Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF's flawed new tankers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon acquisition officials in November that he is “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers from Boeing, which is leading the effort to replace the aging KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to Bloomberg.


Mattis has had limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, but he is the latest defense chief to comment on the 16-year-long effort to replace the Air Force’s tanker.

Boeing won a contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s. But the $44.5 billion program has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns.

Under the contract signed with the government, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. So far, the defense contractor has eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

The KC-46 program has been stymied by delays for years.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee)

In summer 2014, Boeing was hit with nearly a half-billion dollars in overruns related to wiring problems in the first program’s first four airplanes. The test version, the 767-2C, which was not outfitted with any refueling systems, was supposed to take its first flight in June 2014, but missed that date, taking the air for the first time during the final days of that year.

In mid-2015, issues with the plane’s fueling system added another half-billion-dollar accounting charge for Boeing.

Also Read: This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

In the middle of 2016, it was announced that Boeing would miss its contractual deadline to deliver 18 of the KC-46 tankers to the Air Force by August 2017 due to numerous technical issues. Though the tanker was able to refuel F-16 fighter aircraft at that point, a major issue was refueling the Air Force’s huge C-17 cargo plane, which put “higher than expected” pressure on the aerial boom extended by the tanker to distribute fuel.

A technical solution to the boom issue was developed over the following months, but another major problem — this time a “category one” deficiency — arose during testing in late 2016, when the refueling boom was found to have scraped the surface of the aircraft taking on fuel.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
(Concept image from Boeing)

Though the damage was minor, the problem not only posed a threat to the aircrews involved but also risked compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded. The Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, Ellen Lord, said the issue was still under investigation as of November.

Two other “category one” deficiencies — considered less serious — were also found at that time, but the Air Force has said progress has been made on both.

Boeing’s president and CEO of defense and security said on December 2 that the company will miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first KC-46 tanker by the end of 2017.

The firm is contractually required to deliver 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018.

Despite issues, the KC-46 has been praised by Department of Defense officials and the Government Accountability Office.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A KC-135, which is slated to be replaced by the Boeing KC-46… eventually. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

Mattis himself in recent days has complimented Boeing’s cooperation with the Pentagon.

“I reinforced that the Air Force was not going to accept tankers that weren’t completely compliant with the contract,” Mattis said of his note during a press briefing en route to Kuwait on Dec. 3, according to Bloomberg. Boeing has been “excellent,” Mattis said, adding that there hadn’t been any “pushback” from the contractor

“The Air Force needs tankers done right. The American taxpayer expects tankers done right, and Boeing is committed to tankers that are done right,” Mattis told reporters. “We’ll get there. It’ll be the best tanker in the world.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

SOCOM’s new mission is countering WMD threats

U.S. Special Operations Command may now lead the effort to stop terrorists from obtaining mass-casualty weapons, such as dirty bombs, but experts in the SOF community warn that operators can’t do it alone.


U.S. Strategic Command recently passed the leadership role in counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mission to SOCOM, a move that has SOF leaders scrambling to figure out where it fits into this complex mission.

Michal Lumpkin, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said he worries that SOCOM will try to take on too much of the mission.

Special Operations personnel are known for being “solution people,” he said. “They solve problems. They fill gaps, seams, and voids.”

Also read: SOCOM is hunting for an advanced new sniper rifle

“But every gap, seam, and void is not theirs to fill, so the interagency has to do their part,” Lumpkin told an audience Feb. 28, 2018, at National Defense Industrial Association’s 29th Annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium. “So, one of the things that I always fear is we would maybe get out in front of the headlights farther and faster than we should and accept too much of the mission.”

Lumpkin took part in a counter-proliferation panel discussion, where all the panelists agreed that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons are quickly becoming one of the top threats to the United States and its allies.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Soldiers of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Republic of Korea 11th Special Forces Brigade, secure a person of interest during training near Gwangyang, South Korea. (Photo by SFC Andrew Kosterman)

U.S. Army Col. Lonnie Carlson, director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy in the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, said keeping WMD out of the hands of ISIS extremists is one of his top priorities.

