Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails - We Are The Mighty
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Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

Russia put on an intimidating show of force in 2015 by unveiling the T-14 Armata main battle tank, which represented a bold new design billed as an unstoppable NATO tank killer.

Russia was to make and field 2,300 T-14s by 2025, but as of 2019 only has some 100 on order and less than two dozen operating in tests, The Diplomat reports.

Four years later, Russia has scrapped plans to reproduce the tank that sputtered and stalled in Moscow’s Red Square in the 2015 Victory Day parade, and found an older tank to do its job instead.


Russia on Jan. 10, 2019, announced it had bought 30 WWII-era T-34 battle tanks from Laos, which it said were combat-ready, but would be used in parades and making WWII movies.

As The Drive pointed out, this means Russia will buy more of the 70-year-old tanks than it will of its new T-14, and it indicates how Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed course after failing to modernize his military.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

A Russian Army T-14 Armata tank.

T-14: The NATO killer that died in budget cuts

The T-14 in 2015 cast a menacing figure. Russia, previously crippled by debt and still shrugging off the collapse of the Soviet Union, had updated its main battle tank, something Western countries had only done incrementally.

While the US was adapting its M1 Abrams tank to urban combat against weaker enemies in Iraq, Russia had devised a tank designed to kill other tanks.

With automatic loading, an unmanned turret, reactive and active armor, and a bigger gun than any Western tank, Moscow had announced its focus on a return to the kind of conventional ground war that rocked Europe throughout the 21st century.

But like with many Russian defense projects, the bark proved worse than the bite. In the following years, Russia announced the T-14 wouldn’t see mass production. Instead, Russia would upgrade its capable T-80 and T-90 tanks which were seeing combat in Ukraine and Syria.

While the upgraded T-90 tanks proved effective in those battlefields, they lacked the propaganda boost of a new, unstoppable tank afforded Putin.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

A World War II-era Soviet T-34 tank during the 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

Pivot to the past

Putin’s bet on the T-14 as the future face of Russia’s military power failed, but, ever resourceful, Russia has now pivoted to the past.

Soviet tankers with T-34s in the eastern front of WWII fought in grueling battles that eventually saw Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces overwhelmed and the Soviet flag planted atop the Reichstag in Berlin.

Putin has frequently tried to revise and leverage the Soviet’s hard-fought success in World War II to bolster nationalism and support for his aggressive government, which stands accused of war crimes in Syria and backing separatist forces in Ukraine.

A state-funded film titled “T-34,” which tells the story of a Russian tank crew escaping a Nazi camp, smashed box office records in Russia in January 2019. The Associated Press reported that any criticisms of the film have been silenced.

Now Russia will seek to use the T-34s in other propaganda spectacles, it said.

Russians have every reason to be proud of their country’s massive sacrifice in WWII and the tanks that have operated for seven decades.

But the tanks, be they T-34s or T-14s, won’t lift Russians out of poverty or allow them to enjoy any new opportunities.

Nor will they fight in wars, as they’ve always been pawns in a propaganda game deftly executed by Putin to scare the West with paper tigers and feed the public with empty stories of bygone greatness.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens when military aircraft find your anti-aircraft truck

Originally, the thing that terrified everyone about ISIS was how fast-moving it was and how sophisticated its battlefield strategy and equipment was. But as the battlefield has shifted against ISIS, their deployments have become less terrifying horror stories and more hilarious follies.


For example, have you heard the one about the ISIS anti-aircraft truck that was discovered by coalition aircraft? Yeah, turns out the anti-aircraft truck isn’t all that good at detecting aircraft.

Task Force Trailblazer, the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, and other coalition forces were hunting for ISIS remnants in Iraq when they spotted the truck. While ISIS has lost its territory and de facto state, that just reduced it to a more “normal” terrorist organization — and it still has a decent arsenal of weaponry.

Hunting them down is important to finally #DefeatISIS, and eliminating the more sophisticated weapons makes it easier and safer to go after all the rest. Anti-aircraft trucks, in the scheme of things, are fairly sophisticated and important.

But the thing about coalition aircraft is that it includes a lot of aircraft and weapons that can engage enemy targets at well beyond the ranges at which they are easy to spot and attack. Basically, a jet can kill you from much further away than you can kill the jet, unless you have very good missiles and radar.

So, when U.S. forces found the truck, they called in an airstrike against it. It’s not immediately clear which weapon and platform was used against it, but it does look like a missile or fast-moving bomb enters the frame just before the explosion. While the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade was cited in Operation Inherent Resolve’s tweet, the 35th didn’t deploy with any attack helicopters, and so it’s likely that the attacking aircraft came from somewhere else.

