Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

After more than a year of speculation, the word comes straight from the commandant of the Marine Corps: Grunts, including those outside the squad, are getting the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle — and a whole lot of other goodies to boot.


Military.com first reported in November 2016 that the Marine Corps was eyeing the idea of fielding the weapon more broadly within the infantry, and had issued M27s to members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the service’s experimental infantry battalion, to observe how it improved their effectiveness.

With the battalion’s deployment to the Pacific at an end, Marine leaders are considering a list of 41 different recommendations generated by the unit, and M27s are at the top of the list.

In an interview with Military.com in late December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed that a decision had been made to move forward with fielding the M27 more widely within the infantry.

Every Marine in an infantry squad, he said, will receive the high-end rifle. And while not every Marine in a grunt battalion will carry the IAR, others outside of the squad will also be issued one.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller said. But, he added, artillery forward observers, fire support teams, and even engineers might be good candidates for the weapon.

“I’m going to wait and see,” he said. “It’s not that much [money].”

The exact number of weapons needed has yet to be determined. In February, the Marine Corps put out a request for information for 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles, enough to equip every squad. But in August, the service published a pre-solicitation for up to 50,800 M27s, to ensure that manufacturer Heckler Koch was up to the task of meeting an order that large.

Neller has in the past expressed reservations about investing in new weapons and technology for Marine grunts. The IAR, based on the Heckler Koch HK416, offers a longer effective range and better accuracy than the M4 carbine currently fielded to infantrymen, but it also has come with a steeper price tag: about $3,000 a piece compared to less than $1,000 for the M4.

That may no longer be the case.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, told Military.com that competition and economies of scale have pushed the cost of the M27 down significantly.

“The price for that rifle is comparable to what we paid for the M4s the riflemen currently have,” he said. “These companies are competing against each other. And we now have bought the finest infantry rifle for the same price the current infantry rifle is.”

Kitting out the grunts

But with major Marine Corps investments for new rotary-wing and fixed-wing aviation platforms well underway, cost may not be the obstacle it once was for the service. The commandant signaled his plan to invest heavily in the infantry when speaking with deployed Marines during his yearly Christmas tour.

The Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, costs roughly $100 million per copy, Neller told troops at one of a dozen town hall-style addresses he gave in the span of seven days in late December.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Magpul’s 60-round drum is currently undergoing range tests by the U.S. military. (Image via Magpul)

“I could kit out every grunt in the Marine Corps with the coolest s*** head-to-toe for $100 million,” he said. “And I intend to do that.”

For what else may be coming for the infantry, look to the “Über Squad,” an experiment started this year by Wade.

This summer, the 13-Marine unit from 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, was kitted out with M27s, suppressors, and high-tech Ops-Core helmets borrowed from Marine Corps Special Operations Command that feature built-in hearing protection, but also magnify other sounds to improve situational awareness.

The Marines used light MARSOC body armor and advanced AN/PVS-31A night vision devices. They also got 60-round Magpul drums, allowing them to increase the amount of ammunition they carried.

Wade said that the high-end night vision equipment had proved its worth recently during a nighttime exercise at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California.

“That rifle squad moved faster at night than the live fire-safety chaperones,” he said. “The Über Squad moved too fast for them to keep up because they had better night vision goggles.”

Also Read: Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

The squad is expected to deploy to Europe sometime this spring to continue testing out gear, but Wade is already working on requirements documents as a starting point to get some of the equipment to every infantry squad.

He said he’s ready to begin writing requirements for a helmet with all the features of special operations gear, including hearing enhancement, communications infrastructure and ear protection.

Suppressors and scopes

Early efforts to pursue suppressors are also underway.

In September, the Marine Corps published a request for information about a commercially available suppressor that could be used on the M4, the M4A1, and the M27– effectively covering all service weapons used by the infantry. While an early effort, the document instructed prospective suppliers to be ready to supply in large numbers.

“Future procurement quantities of suppressors could span between 18,000 and 194,000,” the RFI reads.

Wade said he’s not yet happy with the suppressor currently in use by the Marine Corps for specialized jobs. He plans to start tests on a flow-through design that reduces signature, he said.

