43 helicopters stage impressive 'Elephant Walk' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

43 helicopters formed up across the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for a massive readiness exercise that celebrated also the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

We have reported about several “Elephant Walk” exercises in the last few months, the most recent of those is the one involving 20 F-35B at MCAS Beaufort in May 2019. However, what happened early in the morning on June 6, 2019, beat most of the previous ones: seven squadrons with Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) conducted a massive training evolution during which 26 MV-22B Ospreys and 14 CH-53E Super Stallions (actually those figures are not confirmed as another USMC statement says 27 and 16…) took part in a combat readiness exercise that saw them depart and soared over Southern California.


“MAG-16 has executed our maximum flight event to demonstrate the combat readiness of our MAG and to tell the MAG-16 story” said Col. Craig C. LeFlore, commanding officer of MAG-16, in a public release. “We want to test ourselves. If there is a crisis somewhere in the world, our job is to be ready to respond to that crisis at a moment’s notice.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Twenty seven MV-22B Ospreys and 16 CH-53E Super Stallions with Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), are lined up as part of the mass flight at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

The mass launch was not carried out for show: the majority of the aircraft taking part in the Elephant Walk took also part in tactical training after launch.

“I can’t think of a better way for the MAG to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the accomplishments of those who have gone before us,” LeFlore continued.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), prepare to fly at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jake McClung)

“MAG-16 provides the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander with the assault support transportation of combat troops, supplies and equipment, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations,” LeFlore explained.

Here are some interesting details about MAGTF and MAG-16 included in the news released by the U.S. Marine Corps:

A critical function of Marine Aviation, Assault Support enhances the MAGTF’s ability to concentrate strength against the enemy, focus and sustain combat power, and take full advantage of fleeting opportunities. Such functions are not new, however, as MAG-16 has demonstrated those abilities in combat operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as in humanitarian missions around the world.
The MV-22B Osprey and CH-53E Super Stallion are the two platforms that comprise MAG-16. The MV-22B Osprey was first procured in 1999 and has been a cornerstone of the MAGTF ever since. What makes this aircraft unique is its ability to combine the vertical flight capabilities of helicopters with the speed, range and endurance of fixed-wing transports. Weighing 35,000 pounds, the Osprey is capable of carrying more than 20 Marines more than 400 nautical miles at a cruise speed of 266 knots. The superb capabilities of the MV-22 translate into a faster MAGTF response in times of crisis. Those capabilities are put into practice around the world every day by MAG-16. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, a squadron from MAG-16, is currently deployed in support of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The other aircraft in MAG-16’s arsenal is the CH-53E Super Stallion. The Super Stallion is the only heavy lift helicopter in the DoD rotorcraft inventory. Weighing 37,500 pounds, the Super Stallion can carry more than 30 Marines or over 32,000 pounds of cargo more than 110 nautical miles. The heavy lift capabilities of the Super Stallion are crucial to supporting the six different types of assault support operations ranging from combat assault support to air evacuation. The combined capabilities of these two aircraft have enabled MAG-16 to assist with humanitarian aid and disaster response efforts such as typhoons, earthquakes and California fire suppression. To be successful during such operations, it is vital that the Marines and Sailors of MAG-16 operate their aircraft and train their crews on a regular and sustainable basis.

Enjoy these cool shots.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), prepare to fly at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Ralph)

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadrons (VMM) 161, 165 and 166, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), take off from the flight line during a mass flight exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., June 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jake McClung)

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Retired Army Master Sergeant gets heroism medal for stopping shooter on Kansas bridge

The retired soldier who was hailed as a hero after taking down a gunman who opened fire at people stopped in their vehicles on a bridge in May was awarded for his actions this week.

Retired Master Sgt. David Royer was awarded the Soldier’s Medal on Thursday, nearly two months after he drove toward a gunman, ramming him with his truck as the man began firing on people at random.


