Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.

The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.


The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.

In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
President Donald Trump

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.

Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”

Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”

A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”

The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.

“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.

“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military origin of the classic gin and tonic cocktail

Some days, you just feel like you need a drink. Other days, you can’t live without one. For hundreds — maybe thousands — of English troops, there’s one drink that literally saved their lives: the gin and tonic.


It all started when the Spanish learned that Quechua tribesmen in the 1700s (in what is now Peru) would strip the bark from cinchona trees and grind it to help stop fever-related shivering. The active ingredient in the cinchona power was a little chemical known as quinine. It didn’t take long before Spain began to use the remedy to fight malaria.

Eventually, the treatment made its way around the world, helping the British colonial government in India maintain order.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

Any gin is a better complement to wood shavings than wine.

Whilethe French mixed the cinchona with wine, the British mixed theirs with gin,sugar, and,often, a bit of lemon. Later on, this mixture became even more pleasantwhen a Swiss jeweler of German descent, Johann Jakob Schweppe, created amixture of bubbly soda water, citrus, and quinine—and calledit “Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.”

By 1869, Indian companies were manufacturing their own soda water and lemon tonics. With easy access to the soda and one of Britain’s favorite spirits, the redcoats were free to continue colonizing the subcontinent unabated by pesky mosquitoes.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

Too bad there wasn’t a cocktail that helped the British conquer Afghanistan.

Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it. To prevent malaria, you’d need between 500-1,000 milligrams of quinine, but consuming an entire liter of tonic water today would only get you about 83-87 milligrams. Quinine alone isn’t even an effective treatment for the disease anymore, as malarial parasites have grown resistant to the drug. These days, a drug cocktail is more effective at malaria prevention than quinine alone.

So, bring along your Hendrick’s and Tonic, but don’t forget to bring your malaria pills, too.


MIGHTY TRENDING

You can buy a civilian version of the Army’s new sidearm system

Sig Sauer, the maker of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, intends to sell a special, commercial version of the full-size MHS 9mm pistol.


“We are planning to do a limited release of about 5,000 of the Army variant of the M17 for the commercial market,” Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president for commercial sales, told Military.com. “The timing is not finalized yet, but it looks to be late spring.”

The Army awarded Sig Sauer the MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January. The service launched its long-awaited MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.

The selection of Sig Sauer formally ended Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The pistols will become the M17 and M18 after they are type-classified.

Each commercial MHS will be serialized and have serialized matching coin as well as a letter of authenticity from the CEO of Sig Sauer, Taylor said.

Sig Sauer would likely be able to sell more than 5,000 of these pistols, but Taylor said, “we just wanted to make it really special. … And once they are out there, the owners will be privileged to own the actual gun.”

The commercial version will be almost identical to the Army-issue, full-size MHS, except it will not have the anti-tamper mechanism for the striker action, nor will it have the special coatings on some of the internal parts that help it maintain lubricity under harsh conditions, Taylor said.

Read Also: Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

The Army MHS comes standard with a frame-mounted thumb safety. The commercial version will be available with or without the thumb safety, depending on customer preference, Taylor said.

Sig Sauer has not yet decided on a price tag for the endeavor.

“It’s high in demand, but if we price it too high, they will say ‘I really want it, but it is just too expensive.'”

In addition to Sig Sauer, Glock Inc. told a German publisher in August that it plans on selling its MHS variant on the commercial market as well.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

Glock, FN America and Beretta USA, makers of the current M9 9mm pistol, all lost to Sig Sauer, but selling their versions of the MHS may allow them to recoup the money they invested in the high-profile endeavor.

Richard Flur, head of international sales for Glock GmbH, based in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, told Stephan Dorler, managing director of European Security and Defence, a publication based in Bonn, Germany, about Glock’s plans to sell its version of MHS on the commercial market.

A Glock official in the U.S. said, however, there is no timeline yet for such a plan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just launched a mission to explore how Mars was made

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”


First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Seventy-nine minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory towards the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later – 93 minutes after launch – and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 8:41 a.m. EDT (5:41 PDT).

