What Iran billed as a “100% indigenously made” fourth-generation fighter with “advanced avionics” immediately registered with aviation experts as a knockoff of the F-5 Tiger, a US jet that first flew in 1959.
Iran still has a few F-5s and even F-14s in its inventory from before the Islamic Revolution, when it maintained relations with the US.
Joseph Dempsey, a defense and military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted a useful comparison.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the real Kowsar project isn’t the F-5 Tiger reboot, but a new system of avionics simply parked in the F-5 as a placeholder.
Bronk said the real Kowsar wasn’t a fighter at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane that could save Iran’s air force.
The state of Iran’s air force
“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” Bronk told Business Insider. “They’re, unquestionably, extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions” that those systems will break down — for example, Iran still flies US-made F-14s and F-4s, while the US abandoned those airframes decades ago.
But somehow, Iran, even under intense sanctions designed to ensure it can’t get spare parts from the US, keeps them flying.
“Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” Bronk said.
Even with the impressive feat of workmanship that is an Iranian F-14 flying in 2018, when asked to describe Iran’s air force’s fighters against a regional foe like Saudi Arabia, Bronk said that “‘hopelessly quaint’ would not be too far off the mark.” Matched against Israel or the US in air power, Iran sees its chances sink from bad to much, much worse.
An Iranian F-4 Phantom II armed with an AGM-65 Maverick.
But besides quaint aircraft having no chance against upgraded Saudi F-15 gunships, Iran has another problem in its shortage of pilots and trainer aircraft, which is where the real Kowsar comes in.
“Iran has been relying for a long time on basically a bunch of increasingly old veteran pilots, a lot of whom were trained by — or were trained by those who were trained by — the US before the revolution,” Bronk said.
Therefore, Iran needs to drum up its own indigenous fighter-pilot training program — and that’s the real purpose of the Kowsar: to train the next generation of Iranian fighter pilots.
“It’s not a bad play,” Bronk said. “It makes the most of the limited technology options they have.” Meanwhile, according to Bronk, Iran’s Gulf Arab enemies have ignored domestic training and had to bring in mercenaries from other countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.
That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.
Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.
Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Absolutely nothing happens
Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.
In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.
Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.
Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)
They can, in fact, stop all of them
This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.
My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.
If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.
The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.
But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…
Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?
(Image Credit: NASA)
Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)
Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…
There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.
That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.
It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.
However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.
Help! My service member needs to lose weight to stay In…how do I help?
This is a question that all of us have either heard or asked ourselves at least once during our trials and tribulations as a military family.
Commit to holding them accountable while they’re in the process of dropping the weight. Participate WITH them. As a spouse, it’s crucial that we actively help them pursue their goals. When our loved one needs to lose weight, with that territory comes dedication to doing whatever is needed to help them succeed – their career is on the line!
This means removing processed foods from your shopping list, learning what “clean” ingredients to buy instead, encouraging them to be more physically active (any activity is better than none), and even sending them silly text messages or emails daily with emojis reminding them to drink more water.
Back in early 2016, my husband and I learned first-hand how important this is. It truly made a massive difference when we committed to getting healthy TOGETHER. I was much better at staying on schedule as we learned to eat more frequent meals and had to constantly stay on him at first to make sure he was remembering to eat. He was excellent at staying focused and not eating a bite of this or a taste of that. He really kept me in line when I appeared close to straying. Tiny bites off the kids plates can truly throw you off course!
2. Workout smarter, not harder
Most people actually perform their workouts in the wrong order! Maximize your time in the gym by always doing your HIIT and strength training (yoga included) BEFORE fat-burning cardio.
3. Encourage sleep
Support them in getting to bed earlier. Make sure they aren’t using their snooze button, instead just set the alarm 30 minutes later if that is what time they really intend to get up.
4. Remove inflammatory ingredients from cupboards
Cut out salt, gluten, cheese yogurt, soy protein, grains, artificial sweeteners, processed sugars, soda, alcohol, coffee caffeinated tea for a week. A simple 7 day detox from these ingredients, eating real food around the clock, throwing in natural detoxifying herbs, upping your water intake, and halting all workouts yields an average of 7-12 pounds of weight shed!!