The medal, which is the Army‘s highest award for non-combat heroism, was presented by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville at a ceremony at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

“It’s hard to say what inspires soldiers at the risk of their own lives to intervene and to save other soldiers, but that’s exactly what Master Sgt. Royer did on that day,” McConville said during the ceremony. “He risked his own life to save others, and we’re very, very proud of his actions that day.”

Royer was serving with the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility when the shooting occurred oMay 27. He was on the phone with his fiancée while driving on the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth when the gunman got out of a vehicle and began shooting people with a rifle.

“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer later said at a press conference.

Another soldier was wounded in the shooting. The 37-year-old gunman was arrested by police after being pinned under Royer’s truck.

Jason Randell Westrem, of Houston City, Missouri, was later charged with first-degree murder and eight other felonies for allegedly firing on the vehicles, one of which had two children inside.

Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said in May that Royer’s quick response saved countless lives.

“His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that,” he said.

Since retiring from the Army, Royer has joined the veteran-owned Kansas City Cattle Company, according to an Army News release.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch shipbuilders use massive crane to complete Navy’s next supercarrier

The shipbuilders tasked with constructing the US Navy’s next supercarrier have finished installing the flight deck, using a massive crane to place the final 780-ton piece.

The USS John F. Kennedy will be the Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier after the USS Gerald R. Ford, which has been delayed due to unexpected problems and increased maintenance demands. The installation of the JFK’s upper bow at Newport News Shipbuilding early July 2019 completed the carrier’s main hull, which, at a length of 1,096 feet, is longer than three football fields.

The final piece weighed nearly 800 tons — as much as 13 main battle tanks — and took a year and a half to build. Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII) released a video of the installation.



John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) Upper Bow Lift

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More than 3,200 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers are involved in the construction of the Kennedy, which will, if everything goes according to plan, be launched later this year.

“The upper bow is the last superlift that completes the ship’s primary hull. This milestone is testament to the significant build strategy changes we have made — and to the men and women of Newport News Shipbuilding who do what no one else in the world can do,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy construction project, said in a HII statement.

While the US is not the only country to field aircraft carriers, no other country has built anything that even comes close to the new nuclear-powered Ford-class supercarriers.

China’s only operational carrier, for instance, is a previously-discarded Soviet ship that China transformed into the country’s first flattop. Russia’s situation is even worse: It’s only carrier is out of action and the foreign-made dry dock used to repair it.

While the US force of 11 carriers is much more modern and capable, the Ford-class carriers have certainly had their share of problems.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

June 2019, US lawmakers expressed concern after learning that the Ford and the Kennedy would not be able to deploy with the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters when the carriers are first delivered to the Navy. A congressional staffer told reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”

And, in May 2019, the Navy admitted that the advanced weapons elevators on the Ford, systems required to quickly move ordnance to the flight deck to increase the aircraft sortie rate and the overall lethality of the ship, will not be working properly when the carrier leaves the shipyard to rejoin the fleet in October 2019.

Maintenance on the Ford was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but problems with the ship’s propulsion system, elevators, and a few other areas resulted in unplanned delivery delays.

HII says that it has leveraged the lessons learned from its work on the Ford and insists that the Kennedy is on schedule to launch in the fourth quarter of this year; the JFK’s construction is estimated to cost at least .4 billion.

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

Articles

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

“I go by Jim,” new Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday in good-naturedly shrugging off the “Mad Dog” moniker President Donald Trump delights in using to refer to him.


Related: 7 photos of Mattis’s first day as SecDef

“It’s you guys that came up with Mad Dog,” the retired Marine general told reporters. “My own troops were laughing about it, saying, ‘We know your call sign is Chaos, where did this come from?’ It must have been a slow news day; some newsperson made it up.”

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

“I go by Jim. I was born Jim. I am from the West. Jim is fine, OK? How’s that? And that’s on the record,” Mattis said, according to the Washington Examiner.

Mattis went off the record as he made a surprise appearance Thursday at the usual “gaggle” for Pentagon reporters run by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, on the day’s events, but he came back on the record to deal with the “Mad Dog” nickname.