Regardless, the footage is sweet and available at top. Enjoy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.


Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.

Also Read: Marines and Air Force just iced one of the most wanted Taliban kingpins

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

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Marine who lost legs in Afghanistan rescues baby from a smoking car

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
Matias Ferreira (left)


A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.

Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.

The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.

Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.

“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.

He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”

While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.

“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”

The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.

“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”

Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.

“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”

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This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.


In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.

Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.

In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.

Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.

Watch the ceremony below

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These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

 

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

 

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

 

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

 

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

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Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

The Pentagon released the name of a Special Forces soldier who was killed by an improvised bomb attack during a night raid with Afghan commandos in the restive Helmand province, a reminder that the fight continues 15 years after American troops first landed there.


Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, was killed while accompanying Afghan special forces on a raid near Lashkar Gah. Thompson was a Green Beret with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces group based in Washington and died Aug. 23 alongside six of his Afghan comrades.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, died Aug. 23, 2016, of wounds received from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Another American servicemember was wounded in the attack and remains in stable condition at a hospital in Afghanistan, officials say.

“This tragic event in Helmand province reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country,” Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Afghanistan and our NATO partners to bolster the capabilities of the [Afghan national defense and security forces] so they can provide the people of Afghanistan the peace they deserve.”

The deaths came on the eve of a brazen attack on the American University in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed 14 and wounded 35. No Americans are among the casualties so far.

The top spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan said special operations troops, many of them Americans, are on missions nearly every night throughout the country advising Afghan commandos who are targeting Taliban holdouts in key areas. He said that about 10 percent of Afghan special forces missions include NATO troops, but they’re not usually engaged in the fighting.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower)

“This is something that we do nationwide [so] it’s possible that we have some NATO [special operations force] element out in the field on any given night,” said Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland during an Aug. 25 press conference. “Our role in that, of course, is that we don’t participate, we don’t go on the objective, but we provide the assistance they require.”

Cleveland said about 80 percent of Afghan special operations missions are conducted solo, with another 10 percent incorporating NATO and U.S. help in the rear, including intelligence and surveillance support.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
A U.S. Special Forces soldier, attached to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, and an Afghan National Army commando, of 6th Special Operations Kandak, scan the area for enemy movement after taking direct fire from insurgents during an operation in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 20, 2014. Commandos, advised and assisted by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, conducted the operation to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez)

He added that the Taliban have been unable to hold any major city or town, and typically raid a checkpoint, steal equipment and are pushed out by Afghan forces some time later.

The operation in which Thompson was killed included an effort by Afghan special forces to interdict Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of the key Helmand town of Lashkar Gah. It was a “fairly large operation,” Cleveland said.

“It was an effort to clear out Taliban strongholds so conventional forces could move in,” he said.

Though violence has been on an upsurge as the summer fighting season crests, officials say the Taliban isn’t able to mount an effective, large-scale assault to win coveted territory and sanctuary.

“The idea that they’re this invincible force, moving ahead and claiming territory we don’t believe is accurate,” Cleveland said. “We don’t think there’s a massive, invincible offensive coming from the Taliban.”

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That time Russian troops repelled Germans with just their mangled faces

Built in the 19th century, the Osowiec Fortress was constructed by the Russian Empire in what is now eastern Poland as a way to defend its borders against the Germans. It was a strategic location for Russian troops.


On September 1914, German forces turned their attention to the fortress and launched a massive offensive, looking to gain control of the stronghold.

They bombarded the fortification with artillery guns for six days straight. However, the Russian troops managed to successfully counter their incoming attacks and continued to man the fort.

Also Read: That time pancakes helped fight the Japanese in WWII

 

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
Osowiec Fortress as it stands today, as a museum. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Despite Russian fortitude, the Germans remained optimistic as they decided to deploy their massive 420mm caliber cannon known as “Big Bertha.” The Germans pounded the fort and expected a quick surrender from the Russians within. Although the fort suffered greatly, it didn’t crumble, sustaining heavy fire for months to come.

In early July 1915, German Field Marshal Von Hindenburg took command and came up with a new offensive.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg (left) (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

The Germans decided to use poisonous gas on their enemy knowing that the Russian troops didn’t have gas masks. 30 artillery guns hit the range and launched 30 gas batteries at the fort on Aug. 6.

A dark green smog of chlorine and bromine seeped into the Russian troops positions. The grass turned black. Tree leaves turned yellow. Russian copper guns and shells were covered in a coat of green chlorine oxide.

Four Russian companies stationed at the fort were massacred as they pulled the poison into their lungs.

