These photos from an F-22 'Elephant Walk' are pretty cool - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Some really cool photographs of two dozen F-22s from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group taxiing in close formation with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were posted online on Mar. 26, 2019. Both types are based at JBER.

The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.


What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participate in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

3rd Wing’s F-22s and E-3s often team up during QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) launches triggered by Russian long-range bombers flying in the vicinity of the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). This is what we wrote in 2017 about such “combined scrambles”:

Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).

A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?

Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.

Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.
These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

An F-22 Raptor takes off after Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participated in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route.

For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers).

However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.

The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.

After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.

As already reported a recent “Elephant Walk”, also involving about two dozen F-22s, took place at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on Feb. 28, 2019.

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

Humor

5 best reasons why the Air Force doesn’t need warrant officers

Many an airman have found themselves utterly confused whenever they encounter these wonderful and mythical creatures normally found somewhere downrange (or near one of our sibling service’s chow hall).


Their rank insignia is confusing for the airman seeing it for the first time — but don’t you dare stare! Yes, this rare and godlike commodity is the warrant officer.

What, exactly, is a warrant officer?

A warrant officer is a technical expert. For the branches that have them (i.e. not the U.S. Air Force), they serve as the technical base for their respective service. They, simply put, have become officers based on expertise and, well, warrant.

Sounds great, but does the Air Force need them? Here are five reasons why they might not:

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
They definitely don’t know what to do with their hands. (Image from Columbia Pictures’ Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)

Related: 7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

5. Congress had a better plan

The Air Force actually did once have warrant officers.

From the moment the Air Force become a separate branch on Sept. 18, 1947 until 1958, the enlisted ranks topped out at E-7. Congress then created the ranks of E-8 and E-9 for the Air Force, allowing for more growth.

The Air Force didn’t see a need for these technical experts anymore and used this momentum to usher out what had become a somewhat pesky group of individuals.

The Air Force made their last warrant officer appointment in 1959 and the one in active duty retired in 1980.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
This is how the Air Force Warrant Officer went away. (Image from ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock)

4. Wait, aren’t we actually getting them?

This is a rumor that has been going around for decades. I, personally, heard it back in my earliest days in Air Force blue and thought it was a great idea.

I heard it again a few years and bases later, and even right now the idea of re-introducing the warrant officer tier to the Air Force is being kicked around.

It’ll probably, eventually, likely, maybe-not-but-just-might happen… one day.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

3. We must be different

Just like most younger siblings, the Air Force strives to be different from our big brothers in blue, green, and Marine.

We learn from their history, their triumphs, and their missteps to be a better version of awesome whenever and wherever possible.

Most of the time, that makes sense. But sometimes, different is just different — not better.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Pictured: Air Force fighting for independence.

2. Because… air power

Keeping in line with the snootiness of being the baby sibling, the Air Force went a step further in hardening the line between enlisted and commissioned than our brothers did.

The Air Force zigged when the Army zagged.

Why? Because there will be no misnomer about ranks, positions, and titles in the Air Force, right?

Also read: This is what it was like being in the military on 9/10

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Air Force being Air Force… different isn’t always better. (USAF photo by Airman Jack Sanders)

1. We have our own unicorns

We already have mythical, rarely seen, hard-to-catch creatures in the Air Force.

Unlike other services, where you commonly see some type of operator doing all types of things (from working out to shopping), in the Air Force, you could easily go your entire career without ever seeing a pararescueman or combat controller with your own eyes.

Oh, they exist like a motherf*cker but, unless you’re in that world, you’ll only see them in your dreams.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Pictured: absolute badass, Chief Master Sgt. Davide Keaton (Retired).  (USAF photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Workshops for Warriors started with a handful of wounded service members in a 400-sqaure foot garage. Twelve years later it’s poised to become the world’s largest training facility for advanced manufacturing.

Despite the meteoric growth, founder and CEO Hernán Luis y Prado said he’d never had an interest in manufacturing. The 15-year Navy veteran had planned a 40-year career. This changed in 2008 when he started visiting National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he saw wounded warriors dealing with terrible conditions. He described service members living in tunnels while waiting for hospital rooms in facilities that weren’t designed for a sudden influx of survivors.


