Iran just conducted a massive rapid deployment exercise that consisted of 12,000 coordinated troops – the Islamic Republic was saying to the world that any attackers would face a “crushing blow.” Over two days, Iran’s regular military forces used ground troops, fighter planes, armored vehicles, and drones to practice its methods of repelling invaders over 190 square miles.
The exercises are aimed at Israel and the United States, both of which Iran considers a regional menace. Back in the United States, regardless of Iranian training exercises, a growing portion of the military community is urging against a war with Iran, and the effort is being led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.
Eaton is best known for his command of training Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Led by Eaton, a cadre of former General-grade officers wrote an open letter to Congress, urging against provoking a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian military exercises played no role in the letter, which had been in the works for some time. In the letter, Eaton, the other officers, and the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation remind Congress about the costs of the current wars the United States is still engaged in right now.
“A full-scale military conflict with Iran would be a huge and costly undertaking,” the letter reads. “It’s a lesson we’ve learned before as a nation, at great cost. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us a lot in blood and treasure. We know that war with Iran would require hundreds of thousands of American service members to deploy and could result in even larger numbers of American casualties and injuries―alongside an unknown number of civilian deaths.”
While the United States does not have any kind of motive to attack Iran as of this writing, the letter is urging Congress to pass legislation to keep the White House from using military force without direct Congressional approval. The current authorization for the use of military force used by the Trump Administration to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere is the same one used by his predecessors Obama and Bush, signed into law by President Bush after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The new National Defense Authorization Act could bar the use of force in Iran.
Specifically, the letter endorsed a bi-partisan detail in the 2020 NDAA that would prevent “unauthorized” military force in or against Iran, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna and ardent Trump supporter and Florida Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz. There is no current language in the Senate version of the bill. Before going to the President’s desk, the NDAA would need to be reconciled and passed by both houses. The letter urged the inclusion of the Iran language in the final bill.
U.S. troops are deployed to hundreds of countries – Iran is not one of them.
The group of military officers believes the interests of the United States are better served by focusing on the confrontations with Russia and China, instead of expanding into another Middle East conflict.
“The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum,” the letter reads.
The Senate by a vote of 86-9 confirmed Robert Wilkie on July 23, 2018, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a move to bring stability to a department Republicans and Democrats suggested has been in turmoil over political infighting and low morale.
The vote for Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, an Air Force Reserve colonel with long experience at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, capped a tumultuous four months at the VA marked by ongoing leadership shuffles since President Donald Trump fired former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.
In a sign of continuing questions about the direction of the VA, the Senate’s action in confirming the new secretary — normally a bipartisan event — featured opposition votes.
The vote to confirm Shulkin in 2017 was 100-0 to head a department serving nine million veterans annually with a budget of more than 0 billion and a workforce of more than 350,000.
The “no” votes came from eight Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sanders in early July 2018 cast the first opposition ballot in memory for a VA secretary nominee in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee vote that sent the nomination to the floor.
Sanders at the time said he was voting more in protest of Trump than he was to Wilkie’s qualifications, saying he feared that Trump and political appointees within the VA would use the recently passed VA Mission Act as a vehicle to press for the “privatization” of VA health care.
In the floor debate leading up to the vote, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said he is confident Wilkie can “re-establish the non-partisan approach to serving our veterans” at the VA, a possible reference to political infighting at the department.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who voted for Wilkie, was more direct. “We’ve got political forces at play inside the VA. That’s very unfortunate,” said the committee’s ranking member. “When Mr. Wilkie becomes secretary, he has to see that this stops.”
In his stormy departure from the VA, Shulkin said he was the victim of “subversion” by Trump political appointees within the VA and at the White House.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the committee, said, “We know Robert Wilkie is the real deal,” and he will now have the opportunity “to fix the problems that we have” at the VA.
“This is the opportunity to do the changes of a lifetime,” Isakson said but repeated a warning he gave Wilkie at his confirmation hearing: “You will have no excuses.”
Shulkin’s firing initially led Trump to nominate Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit, to head the VA.
Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson
In an embarrassment to the administration, Jackson withdrew his name over allegations — never proven — that he mishandled prescriptions at the White House medical unit and may have been drunk on duty.
