The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.
We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3
From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc
Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o via @YouTube
Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”
Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”
After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.
While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.
Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that he served, Had shattered all his nerves, And left a little shrapnel in his knees. But the morhpine eased the pain, And the grass grew round his brain, And gave him all the confidence he lacked, With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home Didn’t last too long. He went to work when he’d spent his last dime And soon he took to stealing When he got that empty feeling For a hundred dollar habit without overtime. And the gold roared through his veins Like a thousand railroad trains, And eased his mind in the hours that he chose, While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone When he popped his last balloon, Climbing walls while sitting in a chair. Well, he played his last request, While the room smelled just like death, With an overdose hovering in the air. But life had lost it’s fun, There was nothing to be done, But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill, For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.
Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.
Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.
At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.
As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.
The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.
If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.
Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.
A month after a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a two-person crew failed in midair, an Army astronaut slated to head into space remains confident in her crew’s upcoming launch.
Lt. Col. Anne McClain, who is part of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s small astronaut detachment, is currently in Star City, Russia, in preparation for a Dec. 3, 2018 launch of another Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station.
“I am so happy that I’m going to have six months in space,” McClain said Nov. 9, 2018, during a teleconference press briefing. “We’re not just going to space to visit, we’re going to go there to live.”
McClain joined the NASA’s human spaceflight program after being selected to the program in 2013, along with another soldier, Col. Drew Morgan. His space mission is slated for July 2019.
Then-Maj. Anne McClain, an active-duty Army astronaut, looks out of a mock cupola, a multi-windowed observatory attached to the International Space Station, as she simulates bringing in a cargo load in space with the station’s robotic arm during training at Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
If her launch goes as planned, she will be the first active-duty Army officer to be in space since 2010. Her three-person crew is expected to launch from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft and rocket.
“Feeling the thrust of the rocket is going to be something that I am really looking forward to,” she said. “It is going to be a completely new experience.”
McClain, 39, of Spokane, Washington, will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 58/59.
Once in orbit, the West Point graduate said about half of her crew’s time will be spent on maintaining the space station.
The station is also a laboratory with more than 250 experiments, which McClain and others will help oversee. She will even participate in some of the experiments, including one that evaluates how human bones are regenerated in a microgravity setting.
“That will be an interesting one to see the results of,” she said, adding many astronauts suffer from bone loss since they use less weight during extended spaceflight.
Mark Vande Hei, a retired Army colonel, trains inside NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory pool near Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Preparing to go into space has been a difficult challenge that the former rugby player has tackled over the past year and a half. During that time, McClain has conducted specialized training from learning how to do spacewalks, station maintenance, robotic operations, and even speaking the Russian language.
“Everybody needs to be a jack-of-all-trades,” she said.
In June 2018, she served as a backup astronaut for the crew that is currently at the space station. Now in Russia, McClain and her crew is doing some final training on the Soyuz launch vehicle.
While her crew prepares to lift off on a similar type of rocket that suffered a malfunction Oct. 11, 2018 and triggered an automatic abort, McClain is still not worried.
The Soyuz rocket, she said, has had an amazing track record. Before last October 2018’s incident, the rocket’s previous aborted mission was in 1983.
“I saw that Oct. 11 incident, not as a failure, but as an absolute success,” she said. “What this really proved was that the Russian launch abort system is a really great design and for that reason we have that backup plan.
“Bottom line is that I would have gotten on the Soyuz rocket the next day.”
Her crew also received a debriefing from both astronauts in the aborted mission — Nick Hague and his Russian counterpart, Alexey Ovchinin.
Then-Maj. Anne McClain, an active-duty Army astronaut, looks out of a mock cupola, a multi-windowed observatory attached to the International Space Station, as she simulates bringing in a cargo load in space with the station’s robotic arm during training at Johnson Space Center in Houston March 1, 2017.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Hague, an Air Force colonel, explained to them the forces he felt and saw when the launch abort system kicked in.
“Our whole crew sat down with Nick and got his impressions,” she said. “I think he helped us get ready and we adjusted a few things for our launch.”
She also gave her friend a hug and jokingly told him that the next time they saw each other was supposed to be in space.
“When I gave Nick a hug goodbye before his launch, we kind of said, ‘Hey, the next time we hug it will be on the space station,” she said, smiling. “When I saw him again, I gave him a hug and I said, ‘Hey, we’re not supposed to have gravity right now. But I was happy to see him.”
