President Donald Trump has kicked off a four-nation European tour by bashing NATO as unfair to US taxpayers.
Combined with his pending meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, Trump has allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the decades-old NATO military alliance.
“Getting ready to leave for Europe,” Trump tweeted on July 10, 2018. “First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose 1 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs ( Barriers)!”
Trump has been pressing fellow NATO countries to fulfill their goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. During his presidential campaign, he suggested he might come to the defense only of NATO nations that fulfilled that obligation. He continues to criticize NATO countries that spend less than that share.
President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
NATO’s Article 5 says any member of the alliance can invoke a mutual defense if it’s attacked. The US is the only nation to have invoked that clause, doing so after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. NATO allies responded with nearly two decades of support for US operations in Afghanistan.
Still, Trump complained July 9, 2018, that the US was “spending far more on NATO than any other Country.”
“This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” Trump added, insisting that NATO benefited Europe “far more than it does the U.S.”
“On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of 1 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!” he protested.
NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
Trump expected to encounter protests in the UK
Also as part of this trip, Trump, who has compared the Brexit vote to leave the European Union to his own election, will be making his maiden presidential trip to Britain at a fraught time for British Prime Minister Theresa May. Two Brexit proponents in her Cabinet, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, resigned within hours of each other this week in protest of her plan.
Trump’s visit is expected to attract large protests in London and elsewhere in Britain.
Trump and Putin’s meeting raises eyebrows
Trump’s weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.
The meeting will be closely watched to see whether Trump will rebuke or embrace Putin, who has repeatedly denied meddling in the 2016 election, something the US intelligence community says Russia did with the goal of helping Trump.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation recently published a video that gives a glimpse into what the reported Franco-German next-generation aircraft might look like.
France and Germany announced in July 2017 that they would join forces to build an advanced “European” fighter to replace Dassault’s Rafales and Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoons, The War Zone reported summer 2017.
“As expected, 2-engine deltawing,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, tweeted on July 5, 2018 about the new Dassault Aviation video, in which the conceptual fighter appears around 3:10.
“I think if they can pull it all off, this seems a legitimate candidate for a highly capable competitor to the F-35 and Su-57,” Tack told Business Insider.
Unlike the F-35, Dassault’s next-generation fighter is likely to have two engines and therefore much more thrust, Tack said.
“In terms of capabilities, the focus will probably be on stealth technology, and integration with information systems,” Tack said, such as “sharing information between aircraft, possibly commanding drones, etc.”
Tack added that it was up for debate whether this aircraft would be a fifth- or sixth-generation fighter.
The Dassault fighter also doesn’t appear to have a vertical stabilizer, something that would cut down on radar reflections from the side, giving it greater stealth capabilities, Tack said.
In any event, the next-generation fighter will probably be under development for the next 20 years, Tack said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was after 6 p.m. in the small Midwestern town as people began to end their day.
The warm colors of the mid-August afternoon sky started slipping into the evening. That’s when a handful of Army drill sergeants were inadvertently called into action, and saved a family from a burning vehicle.
Shortly before, people were driving home from work, running errands or just passing through Sparta, Wisconsin, on Highway 21.
Among those driving was David Turner, 62, a retired maintenance worker, who on Aug. 15, 2019, was in his silver SUV with his granddaughters — Delilah, 4, and London, 2 — on an evening cruise along the highway that connects Sparta to his hometown, Tomah, Wisconsin, roughly 17 miles away.
Meanwhile, several drill sergeants with the Army Reserve were also among the passersby.
They had finished a day’s work at Fort McCoy, a nearby Army base located between Sparta and Tomah, and were driving back to their hotels, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Juhl, a drill sergeant with the 95th Training Division.
The soldiers were on orders, training other Army Reserve drill sergeants vying for U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year later that month.
The right place, at the right time
The drive was cut short after the soldiers had pulled off the road into a nearby parking lot, tending to their first of two unexpected incidents.
The drill sergeants were parked outside of a local flower shop, and had their heads under the hood of a car, trying to pinpoint engine failure in one of the vehicles — but, they weren’t having much luck.