“The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
InSight is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

“Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

“InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet.

Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

“InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.


For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/insight

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps excited for full-rate production of G/ATOR system

The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.

“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”


G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)

The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.

As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. strikes Taliban after Afghan security personnel killed in attacks

The United States has conducted a “defensive” air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province after a checkpoint manned by Afghan forces was attacked.


“The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said in a tweet.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

The strike came just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 20 Afghan security officers in a string of attacks and on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “very good” chat with the Taliban’s political chief.

The wave of violence is threatening to unravel a February 29 agreement signed in Doha between the United States and the Taliban that would allow allied forces to leave Afghanistan within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the extremist group and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the Taliban has so far refused to do.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.

And on March 2, the militant group ordered its fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces, saying that a weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the Doha agreement was “over.”

“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

upload.wikimedia.org

Another attack killed six soldiers in the same northern region, Amiri added.

Washington has said it would defend Afghan forces if they came under Taliban attack.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

The branches of the military re-imagined as major sports leagues

No analogy better describes life in the military than being on a sports team. From the obvious comparisons (you’re operating in a team environment) to the more nuanced (there’s always some kind of competition going on within that team), there’s no denying a strong correlation between the two lifestyles.

As anyone who’s part of the military community knows, there’s an eternal inter-service rivalry running between the branches of the US Armed Forces. This competition is played out in hypotheticals shared between bored troops because, truthfully, there’s no real way to determine which single branch ‘better’ than the rest.

At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of taste, much like choosing a favorite sports league to follow. Well, don’t worry, sports fans, we’ve selected a league for each branch so you don’t have to.


Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

(MLB)

US Army = Major League Baseball

In a lot of ways, this is the easiest parallel to draw. The Army is the oldest of all the armed services, founded in June, 1775, which makes it less than a hundred years older than Major League Baseball, which was founded in 1869.

The Army is also the first branch that comes to mind when most people think of the US Armed Forces. All of us service members, current and prior, have been viewed as a “Soldier” by uninformed friends, family, or weal-meaning passersby. And if you’ve traveled abroad, you also know that most people assume every American loves baseball.

In many ways, the Army is “America’s service” in the same way that baseball is “America’s pastime.”

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

(U.S Air Force Photo by Zachary Perras)

US Navy = National Hockey League

There are some abundantly clear parallels here, as well. The most literal of these connections is that the the Navy is known for its astonishing power on the seas and NHL players are known for being immense forces on ice — frozen water.

The Navy was founded second, in the fall of 1775, and the National Hockey league, founded in 1917, is America’s second-oldest league.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more to the Navy than most people realize, but everyone knows about their elite, the Navy SEALs. Hockey has a long, storied history, filled with amazing athletes — many of which are unknown by most, but everyone knows of Wayne Gretzky.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
(National Football League)

US Marines = National Football League

This one truly is the easiest to see. First, they both have the coolest uniforms. The much-worshipped Marine Dress Blues is, without a doubt, the most iconic uniform in the American military — and there’s nothing that says “American sports” quite like an NFL helmet.

Both require peak physical conditioning. If you’ve ever seen a NFL player in person, you knew right away that they’re capable of some abnormally amazing physical feats. The same is true for most Marines; their physical appearance announces their membership before they open their mouths.

The last and most prominent similarity is their popularity. The USMC is respected and recognized all over America. If their body, posture, or uniform doesn’t give them away, their conduct will. Though the public perception of the NFL is currently suffering, there’s no denying that, historically, football has held a firm foothold in American hearts.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

The general public cheering on the Air Force but calling in the Army

(Erik Drost)

US Air Force = National Basketball Association

Simply put, the USAF is the youngest and most fly.

The NBA gets a lot of greats that would’ve likely played football or baseball in generations past. They constantly get the newest uniform and technological updates — and it’s the hardest league to get into (by percentage. There are 494 total NBA players and 1,696 NFL players).

US Coast Guard = Major League Soccer

Look, we know you’re important and there are tons of fans out there, but the American public just hasn’t caught on yet. I mean, soccer didn’t even make the cover photo of this article, so…

One day, Coast Guard. One day.

