President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed the $717 billion Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act at a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York.

The act – named for Arizona Sen. John S. McCain – authorizes a 2.6 percent military pay raise and increases the active duty forces by 15,600 service members.


“With this new authorization, we will increase the size and strength of our military by adding thousands of new recruits to active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, including 4,000 new active duty soldiers,” Trump told members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and their families. “And we will replace aging tanks, aging planes and ships with the most advanced and lethal technology ever developed. And hopefully, we’ll be so strong, we’ll never have to use it, but if we ever did, nobody has a chance.”

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Lt. Col. Christopher S. Vanek takes the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment on a run at Fort Drum.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Queen)

Services’ end strength set

The act sets active duty end strength for the Army at 487,500 in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018. The Navy’s end strength is set at 335,400, the Marine Corps’ at 186,100 and the Air Force’s at 329,100.

On the acquisition side, the act funds 77 F-35 joint strike fighters at .6 billion. It also funds F-35 spares, modifications and depot repair capability. The budget also fully funds development of the B-21 bomber.

The act authorizes .1 billion for shipbuilding to fully fund 13 new battle force ships and accelerate funding for several future ships. This includes three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines. There is also id=”listicle-2595820937″.6 billion for three littoral combat ships.

In addition, the act authorizes 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 10 P-8A Poseidons, two KC-130J Hercules, 25 AH-1Z Cobras, seven MV-22/CMV-22B Ospreys and three MQ-4 Tritons.

Afghanistan, Iraq

There is .2 billion in the budget for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and another 0 million to train and equip Iraqi security forces to counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists.

The budget accelerates research on hyperspace technology and defense against hyperspace missiles. It also funds development of artificial intelligence capabilities.

“In order to maintain America’s military supremacy, we must always be on the cutting edge,” the president said. “That is why we are also proudly reasserting America’s legacy of leadership in space. Our foreign competitors and adversaries have already begun weaponizing space.”

The president said adversaries seek to negate America’s advantage in space, and they have made progress. “We’ll be catching them very shortly,” he added. “They want to jam transmissions, which threaten our battlefield operations and so many other things. We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time, your head will spin.”

He said the Chinese military has launched a new military division to oversee its warfighting programs in space. “Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain,” Trump said. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space, and that is why just a few days ago, the vice president outlined my administration’s plan to create a sixth branch of the United States military called the United States Space Force.”

The 2019 Authorization Act does not fund the military. Rather, it authorizes the policies under which funding will be set by the appropriations committees and then voted on by Congress. That bill is still under consideration.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you won’t see this awesome plane design in combat

Remember those super sweet toys from the 1990s, the planes with “backward” wings. The one that comes to mind for me is the old X-Men X-Jet. The new movies feature a plane that looks a lot more like an actual SR-71 Blackbird, but the old cartoons and the movie trilogy from the early 2000s had those distinctive, futuristic, forward-swept wings.


Why Do Backwards Wings Exist?

www.youtube.com

Well, those wings existed on actual planes, first in World War II and then in experimental designs through 1991. But you likely won’t see the iconic wings on any real fighters or bombers overhead, even though they allow planes to fly faster while still directing air over the craft’s control surfaces.

The inspiration for forward-swept wings dates back to World War II. As the warring powers developed faster and faster aircraft in the war, they eventually all found that, above a certain speed, pilots suddenly lost control of their aircraft. America tried to overcome this problem with brute force, and it backfired gruesomely in November 1941.

On November 4, Lockheed test pilot Ralph Virden was piloting a P-38 in a controlled dive when he activated spring-loaded servo-tabs that were supposed to help him regain level flight. Instead, they overstressed the plane and caused the tail to tear away. The plane crashed, and Virden was killed.

Eventually, plane designers figured out a more graceful solution to the problem. If they swept the wings, then the airflow would shift, and the shockwaves wouldn’t form. But, when the wings are swept back, the new airflow creates a new problem. The air starts flowing quickly along the wings away from the body of the aircraft, creating stall conditions at the tips of the wings.

And those tips of the wings hold the ailerons. A stall in that region robs the pilot of the ability to roll the aircraft, a vital capability in combat.