That’s when Sgt. Roger Williams, owner of the inoperable car, and who admits he’s “not a car guy,” called his non-commissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Justin McCarthy — who owns a car shop in Charlotte, North Carolina — for back up. Always willing to help, McCarthy arrived shortly after and identified the problem; a serpentine belt had snapped.
Williams, a Beloit, Wisconsin native, opted to drive his personal vehicle to Fort McCoy. The other soldiers, from various parts of the country, were driving rentals.
“We were meant to be there,” said Sgt. Daniel McElroy, a drill sergeant attached to the 108th Training Command, believing by serendipitous chance they were “at the right place, at the right time” to save lives.
As the men finished checking Williams’ car, Turner, the grandfather in a silver SUV, raced by them. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Turner was suffering from a medical condition at the time, rendering him unconscious. Yet his foot remained pressed on the vehicle’s accelerator.
“I noticed his vehicle going really fast before hitting a median,” said McElroy, adding that the sound of the engine racing initially caught his attention. They were stopped along a residential area, facing a four-way intersection, where vehicles typically drive slowly.
Within a fragment of a moment, the SUV smashed directly into a utility pole on the other side of the intersection, at full speed, splintering the tree-like column on impact and causing power outages in the area.
A “massive, fiery blue explosion” erupted, McElroy said, and was accompanied with multiple energy blasts shooting from the fractured utility pole. The mangled SUV caught fire.
Answering the call
Although the men were bewildered, working together came naturally. So, without a word or moment of hesitation, all four sprinted toward the burning vehicle. They felt their Army training kick in.
McCarthy, a 25-year service veteran, had experienced a similar situation during a 2007 deployment in Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He also has a civilian background with energy, and verified no live wires were touching the vehicle.
However, its motor was in flames, fluid had puddled onto the road around it, and black smoke from the engine poured into the air vents and filled the inside of the vehicle with smoke. It seemed the family was on borrowed time.
“The first person we checked was the driver,” Juhl said, after rushing to the vehicle, adding that Turner was conscious, but “out of it” at the time.
Turner, who suffered a fractured vertebrae among other injuries, was pinned in the driver’s seat. He woke up to the smell of air bag powder blended with engine smoke, he said, and immediately thought about his granddaughters in the back.
When the collision happened, the pole pretzeled the framework of his vehicle as easy as a soda can being crushed. The steering wheel immediately locked Turner into place. The soldiers tried opening the driver’s side door, but it was useless.
Like Turner, the door was pinned in. However, it was bent enough for the soldiers to fold the frame like a banana from the top, McCarthy said. They worked on the door until the glass from the driver’s side window shattered, causing black smoke to roll out from inside.
They could reach Turner with their hands, but were still unable to move him. All Turner could repeat was, “How are the girls?” in a dazed tone.
“I tried getting out on my own,” Turner later said. “The pain was so intense all I could say was ‘get the girls, leave me alone, if I die, I die.'”
At the time, the soldiers were unaware of any passengers. Due to the smoke-filled interior, deployed side airbag curtains, and dark tinted windows of the SUV — their vision was clouded, McCarthy said. In addition, he didn’t hear any crying.
McCarthy “didn’t know what to expect” when he opened the back door, he said, and his “heart sank thinking of the children’s conditions.” He and Juhl rushed to opposite sides of the vehicle to check the children.
McCarthy was greeted by the 2-year-old, London, and he asked “is it okay if I get you out of your chair?” London, safely in her car seat, replied, “I’m 2,” ignoring the question, raising her index and middle fingers. He didn’t see injuries on the girl.
Meanwhile, Juhl checked on Delilah, who also had no visible injuries. They removed the girls without any issues.
The soldiers “relied on their Army training in a civilian environment,” McCarthy said, adding, although it wasn’t a tactical vehicle, and they’ve “never trained with child seats,” it was comparable to “a gunner in a turret,” or similar training scenario.
Around this time, McElroy pulled Turner from the vehicle from the front passenger side door. After ensuring the victims were okay, and local responders arrived, the soldiers slipped into the crowd and left. It wasn’t until the Turner family searched for the men that their story was able to be shared.
The drill sergeants credit readiness training for their actions.
“The Army has done an outstanding job training individual soldiers,” McCarthy said, adding, “Things like combat lifesaving skills prepared me adequately, and without the Army’s training, I don’t know if I would have responded as effectively.”
