This is a proud week for the family of the Mullet Marine as he finally graduated out of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and is currently making his way to learn to be a motor transport mechanic.
Here’s to you, you glorious, mullet-having, Budweiser tank-top-rockin’ bad ass. You’re going to get hell for a while until you can prove that you’re going to be the best damn mechanic the Corps has ever seen. Don’t let any of that discourage you. People love that you showed up to San Diego “‘Murica AF.” Use that to your advantage.
Become the essence of what it means to be a Marine. That also means keeping your nose clean from UCMJ action. You didn’t ask for it but you’re unfortunately in a position where one slip up will find you in the Marine Corps Times. We all expect you to make mistakes and maybe buy a Mustang at 37% interest rate, but no one wants to see you fall from grace. The military community one day wants you to succeed.
In twenty-some years down the road, we want to read on your Wikipedia (or whatever the future version of Wikipedia is) that Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps “Mullet” got his nickname way back in the day he entered the Corps. But until then, BZ, Mullet Marine. BZ.
On that note, now that a meme has graduated boot camp, let’s get into some more memes:
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Shammers United)
(Meme via Navy Memes)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
(Meme via Military World)
When literally anyone asks me how anything works in the S-6.
It’s just like the drop test. I don’t know why taking a SINCGARS and dropping it from a few feet above the concrete makes it magically works. It just does.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“How dare you betray us like that? We were supposed to get out and open a t-shirt/coffee/military lifestyle site together!”
Speaking of which, did you know that WATM now has a merch section? Wink, wink.
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. is the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He handles installation and mission support, discovery and development, test and evaluation, life cycle management services and sustainment of every major Air Force weapon system. The command employs approximately 80,000 people and manages $60 billion of budget authority.
AFMC delivers war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through development and transition of technology, professional acquisition management, exacting test and evaluation and world-class sustainment of all Air Force weapon systems.
There are eight AFMC host bases: Arnold AFB, Tennessee; Edwards AFB, California; Eglin AFB, Florida; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Robins AFB, Georgia; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In addition, the command operates associate units on several non-AFMC bases.
During an interview with Airman magazine, Bunch discussed AFMC’s mission and responsibilities and the roles of science, technology and innovation in increasing Air Force readiness.
Airman magazine: Air Force Materiel Command is a large and diverse command which a lot of Airmen may not understand. Can you talk about the mission of the command?
Gen. Bunch: I would say we are the most diverse (major command) that there is in the Air Force. When you consider the demographics, we are very diverse. AFMC has huge mission diversity as well. What I want to tell the Airmen is, we touch everything that they touch on a day-to-day basis. When a system comes into the Air Force, we do a lot of the (science and technology) research upfront and early. That work is done through the research lab. We do a lot of the acquisition planning either through the Nuclear Weapons Center or through the Life Cycle Management Center and that starts the acquisition process. We test systems and we do all the activities to get it into the Air Force. Then we sustain the system for the long term through the sustainment center, all the way to the point that we get rid of it or retire it and put it at (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) in some cases.
So, from the beginning all the way to the end of any system we have within the Air Force, AFMC plays a key role. Underlying all that and at the foundation is the work the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
The AFIMSC takes care of all facilities modernization and restoration. They also take care of contracting, security forces, housing privatization, dormitories and military construction. They take care of these things on our installations day-to-day to make sure that our facilities are up to date so that we can project power anywhere in the world.
So our mission diversity ranges from every mission system across the Air Force that we create, develop, test and maintain from the very beginning of the program all the way to the very end of a program’s life to support for the nuclear enterprise, and installation and mission support.. AFMC is involved in all of it, so it’s a very diverse mission.
Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, talks with members of the 412th Medical Group during his visit to Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)
Airman magazine: You talk about the importance of AFMC people. What is AFMC doing to attract top talent, develop and keep the workforce?
Gen. Bunch: Our Airmen, and when I use Airmen, I’m talking about military and civilian. I don’t distinguish within this command. We, more than any other command with (more than) 60,000 civilians, we are Airmen all focused on the Air Force mission. They are our most valuable resource and they are what make this organization tick. They’re the ones that get it done every day and execute their wartime mission each day.
We are trying to speed up the process of bringing the right people in and who we can recruit. We’ve actually taken some steps to speed that process up, to make it go quicker. We’re also doing some unique things where we’re doing job fairs to try to get at the right people. We’re using acquisition workforce development funds to pay off student loans to attract high quality, high caliber people in the skill sets we need. And what I’ve asked the team to start looking at is how do we communicate this so that we can keep people?
We had a lady who worked in the Air Force Test Center in May who retired after 68 years of service. We have 21 or 22 year-old young men and women coming in and I’ve got folks that have worked in the organization for 68 years. How you communicate across that diverse spectrum and how you motivate them all to keep going forward and how do you reward and award. Those are the things that we’re asking our people to take a look at and to help us drive our retention numbers the way we need them to go.
Since October of last year, we’ve seen about an 11% drop in the time to hire civilians. We’re not where we want to be, we’ve got to get better, but it’s a step in the right direction and something that I feel comfortable saying to the workforce. We know we’ve got to do better and we’re working at it.
Congress has been very helpful by giving us some additional authorities and we’re utilizing those authorities to try to go faster.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein congratulates Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr. after assuming command of Air Force Materiel Command commander, shake hands during an assumption of command ceremony inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, May 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)
Airman magazine: The (Former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson) and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein) have called out the “Air Force We Need.” Can you please describe the “AFMC We Need” initiative? What are some focus areas and objectives?
Gen. Bunch: We have the National Defense Strategy that came out that everyone’s focused on and (the Air Force) came out with the “Air Force We Need.” When I came into the job, what I wanted to do was define what do we, as AFMC, need to be to support the National Defense Strategy and to support where the chief and secretary want to go with the “Air Force We Need.”
I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what we wanted it to be. I wanted to tap into our most valuable resource, our Airmen. They’re the ones that are executing the mission each day. So we wanted to, as Gen. Goldfein says, “squint with our ears” and listen to our men and women about what’s impeding their ability to get the mission done and what do they think it means to speed things up, go at the speed of relevance. So, we formed a team. We sent them out. They did a lot of surveys. We got a lot of results back in and a lot of great ideas that we’re now trying to review and see how we want to implement the suggestions or what we can put in place to move forward.