Because of the recent mishap, believed to be the result of a manufacturing issue with a sensor, McClain’s mission was moved up to December 2018.
“We’re confident that particular issue won’t happen again,” she said. “But the important thing that we’ve learned from all incidents in spaceflight in the past is that you can’t just look at that one part because there’s a billion other parts on that rocket.
“You have to make sure what caused that particular part to fail is not being repeated on other parts. And they’ve absolutely done that.”
Her crew plans to relieve a three-person crew currently at the space station. Based on the life of their vehicle, that crew needs to return by the end of December 2018, she said.
The quicker she can get into space, the better for McClain.
“I’m just excited for the experience,” she said. “What I do hear from many astronauts is that as soon as you look back at the Earth and all of its glory and realize how fragile it is, you’ll never be quite the same. I’m looking forward to those moments.”
Holiday weekend. Here’s hoping you got a good safety briefing, made responsible decisions, and have woken up fresh and ready to celebrate America. And here’s an 800mg ibuprofen and a bag of saline because we know you got hammered and tattooed “Murica” on your lower back last night.
1. Most military bases are wastelands with a few palm trees and ant mounds.
This year, the Military Influencer Conference (MIC) has partnered with Honor2Lead to create a one-of-a-kind virtual seminar. The live event will be broadcast from Atlanta, Georgia, on November 10th from 10 am to 8 pm. Participate virtually with a Virtual Pass and be a part of thousands who come together to honor and celebrate America’s veterans.
Honor2Lead brings together the top minds and leaders in the fields of business, military and academia to ignite conversations about ethics and values. This event will deliver actionable insights from members of the military community to help forge relationships that lead to powerful collaborations. This global online event is sure to positively impact the military community like never before.
Still not sure if you should attend? Take a look at this list of just a few of the speakers presenting at the event.
Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark Tank and founder of the $6 billion fashion brand FUBU, John believes that life is a series of mentors. During the virtual event, he will speak about his entrepreneurial journey and the lessons he’s learned.
Lacey Evans doesn’t let barriers stop her from doing everything she wants to do. The former Marine, WWE Superstar, wife, and mother consistently proves that no matter where you come from, success is possible.
Actor Alexander Ludwig, star of Vikings, uses his influence and celebrity status to help showcase the untold stories of American veterans. During the Honor2Lead summit, he’ll give insights into the Recon film premier and discuss how he helps give back to the military community.
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas, decorated combat veteran Army Ranger and actor on the FX series Mayans MC, will talk about his true calling: lifting up his fellow veterans. His presentation will explore how the military community can serve veterans.
Phyllis Newhouse, Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year and retired senior non-commissioned officer, is a cybersecurity pioneer. She’s the first woman ever to win an Ernst & Young EOY award in technology. Newhouse will share her top 11 leadership principles and discuss how everyone can capitalize on their innate leadership skills.
Team Rubicon CEO Jake Wood frequently speaks about social issues and organizational culture topics and has appeared on every major network and cable news program. His presentation will examine what it takes to have courage in a crisis.
After serving as an F-15 fighter pilot in the Air Force, Jim Murphy founded Afterburner, Inc., a global leader in training and consulting. Murphy has a unique mix of leadership skills and is the author of seven books. His panel will detail what he’s learned about team and couple alignment.
Christina “Thumper” Hopper, the first female African American fighter pilot to fly into war, will present how to sustain a passion for leadership. In 2000, only 50 fighter pilots in the Air Force were female, and only two were African-American. Of those two, Hopper was the first to fly into war. Currently, she has flown more than 50 combat missions. She trains, instructs, and mentors the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots.
In 2016, Army veteran Cortez Riggs founded MIC during his last year of active duty. He believed that there needed to be a place within the military community for entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders. Founded as an annual conference, MIC has quickly grown into a powerful community of people who believe in the importance of mentorship, actively work to inspire one another, and are always seeking new ways to collaborate. Honor2Lead is only available on LeaderPass, a virtual event platform for exclusive world-class content. LeaderPass will deliver the Honor2Lead content live and on-demand through any digital device. When you register for the seminar, you’ll get access to your LeaderPass account.
After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. “The Mandalorian” is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
Pedro Pascal, best known as Game of Thrones‘ Red Viper of Dorne (Prince Oberyn, for those of you who refuse to become obsessive fans), stars as the titular character, a bounty hunter heavily inspired by the infamous Boba Fett. The series will take place after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.