“These Marines that were used to jumping out of helicopters were just languishing in bed for days after days just waiting for physical therapy that came once a week,” Prado said. “And the docs that would come by every week and say ‘hey next week you’re going home.’ And that would go on for 30, 40, 50 weeks. That was just soul crushing.”

The final straw came during a trip to the local mall where Prado ran into a friend he’d served with in Iraq. Since they’d last seen each other, Prado’s friend had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs.

“Here I was — tough guy, combat vet, and my legs literally melted underneath me,” Prado said. “I grabbed my wife as I sank to the deck and I said ‘we’re going to sell everything. We’ve got to do something.’ My wife, to her eternal credit, said, ‘yes we are.’ I loved the Navy and I would’ve stayed there forever. But I had to do something. I was so tired of seeing my friends dying of suicide and just being lost. These are guys that I had served with and they were hyper-capable, hyper-competent. All the sudden they would just be hollowed–out versions of themselves that were drifting aimlessly into the shadows.”

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Prado speaks with students.

Prado started what would eventually become Workshops for Warriors by inviting service members receiving treatment in Bethesda to his home to hang out. He said they loved to tinker in his garage. This got him thinking about next steps. Most of the service members being treated in Bethesda were only there for four to six months. This ruled out apprenticeships which can take up to 10,000 hours to complete, he said, and college degrees which can take years. Professional credentials, on the other hand, are stackable and portable, he added.

Next, Prado developed partnerships with multiple U.S. manufacturers to get the equipment, supplies and instructors. As a lieutenant in the Navy he didn’t make enough to cover the costs.

“Fortunately, we got some incredible companies that donated time, tools, software and connected us with other people,” Prado said. “Little-by-little we started moving forward.”

Prado’s next move was to take his last Navy assignment in San Diego, California. He said he did this because more people leave the service there – 17,000 a year – than anywhere else in the country.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Machining students.

The current Workshops for Warriors facility takes up three city blocks in San Diego and includes housing and dining facilities for students. A 8 million expansion is slated for next year.

Since 2008, 760 veterans and transitioning service members have graduated from Workshops For Warriors. Prado said 95% of the program’s graduates receive job placements with an average salary of ,000 a year.

Courses are open to honorably discharged veterans and transitioning service members who are within six months of separation. Students take four-month courses in advanced manufacturing, welding fabrication or machine repair. The ,000 tuition can be covered by the G.I. Bill. For those who don’t have access to the G.I Bill, scholarships are available, Prado said.

Each course is coupled with opportunities to gain nationally recognized credentials in welding, machining, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing and more. Programs are accredited through the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education, American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Prado said most students have between four and eight written job offers prior to graduation. The only shortcoming he sees in his program is its capacity for students. Workshops for Warriors currently has the ability to teach 162 students per year. But the organization receives seven to ten times that many applications, according to Prado.

To deal with this, there are plans in the works for a train the trainer program and eventual expansion into other locations throughout the country.

Prado said Workshops for Warriors is almost as beneficial to manufacturers as it is to veterans and transitioning service members.

“You have no idea how desperate employers are for properly–trained machinery repair technicians,” he said.

Prado said there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled labor. That number is projected to rise to 4.8 million over the next ten years.

“If you couple that with the fact that the median age of manufacturing workers today is 57 years old, in 10 years, who is going to build our ships, our aircraft, our bridges, our buildings,” Prado asked. “We cannot allow our manufacturing capability and our economic resiliency to be outsourced to China.”

Service members or honorably discharged veterans can apply for entry at https://wfw.org/.

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


popular

This is what we know about Area 51

Area 51 is a restricted site in Nevada with an almost cult-like mythology surrounding it. Some people claim it’s a standard military operation site, but others swear that it within its gated walls exists proof about extraterrestrial life.

Before we get into public knowledge, I want to throw in my thoughts on this. I was an intelligence officer in the Air Force and I maybe shouldn’t post this on the internet but my final assignment was in a place that rhymes with Rational Maturity Agency, and while the government definitely does some cool classified work there, I can say with high confidence that no one would be able to keep aliens a secret. At least not the kinds of aliens we tell stories about. Maybe Area 51 has some petri dishes of extraterrestrial amoebas…but I really doubt it.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool


What’s more likely is that the government tests advanced technology out in the desert. The flight pattern of an aircraft like the Harrier could totally be interpreted as a UFO at night.