5. Avoid Quick fixes
Keto, Whole 30, Intermittent Fasting, Juice Cleanses. They ALL work for a very brief moment in time, but the moment you reintroduce your old eating habits the weight comes back and even MORE will follow. Repeated “yo-yo dieting” actually slows the metabolism and causes our bodies to take a longer time losing the weight go-round…and there is always a next time, especially in a world where part of your job description is to meet weight standard requirements every six months.
It’s important to take a few moments to learn the reason for following a system that can be implemented and sustainable for life. Protein, Fats, and Carbs (PFC) are necessary macronutrients, and eating them together every 3 hours is ideal (a balanced shake will work when on the go) in order to create and maintain homeostasis within the body. It will release stored fat much faster this way! Be as strict or as relaxed as needed, but follow the guideline of PFC/3 as best you can year-round for better health and stable blood sugar.
For FREE downloadable recipes, sample meal plans, and step-by-step guides and supplement recommendations to assist with weight loss visit zp8withmary.com From there you may also reach out through email if interested in a FREE 30 minute health evaluation with Mary, a Certified Nutrition Coach through the International Board of Nutrition Fitness Coaching (IBNFC). Her nutrition programs, based on blood-sugar stabilization and macro-nutrient balance, are designed to permanently end dieting.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.
A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.
“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”
Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out
The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.
“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”
Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.
Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.
“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”
Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.
“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.
“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”
Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.” “I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”
When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.
Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.
“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”
Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.
“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.
“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”
Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.
Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.
Joseph Sroka isn’t just an investment specialist, he’s a military veteran and business owner with a passion to assist the veteran community. He is the Chief Investment Officer of NovaPoint Capital, a firm he co-founded, which provides investment management for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
Before getting into the number crunching and chart watching of the investment world, Sroka served as an infantry officer in the Army. After graduating from West Point in 1988, he was stationed in Berlin, Germany and was witness to the iconic fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany, and collapse of the Soviet Union. As a person who was inspired to serve by Ronald Reagan, seeing the end of the “Evil Empire” seemed like a good time for a career change.
“I grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and was in middle school during the Iran hostage crisis,” Sroka recalls. “President Reagan brought pride back to the country and the military. I was proud to serve.”
After earning his MBA, Sroka spent time working in equity research at investment banks, hedge funds, and asset management firms in Chicago, New York, and eventually Atlanta, the city he now calls home. The investment management industry has proven as lively as the military. Sroka was working at 4 World Financial Center, across the street from the World Trade Center, on 9/11 and helped evacuate his colleagues at Merrill Lynch from the building. He has also managed through the volatility of the markets during the 2008 financial crisis.
His deep experience in the industry helped him develop the tools he needed to go into business with his partner, Alan Conner. Together, they decided the goal of NovaPoint Capital was to provide individuals and institutions with disciplined and transparent investment management.
We’ve both seen the ugly side of the business over the years,” Alan explains, “Excessive fees and complicated investment products seem designed to benefit the investment firms and the brokers, rather than the clients. It is very satisfying to run a firm where we truly put the client first.
As a boutique firm, they offer an aspect that is often lost when dealing with larger firms: the opportunity to build a personal one-on-one relationship directly with their clients. This structure provides clients with direct access to the manager who is handling their money and not sales representatives or relationship managers who are twice or three-times removed from the actual investment.
They recognize that a lot of trust that comes with handling investments. NovaPoint seeks to provide all clients, large and small, with complete transparency in how their money is invested. They have used technology to simplify the process and give clients a window into what the team at NovaPoint is doing every day.
NovaPoint shows they are purposeful and disciplined when it comes to the strategies they put forth. Both owners understand discipline. Sroka as a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, Conner as an endurance athlete and three-time IRONMAN triathlon finisher. Conner sees “the discipline in our investment process as a simple extension of the discipline we have in our everyday lives.”
Being a veteran-owned business, NovaPoint understands the value the veteran community provides to the country’s economy and wants to encourage other veterans to pursue their investment and financial goals. To help veterans achieve these goals NovaPoint Capital takes a few proactive steps. They offer special discounts on standard fees as well as waiving minimum investment requirements for veterans. They extend these offers to include retirement plans for other veteran-owned businesses as well as non-profit organizations that serve the veteran community. Additionally, NovaPoint contributes one day of revenue every six months directly to veteran charities.