Articles

US Navy redesigns submarines with women in mind

Every submarine in the U.S. fleet was designed with the height, reach, and strength of men in mind, from the way valves are placed to how display screens are angled.


That’s going to change.

With women now serving aboard submarines, defense contractor Electric Boat is designing what will be the first Navy subs built specifically to accommodate female crew members.

The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)

For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.

The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.

The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.

For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.

Also read: This is what life is like for sailors on a US Navy submarine

“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.

Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.

As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
So many valves. (Tyne Wear Archives Museums)

On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.

Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.

Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.

The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.

Related: 27 incredible photos of life on a U.S. Navy submarine

At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.

Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.

With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.

“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army is revolutionizing night time target identification

Innovation isn’t just a matter of creating something new. Rather, it’s the process of translating an idea into goods or services that will create value for an end user. As such, innovation requires three key ingredients: the need (or, in defense acquisition terms, the requirement of the customer); people competent in the required technology; and supporting resources. The Catch-22 is that all three of these ingredients need to be present for innovation success, but each one often depends on the existence of the others.


Also read: The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

This can be challenging for the government, where it tends to be difficult to find funding for innovative ideas when there are no perceived requirements to be fulfilled. With transformational ideas, the need is often not fully realized until after the innovation; people did not realize they “needed” a smartphone until after the iPhone was produced. For this reason, revolutionary innovations within the DoD struggle to fully mature without concerted and focused efforts from all of the defense communities: research, requirements, transition, and acquisition.

Despite these challenges, the Army has demonstrated its ability to generate successful innovative programs throughout the years. A prime example is the recently-completed Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3rd Gen FLIR) program.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
The 3rd Gen FLIR products seen here are examples of a new and innovative program from the research community making the sometimes treacherous transition into field use.

The first implementation of FLIR gave the Army a limited ability to detect objects on the battlefield at night. Users were able to see “glowing, moving blobs” that stood out in contrast to the background. Although detectable, these blobs were often challenging to identify. In cluttered, complex environments, distinguishing non-moving objects from the background could be difficult.

These first-generation systems were large and slow and provided low-resolution images not suitable for long-range target identification. In many ways, they were like the boom box music players that existed before the iPhone: They played music, but they could support only one function, had a limited capacity, took up a lot of space, required significant power and were not very portable. Third Gen FLIR was developed based on the idea that greater speed, precision, and range in the targeting process could unlock the full potential of infrared imaging and would provide a transformative capability, like the iPhone, that would have cascading positive effects across the entire military well into the future.

Related: The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Because speed, precision, and accuracy are critical components for platform lethality, 3rd Gen FLIR provides a significant operational performance advantage over the previous FLIR sensor systems. With 3rd Gen FLIR, the Army moved away from a single band (which uses only a portion of the light spectrum) to a multiband infrared imaging system, which is able to select the optimal portion of the light spectrum for identifying a variety of different targets.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
U.S. Soldiers as seen through night vision.

The Army integrated this new sensor with computer software (signal processing) to automatically enhance these FLIR images and video in real time with no complicated setup or training required (similar to how the iPhone automatically adjusts for various lighting conditions to create the best image possible). 3rd Gen FLIR combines all of these features along with multiple fields of view (similar to having multiple camera lenses that change on demand) to provide significantly improved detection ranges and a reduction in false alarms when compared with previous FLIR sensor systems.

Read more: Why the Army needs to speed up its future weapons programs

Using its wider fields of view and increased resolution, 3rd Gen FLIR allows the military to conduct rapid area search. This capability has proven to be invaluable in distinguishing combatants from noncombatants and reducing collateral damage. Having all of these elements within a single sensor allows warfighters to optimize their equipment for the prevailing battlefield conditions, greatly enhancing mission effectiveness and survivability. Current and future air and ground-based systems alike benefit from the new FLIR sensors, by enabling the military to purchase a single sensor that can be used across multiple platforms and for a variety of missions. This provides significant cost savings for the military by reducing the number of different systems it has to buy, maintain and sustain.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.


