U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.
The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.
JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.
The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.
“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”
U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.
The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.
After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.
U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”
The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.
“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”
Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”
All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.
“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday directing construction of a “National Garden of American Heroes” — a statuary park that would serve as a “monument to our country’s greatness,” according to a White House news release.
The list includes names such as basketball star Kobe Bryant; singer Whitney Houston; Texas revolutionary and U.S. Sen. Sam Houston; and Army physician Walter Reed.Advertisement
The order was written as a response to the destruction or vandalism of statues last year during protests over racial inequality and police brutality against minorities in the U.S.
During protests and riots in the wake of several high-profile killings of Black Americans, including the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd May 25, a number of memorials and statues paying tribute to the Founding Fathers, as well as Abraham Lincoln, were defaced or toppled. Other statues and symbols honoring those who served the Confederate States of America were removed.
“America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration,” Trump wrote in the order.
The eclectic mix of honorees who would be featured in the proposed park runs the gamut of American history from A — photographer Ansel Adams — to Z, Lorenzo de Zavala, a Mexican-born physician considered one of the founders of the state of Texas.
The list includes titans of industry, entertainers, artists, inventors and cultural icons, as well as numerous military heroes and veterans of various ranks.
Among those who served and would be included are:
Lt. j.g. Neil Armstrong
Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez
Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle
Cpl. Desmond Doss
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower
Adm. David Farragut
Astronaut, senator and Col. John Glenn
Former President and Gen. Ulysses Grant
Continental Army Col. Nathan Hale
Adm. William “Bull” Halsey
Cpl. Ira Hayes
Col. Hans Christian Heg
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. George Marshall
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf
Gen. Maxwell Taylor
Foreign military officers who also served the United States military would receive honors in the garden as well, including the Marquis de Lafayette and Tadeusz Kosciuszko.
President Andrew Jackson’s name is on the list; last year, monuments honoring the War of 1815 hero were targeted by vandals or slated for removal for Jackson’s role in forcibly relocating Native Americans to reservations. The populist Jackson is a favorite of Trump’s: A portrait of the seventh president hung in his office.
Whether the garden will ever be constructed remains to be determined. The order directs the secretary of the interior to identify a site for the park and provide funding for the space.
President-elect Joe Biden has said, however, that he plans a series of orders to overturn Trump policies and executive orders. His transition team has not specified exactly what will be overturned.
According to a CBP release, a narcotics-detecting canine directed attention to the Xbox, and after an inspection, the agents seized the drugs, which had an estimated worth of about $10,000.
The 16-year-old was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.
Synthetic drugs like meth have become increasingly common as producers and traffickers adjust to factors like marijuana legalization and widespread heroin use in the US.
“That has shifted the marketplace in a way. It means that Mexican illicit-drug exporters have had to … diversify their offerings,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider. “They have moved into … heroin as a source of revenue, but also … into other, I would say, synthetic drugs, like MDMA and various forms of methamphetamine.”
While seizures at the border can only reveal so much about the black-market drug trade, reports from Customs and Border Patrol indicate that heroin and other synthetic drugs are frequently intercepted at the US-Mexico frontier.
On September 9, a search of a Chevy Tahoe crossing the border at Brownsville, Texas, uncovered 37 pounds of what was believed to be methamphetamine, valued at $740,000. That same day, a search of a Nissan Murano at the Laredo, Texas, border crossing turned up 12 pounds of crystal meth and 4 pounds of heroin, worth a total of nearly $360,000.
In two separate incidents on September 9 at the border crossing at Nogales, Arizona, 17 pounds of meth valued at more than $52,000 was found in the wheel well of a Dodge van, while later that day a 16-year-old woman was found to have nearly 3 pounds of heroin worth almost $48,000 in her undergarments.
On September 13 at the Nogales port of entry, a Mexican woman was found to be carrying three pounds of heroin worth $50,000 in a can of baby formula. On September 15, agents in California found more than 43 pounds of meth worth about $175,000 concealed under the floor mats of a gray 2014 Nissan Sentra.
Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.
By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.
“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”
Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.
The legislative amendment was sponsored by Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who successfully got the same amendment through the committee in November, only to see it stripped from the bill by House lawmakers a month later.