Add to all that one more key piece of gear: a variable power optic that, combined with the M27 and a suppressor, would essentially kit out every Marine in the squad as a designated marksman. Wade said he wants to equip infantry squads from different platoons with various optics and compare their performance to make the case for more powerful equipment.

Currently, Marine grunts carry a 4X power rifle scope; Wade said the idea capability would be a 1-8X power scope.

An RFI published in September described such a scope, the “squad combat optic,” that would work on the M4, M4A1, and M27, and be able to identify and acquire targets at a range of 600 meters or more.

Some of this gear carries with it a sizable price tag. The AN/PVS-31A NVGs, for example, cost about $13,000, compared with about $4,000 for the AN/PVS-14 NVGs currently in use. And all of it isn’t guaranteed to end up with the squad.

But Neller said he’s likely to approve a lot of it, and soon.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Bastian with Marine Rotational Force Europe (MRF-E) uses a suppressor to conduct live-fire range in preparation for exercise Joint Viking, in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Victoria Ross)

“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”

And it’s possible all these items are just the start of a full-court press to equip the infantry for future fights.

In an address to Marines with the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania, Neller hinted at future developments.

“Helmets, [ear protection enhancement], lighter body armor, boots, utilities, everything on the infantry from head to toe is probably going to get changed,” Neller said. “Every Marine’s a rifleman, but not every Marine’s a grunt.”

The infantrymen in the room roared.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian plane full of meat goes down, killing at least 7

A cargo plane coming from Kyrgyzstan has crashed near the Iranian capital, with the country’s military saying only one person of the 16 on board survived.

The Boeing 707 exited the runway and hit a wall while trying to land in bad weather at Fath airport near the city of Karaj, 40 kilometers west of Tehran, reports said on Jan. 14, 2019.


Only one person, a flight engineer, of the 16 people who were onboard was found alive and taken to hospital for treatment, the military said in a statement carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

The head of Iran’s emergency department, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV that seven bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the plane and that the search continued for others on board.

State television showed pictures of a plume of smoke rising from the crash site.

One survivor, 15 dead in Boeing 707 cargo plane crash in northern Iran

www.youtube.com

“A Boeing cargo 707 place carrying meat from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan had an emergency landing at Fath airport today…the flight engineer has been dispatched to the hospital,” the military said.

The aircraft “exited the runway during the landing and caught fire after hitting the wall at the end of the runway,” it added.

There was some confusion about who owned the plane.

A spokesman for Iran’s civil aviation said the aircraft belonged to Kyrgyzstan, but a spokeswoman for Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said the plane belonged to Iran’s Payam Air.

The spokeswoman also said that the Boeing crashed in Iran after departing Manas airport.

General Shahin Taghikhani, a spokesman for Iran’s army, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will now stop rejecting recruits for mental health issues

In an effort to reach a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by the end of next September, the Army is now willing to overlook some mental health issues that in the past would disqualify potential recruits.


According to a report from USA Today, the Army has lifted a 2009 ban on recruits with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and self-mutilation. The ban was imposed in the wake of a series of suicides involving Army personnel. The Army policy is that with “proper documentation,” such as a psychiatric exam, a detailed statement from the prospective recruit, medical records, and photos submitted by the recruiter, a waiver can be granted.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman told USA Today. “These waivers are not considered lightly.”

In October, WATM reported that the Army was making exceptions for marijuana use and relying on so-called “category IV” recruits to make its quota. The fiscal year 2017 quota was 69,000.  While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Elaine Donnelly, the President of the Center for Military Readiness, told WATM when asked for comment, “I’m wondering if the Army’s dubious and possibly unprecedented ‘solution’ to the recruiting problem is symptomatic of the larger issue of the decline in interest among qualified potential recruits. If interest is declining steeply, along with physical capabilities needed to succeed in boot camp, why is that happening?  To simply draw a correlation between a stronger economy and difficulty meeting recruiting goals overlooks the obvious: correlation is not causation.”

“Perhaps the reason recruiters are struggling more than they did during strong-economy years in the past is because young people are not attracted to an organization that seems more interested in political correctness than in its primary mission – defending the country.  To find out, the DoD will have to ask the right questions,” she added.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller.