At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”

“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.

The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.

The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.

Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.

The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

media.defense.gov

The Air Force conference at which Musk made his comments included senior US military officials and pilots.

Speaking with Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Musk said autonomous drone warfare “is where it’s at” and “where the future will be,” according to Defense News.

“It’s not that I want the future to be this. That’s just what the future will be,” Musk added. “The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will rewrite its rules for helmet cams in combat

U.S. military leaders are considering new guidelines for the use of helmet cameras on the battlefield after Islamic State-linked fighters in Niger exploited footage taken by a fallen American soldier to make a propaganda video that highlighted the killing of four U.S. forces.


Weeks after the deadly October 2017 ambush, people linked to the militants shopped around the grisly footage to news organizations. When few expressed interest, the insurgents added music and propaganda, made a short movie, and posted it online. Then it was written about in a number of news stories around the world.

The Islamic State group’s capitalization on its fortunate find after the northern Niger battle highlighted the risk for the U.S. military of its men and women using the popular mini-cameras on missions. Experts say military officials are likely to respond with tighter controls.

Also read: Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

“The need for clear guidance on the use of cameras in operations was amplified by the ambush in Niger,” said Navy Capt. Jason Salata, spokesman for Special Operations Command, based in Florida. And U.S. Africa Command, which doesn’t have its own policy on the issue, is also doing a review to determine whether new guidelines are required, said Army Col. Mark Cheadle, spokesman for the command.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
The funeral of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2017. Black was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he died from wounds sustained during enemy contact in the country of Niger in West Africa, Oct. 4, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The goal is to ensure commanders understand the risks when they authorize helmet cameras or other video to be recorded. One idea centers on security measures that would make it harder for enemies who get their hands on such footage to use it.

“I think they’re doing the right thing by saying, ‘Well, we can’t limit its usage, we’ve got to limit its vulnerabilities, things like encrypting them,'” said Spencer Meredith, associate professor of national security at the National Defense University. “So, how do we take something like a helmet cam, which is a vital tool for ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), for training, for mission analysis, for after-action reports and put limits on its vulnerabilities?”

Related: These combat camera vets return to train young troops

While some form of encryption would be the most likely approach, Meredith said, other technological fixes include ways to limit the battery life or otherwise make a device inoperable after a certain period of time. Other guidelines could address who can approve the use of helmet cameras and similar technology, and where and how they can be used.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Nigerien soldiers. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher C. Klutts)

The commanders of U.S. forces in Africa and the Middle East will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2018.

The military’s increased usage of GoPros and other video cameras reflects their booming presence in our everyday lives. Such technology can deliver bird’s-eye views of skiers hurtling down the slopes, divers exploring the sea floor, breathtaking parasailing tours, and whitewater rafting. It takes no special training for amateurs to get in on the act.

But the technology’s penetration of the military over the years has been uneven. It was originally more prominent among special operations forces, but has since expanded to conventional troops as the cameras became more widespread and more commanders became convinced of their value.

More: This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

The benefits range from training to assistance on the battlefield. Troops often wear the cameras during drills as a way to hone skills, identify shortcomings, and work through various exercise scenarios. Once deployed, forces use them on missions, capturing film of enemy operations or gathering intelligence.

The video is generally stored on the camera, not live-streamed back to observers or commanders. It can be useful after a mission to review details, analyze enemy tactics, or to prove or rebut charges of abuse or civilian casualties. For example, U.S. forces have tried to use video to capture dangerous incidents involving Iranian or Russian aircraft or ships, hoping to document what happened in case complaints are challenged.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane, combat cameraman. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Combat camera photographs or video footage from training or military missions also are often released to the public or posted on Defense Department websites and social media accounts, after being declassified and cleared.

“The value is after the fact, when you’re analyzing it,” Meredith said. “Is there something that you missed, a person over here you may want to go back and talk to? It’s the after action report where it becomes useful.”