“Those men were humble; they responded and went home,” Turner said, who is expected to make a full recovery. “But, the word ‘hero’ doesn’t touch who they are. Anybody who is in the military, if they are going through any training, should emulate the people who saved my life.”
For most soldiers in the Vietnam-era, the time between getting drafted or volunteering and their heading to war was short. The Army had each draftee for only two years. After they were shipped to basic, trained, shipped overseas, plus the time needed to ship home and use their two months of accrued leave, each draftee could expect a year of deployed time preceded by 4-6 months of training.
Volunteers, especially officers, had it a little better. They may train for up to a year before deploying — attending advanced training like Ranger School after basic and job training.
A recently recovered film of the Battle of Dak To shows two hours of fighting in and around Hill 724, another tough terrain feature captured. Bob Walkoviak, one of the veterans in the discussion above, fought on the hill and helped find the lost footage.
The Vought F4U Corsair was one of the best planes that took to the air during World War II. It also saw action in the Korean War and in the 1969 Soccer War. But while the plane took out a ton of Axis thugs and Commies, it also took out more than a few of its own pilots.
In World War II, the plane also saw action with the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force, while France bought Corsairs after the Second World War.
Hundreds of pilots did learn to fly the Corsair safely, though. Some even racked up high scores, like Gregory Boyington, who would be the top all-time Marine ace with 28 kills. For every Corsair lost, it shot down 11 enemy planes. That’s not a bad ratio. Eventually, the United States Navy would operate the Corsair off carriers to protect the fleet from kamikazes.
The plane was the “star” of the 1970s TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” in which actor Robert Conrad portrayed Major Boyington in a highly fictionalized VMF-214. The dogfight scenes from the TV movie pilot, and the episodes following, are impressive to watch.
The film below gives would-be Corsair pilots a rundown on how to fly the plane. Handling the plane takes some learning, and some of the procedures are intricate, but as the narrator points out, “There is nothing about the Corsair that good pilot technique can’t handle.”
Ah, football. Nothing’s sweeter than getting everyone together to drink beer, eat hot dogs, watch sports, and look at corporate slogans painted on a 250-foot weapon of war that floats over them just like it floated over Nazi and Japanese submarines before bombing them into Davy Jones’ depths.
Yeah, that’s right — the Goodyear Blimp used to be a bona fide badass.
A K-class blimp flies during convoy escort duty.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
See, during World War II, America actually still had a pretty robust blimp program. While the rest of the world pretty much abandoned airships after the Hindenburg disaster, the U.S. was able to press forward since it had the bulk of the world’s accessible helium.
And press forward it did. While the more ambitious projects, like experimental, flying aircraft carriers, were shelved in the 1930s, America had 10 operating blimps in the U.S. Navy when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and they were quickly sent to patrol the U.S. coasts, watching for submarines.
The K-class blimps were 250-foot long sacks of helium that carried a control car with the crew inside. A fully staffed crew was 10 men, which included a pilot, gunners, and anti-submarine warriors.
Crew members load one of the four depth charges onto a K-class blimp.
The ability to spot and attack submarines while able to fly out of attack range made airships valuable on convoy duty, where they would hunt enemy subs and report the locations to escort ships. When appropriate, they’d drop their own depth charges against the subs, but re-arming required landing on a carrier, so it was best to not waste limited ammo.
A crew member checks his .50-cal. machine gun during operations.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
One of the airships’ most famous battles came on the coast of Florida when the K-74 spotted a German sub bearing down on two merchant ships during the night of July 18,1943. There were typically somewhere around 10 German subs off the coast of the U.S. at any time, but the War Department and Navy Department at the time tried to keep it quiet.
K-74 attempted a surprise attack, dropping depth charges right onto the sub from 250 feet in the air, interrupting its attack and saving the merchant ships. Unfortunately, the submarine crew spotted the attacking airship and lit the low-flying vessel up with the sub’s anti-aircraft guns while the airship dropped two depth charges.