As the video below states, “No doubt aircraft are still being secretly built and tested there today.”

You can check declassified documents to learn about what has been tested on site in the past. In fact, because of the Freedom Of Information Act, U.S. citizens have the right to request access to federal agency records; there are limitations, of course, but it’s a fun pastime to ask the “Rational Maturity Agency” for documents concerning things like aliens or Elvis or other conspiracies.

Check out this fascinating video to get a no-nonsense re-cap of what we know about Area 51 — then let me know what you think is going on out there!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you need to know about Juneteenth

There are moments in history that are nothing short of monumental, but they aren’t broadly celebrated or acknowledged. Juneteenth is one of those days.

You may have heard the word Juneteenth at some point in your life but have no idea what it’s about. It’s a turning point in our country that isn’t emphasized in history books, so it’s easy to skate past the day with little care. But it’s time we give the respect it deserves.


Here’s the story about Juneteenth, and why we all should know it.

Remember learning about when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery during the Civil War? The executive order went into effect on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t an immediate victory. It would take two and a half more years before the news that slavery had ended would reach remote Texas.

Up to this point, black people (who were captured and brought to America) were viewed and treated as property and animals, not humans with rights. Their purpose was that of free labor for farming, working as servants and basically doing whatever their owners commanded. Many people saw slavery as immoral and wanted to end it. Confederates didn’t agree that the federal government had the right to do so, which was a major factor in them separating from the Union. Subsequently, the Civil War began.

In 1865, the Confederate states were defeated.

Two months after the Civil War ended, General Gordon Granger announced federal order in Galveston, Texas, the last Confederate state holding onto their human property. Granger declared that all previously enslaved people were free, and he was backed by Union troops to enforce the decree.

This climax of freedom took place on June 19, 1865, therefore, Juneteenth. It is the annual celebration of African Americans being released from the last shred of slavery in this country. Some communities hold gatherings, parades and festivals in commemoration.

The happenings of June 19 were major progress, not just for black Americans, but for our nation! It was a beginning step toward equality and to be treated as people and not property.

Our country explodes in celebration recognizing July 4, 1776 (Independence Day). But black people were still enslaved. Juneteenth is the African American day of freedom. To acknowledge it is to say, this happened, and it is a day we honor, value and will make noise about in celebration together.

Changes are happening as Americans of varying nationalities are screaming in the streets that Black Lives Matter and demanding social justice. Recognizing Juneteenth is a part of that package.

Nike, New York Times, Target, Lyft, JCPenney and many other companies are making Juneteenth an annual paid holiday. They encourage employees to use this time to reflect on the many injustices black people have faced in America, and to connect to the community.

While 47 of the states acknowledge Juneteenth in some capacity (North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska do not), Texas, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania are the only ones recognizing it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

While Juneteenth is not yet a national holiday, the significance of this time is starting to catch hold. While many white Americans are acknowledging the pattern of struggle that African Americans still face daily, we have long strides to make.

Recognizing the ending of slavery as a nation is a good start! Happy Juneteenth!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senator John McCain, Vietnam War hero, dies at 81

Republican Sen. John McCain, an internationally renowned Vietnam War hero who served for 30 years in the Senate representing Arizona, died Aug. 25, 2018, due to complications stemming from brain cancer.

His office said in a statement that his wife Cindy McCain and their family were alongside him when he died.

“At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years,” his office said.

McCain, 81, was a part of many of the past three decades’ most significant political moments. He was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee in a contest he lost to President Barack Obama. He also sought the presidency in 2000, mounting a primary campaign against President George W. Bush.


A graduate of the Naval Academy, the Arizona Republican followed both his father and grandfather, who were four-star admirals, into the US Navy, where he carried out airstrike missions.

During a 1967 bombing run over Hanoi, McCain’s plane was shot down, nearly killing him. He was captured by North Vietnamese forces and spent six years as a prisoner of war, suffering brutal beatings at the hands of his captors, which left him with lifelong physical ailments.

He quickly lost 50 pounds and saw his hair turn white. His captors did not treat his injuries from the plane crash.