Rules on helmet camera use have lagged, however. Instead of having their own guidelines, such devices so far have been lumped in with other more general restrictions on photography and videotaping. These largely prohibit pornography or any unauthorized imagery of casualties, detainees, classified or sensitive equipment or locations, or intelligence gathering.

Related: Now commandos have a new camera to record their door-kicking exploits

But those rules were designed to address unrelated problems. After video surfaced of several Marines urinating on the bodies of enemy fighters in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command in 2013 beefed up the photography and video regulations for troops deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.

They stipulated troops can use videos for official purposes when collecting evidence or intelligence or on other missions that would be aided by recordings, if approved by an officer who is a lieutenant colonel or higher. In the Navy, that would be a commander or higher.

In the Niger mission, the team of American and Nigerien forces traveled to the last known location of a senior militant and sought to collect any remaining evidence. A helmet camera could be used appropriately in that type of mission.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just changed enlisted performance reports

The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.

The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.

“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”


The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.

One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.

Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.

An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.

In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.

Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.

“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”

Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 military golf courses to visit

Military MWR provides many benefits, but one of the greatest is access to world-class golf courses. With well-manicured fairways, nice practice facilities, and cheap green fees, it’s hard to beat the value. Many military courses have epic views and are ranked along with private courses among the best in the world, plus they offer programs for the whole family.

Walking the beautiful fairways on any base is a great way to unwind after a tough day at work, on the weekends, or simply as an outing with family and friends. The military has excellent golf courses around the globe, no matter what time of year it is. 

Here are the top courses to play in each season:

Fall: Eisenhower Golf Club, Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Courtesy: Eisenhower Golf Club, Air Force Academy

Autumn is a fantastic time to visit Colorado Springs. With little rain and strong sun at an altitude of 7,000 feet, you can enjoy the fall colors and mountain views from the Academy’s two incredible 18-hole courses.

Eisenhower’s 7,500-yard Blue Course was designed by world-famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones. At slightly more than 6,500 yards, the Silver Course is shorter but still very challenging. Stay the weekend and play both.

Winter: Admiral Baker Golf Course (San Diego, California) 

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Courtesy: Admiral Baker Golf Course

With very comfortable temperatures in the 60’s and little rain, San Diego is a great winter golf destination. The area has several outstanding military golf courses, but Admiral Baker, an independent facility that is not on a military base, is one you can’t miss.

The North Course is the more famous of the two 18-hole courses, but let’s be honest, winter golfing with warm weather is a win either way.

Spring: Fort Belvoir Golf Club (Fort Belvoir, Virginia) 

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Courtesy: Fort Belvoir Golf Club

Spring is one of the best times of year to visit the Washington, DC area, especially if you can catch the cherry blossoms — usually in early April. With average temperatures around 70 degrees, it’s the perfect weather for golf.

Fort Belvoir has two 18-hole courses, one of which was designed in part by the aforementioned golf architect Robert Trent Jones. This club is a must-play if you are in the DC area during spring.

Summer: Whispering Firs Golf Course, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Lakewood, WA) 

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Courtesy: Joint Base Lewis McChord

The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places in the U.S. for summer golf. Bright, sunny days are common throughout July and August, but temperatures are comfortable with low humidity. A day on the greens is the perfect way to enjoy the short Washington summer.

Whispering Firs is a challenging 6,646-yard course that will take you through beautiful wooded areas, with large mature trees and receptive greens. Doglegs and changing elevation abound on this beautifully-designed course.

Year-round: Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Oahu) 

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Courtesy: Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course Facebook

Oahu is a year-round golf destination with averages temperatures in the 80’s. The Kaneohe Klipper is one of the top military courses in the world and a must-play.

The front nine offer beautiful mountain vistas, while the back nine boast spectacular coastline views that earn this course its international reputation. Total course length is 6,559 yards.