“Those real-world things are there, and the bottom line is, they are definitely terrorism-related, they are coming out of the Middle East, and they are not things we were worried about two months ago,” Carlson said.

Components of these mass-casualty weapons are also coming out of North Korea and turning up in places like Syria, said Michael Waltz, a former Special Forces officer and policy advisor to the Bush administration.

There have been “40 to 50 previously unknown, unreported shipments of essentially chemical weapons components or dual-use components from North Korea to Syria,” he said.

Related: SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

Syria’s legitimate chemical industry “isn’t exactly thriving, so I think it is safe to assume what those parts are for,” he added.

Waltz said he agreed with President Trump’s policy of “stopping the North Korean program in its tracks,” but said he thought the administration’s failure to fill key positions in the State Department would make it difficult to counter the proliferation of these types of weapons.

“I think we are really suffering in many respects … with the lack of appointments and with what is going on in the State Department,” Waltz said. “How do we work the non-proliferation piece, which State should and will lead, when they don’t have the manpower? The answer I think is, it’s going to fall on DoD, and it’s going to fall on SOCOM.”

Carlson pointed out that that SOCOM has been given the “synchronization” role in the effort, “but that doesn’t mean they own all the operations.”

“It’s still the global and geographic chain of command with their theater units and SOF operating commands that actually do the executions,” he said.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Members of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. (USAF photo by Christopher Lange)

SOCOM has been given a “significant plus-up” in the proposed fiscal 2019 budget, mainly in the overseas contingency operations account, but that will not be enough to fund this new mission, Lumpkin said.

“There are still shortages for SOCOM and across the inter-agency [in] resourcing this issue,” he said. “The reality is, you can’t put a new mission on anybody without either taking something off the table, something else that they are doing, or you are going to have to give them more resources.”

SOCOM has no shortage of missions these days, Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said during his speech on Feb. 28, 2018.

In addition to leading the new WMD mission, “they also maintain their coordinating authority for countering violent extremists,” Mitchell said. “These are no-fail missions for the nation. … We are going to look at where we can shut some missions.”

More: How the military decontaminates itself after WMD attacks

Mitchell welcomed the conventional Army’s recent decision to stand up its new Security Force Assistance Brigades, units of highly trained officers and soldiers designed to take over the “advise-and-assist” mission of training foreign troops in conventional infantry operations.

The Army plans to have all six SFABs in place by 2022. Perhaps these new units can take some of the burden off of Special Forces units, who have traditionally assumed these foreign training missions, Mitchell said.

Waltz suggested turning to the National Guard and Reserves since many of its personnel have civilian expertise in some the areas needed in the counterproliferation mission.

“SOCOM isn’t going to solve this by themselves,” Lumpkin said. “The only way we are going to get our arms around the counter-WMD, counter-proliferation challenges is to do it in a unified, whole-of-nation approach.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

John Stewart kicks off the 2019 Warrior Games

The opening ceremony of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games began with the traditional procession of service-member athletes representing their countries. The national anthem for each country was played marking the international participation of the games, but when U.S. Army Maj. Luis Avila, a wounded warrior, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, you had a sense these games were going to be special.

Jon Stewart, a comedian, was once again the master of ceremonies to officially open the games. He mixed humor with a compassion and seriousness about wounded warriors that seems to resonate with service members and families.

“Thank you very much for coming out to the Warrior Games,” Stewart said. “We have had a tremendous day or two of competition. The athletes are finding out what it is like to be in a city that was built inside of a humidifier.”


“We are here to celebrate these unbelievable athletes from all of the branches (of military service),” Stewart continued. “These are men and women that refuse to allow themselves to be defined by their worst day, but define themselves by their reaction to that day and the resilience, and the perseverance, and the dedication, and the camaraderie, and the family you are going to witness this week.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Jon Stewart at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Stewart stated the athletes have gone through a lot to get to the games, but no one gets there by themselves.

“The families and the caregivers so often work as hard as the athletes to get them prepared and to get them going and to be there,” Stewart said.

Kenneth Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House, plays a huge role in helping the families. Fisher acknowledged the work with wounded warriors that Jon Stewart continues to do as an advocate for service members in and out of uniform, and focused on family support.