One of the books I’ve read about leadership is “Primal Leadership.” In the book there is a quote about, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” So, what I wanted to do was capture the essence of what the men and women believe in the organization and then glean through those comments to figure out what we need to get after. So we’re excited about going forward.
Airman magazine: The “AFMC We Need” addressed broad areas across the command. What are some of the challenges identified?
Gen. Bunch: We did do some external interviews and I would say they’re kind of consistent. One of the things is we’ve got to do a better job of communicating our impact and what our mission is. Some of our folks didn’t understand what we do, internally and externally, so we’ve got to do a better job at communicating some of that. A couple other challenges identified were facilities, infrastructure and information technology.
We’re telling people they’re coming to work in this remarkable organization, but they’re having tremendous impacts on a day-to-day basis with how our information technology systems work and it’s causing limitations. So those will be some of the initial challenges that we are going to focus on.
Another challenge we are going to focus on and we are starting to take some actions in is leadership training. Our people want their supervisors to be better leaders.
Last month, we had a senior leader conference where we talked about that with all our center and installation commanders. One of the things we’re trying to find out is who are the “no” people. The goal is to stop some of those noes and see what we can do to get to “yes” to move forward as an organization so we’re better prepared to support the future.
One of the installation commanders gave me a sign and I’ve got it in the office. I asked everybody at the senior leader conference to sign it. It says, “Find out where no lives and kill it.”
Capt. Joshua Lee talks with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Air Force Materiel Command commander, about unmanned aerial systems Oct. 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The commander visited Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate’s newest networking test and design facility during an early stop on his two-day tour of the base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Airman magazine: You have stated the AFMC has to be better at anticipating Air Force needs. How will AFMC do this?
Gen. Bunch: We have to think forward. We have to think about the future. We can’t get caught up in what is Air Combat Command or Air Mobility Command or Global Strike Command asking for today. We need to focus our science and technology to go forward. (The Air Force) put out the Science and Technology 2030 strategy. We’re building an implementation plan to get after that. How do we create a competitive environment with what we’re doing within the research laboratory so that we are pushing ourselves and we’re scanning that horizon for what’s out there for the future. That’s one way that we can do that.
We also need to capitalize on a lot of what’s going on with commercial industry to get innovative ideas from outside that we may not have thought of. So we’re supporting the pitch days that (Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics) implemented in small business innovative research.
We’re supporting the stand-up of consortiums so that we can get good ideas in and see what people can do. So, there are a lot of activities we as AFMC need to work on. We need to continue to look at industry strategies for how they’re doing business and how they develop software. We need to look at how can we do those things in a more responsive manner and change how we hire the workforce and how we recruit and retain them.
We’ve got to get a more operational tie and more linkage with what we’re doing across AFMC, and with the other major commands. How are they employing some of their aircraft? How are they doing their communication? What do we need to do? What can we glean from within to find answers? We need to make our ties stronger.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, left, and Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, center, discuss the April 20 TechStars Autonomous Technology Accelerator for the Air Force Demo Day at the Westin Hotel in Boston with John Beatty, right, executive director of the Massachusetts Military Task Force. Ten startup companies pitched their ideas to potential investors and Air Force senior leaders during the event, which is a partnership between Techstars and AFWERX.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
Airman magazine: How is AFMC utilizing partnerships with commercial tech companies and academia to have a better understanding and mine those advanced capabilities that may be on the horizon?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a couple of different areas that I’ll focus on. We’re working right now and we’ve got some good partnerships with Delta, Tech Ops, and Georgia Tech Research Institute on what we’re doing for condition based maintenance. We’re looking at what the commercial industry is applying in managing their large fleets of aircraft. Also what can we do with machine learning or artificial intelligence so that we can be more predictive for when some of our systems may be going to fail and help us keep the supply lines primed with repair parts. To me, we have great partnerships with a lot of great ideas that we can employ and we’re working down that path together, so that’s good.
We’ve got to get rapid. That’s all part of the Rapid Sustainment Office that we stood up with Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry as the program executive officer. The RSO team is looking at condition based maintenance, additive manufacturing or 3D printing and are there technologies out there we can use and capitalize on. We’re starting to make grounds in those areas. So those are a few of the ideas that are coming from the commercial end that we can utilize.
Airman magazine: You’ve said our peer adversaries are developing new capabilities modernizing existing capabilities, eroding our tech advantage. Please describe how AFMC is responding to the need for speed?
Gen. Bunch: There are a lot of different things we can do to get at that need for speed. But what we also want to make sure of is while we’re speeding, we’re doing it with discipline. We need to go fast, but we also need to put the disciplines in place so that we’re thinking our way through some of those systems and some of the decisions we’re making so that we are looking long term as well as immediate. We’re looking at, can I get a technology to the field faster? That means a viable product that we would evolve over time versus going for the solution that would take 10 years and a lot more effort. Can I give you something that gets me on that path in two years that you would be able to utilize in the field and be able to move out with.
So that’s one area that we’re looking at. Can I turn things faster and build over time? Another one that we’re continuing to focus on is open mission systems. If we can get open mission systems architecture into our weapons systems and into our designs, we can then bring in new technologies as technology evolves or the threat changes, because those are two things that are never going to slow down. They’re going to change. But by having open mission system architecture, we can piecemeal in parts over time as the technology and the threat changes so that we can adapt more quickly. We shouldn’t have to test systems as long. We should be able to be cyber secure. Those are a couple examples of things that we can immediately get after.
A good example of that is R-EGI, our Resilient Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System. That’s a program that we’re running out of the Life Cycle Management Center and it’s to get after having a resilient position navigation and timing solution over time. If that becomes threatened, what we have is an enhanced GPS/INS, most folks know. We fly it in all of our aircraft. It’s common with us, the Navy, the Army; it’s in all platforms. It’s something that’s almost universal. What we’re doing in this effort is trying to build open mission system architecture design so if I needed to inject new software or I needed to add a new component, I could evolve that over time as the threat changes and we could be more resilient.
Another good example is we’re using and trying to push to digital engineering and a digital enterprise. Right now, the ground based strategic deterrent team is doing a good job with some model-based systems engineering. We want to digitize and become a more digital enterprise with what we’re doing within AFMC. In digital we can change things in a more rapid manner and do things on a computer and look at options and look into digital areas before we ever start doing some of the other advances. It should eliminate some of our trial and error.
