The show has yet to reveal a name for the little being, so fans have taken to simply calling it “Baby Yoda.” This show takes place after “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” which means it’s not literally young Yoda (though it could be his clone). But the term has stuck anyways, and even the show’s pilot episode director Dave Filoni says the name “Baby Yoda” is perfectly acceptable until we know more about it.
So for now, let’s just enjoy all of the viral tweets about this small baby who the entire world will protect at all costs.
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
The horrific shooting rampage in Las Vegas — and its mounting death toll — has made it the worst mass shooting event in U.S. history, eclipsing Virginia Tech, the Pulse Nightclub and Sandy Hook Elementary School in its barbarity.
Yet, in the face of such horrors, shining glimmers of hope emerge — among them the courageous police who responded to the incident, and even some veterans in the crowd who sprang into action when the bullets were flying.
Of the approximately 22,000 people in attendance, many were veterans, according to multiple accounts.
Iraq war veteran Colin Donohue told Fox News “I looked around and went ‘Oh crap this is actually happening.’ So I started pushing people out and said ‘Alright, let’s go. You need to go here.” He continues, “We started taking care of those who are injured. There were a lot of people and it gives me chills because there’s nothing I could do. I’m not a doctor, but you have a lot of people out there helping out.”
Russell Bleck, eyewitness at the Route 91 Harvest festival, tells TODAY show “Thank god it was at a country concert, there were so many ex-military there. You saw these men jump into action, their training … not even in uniform. These people just knowing what to do and treating their wounds.”
Veterans on site were giving aid; even plugging bullet hole wounds with their fingers. Bleck concludes “I didn’t see a single one taking cover, these guys were just running directly into the danger zone.
A man in the middle of the volleys stood up, beer in one hand, raised a middle finger towards the shooter as others begged him to “get the f*ck down” in a video released by The Sun. He’s still unidentified but if it turns out that he was a veteran, I don’t think it’d surprise anyone.
President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”
Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.
“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.
The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them
US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria early February 2018 led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces.
The comments by Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White on Feb. 22, 2018, add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the Feb. 7 incident, which Moscow said this week caused dozens of casualties among fighters from Russia and other former Soviet republics but did not involve uniformed Russian troops.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that U.S. military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts at the time of the clash. But White’s comments are the clearest to date that the U.S. military was told there were no Russians in the attacking force.
“The strike in Syria — our strikes were done out of self-defense. We were very clear about that. We saw those — that group moving towards us. We still don’t know, and I won’t speculate, about the intentions or the composition of that group,” White said.
“What I can tell you is that we used our deconfliction phone line, and we used it before, during, and after the strike. And we were assured by the Russians that there were no Russians involved,” she said.
The clash in Deir al-Zor Province appears to be the first time that U.S. forces engaged directly with Russians in Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government in a devastating seven-year civil war.
The revelation that Russian mercenaries were killed stoked fears of an outright hostile confrontation between Russians and U.S. forces. But the Russian government has distanced itself from the incident and its public comments have been subdued.
The United States has said that air and artillery strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing U.S.-backed opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.
No Russian official directly acknowledged that Russian citizens were involved until Feb. 15, 2018, when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about five people who were “presumably Russian citizens” may have been killed.
On Feb. 20, 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics were wounded in the lopsided exchange.
With accounts from relatives and acquaintances of Russian fighters in Syria mounting, some open-source researchers and media reports have said that dozens or hundreds of Russians were killed.
North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen walk from room to room wiping surfaces with sanitizing material as they assist a local, contracted company in ‘deep cleaning’ at a Fargo, N.D., congregate living memory care facility May 1, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/David H. Lipp)
Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.
Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.
The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.
“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”
According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.
As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.
Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.
Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.
For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.
Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.
“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.
Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.
“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.
It’s time to move again. PCS.
It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.
It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.
You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”
You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.
You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.
“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…
It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.
Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.
Regardless — it’s time to go.
Except it’s not.
We’ve been extended.
For an indeterminate amount of time.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.
(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)
It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.
Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.
Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”
One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…
And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)
Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.
But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.
The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.
Now I have to clean my damn house.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.
Turkey, as well as a host of other US allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.
Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.
But after the curtain rolled back on Turkey’s single F-35, and Turkey’s military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?
Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. It’s an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The US bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
There’s deep concerns in the US over Turkey’s human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkey’s recent interest in Russian missile defenses.
Turkey is on track to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
For that reason, and human rights concerns, the US Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkey’s F-35s held back.
Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.
Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the US to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but it’s also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single US-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When France asked Germany to open negotiations for an armistice and peace treaty during the Battle of France, Germany was quick to agree — but Hitler had one petty and symbolic gesture that he demanded be part of any negotiations.