Following Jackson’s withdrawal, Wilkie was moved over from the Pentagon to become acting secretary at the VA. In his time as acting secretary, Wilkie noted the political turmoil and low morale at the department. He said he wanted the staff “talking to each other, not at each other.”
When Trump surprised him by nominating him to the full-time position, Wilkie had to step down as acting secretary to avoid violating a provision of the U.S. Code barring acting secretaries from nomination to cabinet positions.
Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who had been chief of staff at the VA, was moved up to the acting secretary’s position. O’Rourke has since clashed with VA Inspector General Michael Missal over access to whistleblower complaint data.
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) supported Wilkie’s nomination despite initial reservations that expansion of community health care options for veterans could lead to privatization.
In a statement after the vote, Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million-member American Legion, said in a statement, “I congratulate Mr. Robert Wilkie on his Senate confirmation to be the 10th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the health care, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” she added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Dr. John Paul Stapp earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” when he rode the Sonic Wind I rocket-propelled sled at the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds.
He sustained the greatest recorded G-forces endured by man, decelerating in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had previously undergone.
When he was pulled from the sled, Stapp’s eyes flooded with blood from bursting almost all their capillaries. Stapp was rushed to the hospital, worried that one or both of his retinas had detached and would leave him blind. By the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released, though his eyesight would never be the same.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
More than 50 years later, the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman still exists, but its riders have changed. Stapp was the last human to ride the track and now egress missions use highly instrumented mannequins to look at what loads are and then determine whether or not aircrew survivability was achieved.
“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
The data is collected with a variety of onboard data acquisition systems or telemetered for post-test analysis. Additionally, technical imagery, including high-speed digital images, is available for scientists to examine the status of their payloads. Track personnel use the same imagery to determine the status of the sled vehicle during tests. All data can be post-processed and merged using a common time reference to verify the accuracy of the data, and to produce a unified data product.
“We’re always pushing to open up new capability fronts. Thinking differently,” he said. “It’s built into our culture to think about those next steps. What do we need to do? How do we refine things? How do we look at problems differently based upon what we learn out of a mission outcome? So it’s a constant learning process here.”
At 10 miles, the track is also now the world’s longest and it is used to test high-speed vehicles such as aircraft ejection seats.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“The Holloman High Speed Test Track hearkens back to the 1950’s,” Vap said. “The mission has changed over time and the track has grown over time, from 3,500 feet to now 50,000 feet of rail.”
With the current track, the 846th TS has reached velocities in excess of 9,000 feet per second. That is around Mach 8.6 when calculating for altitude. However, the goal speed of Mach 10 has yet to be reached.
“We’re going for success, but there’s still a lot of territory to be explored and to learn from,” Vap said.
Test missions on the track last a few seconds; however, there are weeks, if not months, put into the design effort, fabrication and getting prepped for a test. There are a litany of cameras along the track to make sure that everything is captured in a six-, 10- or 30-second test mission.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“We design the sleds, we fabricate them and we load them on the rail,” Vap said. “Prior to that work, we look at the velocity profiles … We look at our rocket motor inventory and we put together the payload necessary to reach the velocities that are needed to carry out the test mission.”
“But don’t kid yourself. It’s not a small measure,” he added. “It takes a great deal of engineering staff and a lot of hard work to carry out these missions, on the order of weeks to months to prep for a 10 second shot.”
The goal of these tests is to wring out some of the potential problems that could exist in an airborne environment.
“We don’t just slap something on a jet and hope it works,” Vap said. “Those are things that just aren’t done from an operational standpoint. You have to verify that it’s going work.”
This means failure is inevitable. Not everything is going to be a success and what Vap tells everyone is that you learn more out of your failures than your successes.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Holmes, Egress Craftsman, 846th TS. “Our system isn’t used as frequently as most, which is a very positive thing. Being able to come out in this environment and actually test [an ejection seat] and see it operate is pretty exciting.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
Vap said there is no bigger “cool factor” in the Air Force than what the HHSTT does on a day-to-day basis. There is no other place in the Air Force that is essentially strapping rocket motors to a sled, pushing payloads down the track at flight relevant velocities and excess.
While the track’s passengers are no longer flesh and blood, they are still pioneers – of speed, science and safety. And their contributions to the high speed test track are making the goal of Mach 10 more and more a reality.
VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.
Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.
Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.
In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.
What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?
EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.
The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.
The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.
When will Veterans start using My VA Health?
Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.
Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.
Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.
How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?
Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:
Premium DS Logon account
Premium My HealtheVet account
Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.
Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.
On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.
With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.
Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.
As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”
He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.
“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”
There is always work that needs to be done.
Break down the problem
One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.
“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.
“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.
Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice
“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.
Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”
“You get involved in their routine,” he added.
Look for new ways to connect with people
In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.
“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.
“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”
He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.
Think about things you will do when its over
“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.
Remember it is not all about you
Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.
He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”
The USS Enterprise aircraft carrier (CVN 65), also known as the “Big E,” was decommissioned at Newport News Shipbuilding on Feb. 3 after 55 years of service. Now, the question is: What is the Navy supposed to do with it?
The Navy has been trying to come up with an answer since 2012, when the ship returned to its home port Naval Base Norfolk for the last time, reports DOD Buzz.
Initially, the Navy planned to have the ship towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., where the reactors would be removed and the rest of the ship would be recycled, but officials realized the ship is more than the workforce at the shipyard can handle.
The next move was to solicit bids from private commercial recycling operations to properly and effectively dispose of the aircraft carrier’s non-nuclear components, but officials from the Naval Sea Systems Command announced Monday it was canceling its request.
“The Navy has identified that it requires more information to determine the approach for the disposal of CVN 65, including the reactor plans, that is more technically executable, environmentally responsible and is an effective utilization of Navy resources,” explained NAVSEA spokesman William Couch, adding the Navy will be “taking no action at this time.”
Radioactivity, which is still a factor even after defueling, makes disposal difficult, but there are several options on the table right now.
The Navy could turn the USS Enterprise over to a commercial company for partial or full recycling. The former would involve the disposal of the non-nuclear components; the latter, however, would require the dismantling of the eight defueled reactor plants.
Another option is to place the carrier in “intermediate-term storage for a number of years” and put off recycling the ship. The Navy is still searching for a suitable location.
Environmental impact studies are being carried out for the various options.
“The Navy is taking these steps to ensure CVN 65 is recycled in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner,” Couch said. “Given the complexities of the issues involved in recycling CVN 65, the Navy remains committed to a fully open and public process for conducting the first-ever disposal of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.”
The USS Enterprise is a ship in a class of its own. It completed its last deployment in 2012 after sailing 81,000 miles over a 238-day deployment to the Persian Gulf.
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J. D. Pardo and Vincent Vargas in ‘Mayans M.C.’ (FX)
Lockdown measures have meant that almost everyone is spending nearly all their time on Twitter. Those familiar with the social media platform would know that every new day during these difficult times sees a new celebrity being canceled. One of those celebrities was Adam Driver, for his supposed Islamophobic sentiments for enlisting.
On April 20, the hashtag #adamdriverisoverparty started trending on Twitter after a 2019 interview of the actor resurfaced. In the interview, Driver spoke about how he joined the Marines after 9/11 because he felt a deep desire for retribution against an invisible and unknown enemy.
“It wasn’t against Muslims,” he said. “It was: We were attacked. I want to fight for my country against whoever that is.”
What followed was a horde of Twitter users using Driver’s comments to accuse him of being Islamophobic and launching the hashtag. “#AdamDriverIsOverParty forget that ugly Islamophobic troll stream my amy adams fancam,” said one.
‘Mayans M.C.’ actor Vincent Vargas spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) on what he thought about Driver being subjected to the cancel culture. He said, “I think right now, people are completely polarized and completely divided on opinions on everything in the world. I believe they took Adam Driver’s quotes on what he talked about, why he wanted to serve our country and turned it against him as if he [were] an Islamophobe.”
He added, “I just didn’t think it was fair to someone who [served] our country, someone who decided to join for whatever reasons that might be and then to turn around and try and damage his career because of unpopular opinions of other people. It’s a small demographic of individuals that use social media to essentially bully someone on their own opinion.”
Vargas also said that Driver’s 2019 interview might have resurfaced as people are bored of being on quarantine and stuck indoors. He added that Driver is “a brilliant actor,” and that he did not think “any kind of assumption of his character is going to ruin his career.” Vargas said, “Whatever they took out of context, that’s on them.”