Because his father was named commander of US forces in Vietnam that same year, the North Vietnamese offered to release McCain early. He refused unless every prisoner of war taken before him was also released. He was soon placed in solitary confinement, where he would remain for the next two years. He was not released until March of 1973.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Photograph of John McCain after his release from captivity.

(National Archives photo)

Upon returning to the US, McCain was awarded a number of military medals, including two Purple Hearts. He soon set his sights on politics and ran for an Arizona congressional seat in 1982, winning a tough primary and subsequently the general election.

In 1986, he ran for the Senate seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 1964. He won that election as well, and he has been reelected to the Senate for five additional terms — most recently in 2016.

Early in his Senate career, McCain became embroiled in the “Keating Five” scandal. McCain was one of five senators who received campaign contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and was later asked by Keating to prevent the government from seizing his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.

McCain met twice with regulators to discuss the government investigation. He later returned the donations and admitted the appearance of it was wrong. The episode led McCain to become a leader on campaign finance reform, which included the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act.

During his 2000 campaign for president, the press became enthralled with the candidate who won over a reputation as a “maverick,” rebuffing his party’s conservative orthodoxy at the time. He famously traveled on a bus called the “Straight Talk Express” during his 2000 bid.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks to a group of Soldiers before re-enlisting them during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 4, 2013.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dustin Payne)

In 2008, McCain fared far better. He won the Republican presidential nomination but ultimately was defeated by Obama in a year in which he faced defending an unpopular war in Iraq and a faltering economy under the Bush administration. McCain selected then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a move criticized by some as having opened the floodgates for the Republican Party to be infiltrated by a number of far-right candidates who went on to be elected.

After the 2008 campaign, McCain returned to the Senate, his stature even more prominent, leading on national security and military issues.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer early in his sixth term. He battled through it, returning to Congress this past summer. In perhaps his last signature political moment, McCain cast a dramatic vote against his party to stop the repeal of Obamacare, coming to the floor in the middle of the vote before pausing and pointing his right thumb down. The moment highlighted a contentious relationship between the senator and President Donald Trump.

The type of brain tumor with which he was afflicted, glioblastoma, is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. He had been receiving chemotherapy, but his family announced in August that he would no longer seek medical treatment.

McCain is survived by his seven children and his second wife, Cindy, whom he married in 1980 following a 15-year marriage to Carol Shepp.

Most famous among his children is Meghan, who is a prominent conservative pundit and cohost of ABC’s “The View.” During a December episode, former Vice President Joe Biden consoled her and said that if “anybody” could overcome that cancer, it was her father.

“Your dad is one of my best friends,” he said.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

6 reasons that soldiers get jealous of airmen

Fine, we’ll admit it. Soldiers do sometimes get jealous of airmen. Not because of their warfighting prowess, which is acceptable at best. And not because of their uniforms — oh, you’re finally switching out those ridiculous stripes for OCPs? Congrats.

No, in addition to them getting respect and fair treatment from their leadership, they also get all the perks. You know, like these six things:


These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Air Force food. Fresh ingredients. Healthy options. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Kenney)

Quality food

It’s common knowledge that the best food on a joint Army-Air Force base is almost always in the Air Force dining facility. And, when the Air Force runs a major terminal on a base, they’ll often have a 24-hour DFAC. They can often eat better at 3 a.m. than the Army can during a standard meal.

All so a bunch of paper-pushers and wrench-turners (and the occasional pilot) are happy.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

An Air Force barracks in Germany. Snotty bastards.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Joseph Magbanua)

Awesome barracks

Actually, they don’t even call them “barracks” anymore. Officially, airmen live in “dorms” now, some of which have theater and game rooms, and most of which have free WiFi. Meanwhile, the Army usually has access to internet, but there’s usually only one option on base, and you can bet that geographic monopoly limits their give-a-damn when people complain.

So, yeah, single life in one service is demonstrably better than the other. So much so that the Air Force offers…

…money for living in Army conditions

Yeah, the Air Force gives their dudes’ money if they have to reside in “unfit quarters” — which applies to airmen in Army living spaces. This author trained in a multi-service school run by the Army. The Air Force got the best barracks at the school, but were the only service that got money every month for having to live in such decrepit conditions.

