Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

The U.S. Army has issued hundreds of waivers for many military permanent change of station moves, despite a Defense Department-wide ban on international and domestic travel until at least June 30, top officials said Tuesday.

And while many PCS moves are halted amid the global pandemic, the Army is bracing for backlogs during the busy summer move season after restrictions lift, and are weighing what incentives it can offer to those who can ease the burden on logistics by moving themselves.


Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said the service had roughly 48,000 personnel with PCS orders to move to their next duty station in March, when the travel ban took effect; “several hundred” of those were ultimately given permission to move anyway. To date, the vice chief of staff’s office, headed by Gen. Joseph Martin, has considered 500 waiver requests, he said.

Even with the latest stop-move order — which does not apply to basic training or deployments and redeployments within the combatant commands — officials said the upcoming summer months will still be the busiest for troops and their families trying to relocate. And springtime moves delayed by the travel ban will add to the summer rush, which is why the Army is bracing for backlogs to occur, added Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble, deputy chief of staff for logistics.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

media.defense.gov

“There are a limited supply of moving companies that exist every summer,” Gamble said. “We’re working to streamline the PCS process … making sure soldiers get orders quicker so they can get their moves scheduled quicker.”

That includes having families move themselves instead of waiting for the government to contact a moving company, he said.

The military commonly reimburses self-moves at a rate equal to 95% of what it would pay a moving company. But Gamble said officials are considering upping the rate to encourage more troops to take advantage of it. He did not offer additional details about the change.

“We’re making recommendations to the Joint Staff and to the leadership for these changes,” he said, adding a proposal to streamline Personally Procured Moves (PPM), more commonly known as DITY moves, will be sent to the Office of the Secretary of Defense this week.

On Tuesday, Army Human Resources Command also published a new survey for troops projected to move this summer, asking them to weigh in on policies.

Roughly 7,000 people moved themselves over fiscal 2019, he said.

“Juxtapose that against 48,000 [in just a few months],” Gamble said, explaining that government moves still make up the majority of PCS moves. “If we continue on the current policy, we have to move five months of people in three months.”

Seamands said the Army is considering exceptions to the stop-movement order on a case-by-case basis for personnel facing hardship and those deemed mission-essential. “We’re encouraging soldiers to seek help from their chain of command” to get their permanent change-of-station move done, he added.

Mission-essential personnel who had already begun the process of relocation were given preference to proceed with their moves, Seamands said. Mission-essential designations are up to the gaining command, he explained.

Officials “coordinate with the losing command to see if the losing command is prepared to allow [a soldier] to leave based on the COVID situation, their area and other readiness issues,” he said. “Then the gaining command comes up through the Army staff to the vice chief of staff of the Army, who from the strategic level makes an assessment on whether or not to support the soldier to make the move based on how mission-essential they are.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the Air Force went inverted over a Russian bomber

Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.


“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974.  The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS.  The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves
In June 1973, the F-4s replaced the F-102s at Keflavik. (All images: R. Sihler)

I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.

Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it.  They photographed us as well.  The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really!  The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”

The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”


“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.

There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.

Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.

Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.

“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”

The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.

Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.

Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.

Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.

“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.

But for the men and women conducting these high-stress operations or deploying, the pressure is mounting as they go without paychecks, not knowing how they can provide for their families back home, said Steven Cantrell, who served as the 12th master chief petty officer for the service.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.

“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”

Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.

While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.

Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.

“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)

Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.

“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.

While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.

But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s oldest deployable warship takes two days to get to sea

The USS Blue Ridge is the lead ship of her class and the oldest deployable warship in the U.S. Navy.


Assigned to the United States Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, the Blue Ridge is one of the U.S. Navy’s two command ships.

When the U.S. Navy’s ships are in port and undergoing maintenance, they are put in dry dock — a narrow basin that a ship can sail into and then have all of the water in it drained. This enables workers to access the ship’s underside, and enable stability during construction and upgrading operations.

Related: The 5 greatest warships of all time

Footage released by the Department of Defense shows that it takes the USS Blue Ridge two days to get out of dry dock.

See the time-lapse video here:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special operators will remain in Afghanistan after withdrawal

The Pentagon is planning to cut its force size in Afghanistan by half, but special operations strike units will remain in country to carry out raids on Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a Defense Department official with knowledge of the withdrawal plans said Jan 2, 2019.

Press reports of a decision by President Donald Trump to begin removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan began emerging in late December 2018, shortly after the White House declared victory over ISIS fighters in Syria and ordered that American troops be pulled from that war-torn country.