“I have had the great honor of meeting so many of this nation’s wounded people and never a day goes by when I am not inspired by you; amazed by what you have accomplished and humbled by the unconditional support given to you by your families, your friends, your spouses, your children; by all those who love you the most.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in 13 athletic competitions over 10 days as U.S. Special Operations Command hosts the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Florida, sent videotaped messages to the athletes, wishing them well during the competition. Congresswoman Kathy Castor noted the fantastic job U.S Special Operations Command has done hosting this year’s Warrior Games.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist had an opportunity to watch the U.S. Army wheelchair basketball team practice earlier in the day.

“Coach Rodney Williams has those three-time defending champions looking pretty good,” Norquist noted. “They got (retired) Spc. Brent Garlic who was part of last year’s team, and (retired) Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, who is the defending Warrior Games Ultimate Champion.”

Norquist welcomed and thanked all the international participants at this year’s competition, and alluded to the qualification to participate in the games.

“To compete in the Warrior Games, it is not enough to be strong; it is not enough to be fast. In the Warrior Games, there is a level of resolve; a unique ability to embrace and overcome adversity and that is the price of admission. Just to get to this event, it requires unbelievable grit and resilience.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Air Force athletes enter the arena for the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tim Kane, father of Army Sgt. Tanner Kane, said, once his son got involved with adaptive reconditioning sports, he found a purpose to get up and out in the mornings.

“Tanner didn’t speak for two years and then he connected with other Soldiers, it all changed. Tanner realized his former state was wasting away at his spirit and this program was here to help and aid other Soldiers on their progress to healing.”

Tiffany Weasner, wife of retired Army Sgt. Johnathan Weasner said, “I know what this program has done for my husband Jonathan and our family. To look around this arena and see the joy on other families faces, I can only imagine what adaptive reconditioning has done for other families; it’s a blessing.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why moving Fort Campbell’s Gander Memorial Park is for the best

On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.

This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.

After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.


Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)

The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.

All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.

(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)

The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.

Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.

(National Archives)

The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.

In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,

“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”

“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 1st

It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.

You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.


Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Navy Memes)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.

(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme by WATM)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

(Meme via Military World)

“Cover me while I glue!”

“I got you covered!”

Articles

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

Lists

The 21 most authoritarian regimes in the world

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its latest Democracy Index, which ranks 167 countries according to political and civic freedom.


Countries are given a score out of 10 based on five criteria. Above eight is a “full democracy,” while below four is an “authoritarian regime.”

Scandinavian countries topped the list and the U.S. remained a “flawed democracy” in this index.

The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).

Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:

21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Skyline of Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa from a Helicopter. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.57

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.65

20. Azerbaijan — 2.65

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Members of the Azerbaijani Special Forces during a military parade in Baku 2011 (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 3.33

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 3.53

19. Afghanistan — 2.55

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Marines from 3rd battalion 5th Marines on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Image JM Foley)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50

Functioning of government: 1.14

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 2.50

Civil liberties: 3.82

18. Iran — 2.45

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The northern Tehran skyline. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.21

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

17. Eritrea — 2.37

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Saho women in traditional attire (Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.88

Civil liberties: 1.18

16. Laos — 2.37

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Host of dancers for Laos New Years celebration. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.47

15. Burundi — 2.33

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Tutsi soldiers and gendarmes guarding the road to Cibitoke on the border with Zaire. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 3.89

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.35

14. Libya — 2.32

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Children in Dublin, Ireland, protesting Libya’s then president, Gaddafi, before his overthrow. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00

Functioning of government: 0.36

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.63

Civil liberties: 2.94

13. Sudan — 2.15

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Sudanese rebels in Darfur. Both the government and the rebels have been accused of atrocities. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 1.79

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.18

12. Yemen — 2.07

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Soldiers in Yemen. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.88

11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.67

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 2.35

10. Uzbekistan — 1.95

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Uzbek children. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 1.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

9. Saudi Arabia — 1.93

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

8. Tajikistan — 1.93

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Shanty neighborhoods just outside of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.25