Articles

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul
A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why most people don’t have what it takes to be a fighter pilot

What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.

If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.


Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)

First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.

Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.

Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)

Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.

Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.

Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.

If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.

To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the Space Force actually aimed at restraining China?

When Vice President Mike Pence on Aug. 9, 2018, set forth the US’s vision for the future of space exploration and combat, he took a not-so-subtle shot at China, signaling a coming space race between the world’s two biggest powers.

First, Pence brought up a 2007 episode in which China shot down one of its own satellites as a “highly provocative demonstration of China’s growing capability to militarize space” (though the US has satellite-killing missiles too).


But the real dig at China that hints at the future of space conflict came in a more subtle fashion.

“While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law,” Pence said. “So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom into this new frontier.”

Pence also mentioned Russia, but one of the “other” nations at the top of Pence’s mind is China, where space exploration has boomed and Beijing has already started talking about celestial bodies as if they’re a birthright.

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

(NASA photo)

Here’s Ye Peijian, the head of the Chinese lunar-exploration program, 2017:

“The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island. If we don’t go there now even though we’re capable of doing so, then we will be blamed by our descendants. If others go there, then they will take over, and you won’t be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough.”

Ye’s mention of the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese also claim and contest, and of Huangyan Island, which the Philippines also claim and contest, recall Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea.

China unilaterally, and in violation of international law, claims 90% of the South China Sea, a resource-rich shipping lane and maritime chokepoint. China has heavily militarized artificial islands it built there at tremendous cost to the environment. If Beijing locked down the South China Sea, it could consolidate much of Asia’s lifeblood under the de facto control of its authoritarian government.

Space works in much of the same way.

“What appears at first a featureless void is in fact a rich vista of gravitational mountains and valleys, oceans and rivers of resources and energy alternately dispersed and concentrated, broadly strewn danger zones of deadly radiation, and precisely placed peculiarities of astrodynamics,” Everett Dolman, a professor of comparative military studies at the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College, wrote in his book on astropolitics, as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has highlighted.

In other words, the pushes and pulls of gravity cause space to work much like the sea. While it lacks physical terrain, it has its own kind of chokepoints, high ground, runways, and thoroughfares.

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Xichang Satellite Center, China.

‘Totally at war with China’

As China ramps up its space program, it stands accused of stealing technology from the US on a massive scale. The space race of the 1960s proved that countries with the strongest industrial base and manufacturing excel in space. China has done everything in its power to match the US in those areas.

“Make no mistake about it that we are — we are totally at war with China right now,” said Jim Phillips, the CEO and chairman of the nanotechnology firm NanoMech, as Brietbart notes. “It’s not a war of bombs. It’s a war of cyberwarfare, and it’s also a war of GDP and jobs. And the one that has the most GDP and the jobs is going to be the clear winner.”

Phillips said nanotechnology, which could aid in manufacturing the advanced materials seen as vital for future space travel, will determine the next space race’s winner. He accused China of aggressively stealing nanotech secrets.

“At that point, China will have the new world,” he said. “America will no longer have a disproportionate financial advantage that gives it the moral, economic and the leadership authority it has now. When this happens, America loses; the world changes. Everything changes.” China, he said, “won’t have to use its military.”

But the US, for now, appears unwilling to let China have its way in either the South China Sea or space.

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said in June. “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 in Japan is still losing dogfights to F-15s

The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.

US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”


The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.

In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.

But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.

Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now

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Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.

In 2017, the F-35 dominated older jets with a ratio of 15 kills to one death.

“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.

But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.

F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight

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(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.

The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.

Instead, the F-35 relies on stealth. F-35s, employed correctly in battle, would score most of their kills with long range missiles fired from beyond visual range.

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth,” civilian F-16 pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote in 2016 after training on F-35 simulators.

A Top Gun pilot says dogfighting is dead anyway

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(Photo courtesy of Dave Berke)

Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.

The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.


The AI Advantage

vimeo.com

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An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL

Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”

This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.

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Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.