U.S. military leaders since have downplayed the reports of an Afghanistan departure as rumors. Following a Dec. 23, 2018 meeting with the governor of Nangarhar district, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews agency, “I have seen the same rumors you have from the newspapers [on withdrawals], but all I would assure you is, first of all, I have no orders, so nothing changed. But if I do get orders, I think it is important for you to know that we are still with the security forces. Even if I have to get a little bit smaller, we will be OK.”

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

Lt. Gen. Scott Miller.

(U.S. Army photo by Whitney Hughes)

On Jan. 2, 2019, U.S. military officials remained reluctant to discuss withdrawal plans from Afghanistan, but a source familiar with the strategy told Military.com that Miller plans to pull about 7,000 of the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops out of the country over the next eight to 12 months.

Currently, the bulk of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is dedicated to advising and training Afghan security forces to be able to operate without American assistance, but the fledgling force remains inexperienced in complex warfighting skills, such as combat aviation, combined arms operations and logistical support, military officials say.

The direct-action portion of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan — made up of a small contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces, such as units from the Army‘s 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force; and the Navy‘s Special Warfare Development Group, or SEAL Team Six — will continue to carry out strike missions against enemy positions in the country, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak to the press.

“We will have a strike force in country,” the source told Military.com.

U.S. military officials maintain that the Pentagon has received no official orders or guidance on withdrawal plans, despite reports Trump wants a plan to cut the number of troops in Afghanistan by half.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

President Donald Trump.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Nothing has changed,” said Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, on Jan. 2, 2019. “As peace talks with the Taliban continue, we are considering all options of force numbers and disposition.”

While not confirming plans for withdrawal, Miller said Jan. 1, 2019 at an event in Kabul that a major policy review is underway on the overall U.S. objective of driving the Taliban to a peace agreement with the Afghan government.

“The policy review is going on in multiple capitals, peace talks [are] out there, regional players pressing for peace, the Taliban talking about peace, the Afghan government talking about peace,” Miller said, according to TOLOnews.

The Taliban has thus far refused to meet with Kabul representatives while they continue to maintain contact with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

In addition to the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, there are about 16,000 service members from 30 NATO and partner nations, all in non-combat or advisory roles, according to a November NATO release.

At the height of the U.S. and NATO commitment to Afghanistan in 2012, there were about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan from the U.S., NATO and other coalition countries.

Despite the continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents control nearly half the country and are more powerful now than they have been at any time since a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The 17-year conflict has cost the U.S. about 0 billion and resulted in more than 2,400 American deaths.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s rhetoric on Kim Jong Un does a complete 180

President Donald Trump on April 24, 2018, again praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying Kim was “very honorable” and “very open” ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders that could come as soon as May 2018.

“Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters amid a White House visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the North Koreans wanted such a meeting “as soon as possible.”


Trump has signaled an eagerness to meet and conduct diplomacy with Kim, despite spending much of 2017 threatening to annihilate North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.

Since the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim has also apparently opened up to diplomacy.

Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing in March 2018, to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April 2018.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves
North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un andu00a0Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim — announced in March 2018, by South Korean officials visiting the US — though it appears he did so without first consulting his secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson.

Trump said in 2017, that he’d be “honored” to talk to Kim — something he now looks likely to achieve.

Trump has also expressed admiration for Kim’s leadership of North Korea, though human-rights groups have accused the government of numerous violations, including running prison camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

Trump said of Kim in January 2016: “You’ve got to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden… he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”

In an interview with Reuters in 2017, Trump again noted Kim’s youth when he became leader.

“Say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump said.

Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader. Meanwhile, Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands of denuclearization already.

But experts Business Insider has talked to have noted that North Korea has previously entered into and backed out of talks with the US and said it now may be working to gain relief from sanctions as its economy falters.

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

Articles

This is the Glock the Army rejected for its new combat handgun

Glock, Inc. has decided to release photos of the pistols it entered in the US Army’s Modular Handgun System competition.


The Smyrna, Georgia-based company submitted versions of its 9mm Glock 19 and .40 caliber Glock 23 pistols in the Army’s effort to replace its M9 9mm pistol. The release of the photos comes three weeks after the Government Accountability Office denied Glock’s protest against the US Army’s decision to select Sig Sauer, Inc., to make the service’s new Modular Handgun System.

“GLOCK, Inc. met or exceeded all of the mandated threshold requirements set forth in the RFP by the Army,” Josh Dorsey, vice president of Glock said in a statement.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves
Photo from Glock, Inc.

Military.com has requested an interview with Glock to give the company the opportunity to explain why it protested the Army’s decision.

Glock’s MHS pistols feature a frame-mounted thumb safety and a lanyard ring next to the magazine well.