The Air Force Research Laboratory’s AgilePod is shown mounted on the wing of the Textron Aviation Defense’s Scorpion Light Attack/ISR jet. The AgilePod is an Air Force-trademarked, multi-intelligence reconfigurable pod that enables flight-line operators to customize sensor packages based on specific mission needs. A fit check in late December 2017 provided an opportunity to demonstrate the ability of the pod to rapidly integrate onto a new platform with short notice, highlighting the benefits of Sensor Open Systems Architecture.
(U.S. Air Force photo by David Dixon)
Airman magazine: In fall of 2017, the secretary challenged us to develop a new Air Force ST Strategy for 2030. That document is now published. From your perspective, what are a few of the key takeaways?
Gen. Bunch: Really, it’s about competition and how do I create competition within what we do, within our research laboratory and our ST so that we’re continuing to push the bounds. I think that’s one of the key ingredients. How do we as an enterprise capitalize on the various basic research activities that may be out there so that we’re pushing the envelope and we’re looking at things and going, “That has great promise, I need to continue to work in that area.” Or, “That’s not making the progress I need. I need to off ramp that and I need to go another way.” So I think that one is really important.
The other one is we have science and technology dollars and how do I, over time, take those and shrink the investments so that they’re more focused in game changer technologies that I’m going to put out in the field. How do we capitalize on that knowledge base and how do we drive to where we’re transitioning game-changing technologies and we’re getting them into the field and capitalizing on that transition. I think those are two of the key things that we’re really looking at.
Airman magazine: How are AFMC and AFRL going to support the execution of the strategy?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of activities already underway. Right now, we’re working with AFWIC, Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability, and we’re working with Dr. Roper’s team to come up with an implementation strategy. So that’s in the works. We are also trying to make some changes so that we can handle our money with a little more flexibility, so that we can shift and put our focus where the dollars need to be for those bigger projects.
So we’ve got a great partnership right now. The team is working with me on a regular basis. Our team’s trying to set in place processes to review where our tech focus areas are so we can make the right investments. They’re looking at what we want to do in basic research. They’re looking at what we want to do at the next level and then what we’re doing in our advanced research, where we’re getting to the prototyping and how do we focus.
A Republic of Singapore air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 425th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, performs a launch inspection June 10, 2019, on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The 425th FS is at Tyndall to take part in a Combat Archer exercise.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Airman magazine: Is the Tyndall AFB rebuild an opportunity to take the Base of the Future off the drawing board and make Tyndall a proof of concept for new tech?
Gen. Bunch: We are looking at new technology for Tyndall. Tyndall, as devastating as that was, thank goodness we had a great team doing a lot of great work so that the damages were material damages to things that we can replace and it wasn’t to our Airmen and their families. That’s our number one focus, their safety. But now as we recover, we do have an opportunity to look at what would we want the base to look like for the future. How would we want the information technology system set up so that it’s more efficient? How would we set in the power lines? How would we build the buildings? We are looking at Tyndall as an example of what we may be able to do for the future.
We’ve actually had AFWERX bring in some outside companies to come in and pitch their ideas. So we’re trying to move as quickly as we can to get everything moving forward, to get the mission back to normalcy. We’re also looking at what would we do different now that we can make changes and we can look at the mission from a different perspective. How would we make it better when we rebuild it? How is it more resilient? How do we have a better information technology network? How do we design everything–from are we going to put anything above ground or are we going to put it all underground now that we have the time to be able to do that so that it’s safer and more secure and less likely to be damaged in the future. Those are all things that we’re looking at as we go forward.
Airman magazine: How does AFMC support the Air Force as a hub for innovation?
Gen. Bunch: Innovation’s been a foundation of what we’ve been as an Air Force from the very beginning. And it’s interesting, we have more than 80,000 people within AFMC and you ask them all what innovation means, you’d probably get 80,000-plus different definitions. And I’m good with that. Innovation can mean some groundbreaking revolutionary thing that we’ve never done or it could mean changing a process so that we can go faster because we’ve employed what the Sustainment Center uses which is the ‘art of the possible.’
I’m good with all of it. What we have to create, and I think we are doing a better job of it, is an environment where a good idea can come in. What I want to make sure, as the commander, is that our people understand I’m willing to let them try things. And I’m not talking crazy risks, but if they want to try a new idea or process, I’m okay with that. If it works, that’s great and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on. So innovation can take many, many forms. I want people to come in with their good ideas and I want to capitalize on their innovative spirit. That is what we as an Air Force were founded upon.
We also tie in with AFWERX; the Pitch Days to me are innovative. We’re going to be doing an AFMC internal pitch day where we can pitch our own good ideas, not just try to capitalize on what industry does or what venture capitalists are doing. So we’re trying to actually harness those good ideas to go forward.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, welcomed event attendees during the Air Force Space Pitch Day, Nov. 5, 2019, San Francisco, Calif. Air Force Space Pitch Day is a two-day event demonstrating the department’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional start-ups.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Van De Ha)
Airman magazine: With declining mission capable rates and an aging fleet with an average 28 years of service, what do these numbers mean and do MCRs equate to Air Force readiness rates?
Gen. Bunch: So readiness depends on where you sit as to what you believe the right metric is. The one we’re driving right now, we’re trying to increase, is aircraft availability. That’s one that we’re really focused on with our legacy fleets. And there are multiple factors that play into that. One of the things that we’re finding is, we have, in some cases, a shrinking industrial base. And that’s one that we’ve got to focus on to help grow that industrial base.
What we want to do is make sure that the people who are operating the systems have as much up time as they can so they’re as ready as possible to do their mission. That takes research. How would I go do this? It could take reverse engineering. How do I reverse engineer this component that there’s no longer a vendor for and create it? So we either build it ourselves or we put the drawings out to get it manufactured.
The fact we are flying aircraft as old as they are with the mission capable rates that we have today is because of the Airmen working in the Sustainment Center and the focus of our maintainers out on the line who can keep these legacy aircraft up and running.
At an average age of 28 years, the fact that we keep mobility aircraft taking off and landing, delivering supplies and equipment every two minutes is amazing work by a lot of different people. We’re ready, but we’ve got to continue to try to up that game and continue to try to improve.