Civil liberties: 0.88

7. Equatorial Guinea — 1.81

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 1.47

6. Turkmenistan — 1.72

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Celebrating the 20th year of independence in Turkmenistan (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

5. Democratic Republic of Congo — 1.61

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Refugees in the Congo (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 0.71

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 0.88

4. Central African Republic — 1.52

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic observe Rwandan soldiers being dropped off at Bangui M’Poko International Airport in the Central African Republic. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.25

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 1.88

Civil liberties: 2.35

3. Chad — 1.50

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A tribal delegation in Chad. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 2.65

2. Syria — 1.43

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 0.00

1. North Korea —1.08

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
A defector from North Korea dodges bullets as he crosses the DMZ.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.50

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 1.25

Civil liberties: 0.00

Articles

US paratroopers are testing this new tactical chest rig

The US Army is testing a new fighting load system for paratroopers, designed specifically for airborne operations.


“The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel, or ABN-TAP, was developed with the paratrooper in mind and will allow the paratrooper a greater degree of comfort, mobility, and safety during static line airborne infiltration operations,” said Rich Landry of the US Army Soldier Systems Center laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.

Previous fighting load system designs interfered with the fit of the T-11 parachute harness and moved T-11 reserve activation handle further away from the paratrooper’s grasp.

The ABN-TAP, which is similar to the old Load Bearing Equipment or LBE, enables soldiers to rig the fighting load under the parachute harness but below the reserve parachute.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.

“This will allow paratroopers to properly adjust the T-11 parachute harness to their specific sizing requirements and keep the T-11 reserve parachute handle well within reach,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ian Seymour, Test NCO from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, or ABNSOTD.

The ABN-TAP design actually draws its lineage from the older LBE system used with the T-10 and MC1-1 parachute systems by paratroopers for decades.

Soon after the Global War on Terror began, all branches of the armed services rushed to modernize field equipment to meet the rigors of modern combat and allow for the constant presence of body armor, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief at ABNSOTD.

“With the vest/plate carrier systems seeing overwhelming soldier acceptance, the task of providing the paratrooper with a modern design compatible with current parachute systems is challenging to say the least,” Tracy said.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, assemble the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel. US Army photo by Jim Finney.

The ABN-TAP bridges this gap by providing both new and old capabilities to the paratrooper.

Tracy explained that this new fighting load system allows not only for rigging under the parachute harness and reserve, but can be rapidly adjusted to serve as a “chest rig” design upon landing.

“Ground troops consider this to be the most efficient design under current operational conditions,” said Tracy.

“Operational testing using airborne paratroopers, collects data which truly allows the Army to evaluate the suitability and safety of the ABN-TAP when worn during static line airborne operations and follow-on missions,” Tracy said.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel (ABN-TAP) rigging configurations. Photo from US Army.

Before testing soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization with the system, fitting and proper rigging of the ABN-TAP with the T-11 parachute system.

Soldiers then conducted parachute jumps from a C-17 aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Sicily Drop Zone at Bragg.

Upon completion of testing, the ABN-TAP could potentially be issued to Army airborne forces worldwide.

“Any time soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future soldiers will use in combat,” said Col. Brad Mock, the director of all the Army’s Airborne testing.

Articles

This recreational drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress

Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.


As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Pure MDMA in crystal form (wikimedia commons)

Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.

Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.

In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.

Articles

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.


report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.

China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.

Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.

In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
The THAAD missile system. Lockheed Martin photo.

Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.

Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wants to give its military small bomb-dropping drones

Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.

“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.

“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.


While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)

The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.

“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”

ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.

It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)

“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.

“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.

The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.

But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”

While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.

Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”

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

Articles

How the F-35 proved it can take enemy airspace without firing a shot

An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.


This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).

Also read: Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.

So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.

This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.

The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.

The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.

The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.

This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.

This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). | Lockheed Martin photo

Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.

“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.

“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.

“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”

Articles

Army Special Operations switching tactical kit from Android to iPhone

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. | US Army photo by Spc. Joseph A. Wilson


U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.

The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.

The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.

When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.

“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”

Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.

They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.

The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.

The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.

Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.

This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.

Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.

We received the following mail response:

“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.

The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.

As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.