The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.
Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.
As of Dec. 21, they have them.
Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”
“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.
So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.
When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.
A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.
On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.
Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.
The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.
But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:
I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.
During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.
But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.
When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.
Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:
There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?
Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.
Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.
In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.
In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”
That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.
2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.
Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.
The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.
The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.
Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.
A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.
The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.
Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.
The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.
“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.
Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)
Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America
Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.
Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”
“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.
Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.
Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.
Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.
Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.
“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”
China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.
Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.
Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.
“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. has never sought the limelight in the more than 17 years that he’s been in the Navy, but today the eyes of the nation were on him as he received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.
Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six rescue team sent to rescue an Dilip Joseph, American doctor and aid worker who’d been taken hostage by the Taliban. During the mission, Byers showed extreme courage and warfighting prowess by continuing into a room and shielding the doctor while taking out two insurgents after the SEAL in front of him, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, was hit by fire in the doorway.
The justification for the Medal of Honor was based largely on the Joseph’s testimony as captured in his book Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope and Rescue by SEAL Team 6, which was published in 2014. In the book Joseph writes that he was sure his Taliban captors were going to kill him before the SEALs showed up.
The ceremony at the White House was attended by many members of the special operations community as well as other Medal of Honor recipients. Byers family was also present in force. During his remarks President Obama noted that in addition to the SEAL’s immediate family almost 50 members of his extended family were in attendance.
Obama also joked that Byers’ mother first question when she heard her son was receiving the Medal of Honor was, “Can I go to the ceremony?” Focusing on her in the audience the East Room, the president smiled and said, “Yes, mom, you can go.”
Byers has deployed 11 times since 9-11. His previous awards include the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He is the eleventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 9-11.
SEAL Team 6, officially known as DEVGRU, which is short for “Development Group,” is a very secretive part of the special operations community used for the Pentagon’s most sensitive missions. DEVGRU came to the public’s attention in 2011 during Operation Geronimo, the mission to take out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Russia’s new heavy attack drone, called the Okhotnik (Russian for “hunter”), just made its visual debut as a flying wing stealth platform intended to fight Moscow’s enemies from the air and inform the next generation of jet fighters.
The picture of the Okhotnik, posted on a Russian aviation blog and first reported at Aviation Week, shows a drone on a snowy runway with a flat flying wing design like the B-2 Spirit bomber of the US Air Force.
The B-2 represents the US’s stealthiest plane despite being originally built in the early 1980s, which owes to the flying wing design.
Fighter jets which hit supersonic speeds and maneuver tightly need vertical fins, meaning Russia’s Okhotnik likely places stealth above turning and air-to-air combat.
In July 2018, Russian media quoted a defense industry source as saying the Okhotnik could perform “any combat task in an autonomous regime,” but that the drone would require a human pilot to pull the trigger.
US drones only perform in an air-to-ground role, as they’re subsonic aircraft that would be sitting ducks to enemy fighters.
But the defense industry source claimed the “Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” further suggesting some air-to-air role.
Again, this seems to suggest a connection between the combat drone and air superiority fighters, though Russia’s own media describes the drone as having a takeoff weight of 20 tons and an airspeed in the high subsonic range.
Russia frequently makes unverified and dubious claims about its combat aircraft. Russia dubbed the Su-57, meant to fight F-22 and F-35 fighter s or beat top-end air defenses, “combat proven” after a few days of dropping bombs on militants in Syria who had no anti-air capabilities.
But the sixth generation of fighter aircraft, or even the true purpose of the current, fifth generation of fighter aircraft, remains an open question. Many top military strategists and planners have floated the possibility of pairing advanced manned fighter jets with swarms of drones or legacy aircraft to act as bomb trucks or decoys.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
F-15E Strike Eagles, assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, rest on the flightline at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain, Sept. 16, 2016. During Tactical Leadership Programme 16-3, U.S. service members trained side by side with NATO allies and partners, preparing them to meet future security challenges as a unified force.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
A B-52H Stratofortress taxis down the runway during Prairie Vigilance 16-1 at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 16, 2016. As one leg of U.S. Strategic Command’s nuclear triad, Air Force Global Strike Command’s B-52s at Minot AFB, play an integral role in nation’s strategic deterrence.
A U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldier walks across a rope bridge during the 2016 Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Sept 27, 2016.
The U.S. Army protects our Nation and its vital strategic interests, preventing conflict through forward presence, building partnerships, and conducting operations around the world.
PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 22, 2016) Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Demetrice Cox secures an MH-60s Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, with chocks and chains on the flight deck of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) during Valiant Shield 2016.
APRA HARBOR, Guam (Sept. 25, 2016) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), flagship of Carrier Strike Group Five is moored in Apra Harbor, U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG), after the completion of Valiant Shield 2016.