“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”

In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.

TACE: Can We Trust A.I.?

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The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.

“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


Articles

Navy personnel chief to sailors: you have a voice in ratings overhaul

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Chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on Sept. 16, 2016, in the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Christopher Gaines


Vice Adm. Robert Burke is the chief of naval personnel. He assumed the role in May and is responsible for the planning and programming of all manpower, personnel, training and education resources for the U.S. Navy. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

There has been a lot of discussion since we announced the Navy’s rating modernization plan on Sept. 29. I’ve been following the conversation closely, and it’s clear that many were surprised by this announcement.

While there is rarely a right or perfect time to roll out a plan as significant and ambitious as this rating modernization effort, I firmly believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so. Throughout our rich, 241-year history, the U.S. Navy’s consistent advantage has come from its Sailors. You are our asymmetric advantage in an increasingly complex world — you are our prized possession, our secret weapon. In recognition of that, we continuously work to ensure that we develop and deploy our Sailors in the most modern and effective system possible. This is just our latest effort to modernize our personnel system — one of hundreds we’ve made in the past.

The objectives of this effort are simple: flexibility, flexibility and flexibility. First, we will provide flexibility in what a Sailor can do in our Navy, by enabling career moves between occupations to ensure continued advancement opportunity and upward mobility as the needs of a rapidly adapting Navy change. Second, we will provide flexibility in assignment choice — a Sailor with the right mix of plug-and-play skills will have more choices for ship type, home port, timing, sea/shore rotation, even special and incentive pays! Finally, we will provide you more flexibility after you leave the Navy, by providing civilian credentialing opportunities — in other words, giving you credit in the civilian job market for your Navy education and experience.

This effort will take us several years to complete, and we will include you in the process as we work through it — we’re just getting started and you will be involved as we go. Many questions remain unanswered, and we’ll get to them — together. There will be fleet involvement throughout.

Here’s the rough breakdown of the project, as we see it today:

— Phase 1 (now through September 2017) — redefine career fields and map out cross-occupation opportunities. Identify career groupings to define those rating moves that can be done, and that also translate to civilian occupational certifications.

— Phase 2 (now through September 2018, will run parallel with Phase 1) — examine the best way forward for how we best align our processes for:

  • Recruiting and initial job classification;
  • Planning for accessions — the numbers and mix of skills for folks we recruit;
  • Advancements — how do we define what is required for advancement if you are capable of several skill sets? Do we eliminate advancement exams altogether?
  • Detailing processes;
  • Pay processes — to include things like SRB, Assignment Incentive Pay, etc.; and
  • Reenlistment rules.

— Phase 3 (now through September 2018) — updating underlying policy documents, instructions, things like applicable BUPERSINST, OPNAVINST, and the Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards Manual. This will include changes to how we handle things like Evaluations and Awards.

— Phase 4 (began last year, expect to go through September 2019) — identify and put in place the underlying IT systems. This is probably the most complex and game changing aspect of the project.

— Phase 5 (September 2017 through September 2018) — redesign the Navy rating badges. The idea is to hold off on this until we settle on the right definition of career fields, to better inform the conversation on the way ahead in this area.

— Phase 6 (September 2019 and beyond) — continuous improvement, further integration with all Sailor 2025 initiatives.

I am committed to ensuring you have a voice in the way ahead. Toward that end, I am aggressively expanding the membership and avenues of communication into the Navy-wide working group that has been assembled to tackle this project. As we go forward, your feedback matters and we want to hear from you during each phase of the transformation. You can expect lots of discussion on this as we learn and adapt the plan to make it deliver on the objectives. Have conversations with your Senior Enlisted Leaders, who are armed with how to move those conversations forward. You also have a direct line to me in order to make sure your ideas are heard — send them to NavyRatingMod@gmail.com.

We are proud members of numerous different tribes within the Navy — our occupations, warfare specialties, ships and squadrons — we must always remember that there is one Sailor’s Creed and we are one NAVY TEAM supporting and defending our Nation. This modernization will make us more capable as individuals and a Navy.

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