Beyond discounts and waived requirements, Sroka personally continues to serve veterans in his community by being a mentor through organizations like Veterati and FourBlock. “I am a huge believer that the current generation of transitioning veterans are going to be the leaders in the U.S. economy for decades to come,” Sroka said. He is also working to bring a Bunker Labs chapter to Atlanta to help military and veteran entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in the area.
Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.
“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.
“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”
Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.
“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”
But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”
Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”
He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.
Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”
“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.
Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.
The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.
During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.
Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.
She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”
The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.
General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.
“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”
Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”
“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”
The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.
“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.
So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.
Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.
After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.
“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”
At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.
“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey. We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.
General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”
The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”
“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”
“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”
The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.
When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.
The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.
And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”
American playwright Arthur Miller once observed that an era has reached its end “when its basic illusions are exhausted.”
Congress, the defense industry, academia, and the U.S. Army all believe the Pentagon must fundamentally change the culture and performance of its acquisition enterprise after decades of tweaks and inertia.
Since Vietnam, the most significant reform to the Defense Department, the United States Army, and Army Acquisition Enterprise was the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986. It changed who controlled budgets, project management, research and development, and aspects of modernization. Since then, numerous institutional adaptations and reorganizations have been initiated, many of which have led to familiar conditions: cumbersome spans of control; complex communication and procedural (bureaucratic) structures; difficulty prioritizing competitive programs and budget requirements; decreased accountability and effectiveness; and, disconnects between futures and acquisition procurement strategies, to name a few.
For the Army, those conditions materialized into “a lost decade of procurement” marked by, “reductions in modernization, procurement, and RDTE funding”; and a “wave of [OSD] requirements,” according to Lt. Gen. Mike Murray, Army Deputy Chief of Staff (G-8). While the present Army reorganization should address many of these concerns, a critical purpose of any new command, regardless of structure, is to obtain a central authority for translating futures and modernization activities into a smart acquisition strategy; activities that haven’t been under a single command since 1940.
With Futures Command
While the existing structure managed victory on global battlefields from Grenada to present operations, the U.S. Army has determined that long-delayed reforms in acquisitions require the most significant reorganization of modernization functions in 40 years. Because the overmatch our Army has enjoyed for the last 70 years is closing quickly across all domains of warfare, it is clearly understood that early successes are going to be essential for the new Army Futures Command.
While some may think this new command is a strategy of creating a new bureaucracy to address bureaucratic cultural concerns, the new command will be challenged to:
Streamline the requirements process, which averages three to five years, and major weapons systems development, which averages 10 years. A major contributing factor for such lengthy delays is the current command structure requires dozens of flag officer board and committee hearings within multiple multi-star command to approve requirements (if one includes the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System).
Overcome a risk-averse acquisition culture optimized for individual and organizational outcomes within stove-piped organizations, thus requiring synchronization at HQDA level.
Provide a vision-to-victory or futures strategy that alleviates tensions between present requirements and future readiness.
Improve integration of operational concepts into acquisition strategies, presently determined and developed by multiple disjointed multi-star commands. At present, there is no single point of contact (command) with ownership of futures to formulate consensus on a long-term procurement strategy within the United States Army.
Overcome the stale reforms and existing RD structure by leverage industries leadership of advanced technologies and modernization in order to decrease procurement and acquisition timelines, increase innovation, and, address cultural “contrast in approaches to research and development that differentiates defense firms from their commercial counterparts.”
Improve and balance the research and development strategy; establish conditions for a “succeed-fast” and “fail-fast” strategy throughout the defense acquisition life cycle.
Elevate the confidence of stakeholders, particularly Congress, in our ability to manage major Army defense acquisition programs. For the Army, recent “failures” have cost tax payers billions and are the most obvious reason why oversight and authorities is overly centralized (by Congress). Since 2011 alone, the Army has ended 20 programs, delayed 125 and restructured 124 others.
and, ultimately, establish a wartime acquisition enterprise capable of rapid adaptability to threat capabilities today and in the future.