Cpls. Jakob Stark and Michael Sleeting riding in a UH-1Y Huey helicopter during COMPTUEX off the coast of Southern California.
Lance Cpl. Rick Mercer emerging from the tree line during the Advanced Infantry Course in Kahuku Training Area.
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry pilot from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama, surveys the Apalachicola, Florida, area with night vision goggles for damage caused by Hurricane Hermine, Sept. 2, 2016. Hurricane Hermine was a Category 1 hurricane was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2005 before proceeding up the east coast of the United States.
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Honolulu transport members of the Honolulu Police Department Specialized Services Division aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium offshore of Honolulu, Sept. 26, 2016. Station Honolulu served as a platform for HPD to conduct underway ship-boarding exercises aboard the Star of Honolulu.
Tripler Army Medical Center air evacuation from Hickam Airfield.
The US military conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile in a test that would have been banned prior to the recent collapse of a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement.
The missile was launched on Aug. 18, 2019, from a testing site on San Nicolas Island in California. “The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon explained in an emailed statement, adding that “data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”
Earlier this month, the US officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 agreement with Moscow that formally limited the development of ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. The US accused Russia of violating the agreement through the development of the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8.
The White House said in February 2019 that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” The president warned that the US intends “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia.
Following the end of the treaty, new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”
The defense secretary has also said that the US is looking at developing these systems to counter China in the Pacific. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters recently. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”
Both China and Russia have expressed opposition to US plans, and some observers have expressed concerns that a new arms race is underway.
While the US moves forward with plans to develop new ground-based intermediate-range missiles, it is still unclear where the US ultimately plans to deploy them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It had to have been a simultaneously proud and awkward moment in his career: The day U.S. Navy Commander James Kirk got promoted to captain.
Of course any Trekkie would know the reason, as the real-life captain shares the name of the fictionalized character played by William Shatner on “Star Trek.” But the real Kirk is a serious officer, taking the helm of the futuristic USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a ship christened earlier this year.
“Unfortunately I can’t be with you when your vessel is commissioned and obviously your captain, Captain Kirk, is dear to my heart,” Shatner wrote. “So forgive me for not attending, my schedule won’t allow me, but know that you are in our thoughts — Mr. Mrs. Shatner — and that we bless you and hope that you have a safe journey wherever your ship takes you.”
While every veteran probably knows about the GI Bill, there are a number of other education benefits offered that they might be unaware of. Here are a few of them:
1. VA Work-study Programs
These work-study positions are part-time jobs, up to 25 hours a week, for students-veterans usually at local VA facilities (i.e. hospitals, Vet Centers, etc.) that allow veterans to earn extra money and gain experience while in school. The job may only pay minimum wage but since it is considered an education benefit it is tax free. To utilize this benefit a veteran must be enrolled at least three-quarters of the time and are using veteran education benefits, such as the GI Bill.
If you are a veteran working for the VA, a company, or non-profit that is dedicated to serving veterans you can apply to host a work-study program and employ your own student veterans.
2. Vocational Rehabilitation
Also known as Voc Rehab this is a benefit provided by the VA to assist veterans with service connected disabilities to obtain education or training in a new field. This can be particularly useful for veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill but wish to continue their education.
3. Veterans Upward Bound
A pre-college program designed to help veterans reintegrate into higher education after their service. Unfortunately there are only 49 programs nationwide, but they cover most states and many major universities. Check to see if there is a program in your area.
4. Veterans Success Program at your school
Much like the Veterans Upward Bound program, many colleges and universities have implemented their own in-house programs to assist veterans with the transition to college. The nationally recognized program at the University of Arizona offers specialized classes to help transitioning veterans and also has a VETS Center on campus.
5. State Veteran Education Benefits
Many states have enacted their own benefits for veterans, such as the Hazelwood Act in Texas, which pays the tuition of Texas veterans after they have exhausted their GI Bill. Other states have varying types of veteran assistance, check with the Veterans Services Representative at your school for more information.
Even before COVID-19, only half of military and veteran family respondents felt satisfied with their ability to access mental health care appointments, according to data released this week from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN). The top obstacle to obtaining mental health care, across all demographics, was the lack of available appointments.
Add physical distancing, forced isolation and unemployment due to COVID-19, and the data suggests that military and veteran families could be at increased risk of struggling with mental health concerns without the ability to get help.
MFAN’s Military Family Support Programming Survey was fielded from October 7, 2019 to November 11, 2019 and 7,785 respondents answered the questions. The full survey results will be released next month, but MFAN has been releasing some findings early so that leaders and policy makers will have access to the information in order to make decisions during the pandemic.
