
Contact was so heavy that Wasdin ran out of 5.56 for his CAR-15, including the ammo given to him by the wounded Rangers in the back of his cutvee, forcing him to draw his 9mm Sig Sauer sidearm. As the convoy slowed, a militia fighter emerged from a doorway with an AK-47. Wasdin and the fighter exchanged rounds. The first double-tap from the Sig missed and the fighter put a round through Wasdin’s right shinbone before a second double-tap put the fighter down.
His right leg hanging on by a thread, Wasdin switched seats with Casanova and continued to return fire with his sidearm despite the incredible pain. Five to ten minutes later, Wasdin was wounded a third time, taking a round to his left ankle. “My emotions toward the enemy rocketed off the anger scale,” Wasdin recalled. “Suddenly, I realized I was in trouble.” As the convoy pressed on, the SEAL cutvee hit a landmine. Though the occupants were protected by the Kevlar blanket, the explosion brought the vehicle to a halt. With three holes in him, Wasdin thought of his family and likened his situation to one of his favorite films, The Alamo. Not willing to give up without a fight, he continued to return fire. “Physically, I couldn’t shoot effectively enough to kill anyone at that point,” Wasdin said. “I had used up two of Casanova’s pistol magazines and was down to my last.”
The only picture taken on the ground during the battle (U.S. Army)
As if scripted in a movie, the Quick Reaction Force soon arrived to extract the battered convoy from the city. With the arrival of the QRF, the militia fighters retreated and gave the convoy a much-needed reprieve. “Be careful with him,” Casanova said as he helped load Wasdin onto one of the QRF’s deuce-and-a-half trucks. “His right leg is barely hanging on.” The convoy returned to the airfield without further incident.
The scene at the base was unreal. Dozens of American bodies laid out on the runway as medics tried to sort out the most critically wounded. “A Ranger opened a Humvee tailgate—blood flowed out like water.” The sight enraged Wasdin who itched for payback. Many of the chieftains in the Aidid militia, anticipating the revenge that Wasdin and his brothers sought, fled Mogadishu. Some even offered to flip on Aidid to save themselves. “Four fresh SEAL Team Six snipers from Blue Team were on their way to relieve us. Delta’s Alpha Squadron was gearing up to relieve Charlie Squadron. A new batch of Rangers was coming, too.” Ultimately, there would be no counteroffensive.
With the broadcast of the results of the battle on American televisions, the Clinton administration feared the negative publicity that further operations could bring. “In spite of the gains, President Clinton saw our sacrifices as losses,” Wasdin recalled angrily. “He ordered all actions against Aidid stopped.” Four months later, all prisoners taken by Task Force Ranger were released.
On what should have been a routine snatch and grab operation, special operators were left exposed and eventually trapped by thousands of Somali militia fighters. Conducting the raid in the afternoon without the cover of darkness removed one of the biggest advantages that the operators had. Sending them into the city without armored fighting vehicles or Spectre gunships further reduced the American technological advantage. For warriors like Wasdin though, the ultimate defeat was not finishing the job.
While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.
The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.
The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.
Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.
He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.
Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
A C-130J assigned to the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base performs low-level training through the Alaskan mountains July 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano)
For the last five years, Air Force Special Operations Command has been working toward incorporating a high-energy laser weapon on its newest AC-130J gunship. It now plans to test-fire a 60-kilowatt laser in 2022, according to a program officer affiliated with the program.
“If it is successful — and we are planning for success — then it will feed into our new requirements and potentially a new program down the road,” said Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer for fixed-wing programs at Special Operations Command. She spoke during last week’s Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.
“If this goes forward past the demo … we’ll have an additional [research, development, test and evaluation] program going forward,” Johnson said, as reported by NDIA‘s National Defense Magazine.
Johnson explained that previous tests have largely been ground-based and done in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. The next, scheduled for fiscal 2022, will be onboard the AC-130 aircraft, she said.
The J-model aircraft achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.
The fourth-generation AC-130 is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-variant sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force.
Along with the 105mm cannon sported by its cousin, the AC-130U model, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise; it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st SOW, told Military.com during a trip to Hurlburt in 2018.
