Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
US Air Force / WATM


Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft — such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.

These and many more are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane’s capability for this role – including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35.

While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support.

Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force’s current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options – upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.

Many A-10 proponents are convinced that there is no other plane capable of succeeding with the highly-dangerous, revered and essential Close Air Support Mission. Nevertheless, the Air Force does plan to use the emerging F-35 for Close Air Support moving into the next decade. In addition, F-35 advocates argue that the stealth aircraft’s speed, maneuverability and high-tech weapons and sensors give the F-35 a decisive Close Air Support advantage.

F-35 Weapons

In the meantime, the F-35 weapons integration including live fire drops, weapons separation assessments and modifications for future munitions adaptions is progressing as well alongside the existing F-35/A-10 analysis.

The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.

By the early 2020s, the F-35 is slated to be configured with a next-generation Small Diameter Bomb II

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
US Air Force photo

As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.

Built-in ISR is an asset which could have the effect of greatly helping close-air-support efforts.

Also, F-35 advocates reiterate that the airplane’s high-tech Electro-Optical Targeting System and 360-degree sensors Distributed Aperture System will give the newer aircraft an uncontested combat and close-air-support ability. The F-35s so-called computer-enabled “sensor fusion” might enable it to more quickly ascertain and destroy moving targets by gathering, integrating and presenting fast-changing combat dynamics and circumstances.

Finally, the F-35’s stealth configuration and speed is expected to better enable it to evade air defenses and move closer to emerging ground-targets in many instances — and its air-to-air ability will enable the aircraft to respond to potential air-threats which could appear in the course of a ground-support mission.

AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time earlier this year over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

“If you think if a boresight in terms of a firearm… that’s the adjustments made to an optical sight, to align the barrel of a firearm with the sights.  If you think of it in aircraft terms… traditionally air-to-air missiles are fired at targets in front of the them,” Joint Strike Fighter Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, told Scout Warrior.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

“For example, instead of having to position the aircraft directly in front or behind the enemy fighter… a high off-boresight weapon enables the pilot to just look to the left, right or up and down to engage a target, fire it and the missile locks on for the kill,” he explained.

The AIM-9X missile, which can also be fired at surface-to-air and air-to-surface, is currently in use on a number of existing fighter aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-15E and F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet.

Engineered by Raytheon, the newest AIM-9X Block II weapons are built with a redesigned fuse for increased safety and a lock-on-launch capability. The missile is also configured with a data link to support what’s called “beyond visual range” engagements, meaning targets at much farther ranges picked up by sensors or early warning radar. This could provide a fighter jet with an ability to destroy enemy targets in the air while remaining at a safer stand-off distance less exposed to hostile fire.

“The AIM-9X Sidewinder is an infrared-guided, air-to-air missile employing a focal plane array sensor for unparalleled target acquisition and tracking, augmented by jet vane control technology for extreme maneuverability against a variety of high performance threats,” Mark Justus, Raytheon AIM-9X program director, told Scout Warrior in a written statement. “The missile also has proven capability in air-to-surface and demonstrated capability in surface-to-air missions.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A Sidewinder missile. | US Air Force photo

The AIM-9X Block II is the current version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range missile family in use by more than 40 nations throughout the world, Justus added.

“The AIM-9X missile has been acquired by twenty international partners. It is configured for easy installation on a wide variety of modern fighter aircraft and we are excited to complete this milestone of the first AIM-9X live fire from the F-35 as we progress through the aircraft/missile integration activities,” he said.

Weapons integration for the F-35 is designed to evolve in tandem with software advances for the aircraft, described as “increments.” Each increment, involving massive amounts of lines of computer code, improves the platform’s ability to integrate, carry and fire a wider range of weapons.

Block 2B, for example, is already operational and builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop.

Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i in 2016. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

F-35 25mm Gatling Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015 in California, Pentagon officials described.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground – a task of growing consequence given the Air Force plan to retire the A-10.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A gun test on the F-35 on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. | US Air Force photo

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017.

Small Diameter Bomb II

The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

The Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB II, is designed to integrate onto the F-35 by 2022 or 2023; it is engineered todestroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.