The signature hole is #13, a par 4, 471 yards, that hugs the coastline and can be particularly challenging on a windy day. Test your skills on this course, and don’t forget your camera.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

Articles

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’
Female soldiers in North Korea military parade | Wikimedia Commons


With everything from the fear of deadly snakes to alleged executions by anti-aircraft guns, it’s understandable why many North Koreans desire to flee the Hermit Kingdom.

What’s interesting to note, however, is the economic class of defectors that have found their way out of North Korea. According to a survey from the Korean Unification Ministry, the percentage of defectors from the “middle-class” rose from 19 percent in 2001 to 55.9 percent after 2014.

The increase stems from the fact that more defectors from higher statuses in the North possess the resources to escape, said the Unification Ministry.

So far this year, 894 North Koreans have escaped the country, compared to the 777 in the previous year during the same period. The Unification Ministry claims that this 15 percent increase is on track to bring the total amount of defectors to 30,000 by the end of the year.

Although the reasons to cross the border, or in some exceptional cases remain away from, are numerous, it’s noteworthy that one of their highly publicized punishments in North Korea seems to have decreased: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is estimated to have executed about 130 officials in the 5 years he’s been in power, while Kim Jong Il, his father, had put to death over 2,000 officials in a 6 year span.

The latest high-profile defection comes from Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London, who has since been accused by his former country of leaking state secrets, embezzlement, and child rape. As one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to have defected, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that others will eventually follow suit.

Humor

6 more Share-a-Coke cans they could also use

Coca-Cola, the USO, and Dollar General have teamed up to run a special “Share a Coke” campaign this summer in support of the military community. It was designed with the best of intentions, but it’s caught a bit of backlash for not including a few branches.

You can find 16-oz cans of Coke labeled with ‘Sailor,’ ‘Airman,’ and “Coast Guardsman,” which accounts for three of the five branches, but you’ll notice that both ‘Solider’ and ‘Marine’ are missing. Instead, you’ll find cans marked ‘hero’ and ‘veteran’ respectively.

So, if they’re going to swap out two branch-specific terms in favor of something more widely applicable, that opens the door for plenty of other possibilities! Try these on for size:


43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

For that no-drag specialist in your squad.

High Speed

With all due respect, they’ve kinda missed the mark by using “Hero” as the label for soldiers — this isn’t exactly a compliment in some contexts. In the Army, the term ‘Hero’ is a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Basically, it’s another term for ‘idiot.’

Why not go all the way and label one “High Speed?”

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Boot

Every Marine was, at one point in their career, a dumb boot. It’s only after a young boot has made enough mistakes and has had the stupid smoked out of them enough times that they’re finally accepted by their fellow Marines. It’s a rite of passage.

Since boots are also the most likely to remind everyone in the outside world of their service, they should have their own can.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Caw caw, mother f*cker.

Blue Falcon

No one likes the blue falcon — it’s no coincidence that the first letter of each word in this term is shared with another, less polite label: Buddy F*cker.

Blue falcons work hard to keep up their game and getting your buddies in trouble is thirsty work. Why not celebrate them with a nice, cold middle finger?

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

Perfectly mixes well with whiskey.

C.O.B

The C.O.B. (or the Crabby Ol’ Bastard) is the Chief of the Boat and is more often than not the oldest person on the ship.

You’ll never know how these salty sailors made it so long without being forced into retirement, but you have to respect their amazing ability to hold a ship together using only pure hatred.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

They can get a Coke and a Bronze Star as an End of Tour award.

Powerpoint Ranger

Rangers are some of the hardest badasses in the Army. The Powerpoint Ranger, however, is on the very opposite side of the coolness spectrum.

All these guys do is sit on the FOB and craft the perfect Powerpoint presentation on the complexities of connex cleaning. These guys probably haven’t seen the range in years, but they do have a direct line to the Colonel.

43 helicopters stage impressive ‘Elephant Walk’

The one and only universal truth that every service member can agree on is: “F*ck Jodie.”

Jodie

A Coke isn’t the only thing Jodie wants to share with you.

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