An F-16 jet engine in max power during a test in the 576th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s hush house engine facility at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 5, 2019. The shop is responsible for performing organizational level maintenance on more than 200 engines per year. The shop’s maintenance tasks include engine inspections, external engine component removal and replacement, repairs, and troubleshooting during flight line and test cell operations.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
Airman magazine: Can you identify some of the success stories throughout AFMC in new technologies like additive manufacturing, 3D printing and data analytics to improve readiness and decrease maintenance downtimes?
Gen. Bunch: We had a meeting last month where we were looking at engines. I’ll just use that as one example. We started looking at the performance of the engines over time and as we reviewed data and did the analytics, we started doing scheduled replacements of engines. So we could pull them off at the time that was of our choosing versus downtime required because the engine went too far.
What this allows us to do is control when we do maintenance. It allows us to prime the pump in the supply system so we get the right parts at the right time. That’s just one example that I can say from a data analytics perspective where we are really already seeing some great progress. We’re using condition based maintenance and algorithms right now with the C-5 Galaxy. We’re doing it in some cases in the B-1 bomber and we’re looking at growing it into the KC-135 fleet. So we’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that others are using and apply it into our inventory and we’re starting to see some benefits.
We really want to get to the point if we’re going to send an aircraft down range and it’s going to have something fail in five days and the deployment is for 10 days, let’s fix it before we deploy it. If we can get to that point, we’ll really increase our aircraft availability and our ability to generate sorties and improve the mission dramatically.
On additive manufacturing, that one’s one that’s more challenging. A lot of people look at 3D printing as that’s really something easy to do. When you start talking about airworthiness that becomes a little more challenging. There are components we can build that are not airworthy components, and we’ve already got approval to do those parts. We have innovation centers at each of our three logistics complexes and they can do some of those. We save money and get the mission done in a timelier manner.
So we’re demonstrating some of those. It’ll take more time to get to where we can do a lot of airworthy parts. We’re working on that. We must get the engineers involved and get them the analysis.
We are seeing a lot of ground being made in additive manufacturing and in condition based maintenance. And then the other one, we’re taking technologies like cold spray, which is a repair technique, and we’re actually employing that in some of our depots so that we can minimize the downtime.
Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)
Airman magazine: Would you talk about AFMC’s support to the nuclear enterprise from both a sustainment and modernization perspective?
Gen. Bunch: Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris is our Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) commander and his team is doing an outstanding job making sure that our nuclear deterrent is solid and that there is never a question that if they are called are they going to be able to respond. And that goes across the full spectrum.
The Minuteman-III program was built many, many years ago with a short lifespan; well we’re still maintaining them. We’re going to be maintaining them until the 2030 timeframe. We’ve stood up depot maintenance now on our Minuteman-III system, which was never intended to have a depot capability, but we’re doing that so we can sustain it and ensure that it’s reliable if ever called upon to do its mission.
AFNWC is on the front edge of making sure that our nuclear deterrent is really a nuclear deterrent and it’s credible and it’s safe and secure and it can answer the nation’s call.
The other part of the nuclear mission is the air leg; we have to make sure that we’re doing what we need to sustain our bomber force. AFMC is key in making sure that the force is supportable, sustainable, with upgrades where needed, while making sure all the activity we’re doing in the depot is supporting the mission.
Airman magazine: Could you talk about agile software development and the way we buy and develop software and how does this relate to Agile DevOps and cyber protection for all of our weapon systems?
Gen. Bunch: Software is everywhere. We’re going to have to change our mindset about software. The way that industry does it is they’ll modify and continue to push updates on a more regular basis. I don’t ever think we’ll get to the point we’re doing what industry does with our systems, but we have to get into a more Agile mindset. That’s a challenge for a lot of the way we’ve done business. It’s not just that you have to bring in coders and create an environment where they can develop Agile methods, that’s part of it, but you also have to change the culture of the men and women that are working on this because it’s not the way they’ve historically done it.
You’re developing. You’re testing. You’re fielding. You’re correcting deficiencies and it goes on and on. That is a culture change for AFMC and the men and women that are doing the acquisition. It’s also a culture change for all of the test community and anybody involved. It’s a culture change with how you handle your dollars. One of the things that I’ve been a proponent of is the need for money that has not binned by a specific definition of sustainment, development, or production. If you’re really doing Agile or secure DevOps, those money lines are blurry. We need colorless money so that we’re not hindered by some of the rule sets on how the money gets moved around.
So it’s a big change. We’ve got to be able to change that culture. The other thing is you have to be able to attract and recruit software developers. We have to capitalize on that skill set. And a lot of what we’re doing right now, we’re actually bringing in Airmen who just have a propensity and a love for doing software development and we’re putting them to work and they love it. We also have to capitalize on our own capabilities along the way, but it’s one that we’ll have to re-look at how we bring in manpower.
Pilot Training Next instructor, U.S. Air Force Capt. Orion Kellogg, discuses a future PTN version 3 student’s virtual reality flight with members of NASA as part of a collaborative research agreement between Air Education and Training Command and NASA October 22, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, TX. The goal of the agreement is to help both AETC and NASA collect physiological and cognitive data and leverage each organization’s knowledge and skills to maximize learning potential for individual students.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Airman magazine: With the advancements in AI/VR, how do you see the Air Force further capitalizing on technology to equip Airmen with quality training through simulation scenarios?
Gen. Bunch: AI and VR, those are big areas that we’re going to continue to look at. The best example right now is one that our Air Education and Training Command started with Pilot Training Next. What they’re really doing is they’re capitalizing off of the gaming industry and artificial intelligence to understand and to personalize the training they’re doing for each individual student.
The way they’re building Pilot Training Next allows the student pilots to learn in a simulated immersive AI and VR environment with an individualized training methodology, which really speeds up the learning process.
I think you’re going to see more growing in that area. We’re looking at trying to apply that for maintenance. We’re also looking at other avenues to try to capitalize so we’re better able to train the workforce in a timelier manner.
Airman magazine: You have a lot of experience in your resume in the test community. How do you see the community evolving for the speed of relevancy?
Gen. Bunch: So there are a lot of initiatives here. One of the things we did in my previous job was take the test community leadership to Silicon Valley to expose them to how commercial industry tests software. The goal was to figure out what can we change within our initiatives to be able to test software more quickly to support Agile development ops, secure DevOps and to push things out into the field faster.