The latest language still has to be considered by the full Senate and then be sent once more to the House for approval.
The VA won’t comment on the lawmakers’ actions on medical marijuana, but its website quotes a report by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and Glenna Rousseau of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, dismissing marijuana as useful in treating veterans.
“Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD,” the report states. “Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”
The federal government in 2014 approved a study on medical marijuana to be conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit research center. But the research hasn’t yet been completed.
The Army will start buying weapons the way Special Operations does, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters here, bringing different specialists together in one streamlined team. The often-insular Army is also studying the other services, Milley said, particularly the rapid development of the nuclear Navy under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover. A three-star officer, Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, is currently developing detailed options, and Milley hopes to stand up “this new command” by summer 2018.
The primary objective: Infuse real-world combat experience into every step of the process. “Warfighters have to be intimately involved from the front end, (in) Milestone A (research) and B (development),” Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told a different group of reporters. That’s in contrast to the current “bifurcated” system, in which combat veterans, requirement writers for what new equipment must do, the program managers who actually build things, and the logisticians who keep them running are segregated in different bureaucracies.
The new system will draw on the experience of Special Operations Command and other small, streamlined organizations – such as the Army’s own Rapid Capabilities Office and Rapid Equipping Force. They will try to scale that up to the Big Army, McCarthy said. For each top priority program, a former combat brigade commander will lead a “cross functional team” of concept and requirements developers, program managers, testers, logisticians, and so on.
McCarthy emphasized that the Army isn’t asking for new force structure, just reorganizing what it has, and legally mandated reporting requirements will remain in place. Program managers will participate on the new teams, for example, but they’ll still answer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Will the Army need new legal authorities or relief from existing statue? “I don’t know,” McCarthy said frankly, but he’s already been talking with legislators and their staff.
One change defense contractors will appreciate: McCarthy is working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Ellen Lord, to change an unpopular policy on companies’ Independent Research And Development expenses. The intent, he told a formal press conference here, is to give companies incentives to spend their own money in IRAD, which benefits the troops, instead of sitting on cash and buying back their stock, which doesn’t.
New Model Army
All told, it’s an all-out assault on the slowest and most sclerotic of military bureaucracies (which is really saying something), the Army’s acquisition system. Milley said it would be “the largest reengineering of the institutional Army in four decades.”
Milley repeatedly emphasized that 40-year figure. Why? He’s referring to the 1973 reform by his famed predecessor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, that established a separate Training Doctrine Command to oversee all training, write all doctrinal manuals, and develop requirements. Once TRADOC writes requirements, however, they’re handed to Army Materiel Command and the ASAALT, who actually research, develop, buy, field, and sustain the equipment in question.
Getting requirements right is difficult for any military organization, but only the Army has to struggle with such a stark bureaucratic divide. One plausible rumor we’ve heard is that a new “Modernization Command” will be built by combining TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center and AMC’s Research Development Command, probably along with elements of Army Test Evaluation Command.
The proposed reform is outlined very vaguely in a memo co-signed by Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy, first reported by our colleague Patrick Tucker. “Our processes are staff-centric and often stove-piped, which inhibits integration within our across programs. Our requirements process is slow and overly bureaucratic,” the memo says. To fix this, “our Army will establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the modernization process under one roof.”
At a press conference here, Milley and McCarthy declined to divulge many details of the plan. The reorganization scheme is being developed by a task force under Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, who reports back in 120 days. But Milley shared more of his thinking to reporters who caught him on his way out, to the visible frustration of the aides trying to keep him on schedule:
“If you want to see the genesis of the model that we’re thinking about, go take a look at how SOCOM does their thing, because that’s where we got a lot of the ideas,” Milley said. “We looked at the way the Air Force does it, the Navy does it, (including) the navy in the nuclear environment, y’know under Rickover, (and) we went out to industry… we looked at all of that and tried to take best practices.”
“We’ve got to streamline, we’ve got to rationalize,” Milley said. “Right now, the Army’s structure — the institution, the processes, the organization (is) not coherent to deliver effective capabilities for the future.”