Decrepit conditions that the other four branches just had to deal with.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

These airmen are travelling to Germany. Notice how they’re happy? Wish the Army had that.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Watson-Kirwin)

Actual international travel

Sure, Marines and Navy get to travel the world, too, but the Air Force gets preferred slots during Space-A travel, getting first dibs on open seats anywhere that an Air Force plane is already flying. And their bases are truly international, with lots of slots open across the planet. Folks who get a job on an airplane could see a few countries in a single week.

But the Army has relatively few international bases, and it takes a spot of luck to actually get a billet in Korea, Germany, Italy, or somewhere else cool. Most soldiers will train stateside, deploy to the Middle East and Africa, rinse and repeat.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

These guys aren’t even holding rifles. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Kemberly Groue)

Training and experience that translates to the civilian world

The Air Force is basically a corporation, and their training and job duties reflect that fact. While the Army is busy focusing on warfighting skills, like land nav and rifle marksmanship, the Air Force focuses on things employers care about, like professional conduct in office jobs, air control towers, and terminals.

CEOs don’t care if a soldier can shoot the wings off of a fly, because that’s not something businesses do. But they do care whether you can write an email without calling anyone f*cker. Too bad, soldiers.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Ryan Hall at the Community College of the Air Force. Yes. The Air Force has its own college.

(U.S. Air Force)

Community college built into the service

Ugh, but the worst is that whole Community-College-of-the-Air-Force thing. Yes, it’s an actual community college. And yes, it helps airmen get actual degrees — usually associate degrees in applied sciences. Army training gets you, at best, some elective credits in a real degree program.

But the Air Force kids get actual college credits and a whole community college to help them turn those credits into degrees.

Oh, well. At least all the branches get the G.I. Bill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany turns to foreigners and teenagers to solve shortages

Germany’s military has been struggling with a variety of organizational and technical problems, like equipment shortages, debates over funding, and troop shortfalls.

Manpower in particular is a lingering issue for the Bundeswehr, which has shrunk since the end of the Cold War and further reduced after mandatory military service was ended in 2011.


From a high of 585,000 personnel in the mid-1980s, German troop levels have fallen to just under 179,000 as of mid-2018. In 2017, the Bundeswehr had 21,000 unfilled positions, and half of the force’s current members are expected to retire by 2030.

In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr had to “get away from the process of permanent shrinking.” (Women weren’t allowed to be in the armed services until 2000.)

Von der Leyen said she would remove the 185,000-person cap on the military and add 14,300 troops over seven years — a total that was upped to 20,000 in 2017.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Ursula von der Leyen with German soldiers during a visit to the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf.

One method under discussion to bring in those new personnel is recruiting citizens of other EU countries.

That approach has general support among the governing parties, though not without qualifications. Defense experts and politicians have said that any foreign recruits should be offered citizenship, lest the force become “a mercenary army.”

Another strategy that has been underway for some time is the recruitment of minors. The Bundeswehr has mounted a media campaign to bring in Germans under 18.

The military’s official YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers, and its videos have garnered nearly 150 million views.

The Bundeswehr Exclusive channel, which posts video series, has more than 330,000 subscribers, and its videos — like the six-week series called “Mali” that followed eight German soldiers stationed with a UN peacekeeping force in the West African country — have drawn more than 68 million views.

The service is also active on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, among other social-media sites. The army’s recruitment spending in 2017, about million, was more than double what it spent in 2011.

And since that year the service has signed up more than 10,000 minors, according to Reuters. 2017 saw a record 2,128 people under the age of 18 sign up, 9% of all recruits and an 11.4% increase over the previous year.

“I wanted to experience something and to get to know my own limits, to see how far I can go,” said Marlon, who joined the Germany army a few months before he turned 18.

Because of his age, he needed his mother’s permission to join, which she was happy to give. He told Reuters that she is now pleased that her formerly messy son is now more organized.

‘This is not a normal profession’

After the destruction of World War II and the division of the Cold War, the military is still a controversial topic for Germans. Many are skeptical of the service, reluctant to spend more on it, and wary of overseas military operations.

The Bundeswehr still struggles with the legacy of the Nazi Wehrmacht, and instances of far-right extremism in the ranks strain civil-military relations. Some military officers wear civilian clothes to and from work to avoid the stigma attached to their duties.

There are also some Germans who don’t see their country as under threat and are ambivalent about military issues.

That attitude may be changing among younger Germans.