That’s now something we’re working on. We’re changing our philosophy. We’re working with the operational test community to set that up. Another area that we’re looking at is how do we combine more developmental tests and operational tests earlier in the process? Gen. Mike Holmes [Commander, Air Combat Command] and I have kicked off an initiative to look at that. We’re looking at how we could combine our developmental tests and our operational tests so that we’re getting more data quicker. We can streamline the amount of testing. We can save costs. We can get things into the field more readily.
There are a lot of great strides going on at the Air Force Test Center with Maj. Gen. Chris Azzano about how do we test things in a more rapid manner. He’s asking the questions: How do we not over test? How do we use digital enterprise, model-based systems engineering? How can we utilize that digital enterprise to get after some of that testing so that we don’t have to do everything in open air and repeat things?
The worst answer you can give me is, “Gen. Bunch, we got to test this much because that’s how we’ve always done it.” That is not a good answer. So anybody out there, that’s not a good answer to give me. There are certain things we’ve got to go test. We want to make sure that it’s safe for the Airmen we’re putting in harm’s way. We want to make sure that they have a good product. But we are making a lot of strides at relooking at how we do our test enterprise.
Staff Sgt. Ruth Elliot, 412th Medical Group, takes a selfie with Gen. Arnold Bunch, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 18. Elliot was a presented a commander’s coin by the AFMC commander.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)
Airman magazine: What has been some of the most rewarding part of your career?
Gen. Bunch: From what I’ve done in the military, I go back to all I’ve ever really wanted to be was a commander and work for Airmen. I firmly believe in servant leadership and that the commander works for everybody in the organization. Right now I work for more than 80,000 men and women within AFMC, the Airmen making the mission happen every day and doing all the hard work. Getting to talk with them, getting to watch them grow and feeding off of their energy is the most rewarding thing I get to do every day.
If you listen to some of our young Airmen when they talk about the great things they’re doing or you watch them respond in a time of crisis with what they do, if that doesn’t put a smile on your face and make it great to put the uniform on every day then you probably got a problem and it may be time for you to go find something else to do.
To me, just the interactions with the our people and watching our Airmen succeed and watching them do the mission every day with the passion they do is just remarkable for me.
Airman magazine: What would you like to say directly to the Airmen of AFMC?
Gen. Bunch: So for the Airmen of AFMC, thanks for what you do each and every day, your wartime mission makes us successful. Remember that what we’re doing is critical to the war fighter and remember that we are the most important major command within the Air Force. If we’re going to achieve the National Defense Strategy and if we’re going to drive to the Air Force We Need, we’re the ones that have to succeed. If we don’t succeed then the Air Force can’t succeed. Remember, the programs and systems we’re working to sustain and test is to make sure America’s most valued treasure, our sons and daughters we send into harm’s way, have the technological advantage they need to do their mission supporting our nation’s defense and to come home safely.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
When Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland took command of the 101st Airborne in 1958, he noticed a severe lack of proficiency in small-unit tactics and patrolling.
So he immediately created a school to fix the problem.
When he took command of all American forces in the Vietnam War, he once again created a school to teach long-range patrolling and small unit tactics with a Ranger-qualified cadre of instructors from the 5th Special Forces Group. To graduate from this school, you had to bet your life on it.
Dubbed “Recondo” school, Westmoreland claimed it was an amalgamation of Reconnaissance, Commando, and Doughboy. Recondo training emphasized both reconnaissance and standard infantry skills at the small unit level.
In 1960, Army Magazine described the Recondo tactics as “dedicated to the domination of certain areas of the battlefield by small aggressive roving patrols of opportunity which have not been assigned a definite reconnaissance or combat mission.” From these graduates, the 101st developed the Recondo Patrol.
This patrol type was meant to allow a Recondo to create as much havoc as possible in their area of operations. The patrol could be used against a disorganized enemy, as a screen for retrograde operations, to develop a situation or conduct a feint ahead of an advancing force, or to eliminate guerrilla activity.
It was the last ability that Recondos would put to great use in Vietnam.
The Recondo school was set up at Nha Trang and was inspired but the highly successful Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol training conducted by detachment B-52 from 5th Special Forces. This program, known as Project Delta, was originally intended to train Special Forces and their Vietnamese counterparts in guerrilla-like ambushes.
The course became so popular that within two years over half of the students were from regular Army units. Westmoreland expanded the school to teach Recondo tactics to as many LRRPs as possible.
In order to qualify for the MACV Recondo school, participants had to be in-country at least one month and have at least six months remaining on their tour upon completion. Students also had to have a combat arms MOS and an actual or pending assignment to an LRRP unit. Finally, they had to be in excellent physical shape and be proficient in general military knowledge.
The school was open to soldiers and marines of the Free World Military Assistance Forces, including the South Vietnamese, Koreans, Australians, and Filipinos. Many U.S. Marines also attended the training.
The curriculum of the school included improving students’ skills in the areas of map reading, intelligence gathering, weapons training, and communications. Weapons training included a variety of American weapons as well as weapons used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army. Particular attention was also given to mines and booby-traps. Communications covered the use of several different radios, field expedient antennas, and proper message writing techniques.
The school also gave advanced training in medical treatment, including the use of Ringer’s lactate solution and intravenous and intramuscular injections. Schooling also focused on air operations – especially the use of the UH-1 Huey helicopter for insertions and extractions. Forward Air Controller techniques were taught with students calling in live ordnance on a target.
Most importantly, the school taught patrolling.
Students learned different patrolling techniques, preparation, and organization. Proper patrol security was taught along with intelligence-gathering techniques. The students trained heavily in immediate action drills to react to or initiate enemy contact.
After over 300 hours of training, averaging over 12 hours per day, it was time for the students to take the final exam: an actual combat patrol.
In the early days of the program, the area the prospective graduates patrolled was relatively secure and quiet. As the war progressed, however, contact with the enemy became a given. This led to students saying “you bet your life” to graduate from Recondo School.
At least two students died in Recondo training with many others wounded. An unknown number of Viet Cong were also killed in the skirmishes during the “you bet your life” patrol. This led to the school itself receiving a nickname of its own: “the deadliest school on earth”.
In just over four years of operation, over 5,600 students attended Recondo school. Just 3,515 men graduated, not quite two-thirds of all who tried. Each student who graduated was awarded a Recondo patch, worn on the right breast pocket, and an individual Recondo number that was recorded in their 201 personnel file. The Honor Graduate from each class was also given a specially engraved Recondo knife.