A blimp crashes during a nuclear test. Four K-class blimps were destroyed this way in the late 1950s.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
The consequences were immediate and severe for the blimp. The air envelope was severely damaged and set on fire by the German guns. The crew was able to extinguish the fire, but they could not maintain altitude and slowly settled into the sea. The commander stayed behind to dump classified gear and documents while the rest of the crew escaped in lifejackets.
The commander was separated from his men and rescued the next morning when he was luckily spotted by the crew of another airship.
The crew, all nine of them, climbed onto the airship envelope which floated in the water, and they were spotted the next morning as well. Unfortunately, a shark found them between when they were spotted by a sea plane and when a ship was able to rescue them. The shark attacked and killed one crew member, but the other eight escaped and survived.
It marked the only time an airship was destroyed by enemy fire. As for the submarine, it had received damage from the depth charge attack and was damaged again by a U.S. plane while escaping the east coast. It was forced to stay on the surface of the water en route to Germany for repairs and was spotted by British planes. Bombing runs by the Brits sealed its fate.
Airships were rarely allowed to directly attack submarines, and the attack by K-74 is one of the only documented times an airship directly damaged an enemy sub. In April 1945, K-72 dropped the newest weapon in its arsenal, an acoustic torpedo, into the water against German sub U-879. A destroyer documents a clear underwater explosion but no debris or wreckage was recovered and, so, no kill was awarded.
An airship crew distributes life jackets while operating over the water.
(National Museum of Naval Aviation)
But the airships were valued anti-submarine tools, often called into hunts to maintain contact with enemy subs as surface vessels danced around to avoid torpedoes.
Hubbard would later claim one sub killed and the other too damaged to return to port, but the crews of the other vessels disputed the claim and Hubbard did not collect any physical evidence of his kill.
Blimps served a number of functions off the coast of Europe, mostly convoy duty, mine sweeping, and cargo carrying.
The airships also engaged in less glamorous work, moving supplies and troops from position to position, out of range of enemy subs but vulnerable to air attack. They were sometimes used for fast trips across the ocean or for ferrying freight from England to other allied outposts like the Rock of Gibraltar.
Some arguments were made that the airships were one of the best options for minesweeping. They were used heavily for this activity off the coasts of Europe where the airships flew over the water, cataloging mine locations and reporting them to surface vessels which could avoid the fields until the Navy was ready to remove them.
Four K-Class blimps were tested near nuclear blasts to see how they stood up to the over pressurization from the atomic blast. They didn’t fare well.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
In one high-profile mission, airships were tasked with protecting President Franklin Roosevelt’s and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s convoy to the Yalta Conference in 1945.
International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.
In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.
Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.
But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.
North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots
“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.
In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.
Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.
No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.
Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.
Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.
Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”
North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.
“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.
A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.
This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.
The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.
Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Julius Shoulars is 94 and resides in a cozy second-floor apartment in a Virginia Beach retirement community.
During an oral-history interview, he recounted his service in the US Navy as a coxswain during WWII with the 7th Naval Beach Battalion during the D-Day invasions. He later went island hopping in the Pacific aboard an attack transport and returned to Norfolk after serving in both theaters of war.
He started off with, “Well, I got a letter from Uncle Sam saying to report to Richmond.” It was 1943, and the Maury High School graduate reported for screening.
While seated in a room with other recruits, he recalled that, “they asked for 30 volunteers for the Navy and I raised my hand. In the Navy, you get three square meals, a clean bed to sleep in and water to take a shower each day.”
Julius Shoulars, a 94-year-old US Navy veteran, recalls his service during WWII as a coxswain who took part in the D-Day invasion and fought across the Pacific.
(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)
Training took him to Camp Sampson, New York and Camp Bradford, Virginia. Bradford was on the Chesapeake Bay, and he recalled mustering at the commandeered Nansemond Hotel in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.
At Bradford, “we were assigned to an experimental outfit called a Naval Beach Battalion. We were issued paratrooper boots, Army jackets, Army pants, Army helmets, and Navy underwear.”
His parents resided in Norfolk, and he visited often. With a smile, he recalled that a friend of his had joined the Army, and left his girlfriend, Ruby back in Norfolk. He was instructed not to talk to her, “but by hell I did. You had to be a fool not to.” This blossomed into a relationship that endured.