So, in 1984, DARPA, NASA, and other agencies launched the X-29 for the first time. It was an experimental aircraft with its wings pointed forward from the body of the aircraft, same as the old X-Men jet. And the Germans actually had a design in World War II with similar characteristics, the Junker 287.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

The Russian Su-47 had a similar wing design to the American X-29, but neither plane was adopted for combat use.

(Jno, CC BY 2.5)

The X-29 had some amazing characteristics compared to its more conventional brethren in the air. It had less induced drag, meaning that it had a better balance of lift-to-drag at high speed. And that allowed it to be up to 20 percent more efficient than it would be with wings swept to the rear. Best of all, the plane would be super-maneuverable even at high speeds. A Russian plane, the Su-47, saw similar advantages.

But designers found in their models, their wind tunnel tests, and actual flight tests, that the X-29’s wings created a lot of problems.

First, the wings had to be made extra strong to deal with the additional stress of the wind hitting those leading edges of the wing far from the body. And, the plane had trouble maintaining its pitch, even with those canards mounted near the cockpit.

But worst of all, the air flowing over all these control surfaces was simply too chaotic for a pilot to control. So, in the X-29, pilots had three computers working together to adjust the flight surfaces 40 times per second. These computers worked to keep the aircraft stable so the pilot could give their inputs according to what they wanted the plane to do rather than constantly having to prevent crashes.

But, if the computers ever all failed in flight at the same time, it was likely that the pilot would encounter an irrecoverable spin or other emergency. So, when the computers all failed on the ground during testing, it sent a shudder through the program. A DARPA history page about the plane even calls it “the most aerodynamically unstable aircraft ever built.”

Still, with all the advances in AI and computers, there might be a place for a design like the X-29 if not for one additional problem: forward-swept wings seem to be inherently less stealthy than wings swept to the rear or a delta-wing design like that of the B-2.

So, with the X-29 less stable and also inherently less stealthy than other designs, the U.S. decided to continue using rear-swept designs in combat aircraft, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever look up to see something like the X-Jet supporting you from overhead.

But at least it looks cool in movies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain is no longer a ‘tier one’ military power

Theresa May asked Britain’s defence secretary to justify the UK’s role as a “tier one” military power, causing dismay in the Ministry of Defence. Underlying the statement is a realisation that the UK can no longer economically compete with top powers, defence experts told Business Insider.

“It’s a reflection of our economic status — times are tough,” said Tim Ripley, a defence analyst, adding: “It’s all about money… if you don’t have money you can’t spend it.”

The Prime Minister questioned defence secretary Gavin Williamson on whether money for the military should be reallocated to areas like cyber, and if Britain needed to maintain a Navy, Army, Air Force and nuclear deterrent all at once.


Ripley called it a retreat from “grand ambitions.”


“No matter how we dress it up, this new fangled cyber stuff is just an excuse for running away from funding hard power,” Ripley said. “If you don’t pony up the money and the hard power you don’t get a seat at the top table. No matter how flash your cyber warfare is, people take notice of ships, tanks and planes.”

There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers including the US, China and Russia all demonstrate their strength through military posturing, and countries that don’t have enough resources for defence often pool with others.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum
Portrait of British Prime Minister Theresa May

Dr Jan Honig, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said that shared defence can be disrupted in times of nationalism, and called it “highly ironic” that Brexit could mean the UK can longer fund its military.

“You can’t really do it by yourself even if you spent a lot more on defence which is not going to happen in this country with this measly economic growth and the uncertainty about international trade details,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come in the context of her recent pledge of a fresh £20 billion for the National Health Service (NHS) and debate about where the money will come from.

“You do want to ensure that government policy has support from the people, so to say we’re going to pour a lot of money into defense just in case something happens … is a far more difficult thing to sell than funding the NHS and social care, welfare that is an immediate issue,” said Honig, adding that populations are also more switched on to the horrors of war.

But Julian Lewis, Chair of the UK’s defence committee told Business Insider that he’s now concerned about whether May will be able to properly fund the military after the NHS pledge.

“I am not won over … by this jargon of calling it a ‘tier one’ military power… What I’m much more concerned about is whether Theresa May will be able to give defence the money it needs,” he said, citing a “whole” of over £4.2 billion in the defence budget.