Last month, a federal court issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from implementing an August 25 memo by President Trump that would have the effect of revoking the June 2016 order by President Obama allowing transgendered individuals to openly serve.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force is preparing to fight in space ‘in a matter of years’

The Air Force already faces extensive operational obligations on Earth, but the service is shifting focus to prepare for what many see as the growing potential for conflict in space.


In a speech at the Air Force Association’s air-warfare symposium in Florida in late February 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said it was, “time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”

It’s not the first time Air Force leadership has underscored the importance of space.

Also read: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

Goldfein outlined the Air Force’s preparations for space operations in a February 2017 op-ed. In October 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized the interests the US has in space and stressed the Air Force’s obligation to prepare for conflict there.

“We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars,” she said at an event in Washington, DC. “We need to normalize space from a national-security perspective. We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported NASA’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, April 18, 2017. (US Air Force)

US national-security officials have said space will become a venue for a range of state and non-state actors with the continued expansion of the space industry and increased availability of technology, private-sector investment, and proliferation of international partnerships for shared production and operations.

“All actors will increasingly have access to space-derived information services, such as imagery, weather, communications, and positioning, navigation, and timing for intelligence, military, scientific, or business purposes,” Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said in a Worldwide Threat Assessment delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee early 2018.

Further reading: How the US is vulnerable to space-based attacks

“As if we don’t have enough threats here on Earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” Coats told the committee.

In his February 2018 speech, Goldfein said the question was not if, but when the US will be fighting outside Earth’s atmosphere.

“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” he said, according to Space News. “And we are the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new, contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 6, 2017. (US Air Force/Scott M. Ash)

Goldfein has been a proponent of multi-domain operations, which draw on air, cyber, ground, sea, and space to provide a full picture of the battlefield. Fighting outside the earth’s atmosphere will require new training as well as investment in new technologies, he said.

“We must build a joint, smart space force and space-smart joint force,” he told the audience in Florida.

Related: This is what happens to your body if you die in space

Asked March 2018 about congressional concerns over the Air Force’s preparations for operations in space, Wilson outlined specific moves the force is making to ready itself.

“I think it’s harder for people to understand [space] because it’s not where we normally breathe and live, but for the Air Force it is an area of tremendous emphasis — just look at the budgets,” she said at the Heritage Foundation.

The fiscal year 2018 budget had a 20% increase in funding for space programs, Wilson said, and the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal — which requests $8.5 billion for space programs — added more than 7% on top of that.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
The Air Force launched the ninth Boeing-built Wideband Global SATCOM satellite on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017. (US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

“We have shifted to next-generation missile warning — so a rapid change there to cancel two planned satellites and shift to a defendable missile-warning architecture. Jam-resistant GPS, so GPS III, is in this budget,” Wilson said, referring to the next set of satellites needed to keep the global positioning system operational.

The “National Space Defense Center is now set up and established so that we have a common operating picture of what’s going on in space, because unless you known what’s going on you can’t defend it,” she added. “Our budget also includes simulators and war-gaming to train space operators to operate in a contested environment. So there is a lot in this budget.”

More: SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

In the next five years, the Air Force plans to put $44.3 billion toward space systems, according to Space News — about an 18% increase over the five-year plan submitted in 2017. The new total includes $31.5 billion for research and development and $12.8 billion for procurement.

“The top-line numbers, I think, tell a story,” Wilson said at the Heritage Foundation. “But I think when you get down into the programs, there’s a real recognition that space will be a contested domain and that we are developing the capability to deter and prevail should anyone seek to deny the United States operations in space.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some Marines say first female infantry officer will face backlash in fleet

Female Marines are worried that old, misogynistic Marines won’t accept the leadership of the service’s first new female infantry officer, who recently graduated from the Infantry Officer Course.


Some female Marines are worried about the integration of the new female infantry officer, whose name has not yet been publicly released, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an op-ed for CNN.

This female infantry officer graduated Sept. 25 and will be assigned to 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. She can now lead a rifle platoon.

There will be pressure on the female infantry officer to prove she isn’t part of a quota system designed to boost female representation, one of the Marines, who was formerly an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., told Lemmon.