By January 1944, they crossed the Atlantic. In England, he recounted, “you know the phrase over here, over paid and over sexed. I think somebody made that up.”
An LCM landing craft, manned by the US Coast Guard, evacuating US casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment on D-Day in Normandy, France June 6, 1944.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives)
At the “end of May 1944, we were transported to ships taking part in the invasion. We headed out on the 6th aboard anything that would float, even fishing boats from England.”
On the morning of June 6th, 1944 at H-hour, troops hit the “blood red” beaches of Normandy, in an operation that liberated Europe.
While crossing the English Channel, he recalled that, “some of the men were happy, some were anxious, some were sad, some were scared to death. I felt it was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do, so why cry or be joyful; just take it.”
His unit was attached to the 29th Infantry Division, who took Omaha Beach on June 6-7, 1944. Nearly a month was spent there directing landing craft, clearing obstacles, moving supplies, and clearing and burying the dead; a solemn task he recalled with tears in his eyes.
Shoulars, seated, recalls his service as a coxswain assigned to the 7th Naval Beach Battalion, which went ashore during D-Day in June 1944.
(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)
His unit headed stateside, and a period of leave was spent in Norfolk with his parents and girlfriend, before joining the crew of the newly commissioned USS Karnes (APA-175) on the West Coast.
He served 18 months on the Karnes, “island hopping” in the Pacific for a total of 76,750 miles. This took him to Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, Eniwetok Atoll, Ulithi, Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, among other ports of call while transporting cargo, evacuating the wounded, and transporting service members.
After the Japanese surrendered, the Karnes made its way back to San Francisco. He boarded a train back to Norfolk and was discharged. One of the first things he did was get married, and “eat a 30-cent hamburger at Doumars.”
Doumars on Monticello Avenue was where he first met Ruby. They didn’t want to get married during the war, for fear of making Ruby a widow. They got married upon his return home and spent 66 years together before she passed in 2013.
As for the friend who instructed him not to talk to her, Julius recalled that, “well, me and him never spoke again.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.
“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.
Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.
The Lockheed SR-71 was an awesome plane. It could go fast, it could go high, and it was very hard to detect on radar. The problem was, the United States didn’t build that many of them — a grand total of 32 planes were built. The SR-71 was retired in 1990 by George H. W. Bush but was brought back, briefly, in the ’90s before being sent out to pasture for good.
But there have been rumors of a replacement — something called the “Aurora.” This rumored replacement appeared in a 1985 budget line item in the same category as the U-2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71. The name stuck as the speculated successor to the SR-71, which the Air Force seemed all too happy to retire.
In 2006, Aviation Week editor, Bill Sweetman, declared he’d found budgetary evidence that the Aurora had been operating, saying,
My investigations continue to turn up evidence that suggests current activity. For example, having spent years sifting through military budgets, tracking untraceable dollars and code names, I learned how to sort out where money was going. This year, when I looked at the Air Force operations budget in detail, I found a $9-billion black hole that seems a perfect fit for a project like Aurora.
But there is another successor — one that doesn’t require a crew. This is the SR-72, and it may be twice as fast as the Mach 3 Blackbird. The Mach 6 drone is said to be able to reach some of the same heights as the SR-71. What’s unique about this unmanned aircraft is that it will carry two types of engines. There will be a normal jet engine to get the plane up to Mach 3 and a ramjet to push it to its top speed.
The SR-72 may be slated to enter service in 2030, but Popular Mechanics reported that Lockheed had announced progress on the project. More tellingly, that same publication reported that a demonstrator was seen at the Skunk Works plant. America’s super-fast eye in the sky may be here sooner than expected.
Learn more about this new plane in the video below:
“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask.
The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”
The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.
Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.
One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.
“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”
General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.
These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.
“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.
The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”
Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.
“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”
The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.
“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises and, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.
Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.
Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:
“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.
“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”
While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.
While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.
General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).
“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”
The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.
“They become comrades. They begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”
Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.
To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.
It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.
“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.
“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.
Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.
Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.
“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.
Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.
“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.
To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.
“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.
Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)
Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.
“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.
Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.
The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.
In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.
North Korea has boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.
Outsiders also see a significant technological jump, with Sunday’s test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile.
Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.
North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness, but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.