He said, “For it to kind of blow-up again was kind of weird. I was almost amazed by it and kind of blown away that someone who serves in America, who [makes] the kind of entertainment that we enjoy that is mostly made in America — the land of opportunity that actors from other countries come to — was [bashed].”
Vargas believes that it’s “honorable and commendable” that Driver chose to serve in the war, whether “people believe in the [purpose of the] war or not.” He said, “[Driver] was trying to serve a greater purpose than himself.”
Vargas himself is a veteran. The actor enlisted for the military and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007 and did three tours. At the time, Vargas enlisted partly for financial reasons. He had a child he needed to support, but also because he wanted to do his part to help. He said, “I wanted to try and do it the right way and try and do special operations.”
The actor was part of both Operation Iraqi Freedom (the United States’ invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2011) and Operation Enduring Freedom (what the Global War on Terrorism was called by the United States government).
Vargas was sent to learn Pashtu for several months so he could communicate with the Afghani population in the hills. He said he would check on them to see how things were going as well as to establish that “we’re here looking for terrorist fighters.”
Vargas said there was an interesting dynamic between the soldiers and the civilians of those countries. He told MEAWW, “Are we there for the right reasons? That’s a question to answer, but I’m here to do [the] job that has been asked of me by the military.”
On being asked his opinions on the civilian casualties during the United States’ operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vargas said, “I think we all know and [have] seen that there are civilian casualties in war all the time and it’s a super unfortunate thing to happen.”
He added, “It’s obviously not something I condone or support but I also know that there’s this crazy thing that happens in the fog of war and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that a lot of terrorist acts happened in our country and some civilians, innocent people, and bystanders get hurt in those as well. When you have a country at war, those things are to be expected and it’s not a good thing. It’s not something to be proud of, but it is something that we have to acknowledge exists.”
Vargas plays the role of Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez on FX’s ‘Mayans M.C.’. Crucially, he also serves as a technical advisor on the show. Vargas tells us that it is just him and Tyler Grey (of ‘SEAL Team’) who are veterans who served in active combat duty who work as actors on mainstream television today.
Vargas said, “I believe it’s kind of my place to make sure that veterans are represented in the right light and not to be bashed on for serving our country. Think about Hollywood. In the 50s and 60s, it was [run] by veterans who served in Vietnam and before that in World War 2.”
As the technical advisor, Vargas helps make sure that everything done on the show regarding law enforcement, military, and border patrol are authentic. When the writers want to include material on those aspects, Vargas, makes sure that it is something that is correct and “valid toward the truth.”
While it may seem that veteran representation in Hollywood is aplenty, veterans often lament that their on-screen counterparts are often portrayed in extremes. Veteran Chris Marvin told the New York Times that veterans were being stereotyped by what he believes has become the dominant image on television and in Hollywood today: the “broken hero,” as he puts it, “who once did incredible things but is now forever damaged and in need of help.”
“The truth is, 99 percent of us are neither heroic nor broken,” Marvin said. “We are people — people the public has invested in who have a lot of potential. And it’s time to get over the pity party.”
Marvin believed that the portrayals may color the public’s perceptions, causing people to think that veterans are more likely to be unemployed and to commit suicide than their civilian peers, which he insisted is not true.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has said he wants to build agile networks to connect the force’s battlefield assets, allowing personnel to make the best decisions as quickly as possible.
The shift from wars of attrition to wars of cognition, Goldfein said in September, has led the Air Force to ask different questions about the weapons and platforms it acquires. “Now we are starting the dialogue with … does it connect … and … can it share,” he told an Air Force conference.
Goldfein reiterated this month that the force was looking at the light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that fits into that networked battlefield, where all of a force’s assets are connected.
While the force is not yet set on acquiring a new light-attack aircraft that could fly alongside the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt, it carried out tests with four candidates in August. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a press briefing on November 9 that the force expected to have a report on the experiment by the end of December, after which it would make decisions about the program and potential battlefield tests.
Goldfein — who has previously touted the importance of the OA-X on the battlefield of the future — added that the Air Force was looking to the light-attack program to augment information-sharing among partner forces with different capacities.