A recent survey of 20,000 students there found that the military was the third most attractive place to work, behind the police in first place and sports brand Adidas. Marlon told Reuters that a career in uniform was much more appealing than working on a car-production line.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.

But the recruitment of minors has proved to be an especially contentious issue.

Some politicians and children’s rights advocates have criticized the government for the approach, describing it as misleading and decrying the precedent it could set.

The record recruitment numbers indicate that von der Leyen “clearly has no scruples,” Evrim Sommer, a legislator from the pacifist Left Party, said in early 2018, after requesting Bundeswehr recruitment data.

“Young people should not be used as cannon fodder in the Bundeswehr as soon as they come of age,” Sommer added at the time. “As long as Germany recruits minors for military purposes, it cannot credibly criticize other countries.”

Ralf Willinger from the children’s rights group Terre des Hommes told Reuters in August 2018 that recruiting minors is “embarrassing and sends the wrong signal.”

“It weakens the international 18-year standard, encouraging armed groups and armies from other countries to legitimate the use of minors as soldiers,” he added.

Germany military officials have said their recruitment efforts are in line with international norms and stressed that they need to compete with private-sector employers to attract personnel.

The German military also has rules in place about what minors can do while in uniform. While they undergo training like adult recruits, they are not allowed to stand guard duty or take part in foreign missions, and they are only allowed to use weapons for educational purposes.

The Defense Ministry has also said that minors have the ability to end their service any time in the first six months.

To some, those stipulations don’t change the fundamental nature of what the military is training minors to do.

“This is not a normal profession,” said Ilka Hoffman, a board member of the GEW Union, which represents education and social workers.

“In no other profession does one learn to kill, and is one confronted with the danger of dying in war,” Hoffmann added. “That is the one difference.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

As the prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan is closer than it has ever been, the peace process with the Taliban could be derailed by competing agendas.

Longtime rivals Russia and the United States have backed separate negotiations with different stakeholders, muddling the complex process.

To highlight the confusion, the Taliban first sat down for talks with American negotiators in Qatar before meeting a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow for “intra-Afghan” talks.


Why two simultaneous negotiating processes?

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a possible peace deal.

Meanwhile, Moscow has organized two peace conferences — the latest on Feb. 5-6, 2019 — that have drawn representatives from Afghanistan’s neighbors, opposition politicians, and the same Taliban negotiators that met with the American delegation in Doha.

Taliban, Afghan Delegations Meet In Moscow

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Both processes have frozen out the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to meet. The militants see the Kabul government as a Western puppet and have said they will negotiate directly with Washington.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to promote itself as a power broker to challenge the U.S.-backed peace process.

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Russian peace talks are fueled by “Russian political sniping against the [United States].”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 4, 2019, that the United States was trying to “monopolize” peace talks with the Taliban and was conducting talks in secrecy while keeping regional countries “in the dark.”

Haroun Mir, an Kabul-based political analyst, says it has been the Taliban’s strategy to have two simultaneous tracks for negotiations.

“The Taliban has insisted on negotiating first with the United States and then bypassing the Afghan government and initiating a dialogue with different Afghan political groups,” says Mir. “Thus far they have been successful in dividing the Afghan political elite who have supported the constitutional process in the past 18 years.”

What are the consequences of having two tracks?

Analysts say a major consequence is deepening divisions inside Afghanistan between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and a host of powerful opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Among those who attended the Moscow meetings were key power brokers who have announced their candidacy to run against Ghani in the July presidential election.

Ruttig says for Moscow not to include the Afghan government was an “affront” and has the strong feel of election campaigning and Russia taking sides.

“A united ‘Kabul camp’ would be better, but maybe this is an illusion anyway,” says Ruttig. “But [unity] was clearly not the desire of the Russian government: this is divide and interfere.”

Ghani is reportedly furious about his administration being left out of both the U.S. and Russian talks.

The president’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Meanwhile, Kabul fears Washington will make a deal in Doha with the Taliban behind their back.

Analyst Mir says by keeping the Kabul government out of the U.S.- and Russia-backed talks the Taliban wants to “reduce the legitimacy of the Afghan government to a minimum and thus further strengthen [its] bargaining position vis-a-vis the United States and extract maximum advantage.”

Who are the likely winners and losers?