Despite the school and its graduates’ success, Westmoreland’s successor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, officially closed the school on December 19, 1970. The Recondo name and training lived on, as some divisions continued to host their own Recondo schools until they were eventually closed too.
When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.
In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.
After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.
Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.
The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.
This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure
“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.
Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.
So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.
Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)
His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.
Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.
“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.
When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.
An Electron rocket lifted off at 1:33 a.m. EST (7:33 p.m. NZDT) from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, marking the first time CubeSats have launched for NASA on a rocket designed specifically for small payloads.
“With the VCLS effort, NASA has successfully advanced the commercial launch service choices for smaller payloads, providing viable dedicated small launch options as an alternative to the rideshare approach,” said Jim Norman, director of Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first mission is opening the door for future launch options.”
(Rocket Lab USA photo)
At the time of the VCLS award in 2015, launch opportunities for small satellites and science missions were limited to ridesharing — flying only when space was available on other missions. Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, VCLS awards are designed to foster a commercial market where SmallSats and CubeSats could be placed in orbits to get the best science return.
This mission includes 10 Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 payloads, selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The initiative is designed to enhance technology development and student involvement. These payloads will provide information and demonstrations in the following areas:
DaVinci — High School to Grade School STEM education
Small research satellites, or CubeSats.
“Low cost launch services to enable expanded science from smaller satellites are now a reality. NASA’s Earth Venture program and indeed our entire integrated, Earth-observing mission portfolio will benefit greatly from the ability to launch small satellites into optimal orbits, when and where we want them,” said Dr. Michael Freilich, Director of Earth Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Our partnership with LSP on the VCLS effort is helping both NASA and the commercial launch sector.”
CubeSats are small satellites built in standard units of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or in configurations of two, three or six units. These small satellites play a valuable role in the agency’s exploration, technology, educational, and science investigations, including planetary exploration, Earth observation, and fundamental Earth and space science. They are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge NASA technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement.
NASA will continue to offer CubeSats an opportunity to hitch a ride on primary missions in order to provide opportunities to accomplish mission objectives, and expects to announce the next round of CubeSats for future launches in February 2019.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Götz von Berlichingen was known for a lot of things. The most obvious was that he lost an arm to cannon fire in the heat of battle. Unfortunately for him, it was his right arm, the one that swung swords and dealt death. Unfortunately for all of his enemies, he wouldn’t die until age 82 – and he had a mechanical arm built just so he could keep killing them all.
That’s not even his most enduring legacy.
He was the first to tell an enemy to kiss his ass.
When your name is literally pronounced “Guts,” it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took him only three years to get sick of fighting for God and country for the Holy Roman Empire. So, the young von Berlichingen turned to fighting for something more tangible: money. He and his squad of Teutonic mercenaries fought for all levels of feudal lords and barons — anyone who could afford to have a soon-to-be legendary badass on their side.
It was in 1504, while fighting to take Landshut for the Duke of Bavaria, that a cannonball lopped his arm off at the elbow. He had two prosthetic arms created for himself – and one of them could still hold his sword or shield. So, von Berlichingen continued to make money the best way he knew how.
The knight seized merchant shipping, kidnapped nobles for ransom, and raided towns around Germany as a means of making money. This, unfortunately, earned him few powerful friends, and he found himself banned from the Holy Roman Empire on multiple occasions. He was even captured and held for ransom himself.
After his final ban, he joined the German peasants in exacting revenge on the leadership of the Holy Roman Empire. Despite that failure, he fought on until he was captured again. When finally liberated by Charles V, he was forced into a sort of house arrest, only allowed to come out in case Charles needed his services.
Berlichingen would assist German knights in fighting the Ottoman under Suleiman the Magnificent and invade France against the famous King Francois I. By then, however, he had already uttered his famous phrase. It was somewhere near Baden-Wurttemburg, while under siege, that the seemingly-immortal knight received a surrender demand. He was not impressed by it at all. He returned it with a famous response, telling the Swabian army (and their leaders) to kiss his ass.
After he was sick of mercilessly slaughtering Europeans all over the continent, Götz von Berlichingen decided to sit down and write his memoirs, which were apparently the greatest story ever told in German for the longest time. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned a 1773 drama that is still retold to this very day, based solely on the story of von Berlichingen’s account of his life.
In a measure to keep troops from potentially contracting the COVID-19 virus, a joint American and European exercise has been canceled when authorities determined that it was necessary to stop the exercise to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus that is spreading through the European Continent right now.
Cold Response 20 was two days into operations when the Norwegians decided to cancel the remainder of the exercise. Authorities from Norway made the determination after several troops were put into quarantine over fears they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. The United States had 1,500 troops in Norway with the total Allied manpower for the exercise being at 15,000.
What is Cold Response 20?
Cold Response 20’s aim is to enhance high-intensity fighting skills while collaborating with other countries’ forces under severe cold climate conditions while conducting exercises that include maritime, land and air events. The exercise’s aim is to maintain and build upon capabilities and cohesiveness in high-intensity warfighting in an arctic environment.
The exercise was supposed to be held during the month of March, with the 15,000 service members coming from over 10 countries. The nations that were part of the canceled exercise were Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a statement, EUCOM said, “The decision is a precautionary measure in response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of all participants and local population. The health of our force continues to be a top priority and we are committed to maintaining mission readiness”.
After a Norwegian soldier tested positive for the coronavirus, it was determined he was in contact with over two dozen United States Marines. The Marines were put under quarantine, but the risk was too much for authorities to chance.
According to the most recent data, Norway currently has 277 cases of the coronavirus but have not had any deaths reported so far. However, the number of cases has almost doubled in recent days prompting the concern from officials of a massive spread of the disease.
The European countries with the most U.S. troops stationed there are Germany and Italy. Italy has shut down most of their country as they have had the third-worst national outbreak after China and Iran. South Korea and Japan have the most U.S. troops in Asia. South Korea’s rate of infections seems to have leveled off after getting up to over 7,000 as quarantine procedures have been implemented. Japan has had less than 600 cases as of yet.
The move is the latest in a series of steps the United States military has implemented to prevent service members and their families from being exposed to the virus. There is also talk that the military will put a 60-day pause on troop and family relocations. While no word yet has come, it seems this will most likely affect troops with PCS orders, primarily in South Korea and Italy.