Check out the trailer right here:
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12
“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy but the first film. Not just the first film but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars,” creator Jon Favreau told The Hollywood Reporter.
The opening scenes contain bloody stormtrooper helmets on spikes, so I’d say he’s off to a great start!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The show, the first Star Wars live-action TV series, will be one of the biggest releases on the new streaming platform Disney+, which will also house Marvel Cinematic Universe shows about Scarlet Witch and Vision, Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye, among others.
Fans got a peek at footage from The Mandalorian at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, but finally the teaser trailer has been released at D23. In addition, the new poster has been released, unveiling the bounty hunter himself — and that fancy new Disney+ logo.
The Mandalorian will be available to stream right when Disney+ launches on Nov. 12, 2019. The service will cost .99 a month or can be purchased as a bundle with ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for .99 a month.
As we all know by now, the F-117 Nighthawk was America’s first combat-capable stealth aircraft. According to an Air Force fact sheet, it entered service in 1983, and was retired in 2008. It had a very effective career, serving in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom.
But one reason the F-117 was effective was because the Americans managed to keep it secret for the first five years it was in operation. As a result, many figured America’s stealth fighter would be named the F-19 – and in two techno-thrillers, the F-19 had major roles.
It was best-known as the F-19 Ghostrider in Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” In that novel, the planes carry out a daring raid to destroy Soviet Il-76 “Mainstay” radar planes, enabling NATO to secure air superiority in the early stages of the war. One F-19 crew later takes out a Soviet theater commander.
Clancy’s F-19 was very different from the F-117. It had a crew of two, and was capable of breaking Mach 1. It also carried weapons externally, including Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and had a radar. While some sources, like Combat Aircraft Since 1945, credited the F-117 Nighthawk with the ability to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder, most sources claim that the F-117 has no air-to-air capability.
The other appearance of the F-19 was in Dale Brown’s “Silver Tower.” This time, it had the right name, Nighthawk, but it also had a crew of two. Brown didn’t go into the detail of his F-19 that Clancy did in Red Storm Rising. Brown’s F-19s had one notable success, where they bluffed their way in to attack a Soviet base in Iran during Silver Tower. Both planes were shot down and their crews killed.
After the F-117’s public reveal, the speculative F-19s were largely forgotten. But the “F-19” speculation helped keep the F-117 secret – and that secrecy was critical to the battlefield success of America’s first stealth fighter.
The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.
“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.
As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.
1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.
DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.
“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.
Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.
That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.
The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”
Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.
The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.
A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.
McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.
Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.
When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.
“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.
After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.
Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”
Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”
Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.
Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.
Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.
The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.
Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.
“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.
An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.
“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.
By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.
And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.
The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.
New vs. old
In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.
The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.
F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.
If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.
“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.
“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.
By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.
The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.
Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.
“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.
“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.
Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.
Running the numbers
Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.
The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.
“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”
Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.
Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.
For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.
A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.
“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”
“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”
The way forward
Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.
So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.
Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.
“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”
For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.
The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.
“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.
There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.
“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deployments — F-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”
It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.
“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.
He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.
“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.
“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’
“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.
It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.
Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.
“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.
He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.
“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.
The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.
For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.
The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.
Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.
“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.
The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.
“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”
He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.
Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.
“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.
The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.
Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedoes, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.
US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels, as they’re floating airports powered by nuclear reactors. But after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to protect the ships against torpedoes.
“In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities” over the next four years, the report said.
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)
Essentially, the report said that over five years the program made some progress in finding and knocking down incoming torpedoes, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or nonexistent.
This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service says that Russia’s and China’s submarine fleets have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.
The US ignored the threat of torpedoes, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot
The new class of speedy torpedoes can’t be guided, but can fire straight toward US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.
Torpedoes don’t directly collide with a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship to bend or break the keel, sinking the ship.
High-speed underwater missile Shkval-E.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Other Russian torpedoes have a range of 12 miles and can zigzag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.
In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier-strike-group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercises have seen even old-fashioned, diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.
Even unsophisticated foes such as North Korea and Iran can field diesel-electric submarines and hide them in the noisy littoral waters along key US Navy transit routes.
The US Navy can deploy “nixies” or noise-making decoys that the ship drags behind it to attract torpedoes, but it must detect the incoming torpedoes first.