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst and a consultant for the International Crisis Group, says no one has won or lost because all of the actors have stakes in the outcome.

“If these talks give birth to an inclusive intra-Afghan process, the people of Afghanistan could finally gain relief from the world’s deadliest war,” says Smith. “If the talks fail to include all sides and no durable peace results [from them], the people could suffer another collapse into civil war.”

Sidelined and frustrated, the weak, deeply unpopular Afghan government may feel it is the biggest loser so far.

Mir says it’s not just the government that stands to lose, but “all of those who have defended the constitutional process for the past 18 years.”

Analysts say the talks have given Russia the chance to burnish perceptions of Moscow’s global significance while dealing a fresh blow to Western influence.

Ruttig says Moscow’s role is another assertion that it is “back in the strategic game.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.


“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.

The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.

An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

US Navy F-35C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.

StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II

StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.

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

Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.

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

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

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

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

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

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

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.

StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.

“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.

AIM-9X

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.

F-35 to 2070

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 quick tips sergeants wished their new troops knew

Ah, the new soldier. A blessing for the command and an absolute nightmare for the first-line supervisor. You don’t know if they’re about to blow a few paychecks worth of money on strippers, salvia, or an overpriced Camaro. Worse, they could be the kind to hit on local girls and accidentally stumble into the first sergeant’s daughter. Here’s what the sergeant wishes the new kids would know before they even showed up:


These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
It’s a Mustang. Try to look at it without buying one. At least for the duration of the article. (Installation Management Command, Mr. Stephen Baack)

 

Seriously, don’t buy the car

OMG, you have a bonus check, and a few paychecks and so many people want to loan you money against your guaranteed government paycheck (unless you are in the Coast Guard, and then it’s mostly guaranteed but not totally, right?).

But you can Uber for a week or two and wait to buy a car you actually like at a decent price instead of getting the first Camaro you can see on the lot.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Don’t care if you’re on Tinder or Grindr, just please do like, a day of due diligence before hopping in the sheets with ’em. (U.S. Army Amy Walker)

 

Really, you don’t need to get laid right away

Yeah, it’s been a long time since you got some. Unless, of course, you were one of the folks hooking up with randos behind the port-a-potties at basic training during blue phase which, ew, gross. You need to get checked out.

If you can get some on your first week at a new duty base, congrats. If you happened to get some back home during leave, good work, but don’t jump through a bunch of stupid hoops to get a new notch in your belt here the first week. Feel free to take a couple of weeks to get the lay of the land, find out who’s likely healthy and who is or isn’t a good idea for a partner.

Stumbling into the first dark room you can find is a good way to trigger IEDs, not a good way to enjoy yourself.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Please don’t let that be a mug of vodka. I mean, I know the dude in the photo is a sergeant and is experienced enough to handle it, but still. (For the record, it’s a water guy holding a mug of water.) (U.S. Army Spc. Aaron Goode)

 

Drink in moderation

Yeah! You can finally drink again! Time to —!

No. Just no. Go get a couple of beers and sip on them. New soldiers drinking until they asphyxiate on their own vomit is the stupidest of cliches. Get drunk. Enjoy it. Get tipsy. Fall over once or twice.

Just don’t drive, and don’t keep drinking until you fall over a balcony. Please. Your NCO support channel has their own stuff to do this weekend that doesn’t include talking to the MPs about your untimely demise.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Yeah, we weren’t gonna go out and take photos of signs outside the nearest base, so here’s a photo of a soldier who still carries coins in her pocket for some reason. (U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Keenan)

 

Avoid literally any place that advertises to you

Don’t care if it says “We accept junior enlisted,” “Finance E-1 and up,” “All ranks welcome” — if it advertises to the military, you shouldn’t be there. Those signs are basically the equivalent of a “Free Candy” sign on the side of a van, and you’re the unsuspecting child.

Please, don’t get in the van.

If (s)he has a military dependent ID, (s)he’s not for you

It does not matter how many times he or she bats their eyes at you, flexes their pecks, or makes obscene gestures with their mouth while pointing at your belt, you are not to engage with them if there is a single sign that they might be the child of a military member or married to one (especially married to one).