May’s comments will not lead to definitive action to pair down the military, but are a clear sign of the direction of travel said Ripley.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A ballsy arms dealer sold dud weapons to three sides of a conflict

You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”


It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.

In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.

By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.

Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.

The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.

None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.

For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.

Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain’s most lethal warship is in America for F-35 trials

HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s largest warship, reached Florida’s Mayport naval station on Sept. 5, 2018, ahead of F-35 fighter jet trials.

The news was posted on their official Twitter page as they reached the US coast. The purpose of the mission is to introduce the carrier to the F-35B fighters which will be its core firepower once fully operational.

Another Royal Navy ship joined the Queen Elizabeth in Florida, the Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth.


The Monmouth will be an escort during the F-35B trials and left the UK six days after HMS Queen Elizabeth on Aug. 23, 2018, UK military publication Forces Network said.

The Florida Times-Union’s military reporter, Joe Daraskevich, posted a video on Sept. 5, 2018, on his Twitter showing just HMS Queen Elizabeth (280m long) next to the slightly smaller USS Iwo Jima (257m):

Despite it being the biggest military ship in Mayport, HMS Queen Elizabeth is still topped by the largest US Navy carriers. USS Gerald R. Ford and USS George H.W. Bush are 337m and 332m long respectively.

Unlike its US counterparts, which have flat flight decks, HMS Queen Elizabeth has a “ski jump” ramp at one end, which will give the planes a little extra height when taking off.

Here’s a video of F-35s practicing on a ground-based replica of the ski jump:

www.youtube.com

The Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth, UK, for America on Aug. 18, 2018, for the 11-week training trip. During the mission the Queen Elizabeth will host F-35s from the US Marine Corps.

Britain’s Royal Air Force has its own F-35s, the first of which arrived in the UK in early 2018 and will eventually fly from the carrier.

Forces Network said HMS Queen Elizabeth stopped at Florida Mayport naval base to re-supply, before sailing the last stretch to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

No official date has been given for the first F-35B landing on the ship, but it is expected in late September 2018, the UK Defence Journal wrote on Sept. 5, 2018.

Local TV station WJXT News said the ship would be in Mayport for a couple of days before heading north to Maryland. That base is on the Chesapeake Bay — around 62 miles south of Washington, D.C.

Here’s the Twitter post from their arrival in Mayport:

As it was arriving the band played a rendition of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.”

The deployment to the US is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years, since the decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal.

The F-35B jets will be flown from Naval Air Station Patuxent River by four pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.

In a statement, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s captain, Jerry Kyd, said: “Crossing a major ocean with 1.500 sailors, aircrew and Marines embarked and the anticipation of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all… this deployment demonstrates the astonishing collaborative effort that will enable the new F-35B jets to fly routinely from our Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This robot Army working dog may one day accompany soldiers into combat

Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.

The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.

The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.


It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.

“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)

“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”

The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.

“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.

Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.

“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.

Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)

“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”

“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”

Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.

Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.

“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.

If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.

“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.

“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.

(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)

Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.

“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”

The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.

“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.

Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.

“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”

Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.

“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why that stunning Russian missile video is nothing to worry about

Recently, Russia released new video of the KH-35U “switchblade” anti-ship cruise missile in action, a weapon that can be fired from surface ships or aircraft and flies extremely quickly towards target ships, which are then destroyed in a massive explosion.


www.youtube.com

The video shows a Su-34 being prepared for takeoff, then jumps to ships being struck by a missile before cutting again to a Su-34 landing. The KH-35U carries an over-1,000-pound warhead and is reportedly capable of destroying vessels of up to 5,000 tons.

The Russians test fired eight missiles during the exercise, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, and all eight hit their targets.

The missile video is impressive and fun to watch, but it’s left many U.S. observers worrying. Russia claims the weapon is impossible to stop and that it renders all current ship defenses powerless.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Both the Su-57 and the T-14 were impressive programs on paper that slowly wilted in the bright light of day. Now, there are few orders for either platform, even from within Russia, as the capabilities ended up being low and the costs high.

(Alex Beltyukov and Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA)

But these are Russian defense claims about a Russian weapon, so it’s prudent to take them with a grain of salt. After all, the T-14 Armata and PAK FA (which became the Su-57) programs haven’t lived up to the hype.