Related: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

Once the gas cleared, 14 German battalions surged in to finish the job. As they approached, Russian troops from the 8th and 13th companies, who came into contact with the poison, charged the Germans. Their faces and bodies were covered in severe chemical burns and the troops reportedly spit out blood and pieces of infected lung as they attacked.

Seeing this gruesome images caused the German troops to tremble and quickly retreat. In the process, many got caught up and twisted in their own c-wire traps.

Within the next two weeks, the fort’s survivors finally evacuated the area. Later on, the newspapers reported this story, calling it the “Attack of the Dead Men.”

Check out Simple History‘s animated video below for more about this incredible story.

 

(Simple History | YouTube)

MUSIC

Why ‘Rooster’ was the greatest song to honor a father’s service

Alice in Chains was a widely-successful Grunge band in the 1990s. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they helped define an entire generation of musicians. While songs like Would? and Man in the Box are their most well-known, Rooster is the most beloved within the military community.


Jerry Cantrell Jr., the guitarist, co-vocalist, and songwriter, was the son of a Vietnam War veteran, Jerry Cantrell Sr. The younger Cantrell watched his father deploy twice and never talk about what happened in Vietnam. He watched as his father struggled with PTSD throughout his childhood until, eventually, it destroyed his family.

So, he wrote a song dedicated to his father and his experience in Vietnam.

Also Read: This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’

The name, Rooster, is a play on three meanings: It was a childhood nickname of his father’s. ‘Rooster’ was also a nickname for M60 machine gunners because the muzzle flash looked like a rooster’s tail. It’s also a play on how the Vietnamese saw 101st Airborne Division soldiers who wore the Screaming Eagle on their sleeves. It’s said that because bald eagles aren’t native to Vietnam, the locals referred to 101st soldiers as “chicken men” or “roosters.” All three meanings perfectly describe Jerry Cantrell Sr.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
Trust me, as a vet who served in the 101st, this song became our unofficial anthem. (Photo courtesy of the National Archive)

The lyrics run deep with symbolism calling back to Vietnam. Cantrell Jr. was only able to piece together little things from what he heard his father occasionally say.

“Walking tall machine gun man.

They spit on me in my homeland.

Gloria sent me pictures of my boy.

Got my pills ‘gainst mosquito death,

My buddy’s breathing his dying breath.

Oh, God, please won’t you help me make it through.”

Also Read: How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, he was asked if his father ever heard the song. He did, but only once live. Cantrell Jr recalled,

Yeah. He’s heard this song. He’s only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I’ll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won’t talk about it, but when I wrote this, it felt right… like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.
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.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
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.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thunderbird hits bird during Air Force Academy graduation

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.

“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”

The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.

After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.

“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.

Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.

Excluding injuries, the strikes have cost the service 7,546,884, Air Force Times reported.

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

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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

The Air Force is giving its historic B-52 bomber a massive weapons enhancement by engineering an upgrade to the aircraft’s internal weapons bay, which promises to substantially enhance its attack mission options.


The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing. This initiative not only increases the weapons delivery capacity for the bomber but also enables it to accommodate a wider swath of modern weapons.

IWBU uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, service officials said.

Also read: What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

“The B-52 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade provides internal J-series (smart) weapons capability through modification of Common Strategic Rotary Launchers and upgrade of aircraft software,” Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.

The B-52 has previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU, the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting-edge, precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that the IWBU effort will bring a 66-percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52.

Service developers also explain that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The move is a key modernization step for the Air Force which, for many known reasons, no longer views the B-52 in its historic role as a “carpet bombing” aircraft. The demands and challenges of modern warfare, both counterinsurgency as well as the possible force of large-scale mechanized warfare, now require precision. This weapons upgrade will help expedite the integration of an even larger arsenal of precision-guided or (smart) weapons, as Grabowski explained.

Related: How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

While the B-52 can, of course, still blanket an area with bombs should it need to do so, more likely challenges in a modern threat environment would doubtless use long-range sensors, guided weapons, or even lasers to achieve both greater standoff and precision in possible engagements.

Also, given that the size and “not-so-stealthy” configuration of the B-52, it is primarily intended to operate in areas where the US Air Force already has air supremacy. Longer range, more precise Russian-built air defenses would also be expected to pose a significant threat to even high-altitude bombing missions.

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails
A United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. (USAF photo)

Given the fast pace of advances in command and control technology, manned-unmanned teaming, and artificial intelligence, it is entirely feasible that manned bombers, such as the B-52, will soon be able to control nearby drones from the air. (A former Air Force Chief Scientist discussed this at great length in previous interviews with Warrior Maven.)

The first increment of IWBU integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well.

More: This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios, and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons, and technologies, Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of multiple interviews with program managers in recent years

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