A training exercise in Africa has also been scaled down in breadth, and the Pentagon is considering scaling down or canceling additional exercises. Called African Lion, the exercise would pair Americans with troops from Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.
During rescue operations on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina, Coast Guard crews found 10 beagles and four pit bulls locked in areas with rising floodwaters and were able to rescue them in the nick of time as some of the swimming dogs were reaching the end of their endurance.
The beagles’ owners were also rescued during the operation as they had become trapped inside as well. None of the animals had been abandoned, according to reporting in USA Today.
The owners told USA Today that they had evacuated to a relative’s home, but had returned when it appeared that the worst of the storm was over.
They hadn’t accounted for the rains which continued as the remnants of the storm lingered over areas already hit by the winds and torrential rain of the hurricane.
Coast Guard 16-foot punt boats approach dry land with dogs rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. Coast Guardsmen rescued 14 pets in a single lift after 10 beagles were discovered with their owners as the dogs, swimming in locked cages, reached the end of their endurance.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
The dogs appear excited to be rescued in the video and photos, and some dove into the water despite their narrow escape from the floods.
See more photos of the rescue from the Coast Guard below, and check out USA Today for more information on the event.
Shallow-Water Response Team 3 crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard taxi to shore with pets rescued from Hurricane Florence floodwaters on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guard members of Shallow-Water Response Team 3 rescue civilians and pets from Hurricane Florence flooding on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina. The crew rescued 14 dogs from the waters in a single lift after the owners of 10 beagles were discovered along with their pets.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Shallow-Water Response Team 3 navigate floodwaters from Hurricane Florence as they return rescued pit bulls to dry land. The dogs were discovered near 10 beagles who were rescued just in the nick of time on September 16, 2018, in Delco, North Carolina.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
Rescued dogs roam Coast Guard punt boats as they return to dry land after a rescue operation on September 16, 2018 in Delco, North Carolina. The Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue operations in East Coast states as the final rains and winds from former Hurricane Florence die down.
(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Connor)
KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.
“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.
A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.
After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.
“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.
“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.
In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”
Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.
“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.
“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.
Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.
“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.
Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.
“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”
According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”
Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.
Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.
Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.
Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.
Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.
Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.
“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.
“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”
An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”
Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.
After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.
On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.
“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.
F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.
At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.
Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.
“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”
Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”
The F-22 Raptor is already the most lethal fighter jet ever built, severely outclassing virtually every other aircraft of a similar class fielded by the rest of the world’s air forces.
But with the advent of newer anti-aircraft defense systems, stealth-defeating tracking technologies and the entrance of countries such as China and Russia into the stealth fighter foray, the F-22 will eventually need to be replaced with something even more powerful.
With the looming retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle, its secondary air superiority fighter, in the next decade, the Air Force has begun taking strides towards designing the F-22’s follow-on in order to maintain its combat edge over every other air force in the world.
Throughout the USAF’s history, each of its fighter jets have built upon the aircraft they replaced, incorporating lessons learned and proven concepts, while expanding on their capabilities with new technology and methods of prosecuting aerial combat. The F-22’s replacement, currently known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” will take shape in much the same way.
It will likely be highly stealthy, carrying its weapons internally in order to minimize radar detection. It will also probably be supersonic, and able to actively defeat enemy sensors in a similar manner to the F-22 and F-35.
Among the most noticeable differences between the F-22 and its replacement will be the lack of tails. Every American fighter jet ever built has featured one or two vertical stabilizers which, as their names suggest, provide stability and yaw control in flight.
Instead, the PCA will likely remove the vertical stabilizers altogether to enhance stealth by decreasing the aircraft’s overall radar signature. The end result will look more like a sleeker and faster B-2 Spirit or a X-47B drone, instead of something similar to the twin-tailed F-35 Lightning II, or the single-tailed F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Additionally, the new fighter be built for long-range missions — especially escorting larger bomber aircraft like the B-2, or the upcoming B-21 Raider, deep behind the front lines to strike at the heart of the enemy’s war machine. This is a much-needed capability the USAF has sorely lacked for decades.
The PCA will be designed to work alongside the F-35 Lightning II, with both aircraft drawing upon each other’s strengths while mitigating weaknesses in capability. Given that the Air Force plans on retaining its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet long for years and years to come, the PCA will likely also be capable of working with older “legacy” aircraft.
One of the key focal points of the PCA program will be developing an engine that gives the new fighter unprecedented range, while maximizing operational fuel efficiency.
The PCA program seeks nearly $300 million in funding from Congress over the next few years in order to complete its research and analysis goals while developing and investigating new technologies that will make the F-22’s replacement arguably the deadliest and most powerful fighter aircraft ever conceived.
There aren’t many ranks throughout the U.S. Armed Forces that have a lateral promotion between two separate ranks at the same pay grade. The difference between Master Sergeants and First Sergeants is nearly the same as Sergeants Major and Command Sergeants Major. One is a command position and the other enjoys their life isn’t.
And then there is the anomaly that only exists within the Army’s E-4 pay grade system: having both a non-commissioned officer rank, Corporal, and the senior lower enlisted rank, Specialist.
Originally, the U.S. Army rank went from Private First Class directly into the leadership position of a Corporal — similar to the way it works in the Marine Corps. They would take their first steps into the wider world of leadership. In the past (and still to this day), they serve more as assistant leaders to their Sergeant, generally as an assistant squad leader or fire-team leader.
Today, Corporals are often rare in the U.S. Army outside of combat arms units. While a Corporal is by all definitions an NCO, they aren’t often privy to the niceties of Sergeants and above. It’s very common to hear phrases like: “We need all E-4’s and below for this duty” — that includes the Corporal. The other side of the coin is when an ass chewing comes down on the NCOs of a unit: “We need all NCOs in the training room, now” — that, too, includes the Corporal.
A specialist exists as a mid-century relic where a separate rank system was established to differentiate someone who was a “Specialist” in their MOS but not necessarily an NCO. This would mostly apply to, for example, a member of the Army band member outside of D.C or West Point. From 1959 to 1968, this went up from E-4 (Spec/4) to E-9 (Spec/9) but it slowly tapered off until 1985 when it became just an E-4 rank.
This is more or less the concept of the modern Specialist. The idea is that a Specialist would focus on their MOS instead of leading troops. In practice, a specialist is given the responsibilities of being a buffer zone between Privates and Sergeants. In execution, they often shrug off physical duties to the lower ranks and any leadership duties to the higher ranks. This is called the “sham shield of the E-4 Mafia.”