“My spouse had been trying to schedule a mental health appointment because they have really been struggling lately,” one respondent, the spouse of an Air Force active duty service member, said. “It took them over four weeks to actually be able to see someone in person (which I think is extremely unacceptable). Not to mention, once they were finally able to, the appointment was only available at a hospital over an hour away.”
The majority of respondents, 82.6%, said they had not accessed mental health crisis resources. Those who had sought crisis resources, the remaining 14.6%, were slightly more likely to be spouses of veterans or retirees.
When asked if participants had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, more than 80% said they had not, 12.5% said they had thoughts about suicide, and 6.1% said they preferred not to answer.
“No mental health providers in our area take Tricare and are accepting new patients,” the spouse of a Marine Corps active duty member said. “Therefore, this service is not available to us, even though we’ve attempted to access these services.”
But there’s good news, too
The data MFAN released also tells us that military family members are interested in receiving care through non-traditional methods, specifically telehealth.
“If I had the option to use it, I would,” said the spouse of an active duty sailor. “If it meant not waiting six-plus months to see a doctor, I would gladly use it.”
If the pandemic continues, or even if it doesn’t, receiving care via telehealth could present opportunities for military and veteran families to have easier access to appointments and to continue receiving care from trusted providers with whom they have a rapport, even if the military or life moves them elsewhere.
Bell helicopter has now attached the wing to the fuselage of a new, next-generation tiltrotor aircraft engineered to reach speeds of 280 knots, fly for 800 kilometers on one tank of fuel, hover and maneuver in “high-hot” conditions and function as both a utility and attack helicopter platform.
The intention is to build an advanced, high-tech tiltrotor demonstrator aircraft to take flight in November of 2017 as part of an effort to ultimate build a future aircraft able to begin operations in the 2030s.
“There is one long wing. We attach the middle of the wing to the fuselage – the entire wing is one piece bolted to the fuselage of the airplane. One wing covers both sides. The wing is attached with aircraft grade structural fasteners. There are enough aircraft fasteners to provide sufficient strength to hold the aircraft together,” Vince Tobin, Vice President of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems, Bell Helicopter, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The new Bell tiltrotor, called the V-280 Valor, is part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program aimed at establishing requirements and paving the way toward a new Future Vertical Lift aircraft designed to meet a wide range of new requirements.
The concept behind the Army’s joint Future Vertical Lift program is to engineer a forward-looking, future aircraft able to reach airplane speeds and yet retain and ability to hover and maneuver like a helicopter.
“The aircraft will have an ability to come to a hover in challenging conditions and then, while at a hover, operate at low speeds with maneuvering capability to roll and yaw. We want it to have the handling perspective to make the aircraft able to do what it is able to do,” Tobin added.
In addition, the future aircraft is intended to be able to use fuel-efficient engine technology to allow an aircraft to travel at least 800 kilometers on a single tank of fuel. Such an ability will enable the aircraft to operate more easily one a single mission without needing Forward Arming and Refueling Points, or FARPs.
The idea is to engineer and aircraft able to fly from the west coast to Hawaii without needing to refuel.
“FVL is a high priority. We have identified capability gaps. We need technologies and designs that are different than what the current fleet has. It will carry more equipment, perform in high-hot conditions, be more maneuverable within the area of operations and execute missions at longer ranges,” Rich Kretzschmar, project manager for the FVL effort, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Requirements for the program are still being refined for the Army-led program, which is aimed at service future aircraft for all four services.
These requirements, now being put into actual demonstrator aircraft built by both Bell and a Boeing-Sikorsky industry teams, include building and aircraft able to reach speeds greater than 230 knots, hover in thin air at 6,000-feet and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, achieve a combat radius of at least 434 kilometers and be configured to include emerging sensors and mission equipment technologies likely to emerge by the 2030s.
“We had set 230 as the speed requirement because we wanted to push the technology. We wanted people to bring new ideas and new configurations to the table,” Dan Bailey, JMR TD Program Manager, said in an interview with Scout Warrior several months ago.
Advancing Tiltrotor Technology
Bell intends to build upon and advance existing tiltrotor technology such as that which is currently operation in the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey continues to perform well in a wide range of missions and has recently been selected by the Navy to perform the Carrier On-board Delivery or COD mission transporting troops, equipment and weapons on-and-off surface ships.
The V-280 Valor is designed to be slightly bigger than an existing Black Hawk helicopter and use 24-inch seats to carry 11 passengers with gear, Tobin said.
“What Bell has done is taking its historical V-22 aircraft, and all the demonstrators before that, and applies them to this next-generation tilt-rotor. It is a straight wing versus a V-22 which is not straight. This reduces complexity,” Bailey explained. “They are also building additional flapping into the rotor system and individual controls that should allow for increased low-speed maneuverability.”
The tiltrotors are slated to go on in November, Tobin added.