“There’s two parallel paths that we’re looking at on light attack. One is the traditional aircraft, sensor, weapon, but there’s another part of that, which is the network that it rides on,” Goldfein told reporters at the briefing. “As we bring more and more exquisite technology to the battlefield, it actually becomes harder and harder to share information with out allies and partners who don’t have … either the same quality or level of technology.”
“So the question that we’re asking is not only is there a light-attack capability off the shelf that we can use that can increase lethality and readiness, but is there also a shareable network that allies and partners who are already with us and those that may choose to join us … in the campaign against violent extremism, can we actually get into a new, shareable network that allows information to flow at a far faster rate so we can take out the enemy?” he added.
The light-attack experiment started taking shape earlier this year, when the Goldfein said the Air Force was looking for a cheap, commercially built fighter capable of performing close air support and other basic operations. The Air Force plans keep the A-10 Thunderbolt, the force’s premier close-air-support platform, in service, but a light-attack aircraft would allow high-end fighters like the F-16 to focus on more complex missions.
Congress allotted about $400 million to OA-X in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, and legislators have said they want OA-X program to continue.
One of the aircraft under consideration, the A-29 Super Tucano, is already in service with the Afghan air force, and the US has ordered six more of them to send to the country as the military adjusts to President Donald Trump’s plans to expand the US-led war effort there. The US also recently sent A-29s to the Lebanese army.
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described an “annihilation campaign” against ISIS in which the US and partner forces would work to reduce violence to a level that local authorities could handle it. Speaking on November 9, Goldfein used similar terms to underscore the role a light-attack aircraft would play on a connected battlefield.
“Remember the overall strategy is that we push violence down to the point where local governance and local police forces can manage it,” Goldfein said. “How can the light attack actually contribute to that?”
How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?
That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.
But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.
A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.
1. North Korea tightly controls the internet
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.
Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.
But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.
As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”
Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.
2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.
Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.
It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.
3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at
According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”
Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.
4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it
According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.
Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.
5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country
North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.
The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.
Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.
Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.
6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn
Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.
They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.
“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.
An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.
But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0
Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.
But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.
7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies
North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)
(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)
According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.
8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games
In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.
The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.
The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.
The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.
9. Open WiFi networks are banned
North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).
For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.
Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.
10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech
North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.
According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.
People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.
This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.
Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.
(Photo by William B. King)
They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.
They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.
Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.
“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”
It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.
The Army is arming Bradley Fighting Vehicles with heat-seeking Stinger air defense missiles to give the infantry carriers an improved ability to track and destroy enemy air threats such as drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft.
Most current Bradleys are armed with TOW anti-tank missiles, a land weapon predominantly used for attacking enemy armored vehicles, bunkers or troop formations. Adding Stinger missiles will increase the attack envelope for the vehicles and potentially better enable them to protect maneuvering infantry and mechanized forces in combat.
“As directed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Army is conducting a proof of principle to incorporate Man Portable Air Defense Systems back into the Armored Brigade Combat Teams by modifying two dozen Bradleys to carry Stinger Missiles in lieu of TOW Missiles,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.
As anti-armor weapons, TOW missiles are not typically used to attack enemy air threats.
“Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor, or “any 1990s tank,” at a maximum range of more than 3,000 meters. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch 3 missiles in 90 seconds,” the Federation of American Scientists writes in a paper.
Stinger missiles, by contrast, are infrared-guided surface-to-air weapons with nearly twice the range as TOW missiles.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fire a TOW missile from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during training at Fort Riley, Kansas, May 18, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire)
Adding Stingers to Bradleys is entirely consistent with the Army’s broad strategic aims for the Bradley, which call for a highly-networked infantry carrier increasingly able to maneuver in support of ground infantry using long-range, high-tech sensors to find and hit targets.
“The Army has chosen to increase the cross-country mobility of the Bradley, allowing it to go further into off-road situations to support infantry formations,” Givens said.
An extended range TOW 2B Aero, engineered with a one-way radio link and range enhancing nose-cap, can hit targets more than four kilometers away; a Stinger missile, however, can reportedly hit targets out to eight kilometers.
Army information says a TOW Bunker Buster warhead consists of a blast type warhead designed to penetrate and then detonate inside Military Operations in Urban Terrain targets such as 8-inch double reinforced concrete, brick-over-block, and triple brick walls. The warhead utilizes both a cast titanium body and chisel style nose to allow better penetration capability while reducing ricochet probability.