A Specialist is definitely the easier rank. Think of a big fish in a little pond versus the little fish in the big pond. The Privates are required to show respect to their senior ranks, so they treat both the Specialist and the Corporal as a higher-up. But often times the Senior Enlisted ignore Specialists but toss things like paperwork onto the Corporal. Sergeants tend to treat Specialists with more leniency. If they mess up something small, it’s fine. If a Corporal messes up at all, they get an ass chewing like the big kids.
But there is a positive note for the Corporal that comes with having more responsibility. While it isn’t necessary for a Specialist to become a Corporal to move on to Sergeant, a Corporal rank shows that the soldier is ready for more responsibility and will show that the soldier is far more responsible when it comes to picking positive things like when a slot for an awesome school opens up.
The Corporal will more than likely get in before the Specialist.
The US Navy commissioned the USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019, and, in doing so, ushered in a new era of millennial undersea war fighters and the most technologically advanced submarine hunter-killer on Earth.
“I think we can honestly call South Dakota ‘America’s first millennial submarine’ from construction to operation,” Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut said at the South Dakota’s commissioning.
While millennials across the board make up the majority of the US’s combat service members in any service, the South Dakota was built by the shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat, whose workforce is more than half millennial, The Day reported.
“The rise of the millennial generation emerging to lead Electric Boat’s important work for the country, I believe, is a powerful rebuttal of cynics and naysayers that say that American manufacturing and technological excellence are a thing of the past,” Courtney said.
In the slides below, meet the young sailors and new submarine that makes the South Dakota the most modern and fearsome submarine in the world today.
The color guard parade the ensign during a commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins)
The South Dakota is a fast-attack boat.
The South Dakota is a fast-attack submarine, which trades the world-ending nuclear might of a ballistic-missiles submarine, or “boomer,” for Tomahawk cruise missiles, mines, and torpedoes.
Boomer submarines hide in oceans around the world on the longshot chance the US may call upon them to conduct nuclear warfare. These submarines are not to be seen and avoid combat.
But fast-attack subs such as the South Dakota meet naval combat head-on.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason
One weapon makes the South Dakota a force to be reckoned with up to 1,500 miles inland: the Tomahawk. The South Dakota can hold dozens of these land-attack missiles.
Fast-attack submarines like the South Dakota serve as a door-kicker, as one did in 2011 when the US opened its campaign against Libya with a salvo of cruise missiles from the USS Michigan. These submarines also must hunt and sink enemy ships and submarines in times of combat, and the South Dakota is unmatched in that department.
(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)
Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two prepare to launch one of the team’s SEAL delivery vehicles from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia during a training exercise.
(US Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)
The US Navy Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota.
Russian Typhoon-class submarine.
(US Navy photo)
Type 039 submarine.
Capt. Ronald Withrow, outgoing commanding officer of the South Dakota, right, returns a salute from his relief, Missouri native Cmdr. Craig Litty, left.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Steven Hoskins)
(US Navy photo)
(US Navy photo)
Submarine combat is a very dangerous and tricky game. Any sonar or radar ping can reveal a sub’s location, so the ships need to sit and listen quietly to safely line up a kill.
The South Dakota can detect ships and subs with an off-board array of sensors that it can communicate with in near real time. This represents a breakthrough in undersea warfare.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Durocher, a pre-commissioned unit South Dakota submariner.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)
But submarines are only as good as their crews. The South Dakota will live or die based on its crew’s ability to stick together and problem solve.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The first American to visit Afghanistan decided he was going to take the wild land by force. That’s just what Americans did back then, I suppose. The young man was born into a privileged life for the time, and lived a life of globetrotting adventure as a young man. When the love of his life decided to marry another man, Josiah Harlan decided to make his world a little more interesting.
But so were the Afghan rulers and warlords.
Having grown up learning Greek and Latin and reading medical books and journals for fun, Harlan decided to join the British East India Company’s expedition to Burma as a surgeon, even though he had never attended medical school. But he didn’t stay for all of the company’s wars. He left the company in 1826 to live in an Indian border town called Ludhiana. That’s where he met Shuja Shah Abdali Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan that would shape Josiah Harlan’s future.
The two men hatched a plan to oust the leader who deposed the Shah, Dost Mohammed Khan using a coalition of Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim fighters, then foment a full-scale rebellion in Afghanistan. Once the Shah was back on the throne, he would make Harlan his vizier. Things did not go according to plan. Khan defeated Shah at Kandahar and was forced to flee once more.
Dost Mohammed Khan can sleep soundly knowing the British got what was coming to them.
Harlan next fell in with Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, a great warrior king who had conquered most of what is today Northwest India and Pakistan. Singh, it turns out, knew how to party unlike anyone since the good ol’ days of insane Roman emperors. He was also a hypochondriac, one that “Doctor” Josiah Harlan could treat. Harlan did treat the Maharajah, earning his trust and the governorship of Nurpur, Jasota, and later, Gujerat. But he eventually fell out of Singh’s favor and turned to Dost Mohammed Khan – the man he tried to usurp in the first place.
Acting as a special military advisor to Khan, Harlan took to the battlefield against armies allied to the Maharajah, having taught the Afghans the “Western way of war,” which basically meant using numerical superiority to your supreme advantage. With Khan, he was made royalty and led armies against the Sikhs in India, against Uzbek slavers, and even led punitive expeditions in the Hindu Kush. But upon returning from those raids, he found Khan was deposed, and the British occupied Kabul and had replaced Khan with ol’ Shuja Shah.
The Maharajah’s life was so great it gave him Forest Whitaker Eye before that was even a thing.
Even though Harlan was the Commander-In-Chief among all Afghans by Khan’s decree, Khan was out and Shah was in. All the tribes and their warlords were now allied with Shah – that was just the Afghan way. Khan already fled, so it was time for Harlan to return to America and to his life in Pennsylvania.
Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania had a marked lack of exotic spices, royal orgies, and international intrigue, so Harlan found himself trying to drum up American support to challenge Russia and Britain for supremacy in Afghanistan. America, however, had enough problems back home around the time the man returned in 1841, and there was little interest in it. Josiah Harlan moved to San Francisco where he spent the rest of his days practicing medicine.