Glock filed the protest with the GAO on Feb. 24, challenging the Army’s interpretation of the solicitation regarding the minimum number of contract awards required by the Request for Proposal, according to a statement by Ralph O. White, managing associate general counsel for Procurement Law at GAO. Glock also alleged that the Army improperly evaluated its proposal.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves
Photo from Glock, Inc.

“GAO denied the challenge to the interpretation of the solicitation, finding that the RFP allowed the Army to make only one award, although up to three awards were permitted by the RFP’s terms, White wrote. “GAO also denied the challenge to the Army’s evaluation of Glock’s proposal on the basis that any errors did not prejudice Glock in the competition.”

The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 Modular Handgun System competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.

The Army awarded Newington, New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer the MHS contract Jan. 19, selecting a version of its P320 to replace the Beretta M9 service pistol. The decision formally ended the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Articles

Army mulls $3 billion multi-year Apache buy

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves
Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor


The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.

Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.

Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.

The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”

If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bomber may become the new face of US military power in the Pacific

The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.

As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.


The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.

“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.

According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”

Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.

The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.

That’s one reason four bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, have been launching from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for patrols across the East and South China Seas since May 1, according to Air Force social media posts. The bombers deployed to Andersen after the service suspended its continuous bomber presence mission in the Pacific for the first time in 16 years.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.

Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.

While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.

Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.

The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.

The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)

The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.

The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.

Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.

Prior to the Dyess deployment, a B-1 from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, flew a 30-hour round-trip flight to Japan in late April. There, it operated alongside six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, seven Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2s and eight JASDF F-15s over Draughon Range near Misawa, Pacific Air Forces said in a release.

The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.

Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.

The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.

“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.

In August, the Air Force proved it can transform the Lancer to hold more ordnance, a first step toward it carrying hypersonic weapons payloads.

Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.

“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.

“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.

If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones & detonations: How Sri Lanka is responding to the attacks

Sri Lanka has banned drones and is detonating suspicious items around its capital city in the aftermath of a series of deadly bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 359 people.

In a statement, Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said it was banning drones and unmanned aircraft because of the “existing security situation in the country,” The Associated Press reported.The ban will remain in place until further notice, Sri Lankan authorities said.

Investigators were searching for other possible explosive devices and stopping to search people and vehicles in Colombo on April 25, 2019, AP reported, four days after blasts ripped through hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.


Few people were outside in parts of the city while authorities searched locations near where the bombs went off, according to the AP. Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. local time.

Sri Lanka Bombings: What the Scale of the Attacks Tells Us | NYT News

www.youtube.com

Drones carrying explosives have previously been used by militant groups such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks.

But ISIS’ links to the attacks have not been proven, and authorities have blamed National Towheed Jamaat, a local extremist group that has not taken public responsibility. A high-level intelligence official told CNN that the group was planning another round of attacks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities said they believe an international network of extremists could have helped the group carry out the attacks.

Almost 60 people have been detained in relation to the bombings, while two brothers who are believed to have been involved in the bombings, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, were members of one of the city’s wealthiest families.

Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister said on April 24, 2019, that the country believes one of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian missiles in Syria might trigger a war with Israel

Russia announced on Sept. 24, 2018, it would send its advanced S-300 missile defense systems to Syria after it lost a spy plane to errant Syrian air defense fire— but the new set-up puts Israel at high risk of killing Russians and starting a war.

Russia blames Israel for Syria, its own ally, firing a Russian-made air defense missile that missed Israeli jets attacking Syria and instead killed 15 Russian servicemen on an Il-20 spy plane.

According to Russia, Israeli F-16s flew in low under the Il-20 to either shield themselves from air defense fire or make Syrian air defenses, which use outdated technology, shoot down the bigger, easier to spot Il-20 rather than the sleeker F-16s.


Whether or not Israel purposefully used the Il-20 to its advantage remains an open question. But it exposed a glaring flaw in Syrian and Russian military cooperation, which Moscow is due to close with the S-300.

Russians hit the front lines, and Israel won’t back off

According to Nikolai Sokov, a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, the Russians will now sit on-site at Syrian air defense sites, which Israel frequently bombs.

Syria’s current air defenses lack the highly-classified signal Russian planes send to their own air defenses to identify them as friendly. Without this secret sign from the flying Il-20, Syria mistook it for an enemy, and shot it down.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

An Ilyushin IL-20 in flight.

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)

If Russia could simply give Syria the signal and fix the problem, it would have likely done so already. But if Syria somehow leaked the signal, the US or NATO could trick all Russian air defenses into their fighters were friendly Russian jets, leaving Russia open to attack, according to Sokov.