But the KH-35U is a fielded weapon. The first KH-35 came out in the 1980s, and the U variant has been in the field for years. It flies close to the water, can be fired from aircraft ranging from helicopters to jets, and can be carried by surface ships. If Russia’s claims are accurate, it can eliminate destroyers and littoral combat ships with just one shot. Carriers would likely be crippled or destroyed with a shot, but certainly couldn’t withstand sustained bombardment.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

A ship is destroyed by a KH-35U anti-ship cruise missile during a Russian test.

(YouTube/Star Channel)

So, should America be shaking in its boots? Well, the target ship in the Russian video is a stationary, civilian vessel, and hitting that with a missile is a far cry from getting a cruise missile into the hull of an American carrier sailing at a decent clip with its Phalanx close-in weapon systems firing off rounds.

That, and the missile has a range of approximately 185 miles. Meanwhile, the Super Hornets that protect carriers have a range of 500 miles, and the Navy is already looking to increase that range with the addition of conformal fuel tanks, fuel tanks semi-permanently added to the aircraft that would increase range by 300 miles.

Meanwhile, the F-35C will have a range about 10 percent greater before aerial refueling. So, aircraft carriers will have plenty of breathing room as long as they keep the radars and patrols up.

But some task forces have little-to-no jet support, and a Su-34 or a similar aircraft could get within range and release the missile. And what’s worse is that the Russians may have already sold the missile to at least one other country. North Korea’s Kumsong-3 anti-ship cruise missile bears a striking resemblance to the KH-35U, meaning that a rogue state may be able to strike American ships from 500 miles away.

Though, again, we should avoid getting too far into speculation without our grains of salt. After all, the Russian military has a history of stripping down the export versions of their weapons, just like the U.S. And, ownership of a missile doesn’t mean you have the expertise and tactical excellence to properly employ it.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is still working on a Tomahawk variant that could be used in an anti-ship configuration. It has an expected range of over 1,000 miles, same as the land-attack variant with years of successful service. That would allow the U.S. Navy to strike Russian ships carrying the KH-35U from 835 miles outside of the Russian engagement envelope.

So, enjoy the Russian propaganda, but sleep well tonight. The KH-35U demonstration is an impressive fireworks display, but it doesn’t represent a Russian technology edge against anyone but fishermen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy secretary will go toe-to-toe with his top officers

In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps hit the wall, with a string of deadly accidents on the sea and in the air. In 2018, we’ll see whether the overstressed sea services start saying “no” to missions.


That means battles both in the Pentagon and on the Hill. The newly named Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, seems to be charting a collision course with joint commanders, who he says have run the services ragged with too many missions, and with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which gave joint headquarters preeminence over the four armed services in many areas. In recent years Congress and the Pentagon have restored some of the service chiefs’ authority over weapons acquisitions, but they haven’t questioned the basic balance of power set in law some 31 years ago. Now the Strategic Readiness Review which Spencer commissioned has put changing Goldwater-Nichols on the table.

How to make the case for change? “We’ll start every conversation with 17 dead sailors,” Spencer pledged in September. But 17 deaths is just the beginning. While Spencer was talking specifically about two deadly surface ship collisions this summer, transport aircraft crashes killed 19 Marines in July and August. In response, the Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered rolling safety stand-downs at all Marine aviation units.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum
Damage to the port side is visible on the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain after colliding. (Photo by U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

This summer was just a particularly lethal spike in a long-running trend. Crashes of a C-2 transport and a T-45 trainer killed five more Navy personnel just since fiscal year 2018 began on October 1st. Three naval aircraft have been lost in accidents since Oct. 1, another three damaged.

In fiscal 2017, Navy aircraft suffered 10 Class A Mishaps involving permanent disability, loss of life, or more than $2 million in damage. The Marines, with a much smaller air fleet, suffered another 10. Long-term, both services have seen rising accident rates ever since 2013, when the Budget Control Act abruptly cut funds for training and maintenance. The Marines in particular have seen their accident rate — which has long been higher than the Navy’s — more than double over the last two years.