On this last point, recent acquisition enterprise efforts to synchronize and create a shared visualization stem from a current state assessment that “acquisition’s underlying problems are exacerbated during conflict, when warfighters are in harm’s way. Therefore, the natural tendency has been to work around the system rather than fix it,” according to a previous Army Futures Studies Group cohort. Reflecting on these truths, the Army has determined that now is the time to fix the system, as “wartime adaptation against a peer adversary will require capability generation to be exponentially faster than it was for recent operations”, according to Maj. Hassan Kamara of the Army Future Studies Group.
So the Army has started its most significant organizational redesign in four decades to meet futures and modernization challenges to do its part. Let’s look at how it got here.
A Short History of the Army’s Modernization and Futures Enterprise
Since the dawn of World War II, the Army has maintained a flexible organizational structure to meet significant overseas and continental commitments and challenges. Hundreds of congressional panels, committee hearings, and operational research projects have created new commands to address niche requirements but rarely resulted in the birth of a major command.
Of relevance to the present era, the first significant organizational overhaul was in 1940, when the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the United States Army was established. The GHQ struggled to manage training, support, modernization, and ground combat functions. In 1942, these functions were separated when the War Department reorganized itself and assumed command and control over ground combat troops and formed Army Ground Forces (AGF) command which assumed responsibility for training troops.
At the end of the war Congressional and industrial committees and boards reformed the War Department and the Army. Unfortunately, a mix of incremental and disruptive structural alterations was implemented which left the service with an uncoordinated command structure and in need of significant reorganization by 1955, when the Davies Committee formed the Continental Army Command (CONARC) which assumed command and control of ground forces and training functions.
Almost immediately, various panels recognized CONARCs structural challenges as the Cold War stressed the nation’s resources, but most recommendations went ignored throughout the remainder of the decade. By 1962, following the Hoelscher and Traub Congressional Committees, the Army was thoroughly reorganized. The Technical and Administrative Services; all support functions were centralized under Army Materiel Command; and the Combat Developments Command (CDC) were created under Continental Army Command (CONARC) to support modernization.
Within a decade CONARC’s span of control had become a significant concern and Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army Chief of Staff, initiated Operation STEADFAST under Lt. Gen. William DuPuy to fix it.
Operation STEADFAST led to the creation of Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the latter assuming control of training centers, Army schools, and doctrine development and CONARC was abolished. Later that same year, TRADOC assumed the mission for modernization and CDC was deactivated. As a result of this restructuring, similar to today, modernization and research development (RD) activities were scattered among major commands but all other functions were represented by a major command.
While significant structural change has occurred since 1973, they have not fundamentally changed how TRADOC and AMC function.
Key challenges we’re dealing with now, like the construct, function, and institutional integration of Futures Command, which were factors in the failures of structural changes in the past, must be clearly understood. There is never a time in the Army where a need to repair something structural isn’t required. Therefore, considering historical examples above, the question we must ask today is, are we in need of “incremental” or “disruptive” reform? If “disruptive” change is in the cards, the alignment of forces, sustainment, training, and combat developments (or modernization) functions within streamlined commands is one potential course of action. However, what the Army is ready for, what the specific content of the reform will be, and its tolerance levels for disruption while heavily engaged in current operations are yet to be determined. If history is any guide, this will be determined based on whether or not senior defense leaders perceive the current state as one in crisis or this is just an opportune time for reform.
It is clear that any new modernization command must demonstrate value to industry, academia, research and development communities within and external to the U.S. Army, but, even more so to the warfighters whose equipment readiness is one of four pillars of readiness.
The Mk 22 is a modified Smith & Wesson M39 pistol with a silencer, but it’s mostly known as the “Hush Puppy.”
During the 1960s, the Navy SEALs were just starting to develop their clandestine techniques that would eventually turn them into one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Being special operations commandos, they had their pick of conventional and non-conventional military weapons.
One of those was the M39. But after a few runs in the field, the frogmen started asking for modifications, which resulted in a longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the screw-on suppressor, among other modifications.
“We’d go into these villages at two or three o’clock in the morning, and the dogs and ducks raised all kinds of kain [noise],” said former Navy SEAL Chief James “Patches” Watson in the video below. “We needed something to shut them up without disturbing the whole neighborhood.”