The latest TOW upgrade uses Target Acquisition Systems that incorporate Far Target Location capability (ITAS-FTL), a technology which incorporates a global positioning satellite-based position attitude determination subsystem, Army officials said.
An Army paper says ITAS is the fire control system for the TOW missile and consists of integrated optical and second-generation forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. It offers improved hit probability by aided target tracking, improved missile flight software algorithms, and an elevation brake to minimize launch transients”
The TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and of the target that he sees in his ITAS sight. It is accurate to a 60-meter CEP (circular error of probability),” an Army report said.
Although described by Givens as a “limited effort,” integrating Stinger onto Bradley is a part of the broader Army Short Range Air Defense Strategy, an effort to strengthen air defense weapons across infantry brigade combat teams.
“This is a limited effort designed to inform the Army on Short Range Air Defense employment techniques and considerations,” she said.
Pvt. Denzell Darden, a Kansas City native and cavalry scout with Company A, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pushes a simulated tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile into the turret on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
The Army SHORAD program, already being built into Stryker vehicles, represents a service-wide strategic and tactical need to respond to near-peer type mechanized combat threats. Focused on heavily during the Cold War, when facing a Soviet threat, SHORAD faded a bit during the last 15 years of ongoing ground wars. The Taliban and Iraqi insurgents did not possess much of an air threat.
However, today’s global threat environment is vastly different. Potential adversaries can easily acquire drone attack technology, as it is readily available on the international market. This means enemies could hold Army units at risk from the air in newer, more dangerous ways — and at farther ranges. Furthermore, the advent and proliferation of weaponized drones, enabled by growing levels of autonomy, could use long-range EO/IR to target and attack advancing infantry and armored units in ways previously not possible.
Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.
Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fires, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.
As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker or Bradley SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker or Bradley, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed armored vehicle. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Five decades after being shot in Vietnam and almost losing his leg, former Army Spc. John Fogle will make good on a promise he made to the surgeons at the 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam who saved his life.
Before he was transported to a general hospital in Japan, Fogle told his surgeons he would drop them a line and let them know how he was doing. He never did write, but instead, in May, he will fulfill his promise of reconnecting — in person.
Fogle was injured in combat on July 25, 1969. Although over time he forgot their names, he never forgot the doctors who saved him and when he learned of a reunion planned for the surviving members of the 22nd Surgical Hospital staff, Fogle decided to seek them out in hopes of inviting them to the event.
One of his first stops in his search was the Vietnam Vascular Registry, developed by Dr. Norman Rich, chair emeritus of the surgery department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
In 1966, the Vietnam Vascular Registry was developed by Rich at the Walter Reed General Hospital based on cases he had seen while serving in Vietnam along with hundreds of other cases added by colleagues. The registry documented and analyzed blood vessel injuries in Vietnam, resulting in documentation of more than 10,000 injuries from about 7,500 American casualties in Southeast Asia. Each patient entered into the registry was assigned a consecutive number and given a vascular registry card stating the registry’s purpose.
Rich has maintained the registry for more than 50 years. If stretched out completely, the entire registry itself would be about 114 linear feet, he noted. In 2016, the registry was digitized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, making it much easier to search and find records from vascular patients seen during Vietnam. The originals were sent to the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis.
Fogle had held onto his registry card, sent by Rich from the Vietnam Vascular Registry, for more than 50 years. Once he connected with Rich, he was able to reference his assigned registry card number, making it relatively easy for Rich to access his medical records from the 22nd Surgical Hospital. The records provided the names of Fogle’s doctors, among them Dr. Monroe Levine, who assisted in the surgery on his right leg and arm.
‘They performed miracles’
Fogle has foggy memories of the day he was injured, so over the years, it was hard for him to remember the names of those doctors who first operated on him in the 22nd Surgical Hospital. However, he will never forget being shot while flying in an observation helicopter.