“When you are a woman in the Marine Corps and you walk in the room, you have to prove you are there because you are worth something and not just filling a quota,” the former instructor stated.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis/USMC

This former instructor also placed the blame on older Marines for forwarding “emotional arguments” against female integration into infantry roles.

“The young lieutenants I taught had no issues with females serving in the infantry,” she said. “It was the Marines who had been in longer and had been indoctrinated into a culture of misogyny that made emotional arguments against it.”

The Marine Corps was the only service to ask the Obama administration to carve out certain combat positions that would remain male-only when the administration first ordered integration of women into all combat positions. That request went unheeded, but the request itself is emblematic of a deep opposition to the integration of women in the infantry in the service.

In 2012, think tank CNA conducted a survey in 2012 of almost 54,000 members of the Marine Corps and discovered that 76.5 percent of Marines who served in an infantry unit were opposed to integrating women. For male Marines not in infantry roles, opposition still amounted to 56.4 percent.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled vets and retirees will get the biggest raise in 7 years

Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.

It is the biggest Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) increase in seven years, equaling as much as $369 a month for those at the top of the retirement pay charts.


Each year military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities, VA Compensation and Pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Retirement pay increase

Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)

Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.

VA disability increase

Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.

Other federal retirees and beneficiaries

Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.

For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.

Largest COLA bump in years

This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.

The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.

In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.

Keep up with military pay updates

Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.

Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.


FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.

FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.

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

Articles

Marines could ditch ammo cans in push to get lighter

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Marines lift ammo cans during a Company C squad competition at Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, Sept. 23, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.


QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.

Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.

Also read: 5 obvious fixes for the military’s weight problem

Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”

Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.

The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.

But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”

Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.

The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.

“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”

Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.

Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.

“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”

Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.

Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Articles

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
MC-130J operating from desert airstrip. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.

On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.

“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”

The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.

With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”

The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.

More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.

A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.

So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.

Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.

“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”

Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.

Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.

Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
A modified MC-130J awaits its next mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The aircraft has been fitted with vertical fins on each wing, called winglets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”

Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.

The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.

As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.

The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.

Back at Wright-Patterson, the officials in charge of names balked at the idea of two names for one plane. Air Force Materiel Command ultimately approved Combat Shadow II for all MC-130Js.

This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”

Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.

On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.

Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.

With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”

The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.

Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.

Articles

Iranian drone nearly collides with US Navy Super Hornet

An Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle nearly collided with a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet preparing to land on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The incident occurred Aug. 8.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Iranian QOM-1 drone came within 100 yards of the Super Hornet assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA 147), forcing the pilot to take evasive action. That squadron is assigned to the Nimitz, which has been on deployment to the Persian Gulf where it has been supporting anti-ISIS operations.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

“The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 in the known vicinity of fixed wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a post on their Facebook page.

The action marked the 13th incident involving Iran that was either unsafe, unprofessional, or both, in 2017, according to a Defense Department statement. In multiple instances, American ships have been forced to fire warning shots at the Iranian forces who have acted in an unsafe manner, and a Marine Corps helicopter was targeted by an Iranian laser. 2016 also saw a number of incidents between Iranian and American vessels, as well as threats directed towards American aircraft.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The vast majority of the unsafe encounters with Iran have involved naval vessels. These incidents involving aircraft have usually involved Russian or Chinese planes and American units. In one notable incident, Russian Su-24 “Fencers” buzzed the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78).

Late last year, American ships, notably the Arliegh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) were fired at by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles.

Articles

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

“Right now, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to help us fight back against COVID-19, including those in critical medical specialties. Normally, they lead ordinary civilian lives as neighbors, coworkers, coaches and parents. However, when this crisis struck, they sprang into action as citizen soldiers and airmen, putting their lives on hold — and on the line — for our safety. If you appreciate those who are doing double duty to keep us safe, this is the time to donate!


Until the tide turns and our Guard troops can return to their families full-time, this will continue to be a huge and extremely stressful deployment. The extra comforts and support the USO can provide all of our deployed troops make a world of difference. Help us bring a little home to our heroes while they fight to keep our homes safe.”

They’ve raised ,309 of a 0,000 goal!

Click to donate!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI reportedly investigating whether Mar-a-Lago invader is Chinese spy

The arrest of a woman who hoodwinked her way into President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, with a thumb drive containing “malicious malware” has exposed flaws in the club’s security system, as the FBI reportedly launches an investigation into whether she is a Chinese spy.