A weapon of this kind would be of extreme relevance against ISIS fighters as the group is known to deliberately hide among civilian populations and make movements under cloud cover or adverse weather in order to avoid detection from overhead surveillance technologies.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Small Diameter Bomb II | Raytheon

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

Articles

This Air Force general passing out during an F-35 brief is the perfect metaphor for the program

Normally, James Martin is the very model of a modern major general. But the Air Force officer, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, recently collapsed at the podium while answering questions about the F-35.


Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Don’t lock your knees, sir. (C-SPAN video)

Air Force Deputy for Budget Carolyn Gleason held Maj. Gen. Martin up, while aides came to help Martin, who regained his senses seconds later.

“That’s what the F-35 will do to you,” Gleason laughed.

The struggle over at the USAF Budget Office is real.

Articles

This is how the Iraqi army beat ISIS in less than a week

Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group’s control, a senior army official said Aug. 27.


“Joint forces of the army and the Hashd al-Shaabi — a pro-government Shia militia — have liberated two neighborhoods of Al-Askari and the Al-Senaa Al-Shamaliya, as well as the Al-Maaredh area, Tal Afar Gate, and the Al-Rahma village in the eastern part of the city,” Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Mosul operation commander, said in a televised statement.

While all parts of the city have been recaptured, fighting for control of some parts of Tal Afar district continues.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Troops on the streets of Tal Afar, Iraq. Photo courtesy of DoD.

Yarallah said only the Al-Ayadieh area and its surrounding villages in the district now remain in Daesh’s grip, adding the armed forces were advancing “towards the last targets in order to liberate them”.

On Aug. 27, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi — a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A member of the Iraqi Security Forces establishes a security perimeter around an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Capt. Stephen James.

Ministry of Displacement and Migration official Zuhair Talal al-Salem told Anadolu Agency 1,500 people fled the district’s surrounding villages and areas.

“The displaced people were transferred from security checkpoints to Nimrod camp, where they are receiving relief assistance,” Al-Salem said.

 

 

Nimrud camp in the southeast of Mosul is said to have a capacity to house 3,000 families.

The ministry transferred some 500 displaced families to the camp after checking their names August 26 in the district of Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul.

Articles

These high-speed German cops still wear armor from the Middle Ages

It’s been years since knights were last sent into battle wearing insanely heavy and uncomfortable metal suits for protection against swords and arrows.


Centuries, actually.

But as it turns out, while knights are now a thing of the past, their armor is still in use today with at least one special operations police unit in Germany. That’s right… Germany’s elite “SEK” Spezialeinsatzkommandos (Special Deployment Commandos in English) are sometimes sent into sticky situations wearing chain mail suits of armor.

Though they’ve traded in long swords and sabers years ago for Heckler Koch submachine guns and Sig pistols, these German cops still utilize chain mail armor to protect themselves in close quarters missions against terrorists, hostage takers, or even just your run-of-the-mill deranged knife-wielder.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
An SEK operative fast-ropes from a police helicopter during a demonstration (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

While chain mail armor isn’t enough to stop bullets or anything that can penetrate at high velocities, it’s still pretty effective against close-in attacks using blades or sharp objects. Mail consists of small metal ringlets woven together to form a mesh-like sheet. These sheets are then fashioned into wearable coats and pants which still allow the wearer a fair degree of movement.

Last year, SEK operatives were spotted wearing chain mail while responding to a mentally-disturbed 21 year-old threatening to kill randomly with a pruning saw. Later on, images began surfacing of commandos donning mail shirts and hoods in urban settings, wearing a weird blend of modern tactical gear and the ancient mesh armor.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
An SEK wearing chain mail under his assault vest while responding to a threat (Photo from Snopes.com)

These German commandos have been known to wear their mail suits above or beneath their gear, depending on the scenario they face and their role in resolving it. Hostage or suicide negotiations would generally prompt the wearing of the armor above a Kevlar bulletproof vest and radio, for example.

According to Stefan Schubert in his book, “Inside Police: The Unknown Side of Everyday Police,” the SEK are easily some of the most high-speed special operations police units in the world, having been formed in the 1970s in West Germany to tackle hostage situations, provide protection for dignitaries, and rapid armed response to terrorist threats.

Around the same time, a similar East German police force known as Service Unit 9 was also established. Both were merged under the SEK name and mission after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War.

SEK teams are more like highly-developed SWAT teams in the US, attached to German state police agencies across the country. Their federal counterpart is the legendary GSG 9 of the Bundespolizei, home to some of the best counterterrorist operatives today.