He was on the lookout for signs of enemy activity, as the crew chief, and as they flew over a canyon, they surprised the Viet Cong, who began firing at their helicopter. Fogle was shot three times down his right side, leaving him with a severed femoral artery and a compound fracture in his femur. He remained conscious, though, and continued firing back to suppress the enemy’s fire and protect his crew, which included the pilot, who sat just two feet away. They were able to get out of there quickly and landed safely, arriving at the 22nd Surgical Hospital which was only 12 miles away. Fogle’s actions later earned him an Air Medal.
About 10 minutes after he had been shot, Fogle was being pulled into the 22nd Surgical Hospital, which he recalls had four fully equipped operating rooms, totally air-conditioned. The unit’s mission was to help stabilize the wounded before transporting them to the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake in Japan.
“They performed miracles in there,” Fogle said. At the time, he said, his leg was a big “question mark.” Surgeons in that unit prepared him for transport to Japan, and told him he “wasn’t out of the woods just yet.” He made it to the general hospital, where he underwent more surgeries. His recovery, over the years, was smooth and he has not had any other major issues.
“I was very fortunate,” Fogle added. “I could’ve easily lost my leg.”
He added that many surgeries were performed at the 22nd Surgical Hospital, over a long period of time, so it would have been hard for the doctors to remember each patient. In looking through his records obtained through the registry, Fogle said he learned that Levine had seen four other patients that same day.
“That’s why these notes [in my records] are so important,” he said.
After learning Levine’s full name, it didn’t take long for Fogle to find that the doctor is still practicing medicine in Colorado. The two connected over the phone, and are now looking forward to meeting again, after all these years, at the reunion, which will take place in Florida. Fogle sent his records to Levine to look through, hoping to help jog his memory before they meet in May, 2018.
Fogle considers himself very lucky. After leaving the military, he’s really only had to limit himself to certain sports and activities because he did suffer muscle loss, which throws off his balance to this day. He was able to go back to school after his military service and became an electrical engineer. A few years ago, he retired after a fulfilling, 38-year career.
Had it not been for the work of Levine, as well as the others in that unit and throughout his care and recovery, Fogle might not be where he is today.
“I’m looking forward to meeting him again in person,” Fogle said.
Rich was pleased to hear Fogle reconnected with one of the surgeons who saved his leg.
“This is what makes it valuable,” he said, referring to the extensive Vietnam Vascular Registry. “It is really reassuring that what we were doing has merit.”
U.S. Army weapons officials plan to purchase subcompact weapons from 10 different gun makers for testing in an effort to better arm personal security detail units.
U.S. Army Contracting Command, on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, recently announced it will spend $428,480 to award sole-source contracts to Beretta USA, Colt Manufacturing Company, CMMG Inc., CZ-USA, Sig Sauer and five other small-arms makers for highly concealable subcompact weapon systems “capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage,” according to a June 6, 2018 special award notice.
“Currently, Personal Security Detail (PSD) military personnel utilize pistols and rifles; however, there is an operational need for additional concealability and lethality,” the notice states. “Failure to provide the selected SCW for assessment and evaluation will leave PSD military personnel with a capability gap which can result in increased warfighter casualties and jeopardize the success of the U.S. mission.”
Companies selected have until June 16, 2018, to respond to the notice. The weapons will be used in an evaluation to “inform current capabilities for the Capability Production Document for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence,” the notice states.
“The acquisition of the SCW is essential in meeting the agency’s requirement to support Product Manager, Individual Weapons mission to assess commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) SCWs in order to fill a capability gap in lethality and concealability.”
Here is a list of sole-source contracts for the subcompact weapons:
Beretta USA Corporation for PMX subcompact weapon. Amount: $16,000.
Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC for CM9MM-9H-M5A, Colt Modular 9mm subcompact weapon. Amount: $22,000.
CMMG Inc. for Ultra PDW subcompact weapon. Amount: $8,500.
CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun. Amount: $14,490.
Lewis Machine & Tool Company for MARS-L9 compact suppressed weapon. Amount: $21,900.
PTR Industries Inc. for PTR 9CS subcompact weapon. Amount: $12,060.
Quarter Circle 10 LLC 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompact weapons. Amount: $24,070.
Sig Sauer Inc. for MPX subcompact weapon. Amount: $20,160.
Trident Rifles LLC for B&T MP9 machine gun. Amount: $36,000.
Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompact weapons. Amount: $39,060.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.