The woman, identified as 32-year-old Yujing Zhang, entered the resort on March 30, 2019, after showing two Taiwanese passports to Secret Service agents and telling them she was a club member trying to use the pool, Secret Service Agent Samuel Ivanovich said in a March 30, 2019 court filing.

Upon passing Secret Service checks, Zhang went through separate checks with Mar-a-Lago staff. They initially failed to verify that Zhang was on the guest list, but eventually let her in, thinking she was the daughter of a member also named Zhang, Ivanovich said. Zhang is a common Chinese surname.


According to Ivanovich, Zhang changed her story upon entering the property, saying she was there for an event organized by the United Nations Chinese American Association — which didn’t exist.

Upon being alerted, Secret Service agents found that Zhang had no swimsuit, and was instead carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, a hard drive, and a thumb drive containing “malicious malware,” Ivanovich said.

Federal prosecutors in Florida have since charged her with making false statements and entering a restricted area. She is due to appear in court next week.

Woman accused of lying her way into Mar-a-Lago

www.youtube.com

FBI is reportedly investigating

The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in South Florida is now trying to figure out who Zhang is and whether she is linked to Chinese intelligence services, the Miami Herald reported. Zhang had not been known to US intelligence before March 30, 2019, the Herald said.

The investigation into Zhang is also focusing on Li “Cindy” Yang, the Chinese founder of a Florida spa chain who is accused of selling businessmen access to Trump, his family, and Mar-a-Lago. The alleged event that Zhang said she was attending on March 30, 2019, had been advertised by Yang on Chinese social media, the Herald reported.

A spokeswoman for Yang told the Herald on April 3, 2019, that Yang “stated that she does not know the woman who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.”

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

The FBI is looking into whether Yujing Zhang, the woman who bluffed her way into Mar-a-Lago, is connected to Li “Cindy” Yang, the Florida massage parlor founder accused of selling Chinese businessmen access to Trump.

(Facebook/Cindy Yang)

Mar-a-Lago could jeopardize US national security, senators warn

March 30, 2019’s episode has exposed glaring flaws in Mar-a-Lago’s security system.

It showed that although Secret Service agents carried out physical checks on Mar-a-Lago visitors, whether or not someone gains entry to the club is down to the resort’s own security system.

In a rare statement on April 2, 2019, the Secret Service said: “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity. The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property.”

Security measures within the club’s grounds have appeared lax in the past. In 2017, paying member Richard DeAgazio was able to freely snap photos of the moment Trump briefed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about a North Korean missile test over dinner.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

The now-deleted Facebook post of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in February 2017.

(Screenshot/Facebook)

Photos of the dinner — which DeAgazio posted on Facebook before subsequently deleting them — showed the meeting being conducted in the open, in front of club members, with cellphone lights pointing toward sensitive documents.

In an April 3, 2019 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, and Mark Warner said: “The apparent ease with which Ms. Zhang gained access to the facility during the President’s weekend visit raises concerns about the system for screening visitors, including the reliance on determinations made by Mar-a- Lago employees.”

“As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service coordinate to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the President travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications,” they added.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the US House Oversight Committee, told Reuters: “I am not going to allow the president to be in jeopardy or his family,” adding that the Secret Service will brief him and his Republican co-chair Jim Jordan on the incident.

As Zhang wrestled her way into Mar-a-Lago on March 30, 2019, Trump had been golfing at a nearby resort. First Lady Melania Trump and other members of the Trump family were at the property at the time, but there is no indication that they crossed paths with Zhang.

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump.

(Flickr / Carmen Rodriguez)

Trump dismissed the incident as a “fluke” and said he was “not concerned at all,” according to Reuters.

“We will see what happened, where she is from, who she is, but the end result is they were able to get her,” he told senior military leaders, Reuters reported.

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told The New York Times that Trump’s frequent visits to the club are a “nightmare for the Secret Service.”

“A privately owned ranch where the president and his people use the location is much easier than protecting the president when he chooses to go to a private club that’s open to members that provides services to those people in exchange for a fee,” he said.

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