The gun was fantastic for silencing noisy dogs, hence its nickname. (Editor’s note: please don’t kill dogs.)
American inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim created the first commercially successful firearm suppressor in the early 1900s, giving way to the quietest gun on the battlefield.
Ironically, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of one of the loudest — the Maxim Gun. This weapon was the first fully automatic machine gun, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Maxim Jr.’s suppressors were popular in the 1920s and 30s among shooters and sportsmen before being adopted by the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the modern CIA — during World War II. The next use by the American military were by the Navy SEALs, according to this American Heroes Channel video:
It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.
Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.
“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.
During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.
“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.
The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”
On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”
Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.
“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”
Soldier protection system
After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.
The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.
The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.
“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.
The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.
The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.
In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.
Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.
Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.
Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.
“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”
A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.
“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.
Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.
As tensions mount in the troubled waters of the South China Sea, US might is considered crucial, and a weapon considered well suited for the region is almost ready for deployment: the F-35 Lightning II.
“It will absolutely thrive in that environment,” retired Air Force Col. John “JV” Venable told Business Insider.
At a cool $100 million per jet, Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” aircraft is America’s priciest weapons system, and its development has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense.
In July 2015, after cost overruns, design modifications, and serious testing, the Marine Corps became the first of the sister-service branches to declare the tri-service fighter ready for war.
A year and change later, the Air Force also declared their version of the fifth generation jet initial operational capability (IOC). Currently the US Navy variant, the F-35C, is slated to reach IOC by February 2019.
“Having three different types of fighters working for you in that environment [South China Sea] is also an extraordinary advantage,” Venable, a fighter pilot and former commander of the celebrated Air Force Thunderbirds, told Business Insider.
With rival territorial claims by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China, the South China Sea — rich in natural resources and crisscrossed by shipping routes — is one of the most militarized areas on the planet.
Currently the US, with the world’s largest navy, dominates the region; however, that is poised to change as Beijing dramatically expands its naval capabilities.
“At some point, China is likely to, in effect, be able to deny the US Navy unimpeded access to parts of the South China Sea,” Robert Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and author of “Asia’s Cauldron,” wrote.
“The withdrawal of even one US aircraft carrier strike group from the Western Pacific is a game changer.”
According to Venable, the F-35, designed to marry stealth and avionics, would thrive in the armed camp that has become the South China Sea.
“The Chinese would be right to fear the United States Air Force, United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps armed with those jets.”
For some animals, such as salamanders, regrowing a missing limb is a common healing process. But what if people could do the same? Could the future of treating amputations include warfighters regrowing their own muscle, bone, and nerve tissues?
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, Fort Detrick, Maryland. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”
Saunders was part of a session focusing on the research being done on extremity regeneration, part of a larger theme of regenerative medicine at the Military Health System Research Symposium. Saunders said while there’s been amazing progress in the areas of using synthetic grafts to start the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues, it’s still not the same as the real thing. “We would like it to be as restorative as possible, resist infection … and be durable,” he said. “This is going to be implanted in young people who may go on to live another 60 to 70 years.”
One researcher is using fillers to bridge the gap in damaged bones, hoping to figuratively bridge the gap between current regenerative techniques and the ideal: people regrowing lost limbs. Stephanie Shiels with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, talked about her research to develop a synthetic bone gap filler that heals bones and reduces infection by infusing those grafts with a variety of anti-microbials.
“We know that it reduces infection,” said Shiels. “Other things to consider include adding a bulking agent … to help regenerate bone.”
Other research focuses on regrowing muscle lost in traumatic injuries, as well as recovering nerves, or at least preserving them, for future use. But besides treating those deep tissue wounds, there’s something a bit more on the surface that can impact warfighters: skin. The skin is known for its regenerative properties. Research is being conducted to help it do that job better and recover scar tissue.
Jason Brant with the University of Florida has turned to a mouse to help the military reduce scarring of injured warfighters. He said the African spiny mouse has evolved a capability to lose large parts of its skin when a predator tries to grab it, allowing the mouse to escape and live to recover. The mouse is able to recover scar-free in a relatively short amount of time, which is remarkable considering the amount and depth of tissue lost. Brant wants to know how the mouse is able to do that.