An SEK commando covering an assault during a demonstration in Dortmund, circa 2013 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The recruitment process to join an SEK team is extremely strenuous, and the ensuing selection phase has a high attrition rate. Candidates typically face between 6 to 8 months of physical, tactical and environment-specific training before being declared operational. Additional training includes skiing, snowmobiling and scuba diving.

When placed on active status, an SEK commando can choose virtually any tactical loadout that fits their preferences and mission. Operatives are also given a lot of leeway in uniforms, often choosing to be in plainclothes in order to blend into crowds and work unnoticed.

However, when on mission, you can generally tell an SEK commando apart from a regular police officer by the fact that they always cover their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities — standard procedure for all SEK teams throughout Germany.

But if ever the balaclava isn’t enough to give away their presence, just look for the guy toting a tricked-out carbine wearing Medieval armor and tennis shoes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China just launched a massive show of force in the South China Sea

Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.

The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.


Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.

China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.

Here’s what the parade looked like:

48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CNR)

Including submarines.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CCTV)

As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

76 aircraft also took part in the parade.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

Such as J-15s.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

And even helicopters.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
(CGTN)

You can watch the video from CGTN below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aging Russian fighter spotted with new, mystery weapon

Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.

The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.

The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.


Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.

The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.

The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.

President Donald Trump has sought to address the threat of space-based warfighting with a new military branch, the Space Force, though experts remain dubious what all such a force could accomplish in this early stage.

It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.

But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.

While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mississippi airmen help restore communications on Tyndall

Total devastation. No power. No running water. The scene on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base was a grim, ‘post-apocalyptic’ one when a five man team from Keesler AFB’s 85th Engineering Installation Squadron arrived in mid-October 2018, just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit Florida in nearly a century. Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, resulting in catastrophic infrastructure damage.

“The closer we got to Tyndall, there was more and more devastation. All the trees were snapped and laid over, buildings completely devastated with no power, no clean water, when we first got to the base,” said Capt. Nathan McWhirter, 85th EIS operations flight commander.


Quickly getting to work, the engineering team began assessing the buildings for any useable equipment and materials to get base communications up and running.

“We were doing all of our inspections using headlamps and hard hats, going into these buildings that are completely gutted. It looked like a complete war zone honestly,” he said. “We were one of the first teams on base, so there were very few people here at the time too. It was kind of eerie and surreal surveying some of these buildings.”

Despite the power outages and limited communication material, the crew has been able to successfully restore connectivity and avenues of communication around base. The engineering team has been able to get the base-wide ‘giant voice’ mass notification system up and running, as well as patching up new antennae’s and fiber work to get air to ground communications connected. The biggest challenge to completing these projects McWhirter said, was the lack of usable equipment and lack of power.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Tech. Sgt. Skyler Shull, Airman Hunter Benson and Staff Sgt. Charlie Hegwer, 85th Engineer Installation Squadron, install three recycled antennaes on fabricated mounts for the Tyndall Enterprise Live Mission Operations Center facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“The hurricane knocked out all sorts of antennae’s so we’ve been scrounging around, taking them off damaged towers and putting them on good towers. There’s no material here, so we are just trying to salvage what we can,” he said.

“A lot of the buildings don’t have power still so that’s a big limiter. [Civil engineering] is working super hard and trying to do it smartly. We don’t want to turn power on to a building that’s been destroyed and risk having a fire,” McWhirter added. “We are trying to work on relocating these large communication nodules safely and cost effectively.”

Although it has a long way to go before it’s fully functional again, McWhirter said the base has come a long way in the short amount of time their team has been there. A tent city has been set up, with places to sleep and hot meals being provided, as well as clean water for bathing and drinking, making life easier for the on the ground reconstruction teams and returning personnel.

“More and more people started coming in, we were able to bring more and more assets in,” he explained. “Just seeing the difference from when were first got here to today, is remarkable. There is still obviously tons of work that needs to be done, but just in these short couple of weeks things have gotten way better.”

As the team prepares to transition back to Keesler AFB, conditions at Tyndall AFB have improved dramatically. More and more resources and personnel are arriving, all dedicated to bringing Tyndall AFB back to life. While they were just one piece of the overall restoration effort, McWhirter acknowledges that his team played a key role in the early recovery efforts.