Just go find a local hottie…or maybe set up an online dating account.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool
Doesn’t even matter if your form isn’t perfect. Just do some d*mn sit-ups. (U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell)

 

Do like, four sit-ups every day

Yeah, you’re out of basic and AIT. Congratulations. But when your physical training drops to just the morning formations, there’s a chance that you’re going to start sucking every time you squeeze yourself into some overly tight PT shorts. So, please, for the love of all physical training regulations and military readiness, just do a couple of sit-ups every night before you nuzzle up to your PlayStation controller.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea claims that U.S. must step up for peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that Pyongyang has already taken steps towards denuclearization and is expecting Washington to make the next move.

Kim met with Chinese and Russian officials who were visiting North Korea for its toned-down 70th anniversary celebrations, and conveyed his frustrations on stalled talks with the US.

In attendance was Li Zhanshu, a third-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, who presented a letter from President Xi Jinping to Kim and reiterated commitment to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.


But Kim told Li that the regime had already taken steps towards denuclearization, like refraining from further nuclear and missile testing, and awaited the US to reciprocate in its actions. US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has continued to work on its nuclear program and missile arsenal.

“We would like the United States to take some kind of action that is reasonable, then we would like to move forward along the process of a political solution,” Kim told Li during their meeting, according to the Asahi Shimbun, citing Chinese state media.

The North Korean leader added that the country is “taking measures by sticking firmly to the agreement” made with President Donald Trump during their summit in June 2018, though he did not expand on what measures had been taken, Asahi added.

These photos from an F-22 ‘Elephant Walk’ are pretty cool

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

Moscow official Valentina Matviyenko said on Sept. 10, 2018, that Kim appealed to Russia to help ease crippling sanctions imposed against the regime, given the “steps they have been taking” in line with Kim’s agreement with Trump, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported.

“Those are very serious steps aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said, adding that Kim expects “reciprocal” measures by the US because “it is impossible for only North Korea to take unilateral steps on denuclearization.”

The relationship between the US and North Korea remains uneasy

Relations between North Korea and the US have grown stale in recent months, though both sides appear to be open to dialogue.

In August 2018 Trump canceled a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing lack of “sufficient progress” towards denuclearization, and days later North Korea’s state newspaper accused the US of plotting to “unleash a war” on them while continuing to negotiate “with a smile on its face.”

But on Sept. 10, 2018, the White House said it’s planning another summit between Trump and Kim after it received “further evidence of progress” with Pyongyang in the form of a “very warm and very positive” letter. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no details have been finalized, and said it will not release the full letter unless Kim agrees it should be made public.

On Sept. 9, 2018, Trump praised Kim’s muted 70th anniversary celebrations, which didn’t feature its usual showcase of nuclear weapons, as a sign of progress.

“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” he tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are more likely to have trouble sleeping – here’s the fix

You quit coffee, tea and chocolate! You put up black out curtains and got rid of all the screens in your bedroom. You even tried counting sheep. But still you find yourself lying awake, unable to sleep. Sleep Hygiene tips help many people. But they don’t work all the time and they don’t work for everybody — especially if you have been experiencing sleep problems for a long time.


Sleepless nights are not uncommon, but if they persist for weeks at a time and impact your life, it could be that insomnia, nightmares or other sleep problems are affecting your well-being. Insomnia after returning from deployment is one aspect of military service that relates to sleep problems. Training to be alert through the night, working extended shifts and upsetting memories from combat zones can all affect sleep, even after separating from service. This means that if you are a veteran, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping than civilians.

Sleeping Better Feeling Better

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Treatment is key to improving both your physical and mental health

Sleep problems often occur with PTSD, depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and can lead to trouble concentrating, challenging emotions, and a feeling of hopelessness that could worsen thoughts of suicide. So, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor early, when you first notice changes in your sleep that impact your functioning. Proven treatments for insomnia are more effective than sleep medications in the long-term without the side effects.

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, CBT-I, targets behaviors and thoughts that perpetuate sleep problems, and is a treatment that has demonstrated longer-term effects than sleep medications”, says Dr. Sarra Nazem, a VA psychologist and researcher. “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, IRT, is a treatment that involves re-scripting nightmares which can lead to decreases in nightmare severity and frequency.”

Take the Sleep Check-up to understand your own sleep. And remember, sleeping better means feeling better in all ways.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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