“Warfighters and civilians alike suffer large surface [cuts] and burns, and these result in medically and cosmetically problematic scars,” said Brant. “The impacts of these scars … are really staggering. The ability to develop effective therapies will have an enormous impact not only on the health care system but on the individuals as well.”
He believes a certain protein in the mouse could be the key, but he’s still trying to figure out how it could apply to humans.
Another way to reduce scarring involves the initial treating of wounds. Army Maj. Samuel Tahk, a research fellow with the Uniformed Services Health Consortium, passed around to attendees samples of biocompatible sponges he’s investigating for their ability to promote skin healing, and thus, reduce scarring.
“It provides a scaffold to start regenerative growth,” said Tahk. “This could simplify patient care and also reduce costs.”
While the field of regenerating body parts is still new, Saunders believes it will be the future of wounded warrior care.
“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage control surgeries,” he said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
In the tradition of Ukraine’s Lyudmila Pavilchenko and Kazakhstan’s Aliya Moldagulova and Nina Lobkovskaya, an Afghan teen girl has just taken up arms against the invaders who killed her family. Sixteen-year-old Qamar Gul decided it was time to fight back when the Taliban raided her family’s home in Geriveh, in central Ghor province.
Moldagulova and Lobkovskaya were the ninth and 10th deadliest female snipers in World War II. Pavilchenko was the deadliest female sniper ever, earning the nickname “Lady Death” for her 309 kills.
The journey of Afghanistan’s Qamar Gul is just beginning.
At 1:00 a.m. local time on Jul. 17, 2020, Taliban insurgents took to the streets of Geriveh and began to pull locals out of their homes at gunpoint. When they arrived at the doorstep of Gul’s parents, they refused to open. Eventually, the gunmen forced their way in, anyway.
The insurgents suspected Gul’s father – the village chief – of supporting the local government and of being an informant. The Taliban killed her parents and moved to kill her 12-year-old brother Habibullah. But she got to the family’s AK-47 first.
Qamar killed the two men who shot her parents and then lit up the other men who had raided her home. The Taliban tried to regroup on the street and several made an attempt to retake the house, but the 16 year old fought them all off. Her brother stayed behind her throughout the hour-long gunfight.
Soon, other villagers and pro-government militia arrived to push the Taliban out of their village. In total, it’s estimated Qamar killed up to five Taliban insurgents and more were injured by the local militia. Taliban fighters routinely raid villages to attack those who are suspected of sympathizing with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
A photograph of Qamar Gul wearing a headscarf and holding a machine gun across her lap has even gone viral on social media.
“We know parents are irreplaceable, but your revenge will give you relative peace,” a Facebook user wrote in a comment on the photo.
Though the young girl is scarred at the loss of her parents, she is now taking care of her younger brother and has been invited to Afghanistan’s presidential palace by Ghani himself. After leaving the palace, she will not return to the village but will instead go to a safe house in the provincial capital of Chaghcharan.
If the United States and China are on a war footing in space, one of the People’s Republic’s top generals has some tough talk for the U.S.: Be prepared to lose. Maj. Gen. Qiao Liang, is a top general in China’s air force and recently co-authored a book called “Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America.” In it, he warns the United States that they could not outspend a wealthy, organized, and manufacturing-oriented Chinese economy.
Retired People’s Liberation Army Air Force Maj. Gen. Qiao Liang.
“China is not the Soviet Union,” Qiao the South China Morning Post. “If the United States thinks it can also drag China into an arms race and take down China as it did with the Soviets … in the end, probably it would not be China who is down on the ground.”
At the same time, China and the United States are in competition for space dominance. The Pentagon believes China is developing directed-energy weapons for use in the vacuum of space, and the United States is creating its sixth branch of military service, focused solely on a space mission. China has had such a program for the past four years. Now, both countries seem to be preparing to fight a war in space rather than avoid one.
General Qiao Liang says China is not seeking such a war but is asserting itself and its right to national defense. Its biggest asset at the moment is its economic and manufacturing superiority, a position Qiao says will leave it as the winner of an expensive space race with the world’s only superpower.
“When the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in the Cold War and the arms race, the United States was the largest manufacturing country, and the Soviet Union was not even the second,” he said. “But today it is China who is the world’s top manufacturer.”