As costly as these accidents are, and as devastating as these deaths have been, the biggest potential catastrophe is a force unready for combat. Early in 2017, the sea services admitted that 53 percent of all naval aircraft were grounded for maintenance, rising to 62 percent for strike fighters and 74 percent of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. As for surface ships, both a former deputy secretary of defense and a panel of retired captains have publicly argued that the recent series of accidents — not just the two fatal ones — shows a force struggling with basic seamanship, let alone the complex skills required to fight an enemy fleet. Meanwhile the third pillar of the Navy, the submarine branch, has avoided deadly accidents but still has an unprecedented proportion of its boats idled awaiting maintenance: Ready submarines are consumed by day-to-day missions for the joint commanders, leaving few boats in reserve to “surge” in a major war.

Also Read: So, parts of our helicopters are falling on children now

Time Money

So what do the Navy and Marine Corps need? The most precious commodity is time: time to catch up on training, time to clear up the maintenance backlog. But time is finite, and every day spent getting ready is one less day out doing missions. The services’ concern for readiness — particularly for major wars — conflicts directly with the theater commanders‘ need for naval presence. The current Pentagon process effectively gives the joint commanders a blank check for how heavily forces are committed around the world, with little provision for the services to throw a yellow flag and say “too much.” That’s the system Sec. Spencer seems ready to challenge.

Money would help too, of course. More money for maintenance and training would help readiness, but, less obviously, so would more money for modernization. Buying new ships and aircraft could let the Navy and Marines retire aging, unreliable equipment, which drags down readiness because it’s down for maintenance too often.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum
Aviation Electronics Mate Airman Adam Lowery (front) and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Tyler Humphries (back) conduct routine maintenance on an MH-60S Sea Hawk assigned to the Merlins of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse L. Gonzalez).

Or you could use the new ships and planes to increase the size of the force. Growth improves readiness by spreading the workload over more units, giving each more time for training and maintenance. (Of course, that assumes that the workload doesn’t go up too, and that training and maintenance funds go up proportionately instead of being spread thinner over the larger force). The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. John Richardson, said that building more ships would help prevent future accidents, because with more ships at work, none of them would be worked as hard.

Building a bigger fleet is a long-term solution, however, with estimates ranging from 18 years to about 35. And despite President Trump’s encouraging rhetoric, the administration struggled to add just one new ship to the 2018 budget — which Congress hasn’t yet managed to fund, even as we start the second quarter of the federal fiscal year.

For now, then, the Navy and Marine Corps have to improve readiness without a larger force or even additional training and maintenance money. That means their only option is to take on fewer missions — which is why Sec. Spencer has to challenge Goldwater-Nichols.

Articles

1st Cav soldiers among 4 Americans killed in Afghanistan

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.


Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.

Also read: The US lost 6 elite Green Berets in a 72-hour span last week

Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.

The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum
Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last June. | US Air Force photo by Justyn Freeman

About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.

The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.

A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.

Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.

Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.

He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.

Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.

Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.

Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.

The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.

The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.

Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.

The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.

Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.

“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.

Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.

Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.

Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.

Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.

A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.

The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.

Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia moves top missiles into Crimea as war looms

The Russian military on Nov. 28, 2018, announced plans to deploy advanced antiaircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula amid rising tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

A division of S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missiles will be sent to Crimea for “combat duty,” the state-backed Tass news agency reported Wednesday, citing information provided by the Southern Military District’s press service. “In the near future, the new system will enter combat duty to defend Russia’s airspace, replacing the previous air defense system,” a representative told the official news agency.


Sputnik News, another Russian media outlet owned by the Russian government, indicated that this would be the fourth S-400 air-defense battalion the country deployed to Crimea. The S-400 surface-to-air missile system is one of the world’s most advanced air-defense systems, able to target aircraft, missiles, and even ground targets.

A column of what appeared to be anti-ship missile systems was spotted on a highway headed toward the Crimean city of Kerch on Nov. 27, 2018, the Russian state-funded television network RT reported.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

An S-400 92N2 radar and 5P85T2.

News of missile deployments to Crimea come just a couple of days after a serious naval clash between Russia and Ukraine on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Sea of Azov, which is shared territorial waters under a 2003 treaty signed by the two countries.

During Nov. 28, 2018’s confrontation, Russian vessels rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and opened fire on two other ships before seizing the boats and taking their crew members into custody.

Russia asserts that the ships, which were traveling to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol from Odessa by way of the Kerch Strait, failed to request authorization and engaged in dangerous maneuvers. Moscow has yet to provide evidence to support these claims.