“With a few exceptions like the Army Rapid Capbilities Office and the Rapid Equipping Force, we’re basically a left-right-left, step-by-step process going from an idea, establishing a requirement, writing up a big requirements document, and then vetting it through multiple steps,” Milley said. “It takes 10, 20 years to go from idea to delivery of a capability. You just can’t operate like that in today’s world. You just can’t do it. it’s got to be faster, it’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be more coherent, and we’ve got to kind of bring it all together.”
In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.
Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.
The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.
Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.
He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.
Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.
“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.
Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”
The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.
Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.
Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.
Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.
When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.
“This is my decision,” he said.
Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.
Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”
“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”
However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.
Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”
Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.
“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.
The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.
Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.
The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.
“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.
“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”
The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.
Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.
Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.
By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.
Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.
On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.
The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”
F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron and F-35 Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron successfully flew more than 140 sorties and fired 13 missiles to culminate the first post-Hurricane Michael Combat Archer air-to-air exercise at Eglin Air Force Base Dec. 14, 2018.
“This is the final step of our combat readiness — we assess our operations and maintenance personnel as well as the aircraft itself,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McGinn, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “We need to make sure we have the ability to load missiles, the aircraft are configured correctly, the aircraft perform as they should when you press the pickle button, the missile performs as advertised and the pilots know what to expect. All of these aspects must be tested and proven prior to actually needing the process to work in combat.”
The 27th FS brought 200 personnel from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to participate in the exercise, which was flown out of Eglin AFB due to the rebuilding efforts at Tyndall AFB.
Senior Airman Angel Lemon, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshals an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, during exercise Combat Archer Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
“The amount of coordination that goes into a single missile shoot cannot be quantified. The ability for the 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron to accomplish this coordination across two different locations, with the infrastructure limitations that Tyndall (AFB) currently has, was unbelievable,” said McGinn.
This was the second Combat Archer the 27th Fighter Squadron has participated in this year. Of the 30 F-22 pilots, six were first-time shooters.
“While this was the first time I fired a live missile, I wasn’t nervous,” said 1st Lt. Jake Wong, 27th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. “There is the seriousness that I have a live missile on my jet today, which is not something we do every day. The training is really good and the flight profile is controlled so we know what to expect to ensure we fire the missile safely.”
An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background, Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
While the aircraft took off from Eglin AFB, the sub-scale drones assigned to the 82 ATRS, took off from Tyndall AFB.
“No other Air Force in the world comes close to the same scale of weapons testing as the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters’ ability which is why it was important to resume the Combat Archer mission so soon after the hurricane.”
The 83rd FWS conducted telemetry data collection and missile analysis, 81st Range Control Squadron conducted command and control and the 53rd Test Support Squadron provided electronic attack pods out of Tyndall AFB.
It was once a staple of aviation: During WWII, pilots and crews would decorate the nose of their beloved aircraft with a piece of art. At first, these drawings were used as means of identifying one another. Later, they became a way to remember what’s waiting back home — usually gorgeous women posed in ways that’d make grandma blush.
The practice wasn’t given official approval, but it wasn’t banned outright, either — for a while, anyway. Then, the Air Force finally put their foot down. We understand that there’s a need for nose art to look “professional” in modern times, but the extensive approval process defeats the purpose of the tradition and has effectively killed one of the coolest parts of Air Force history.
A distinctive marking might just defeat the purpose of flying a top secret aircraft…
(U.S. Air Force)
New nose art still appears on aircraft, but the instances are less frequent and varied. The 23rd Fighter Group’s A-10s, for example, will still have their iconic “shark teeth” — at least until the A-10 retires in 2022 — and many larger aircraft, such as the KC-135 and AC-130, still carry gorgeous and patriotic designs, but these are often relegated to being “Air Show darlings” instead of serving their intended purposes overseas.
The soft ban on nose art isn’t without some validity. We understand that you can’t slap a drawing of a nude lady on the side of a multi-million dollar aircraft and expect the general population to be happy with it — and it’s probably not a good idea to put a layer of paint on the high-tech, radar-resistant panels that cover the stealthier aircraft in America’s hangers.
It’s a combat multiplier, or whatever buzzword that gets officers going these days…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)
Today’s airmen who feel the need to give their baby some style don’t often use any kind of permanent paint. Instead, crews will usually use colored chalk to draw on their designs. That way, they can simply wash it off whenever needed (like when an ornery officer wants to rain on the parade).