“We will get the gear boxes and transmission in before we get those blades on,” Tobin explained.
Depending upon ultimate requirement established by the Army and DoD, Bell expects to engineer an attack variant of the aircraft with a slightly different fuselage configuration.
“An armed attack version will have a gun, 2.75in folding-fin rockets and some type of point-to-point missile – hellfire or some later generation missile that would guide off of a laser or IR. We are being open ended in that we are not designing any specific requirement,” Tobin explained.
The new attack variant is expected to use a modernized or next-generation of existing Apache sensors and targeting systems called the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, or MTADS/PVS.
When it comes to sensors and mission equipment, Bell engineers are building a tiltrotor aircraft with what is called “open architecture,” meaning software and hardware able to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge. The concept is to construct a helicopter that is not intended to operate today but rather advance technology well into the 2030s and beyond. Therefore, it will need to anticipate the weapons, sensors, computer processors and avionics likely to emerge by the 2030s.
Part of this effort includes the integration of a 360-degree sensors suite quite similar to the one used on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter called a Distributed Aperture Systems, or DAS.
“Instead of having sensors mounted to the turret, you have sensors that are mounted to the aircraft – so essentially you have sensors staring in 360-degrees around the aircraft at any given time. Those images are stitched together so it appears as one continuous image to the pilot. Both pilots can make use of the same system,” Tobin said.
This technology will also allow troops riding in the back of the aircraft to wear goggles or a helmet giving them a view of the surrounding sensor feeds as they transit to a mission, Tobin added.
The DAS system will also form the basis a small-arms enemy fire detection technology which will search for and locate the signature of incoming enemy attacks. The sensors will be able to discern the location and heat signature coming from enemy small arms fire, giving the aircraft and opportunity to quickly attack with its weapons – lowering risk of injury to the pilots, crew and passengers.
The V-280 Valor will also have yet-to-be-determined Degraded Visual Environment technology that allows sensors to see through obscurants such as brown-out conditions, bad weather and other impediments to navigation. Part of this will also include a system called Controlled Flight into Terrain wherein an aircraft has an ability to quickly re-route itself it is approaching a dangerous obstacle such as a mountain, rock wall or building structure.
This will likely draw upon a semi-autonomous navigation technology built into the aircraft known as “fly-by-wire.” Bell Helicopter developed the initial algorithms for this technology, which is also now on the V-22 Osprey.
Another survivability technology potentially slated for the aircraft is a system known as Common Infrared Countermeasure, or CIRCM; CIRCM is a lighter weight variant of an existing technology which uses a laser-jammer to throw incoming enemy missiles off course – therefore protecting the aircraft.
“We are looking to the DoD customer to see what they want. Either way we can get that on the airplane,” Tobin explained.
The NFL reportedly accepted millions of dollars from the defense department over the course of three years in exchange for honoring troops and veterans before games, the New Jersey Star Ledger reports.
The Pentagon reportedly signed contracts with 14 NFL teams — including the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens — between 2011-2012 stipulating that teams would be paid sums ranging from $60,000-$1 million each (in federal taxpayer money) to pause before the start of games and salute the city’s “hometown heroes,” according to nj.com.
Agreements also include advertising on stadium screens and sideline ‘Coaches Club’ seats for soldiers.
The military has defended the funding it provides to the NFL, stating that it is an effective recruitment tool for soldiers.
“Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks,” National Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty told nj.com, referring to the $377,000 the Jets received from the Jersey Guard between 2011-2014.
Other teams that received taxpayer funds include the Cincinnati Bengals ($138,960) Cleveland Browns ($22,500), the Green Bay Packers ($600,000), Pittsburgh Steelers, ($36,000) Minnesota Vikings ($605,000), Atlanta Falcons ($1,049,500), Buffalo Bills ($679,000), Dallas Cowboys ($62,500), Miami Dolphins ($20,000), and St. Louis Rams ($60,000), according to a nj.com breakdown.
New Jersey senator Joe Pennachhio has since called for the teams to donate the money to charity.
“If these teams want to really honor our veterans and service members they should be making these patriotic overtures out of gratitude for free,” Pennachhio told nj.com. “And the millions of dollars that have already been billed to taxpayers should be donated to veterans’ organizations.”
The payments are being criticized by some who say that the practice is not only unethical, but also hypocritical — citing a renewed focus on integrity and transparency, the NFL fined the New England Patriots $1 million and suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the team’s alleged role in deflating footballs before games.
Many fans are aware that the NFL is a leading recruitment tool for the military — the National Guard advertisements displayed on stadium screens are clearly sponsored content.
But few fans know that the defense department is funneling taxpayer money into the NFL in exchange for veteran tributes.
“The public believes they’re doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told the Star Ledger. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”