The rail car that had belonged to French Marshal Ferdinand Foch on display in the 1920s. It would later be dragged back into the forest on Hitler’s demand as a final insult to the conquered French army.
Foch was a French hero in World War I. Despite setbacks in some offensives, like the Battle of the Somme for which he lost prestige, he was credited as one of the primary contributors to the plans that won the first and second battles of the Marne. By the end of the war, he was the Supreme Allied Commander and the Marshal of France.
It was in this role that he went with his train car to the Compiegne Forest in 1918 to oversee the start of the armistice negotiations. After the reading of the preamble, Fochs stepped outside in what was seen as a direct insult to the German officers within.
French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, second from right, and other officers from the French and German forces stand outside Foch’s rail car following the end of armistice negotiations ending hostilities in World War I. The armistice went into effect six hours later.
Some of the Treaty of Versailles most restrictive clauses were drawn from the armistice negotiated in the train car. Foch asked for the farm and got everything. Well, except for the exact number of submarines and locomotives he had demanded. Germany simply had less equipment than Foch desired, but they did sign over what they had.
And it didn’t end there. While some of the worst items from the armistice were left out of the Treaty of Versailles, Foch took a public stance on wanting the most restrictive terms possible on Germany, calling for territory to be remitted to France and decades of occupation. Other negotiators and Allied government leaders refused, largely due to worries that strengthening France too much at the expense of Germany could lead to conquest by France.
French and German soldiers, mostly German, look at the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car in June 1940 as the officers prepare to sign the armistice that will withdraw most French forces from World War II.
For his part, Foch thought the final terms of the treaty were too lenient and declared that the final deal was, “not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”
Hitler and other German leaders, apparently still seething from their drubbing and Foch’s treatment at the end of World War I, invaded France less than 21 years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
During the invasion, France, gambling heavily that the Ardennes Forest was impassable for panzers and that the Maginot Line was nearly unassailable, sent its best units north. But while the Maginot Line would largely hold for a few weeks, panzers actually found fairly easy passage through the Ardennes, allowing the blitzkrieg to grab large sections of French territory.
The top tier units sent north, meanwhile, were unable to quickly turn and face the new threat and were largely enveloped, forcing the surrender of most of France’s strongest and most modern units. The blitzkrieg marched towards Paris, which was then declared an “Open City,” a city that has given up resisting so that it won’t be destroyed in the war.
The invasion had begun May 10, 1940. Largely because of the Ardennes gamble and the overwhelming force of the blitzkrieg, the negotiations for the armistice began less than six weeks later.
The Compiegne Forest, which Germany demanded be the site of negotiations, meanwhile had grown into a sort of park celebrating France’s World War I victory. A statue of Foch overlooked the rail car, monuments to French dead, and a large statue celebrating the defeat of Germany.
Hitler looks at the statue of Ferdinand Foch in the Compiegne Forest before going into Foch’s former railway car to negotiate France’s surrender to Germany.
(U.S. War Department)
Germany destroyed it all, except for the statue of Foch. Where it had once overlooked a forest filled with monuments to France’s victory, it now looked over only a wasteland. For the rest of the war and the first few months of peace, Foch’s statue sat largely alone in an empty forest, all other symbols of triumph stripped away.
But with the end of the war, money was gradually allocated to rebuild the monuments. The train car was burnt and destroyed by Germany in Berlin in 1945, but another car from the same train was found and rebuilt to appear exactly like the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car. It sits like its predecessor in the Compiegne Forest.
The elections are over? Cool. We hope you got out there and made your vote count, but now it’s time to focus on the bigger things, like the Marine Corps’ upcoming Ball/Birthday and Veterans Day, both of which fall on a glorious four-day weekend.
It’s a damn shame that it isn’t a payday weekend, too — but maybe it’s for the better. Things might get too crazy.
Anyway, enjoy these memes while you get ready for whatever ludicrous plans you have for the long weekend.
1. “To whom it may concern, f*ck this sh*t. Sincerely, everyone.”
Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.
He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.
“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.
Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.
Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.
“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.
Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states’ navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships.
“We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories,” the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19.
The force warned that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”
The U.S. Navy had said that 11 vessels from the IRGC made “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. naval ships in the Gulf on April 15.
The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.
The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.
“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.
The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.
An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
US Navy F-35C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)
“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.
StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II
StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.
GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.
Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.
Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.
One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.
About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.
The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.
StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.
“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.
F-35 to 2070
The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.
“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.
While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.
“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.
The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available
“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.