There’s some practical reasoning behind dolling up an aircraft with chalk — and it’s more than just honoring a WWII tradition. It makes it much easier to identify which matte gray aircraft belongs to which crew when you’re looking at a massive lineup. Instead of cross-referencing tail numbers, you can simply look for the one with a dragon or a grim reaper or a poor attempt at a tiger.
This also brings a sense of “ownership” to the aircraft. Yes, it ultimately belongs to Uncle Sam and whomever has it on their hand receipt, but when you’ve got some personal attachment, you’ll put in that little bit of extra effort to keep everything in tip-top shape.
Or, if you really want to reign it in, make it match the unit’s history — but let ’em have some fun.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Owsianka)
If a crew wants to add some permanent nose art, they’ll have to coordinate a request for artistic modifications through their major command and navigate all the bureaucratic red tape that comes along with it. It’s not impossible, but getting anything approved that isn’t a direct nod to unit history or extreme patriotism is difficult.
So, instead of slogging through all that nonsense, some airmen just go for it and decorate their aircraft. What happens to these renegades? Usually nothing more than a slap on the wrist and an order to remove the offending art. Which brings us to the ultimate question:
Why even have a rule against nose art? If the design is in good (and professional) taste and it’s done by a competent artist, why not allow airmen to mark their birds with something that will inspire their unit?
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
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.
Two letters sent to the Pentagon, including one addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, have tested positive for ricin, a defense official told VOA on Oct. 2, 2018.
The envelopes containing a suspicious substance were taken by the FBI on Oct. 2, 2018, for further testing, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning.
The two letters arrived at an off-site Pentagon mail distribution center on Oct. 1, 2018. One was addressed to Mattis, the other was addressed to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, an official told VOA on condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected the substance during mail screening, so the letters never entered the Pentagon building, officials said.
“All USPS (United States Postal Service) mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility [Oct. 1, 2018] is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel,” according to Manning.
Ricin is a highly toxic poison found in castor beans.
On Nov. 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and the United States Marine Corps dedicated new engravings on the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial to include the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns.
The names and dates of principal U.S. Marine Corps campaigns and battles are engraved at the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial as well as the Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful” in Latin. The memorial also features the phrase, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” a quote from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in honor of the Marines’ action on Iwo Jima. While the statue depicts a famous photograph of a flag-raising on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.
“As the Deputy Commander of Special Forces in Iraq and retired Navy SEAL, I saw the commitment, patriotism, and fortitude that American servicemembers and their families display while serving our country. It’s a great honor to be a part of memorializing the Marines of the Global War on Terror,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Our warriors who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan see more frequent deployments as our nation has been at sustained combat for longer than in any previous point in our nation’s history. The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are warriors in the field and leaders in the community, I salute them and am grateful for their service.”
President Trump has proclaimed November National Veterans and Military Family month. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service recognize veterans and their families by caring for the battlefields, monuments, and memorials like the U.S.Marine Corps War Memorial that honors those who have served and who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
“These engravings represent the 1,481 Marines to date who gave all, as well as their surviving families and a Corps who will never forget them. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is a living tribute to warriors. It is a sacred place that symbolizes our commitment to our nation and to each other,” Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller said.
Made possible by a $5.37 million donation by businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the rehabilitation project also included cleaning and waxing the memorial, brazing bronze seams, and re-gilding letters and inscriptions on the sculpture base. Over the past four months, every inch of the 32-foot-tall statues of Marines raising the flag was examined. Holes, cracks, and seams on the bronze sculpture were brazed to prevent water damage.
“Today we’re simply adding two words to the Marine Corps memorial – Afghanistan and Iraq – but what they stand for is historic and should make every American pause and give thanks for the sacrifices of life and limb that our armed forces have made to protect our freedoms. It is the greatest of privileges to be able to honor our troops and military by helping to restore this iconic memorial,” David M. Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein’s donation, announced in April 2015, was a leadership gift to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.
“Mr. Rubenstein’s commitment to America’s national parks is as inspiring as it is generous,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his transformative gift to honor the bravery and sacrifice of U.S. Marines represented by this iconic memorial, an image imprinted in the collective memory of our nation.”
The next phase of the project will replace lighting, landscaping, and specially designed educational displays about the significance and importance of the memorial. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2018.
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.