“The S-300 systems Russia plans to supply to Syria will feature a compromise solution,” said Sokov. “They will be fully equipped to distinguish Russian aircraft… but there will be Russian personnel present at controls.”

Israel has admitted to more than 200 air strikes within Syria in the last two years. These strikes have killed more than 100 Iranian fighters in Syria in September 2018 alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

Frequently, Syria responds to these strikes with air defense fire against Israeli fighter jets. In February 2018, Syria succeeded in downing an Israeli F-16. Israel responded with a sweeping attack it claimed knocked out half of Syria’s air defenses.

Trends point to a big fight

Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map, and has for decades tried to achieve that by transferring weapons across the Middle East to Israel’s neighbors, like Lebanon where Hezbollah holds power.

Israel has vowed in return to destroy Iranian weapons shipments wherever it finds them. In the past, Israel has struck Iranian uniformed personnel, munitions depots, and Iranian-backed militias.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

A Russian S-300V (SA-12a Gladiator).

In short, Israeli strikes that require air defense suppression (such as blowing up Russian-made air defenses in Syria) will not stop any time soon, judging by Israel and Iran’s ongoing positions.

But now, when Israel knocks down a Syrian air defense site, it runs the risk of killing Russian servicemen. When Israel kills Syrians, Syria complains and may fire some missiles back, but its military is too weak and distracted by a seven-year-long civil war to do much about it.

If Israel kills Russians, then Russia’s large navy and aviation presence could mobilize very quickly against Israel, which has fierce defenses of its own.

“Obviously, this seriously constrains not just Israeli, but also US operations in case of possible bombing of Syria,” Sokov said of the new Russian-staffed S-300.

“Not only Syrian air defense will become more capable, but it will be necessary to keep in mind the presence of Russian operators at the Syrian air defense systems.”

So next time Israel or the US decides to strike Syria, it may not only find stiffer-than-usual resistance, it might find itself in a quickly escalating battle with one of the world’s greatest military powers.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new ‘360 Invictus’ attack helicopter

Bell has unveiled its proposed single-rotor design for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a cutting-edge helicopter that may be optionally manned.

The ‘360 Invictus’ helicopter will be loaded with a 20 mm cannon and integrated munitions launcher able to carry Hellfire missiles or rockets. It will be able to adapt for future weapons integration in order to fight in urban environments, according to Bell.

Bell showcased its design to reporters at its facilities in Arlington, Virginia on Oct. 1, 2019.


“The Army realized that they absolutely do need a smaller aircraft that’s … able to operate in urban canyons as well as out in mixed terrain,” said Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.

Facing PCS backlogs, Army wants to increase incentives for soldiers to move themselves

Bell ‘360 Invictus’ rendering.

(Bell)

Schloesser said the 360 Invictus has high-cruise speeds, long-range capabilities and advanced maneuverability, all intended to help it dominate a future battlespace.

“We have a solution that can accomplish those missions, but it’s also the lowest-risk, and therefore probably the lowest-cost aircraft, to be able to accomplish [that],” Schloesser said.

Keith Flail, vice president of advanced vertical lift systems, said the agile helicopter’s first flight is expected in the fall of 2022. It should be able to fly at speeds greater than 180 knots true airspeed, or more than 200 miles per hour; the aircraft will also have a supplemental power unit that can boost the aircraft’s speed in flight.

Loosely based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system, the fly-by-wire computer flight control helicopter will be made in partnership with Collins Aerospace which will deliver a new avionics hardware and software suite. “[Collins] also has the ability to integrate capabilities with the MOSA, or modular open system architecture, onto the aircraft,” Flail said.

Some observers at Oct. 1, 2019’s event remarked how the streamlined, lightweight fuselage design of the 360 Invictus resembled the body of a shark, particularly the vertical canted ducted tail rotor, designed for optimized lift and propulsion.

“As we’re in the wind tunnel, as we’re looking at performance, as we’re looking at drag, everything on the aircraft, we’re very confident that we have a good story on … that design target,” Flail said.

In April 2019, the Army awarded Bell, a subsidiary of Textron, the contract to begin prototype and design work; but the company must compete against four other firms before the service downselects its options to move forward with its future helicopter.

They are: AVX Aircraft Co. partnered with L3Harris Technologies; Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky; and Karem Aircraft.

Currently, the Army is developing FARA and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) along with other airframes as part of its larger Future Vertical Lift initiative, or FVL.

FVL, the Army’s third modernization priority, is intended to field a new generation of helicopters before 2030.

Flail said that Bell will have a full-scale model of its FARA design, which fits inside a C-17 Globemaster III for transport as well as a 40-foot CONEX box, at the annual Association of the U.S. Army show later this month.

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