Palenske said that a laser would be the ultimate ace in the hole, making disabling other weapons systems easier.
“If you’re flying along and your mission is to disable an airplane or a car, like when we took down Noriega back in the day, now, as opposed to sending a Navy SEAL team to go disable [aircraft] on the ground, you make a pass over that thing with an airborne laser and burn a hole through its engine,” he said.
Palenske was referring to 1989’s Operation Nifty Package mission to capture and remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power, during which a SEAL team “disable[d] his aircraft so he couldn’t escape.”
With a laser, “it’s just like that. And you just keep going on, and there’s no noise, no fuss, nobody knows it happened. They don’t know the thing’s broken until they go and try to fire it up,” he said at the time.
AFSOC had hoped to incorporate the laser onto the aircraft this year. Johnson said gaps in funding, not technological maturity, were behind the delay.
“After several years of seeking stable funding, we are there,” she said.
Then-AFSOC commander Gen. Brad Webb made a similar remark in 2018.
“The challenge on having the laser is funding,” Webb said during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium that year. “And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions: ‘Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?’
“We can hypothesize about that all we want. My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it. Let’s say we can — or we can’t,” Webb said.
Warming up is an essential phase of your workout, and there are three phases to an effective warm-up. Let’s jump right in:
Phase One: Shift your PH
Time commitment: Five minutes
Our bodies are slightly alkaline with a PH of around 7.3 to 7.4. The function of the warm-up is to shift your body to a more acidic state, which improves muscle efficacy and reduces risk of injury. It’s preferable to use movement patterns similar to ones you will be doing during your workout.
Example: Rowing for five minutes is optimal on both “pull days” and “squat days” due to the specific pull and squat range of motion.
By the end of phase one, your body should be producing some sweat and your heart rate should be elevated to over 100 beats per minute.
There are a few different types of stretching. For brevity’s sake, let’s reduce them to two: static and dynamic. Static stretching is likely what you learned in high school gym class and involves holding a position for 15 seconds to one minute (think touching your toes and holding before doing a leg workout). This type of stretching prior to dynamic movements (running, jumping, weight lifting, and just about every kind of exercise) is dangerous. Don’t do it.
Your muscles and joints will not be static during your workout, so they should not be static during your warm-up. Instead, try the worm walk.
This movement not only prepares the specific joints and muscles for what’s to come, it maintains the athlete’s elevated heart rate and PH level.
Dynamic stretching allows the athlete (that’s you) to effectively and gradually move joints through the range of motion they are about to demand from their body while under load.
*The most extreme version of this is ballistic (or bouncing) stretching, which should be reserved for athletes with extensive experience.
Phase three: Pre-set
Time commitment: Three to 10 minutes
Simply do the movement you plan on doing but with less weight.
Example: If today is your squat day, do three sets of 15 to 25 squats with just your body (commonly referred to as air squats). Listen to your body; if your joints still feel tight, do 30 to 60 seconds of walking lunges before approaching the barbell.
Continue this phase by loading the bar to roughly half of the load you plan to lift in your main set. Complete three to eight repetitions. Increase the amount of weight by roughly 10 percent until you arrive at your desired set weight.
Every body is different. By spending 15 minutes preparing your body for the strenuous movements to come, it will be more capable of performing at peak levels. The desired physiological adaptations occur when an athlete operates at those levels, whatever they may be specific to their current level of fitness.
Remember: An effective warm-up should always be specific to the nature of your day’s training.
On Oct. 26, 2018, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.
Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Oct 25, 2018, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.
“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.
The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies’ involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.
Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, “I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking.”
Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it’s also seen as a strong contender for that contract.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.
Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.
But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.
Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.
Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”
Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.
So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?
“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.
“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.
The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:
Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.
Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:
An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.
Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.
So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.
Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.
Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?
“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.
Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.
The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.
But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.
Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.
Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.
The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.
“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.
In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.
“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.
Opportunity to Go Viral
Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.
“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”
Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.
“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.
“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”
Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.
The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.
Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.
More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.
For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”
“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”
Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.
“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.
“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.
Not Backing Down
Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.
“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.
“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”
Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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