A US Navy carrier at 30 knots runs just 10 knots slower than a standard torpedo, but with a flight deck full of aircraft and personnel, pulling tight turns to dodge an incoming torpedo presents problems of its own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was called the “Blue Bandit” by the American pilots who faced it in combat. It ranks as one of the most widely produced and exported fighters in history. It was the victim of one of the best ruses in military warfare, and it’s flown for almost 60 years. Even though it was designed in the ’50s, it remained in production until 1985 alongside more advanced jets.
This jet was produced by both the Soviet Union and Communist China. It saw action in Vietnam, the Middle East, and even over Yugoslavia. Even now, with upgrades that allow it to carry the latest in air-to-air missiles, it serves on the front for India. Over its long history, this plane has evolved from a pure interceptor to a multirole fighter.
The wide exportation of the MiG-21 meant that a few examples, like the one on the right, ended up in American hands.
The MiG-21 is best known for its use by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. It was fast — it could reach a top speed of 1,386 miles per hour — but had a short range of just 721 miles.
Most famously, the MiG-21 was the primary victim of Operation Bolo, a plan cooked up by U.S. Air Force legend Robin Olds. The North Vietnamese sent their MiG-21s to attack what looked like a large, unescorted strike. They found out the hard way that what looked like F-105 Thunderchiefs (ground-attack planes) were actually F-4 Phantoms. Seven Fishbeds were shot down in that dogfight.
While North Vietnamese Fishbeds did shoot down 56 American planes using the AA-2 Atoll anti-air missile, 90 were downed in air-to-air combat, including two by B-52 tail gunners.
A Bulgarian MiG-21 taxis for takeoff during a 2006 exercise with the United States Air Force.
(US Army photo by Maj. Dana Hampton)
The Fishbed also saw action in the Middle East, mostly going up against Israeli Defense Forces. Here, its record wasn’t as good — and it gained notoriety for being the first to fall prey to the F-15 Eagle.
Learn more about this veteran fighter in the video blow!
Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are working with aerospace instructors and industry partners to develop the Defense Department’s first large stealth target drone to test missile tracking systems.
“As far as we know, this is the first large stealth target drone,” said Thomas McLaughlin, the Academy’s Aeronautic Research Center director.
McLaughlin said the project is the DoD’s first aircraft development with significant contributions by cadets at a service academy.
“It has had cadet involvement in its evolution over several years,” McLaughlin said. “It’s quite rare that a student design has evolved to the point of potential inventory use.”
Dr. Steven Brandt and Cadet 1st Class Joshua Geerinck are among the Academy members who have worked to perfect the drone’s physical design for more than a decade. Brandt teaches aircraft design and is on the team of government and industry experts overseeing contractor work on the project.
“For the first five years, we just did design studies,” Brandt said. “Finally, in the fall of 2007, we said “let’s build an aircraft.”
Cadets and faculty have worked on the drone’s design since 2008 as part of that government industry team. The current version is 40 feet long, with a 24-foot wingspan and 9-foot-high vertical tails.
“It’s the size of a T-38 trainer aircraft,” Brandt said, referring to the Northrop T-38 Talon, a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic jet trainer. “[The target drone] uses two T-38 Trainer engines. We explored multiple options to refine its shape and helped eliminate designs that were not as good.”
A T-38 Talon flies over Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 7, 2018.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)
McLaughlin said the project is important because of its implications in the national defense arena.
“The government owns the intellectual property rights, which makes for substantially reduced production and sustainment costs down the road,” he said.
Geerinck is one of three cadets on the project. He’s been testing the flight stability of the target drone in the Academy’s wind tunnel.
“We’re trying to find a combination of flight-control inputs that will always cause the aircraft to enter a backflip that will cause it to crash,” he said. “The system is important because it allows us to prevent injury or damage to other people or persons on the ground in case there is a catastrophic failure or loss of control.”
McLaughlin said cadets will stay involved in the development of the prototype through its initial flight test and beyond, should it go into production.
“The entire project is the validation of the Academy’s emphasis on putting real-world problems before cadets and expecting them to make real contributions to Air Force engineering,” he said. “In the Aeronautics Department, all cadets perform research and aircraft design — it’s not just for top students.”
Cadets don’t just learn about engineering at the Academy, “they perform it,” McLaughlin said.
“They put their heart and soul into their efforts, knowing that an external customer cares about the outcome of their work,” he said. “Our research program relies on a high level of mentorship that is as much about role modeling as it is about learning facts.”
Brandt said the government-industry team plans to demonstrate the target drone in September at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. Depending on the results of that demo, the Defense Department could purchase the design or select it for prototyping.