Ukraine argues that the incident was evidence of Russian aggression and released a video from aboard one of the Russian ships that Ukrainian authorities intercepted. In the video, the Russian sailors can be heard shouting “crush him” as the Russian vessel rams the Ukrainian tugboat.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Crow GI became the last Indian War Chief during World War II

Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.

But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.


President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

“Promote ahead of peers.”

There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:

  • Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
  • Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
  • Leading a Successful War Party
  • Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.

The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.

Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.

While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.

After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.

For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.

Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.

Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.

Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to send letters to deployed troops — for free

Hollywood has done a great job of making writing letters to deployed troops seem glamorous and romantic, but the truth is there is nothing fun about having a loved one sent overseas. Being thousands of miles apart from the one you love with little to no communication for months is never easy.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars knows about these hardships all too well, and has partnered with Sandboxx to cover the cost of the next 4,500 letters sent to deployed service members.


There are approximately 15,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen currently deployed to war zones. While access to technology is more ubiquitous than ever before, many service members can only receive physical mail and care packages from home while they are overseas.

Also read: How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Sandboxx makes it easier and faster to send mail to overseas service members through the Letters feature on the app. Families and friends of deployed service members can download the Sandboxx app to write a meaningful message, snap a photo, and hit send. Sandboxx will then print and mail the letter to the service member, and include a stamped, addressed return envelope to make it easy for their service member to send a handwritten reply in return.

Thanks to the support of the VFW, the next 4,500 letters sent to APO, FPO and DPO addresses via Sandboxx will be free.

“Mail call was, and still is, one of the most important morale boosters for isolated service members,” remarked Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith (USMC Ret.), Founder and Chairman of Sandboxx. “We are incredibly proud to partner with the VFW in order to get more mail written and delivered to our servicemen and women away from home. Families can easily take a photo at a family gathering or at the dinner table and send it through Sandboxx, knowing with confidence that we’ll take care of the rest.”
 

To ensure that your letter is sent free of charge, the city section of the address must contain APO, FPO or DPO. Be sure to update your app to the latest version in the app store, to receive the free credit.

Make sure to share this with your friends who also have a service member who is currently deployed!

Click right here to download the app. If you encounter any problems or have any questions about our services, please feel free to contact Sandboxx at support@sandboxx.us.

On behalf of everyone at Sandboxx and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, thank you and your service member for their service to our country. Start sending letters to deployed troops now.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel strikes Syria as Trump pulls out of Iran deal

Syrian state media is blaming explosions hitting the capital city of Damascus on Israeli missile strikes as the Israel Defense Forces sound the alarm in the northern part of the country — the part that borders Syria and Lebanon.


SANA, Syria’s government mouthpiece, says the strikes hit Syrian government forces in Kisweh, a city to the south of Damascus. The attack came just an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the end of American participation in the Iranian nuclear deal. SANA also reports the Syrian military was able to shoot two more incoming missiles down.

Israeli officials said the attack came after detecting “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.” Israel never confirms or denies reports of its strikes on targets in Syria, which it has done numerous times since December of 2017.

The Iranian government has vowed to retaliate.

The Times of Israel reported a statement from Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who said the target of the strike was an arms and ammunition depot for Iranian-backed militias, namely Hezbollah. Kisweh was also the site of a permanent Iranian base, struck by Israel in the December 2, 2017, attack.

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum
A satellite image showing the results of an alleged Israeli airstrike on a reported Iranian base being set up outside Damascus, from November 16, 2017 and December 4, 2017.
(ImageSat International ISI)

The base is just 31 miles from the Israeli border. On Sunday, Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said Iran would retaliate for the December strikes and any new strikes when deemed suitable.

“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Bagheri said according to Press TV, media associated with the Iranian regime.

In a statement, Trump cited the reason for pulling out of the Iranian nuclear agreement — signed in 2015 — was Iranian influence in the region, calling the regime an exporter of terrorism. The BBC reports the President calling the deal “decaying and rotten… an embarrassment.”

As for restarting production on enriching uranium, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he would consult with other signatories to the deal, including France and Germany who vowed to remain committed to the agreement, before moving forward. In the meantime, he ordered preparations to begin.

“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” he said in response to the American withdrawal.