“I just want to say how proud I am of my team and the work they are doing and the support we are getting back home from the 85th EIS and the 81st Training Wing; getting us out the door quickly and making sure we have everything that we need,” said McWhirter. “The guys out here are really killing it and I’m proud to be part of a restoral effort. This is unprecedented thing to be able to build up a base that’s been devastated. We’ve come a long way.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how servicewomen honor those who’ve fallen

Nearly 40 Air and Army National Guard women gathered at the Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 21 with hundreds of active duty, retired, and reserve service members from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


Honoring US Military Women

The memorial honors all women who have defended America throughout history. The gathering featured a weekend filled with remembrance, honor, service, leadership, mentorship, and inspiration.

“It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making,” said Army Col. Cynthia Tinkham, the Oklahoma National Guard’s director of personnel. Tinkham is one of five of the event attendees with the Oklahoma Guard who were present at the memorial’s dedication 20 years ago.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Men and women participate in a half-mile honor walk through Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, Oct. 21, 2017. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

The memorial here serves as a 4.2-acre ceremonial entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial honors the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the US military since the American Revolution.

Also Read: The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

The group arrived here Oct. 20, touring the memorial’s long arching hall of memorabilia that covers the history of US women in military service.

“I’ve learned a lot about women’s history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, a member of the Air National Guard.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Women toss rose petals into the reflecting pool of the Women in Military Service for America memorial during a ceremony that honored the 15 fallen women of the US Armed Forces since 2012, Oct. 21, 2017, in Washington DC. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary Ceremony

Major events throughout the weekend included a celebration dinner, WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary ceremony, an honor walk, and an after-dark service of remembrance. Attendees ranged from women World War II veterans to those currently serving in all branches of the US military.

The keynote speaker of the morning’s ceremony, retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who’s also the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in Services chair, compared her experience at the dedication in 1997 to the 20th anniversary ceremony this year, emphasizing that each year there are more “firsts” to celebrate — the first woman to serve in a particular branch, in a particular career field, and the first to die while serving.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Former Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger speaks about sustaining the force at the 2013 Air Force Association’s 2013 Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 16, 2013. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes.

“There are so many firsts that the memorial represents,” Wolfenbarger said. “But, the real objective is that there are no more firsts.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan emphasized the importance of honoring the past later that evening as attendees held candles honoring the lives of the 167 women who have fallen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Related: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all,” said Ryan, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the women killed in action.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Women from the National Guard hold candlelights during a remembrance ceremony for all the women servicemembers who have died in the line of duty, Oct. 21, 2017, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetary in Washington D.C. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps

“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” he added.

Among the fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Army Spc. Sarina Butcher, who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.

“These women represent a bridge to those that came before them,” said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of fallen women. “To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.

These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.


“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”

The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).

“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)

The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.

“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”

The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.

More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.

The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.


One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.

Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.

“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.

After answering the door, he ran into the street.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”

To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.

“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”

Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.

“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.

They immediately jumped into action.

Related: How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”

The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.

“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”

The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A burned out car lies in front of the remains of a house that was destroyed by the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires destroyed more than 15,000 homes and caused more than $3 billion in damages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”

The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.

The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.

“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.

They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.

“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”

So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.

“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Camp Guernsey Fire Department and Wyoming Air Guard firefighters train together at the Wyoming Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Training Facility in Casper. (Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)

The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.

“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”

In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.

“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”

Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.

“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”

But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.

Read Also: 16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”

Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.

“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”

Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.

“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, surveys the remains of his family’s home after the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires consumed more than 15,000 homes, and caused at least $3 billion in damage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.

“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”

Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.

“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”

Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.

“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”

“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”

Articles

These glasses can turn any location into a simulated battlefield

Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.


Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Four viewpoints of exercise participants during an AITT test. In this GIF, Marines engage simulated enemy tanks near an objective. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.

Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.

All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
This is the view a participant sees when a truck is destroyed during an augmented reality training mission. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 on a golf course after a series of upgrades and other tests. The goal is to allow Marines to practice engaging each other in force-on-force exercises without the cost or risk associated with training using live munitions and vehicles.

Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.

See the system in action in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a Biden administration, changes for the military could start on day one

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.

Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.

In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.

“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”

Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.

The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.

To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.

South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.

Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.

At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.

By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wants to give its military small bomb-dropping drones

Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.

“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.

“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.


While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)

The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.

“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”

ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.

It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)

“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.

“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.

The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.

But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”

While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.

Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”

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