The UK and France scrambled fighter jets to respond to a two Tu-160 Russian nuclear bombers that approached Scotland without responding to air control on Sept. 20, 2018.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the unresponsive planes presented a hazard to other aviation by not communicating.
“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”
Military flight radar trackers spotted an unusually large number of Russian nuclear bombers taking off from bases in the country’s east early on Sept. 20, 2018, and tracked them as they flew above Scandinavia and down into North Sea towards the UK.
The fleet included three Tu-160 supersonic bombers and three Tu-95 propeller driven bombers with refueling tankers along for the long-distance haul. Williamson’s statement says only two Tu-160s were involved in the interception incident.
UK and French jets flew out to greet the bombers. Business Insider observed flight radar trackers as the incident unfolded. Ultimately the Russian bombers turned away and the European jets returned home. The Russian bombers did not enter UK airspace.
Typically the UK scrambles its own fighters to respond to potential breaches of airspace, so the inclusion of French jets may suggest some abnormality in the incident.
Together the six Russian bombers represent a massive array of air power. Both bombers can carry anti-ship and nuclear missiles in large enough numbers to punch a serious hole in UK or European defenses.
Russia regularly uses its bombers to probe the airspace of its neighbors and possibly gauge response time to aide in planning for potential future conflicts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy plans to deploy fast, high-tech surface drones equipped with advanced wireless technology able to find, attack, and ultimately destroy underwater enemy mines, all while operating at safe distance from a larger, manned surface host ship, such as a Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said.
Naval Sea Systems Command is currently working with industry to develop, assess and analyze mine-neutralization technologies for its emerging Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) — a multi-mission surface drone countermine platform slated to be operational by 2019. Capt. Jon Rucker, Program Manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, told reporters recently at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.
“MCM USV will ‘take the man out of the minefield’ when it comes to Navy mine countermeasures operations,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The current exploration of mine-neutralization technology is happening alongside the ongoing integration of advanced sonar mine-hunting payloads onto the USV – the AQS-20 and AQS-24, Baribeau explained.
Overall, the MCM USV represents the next-iteration of surface-drone technology, extending beyond the mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) now going through testing and builders trails, Rucker said.
“The UISS provides the Navy’s first unmanned minesweeping capability and the MCM USV with towed sonars provides the Navy unmanned volume and bottom mine hunting capability,” Baribeau said.
Textron Systems is now on contract with the Navy to integrate the AQS-20 and AQS-24, sonar payloads which will expand range and detection technology.
“UISS was foundational program that then migrated into expanding within the mine countermeasures technology,” Wayne Prender, Unmanned Systems Vice President of Control Surface Systems, Textron Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Building upon these efforts, the Navy is also planning for the MCM USV to incorporate an ability to “destroy” mines from USVs as well.
Neutralizing mines, once they are found, is the aim of this longer-term Navy effort to go beyond detection and succeed in destroying mines as well. As part of this effort, the Navy is now considering the Barracuda Mine Neutralization System — a technology described by a Navy solicitation as “a modular, low-cost, semi-autonomous, expendable neutralizer conforming to the A-size sonobuoy form factor.”
Navy documents further specify that Barracuda will use wireless communications, therefore allowing for a “tetherless” operation for the MCM USV. Military Aersopace electronics describes mine neutralizers as mini underwater drones armed with explosives which travel to an identified underwater mine – and then explode.
Barracuda will first be deployed from an LCS before potentially migrating to other surface or airborne platforms, Navy statements indicated.
Mine neutralization will naturally work in tandem with sonar systems which, Baribeau explained, can both send imagery data back to a host ship in real time through a line of sight connection or store sonar information for post-mission processing.
Navy Surface Drone “Ghost Fleet”
Incremental steps forward with surface drone countermine technology is all unfolding within a broader strategic context for the Navy aimed at architecting a “ghost fleet” of interconnected, unmanned vessels able to perform missions in a synchronized fashion.
Pentagon and Navy developers are advancing this drone-fleet concept to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.
Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could potentially coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, developers have explained.
As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.
Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.
The Ghost Fleet effort involves a collaborative venture between the Office of Naval Research, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, and the Navy.
When young men and women join the military, the majority of them dream of making a huge impact, day one, on America’s armed forces — if not the world. From the moment we touch the training grounds of boot camp to the graduation ceremony, we show up ready to make our mark on history by earning different accolades.
Those accomplishments are represented in form of certificates, letters of recommendation, and, of course, ribbons and medals.
Although some of those distinguishments are tough-as-hell to earn, others get pinned on our chest just for making it through boot camp.
One of those earnings, the National Defense Service Medal, or NDSM, is one of the simplest medals you’ll earn.
The NDSM was inked into existence when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10448 on Apr. 22, 1953. It was to serve as a “blanket” campaign medal for service members who honorably served in the military during a period of “national emergency.”
3. You actually earned the medal?
Since the medal’s establishment, there have been periods of time in which the U.S. isn’t been involved a major conflict. Many veterans who served during those times don’t rate to wear this medal since they didn’t serve during “national emergency” periods.
Those who served during the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Global War on Terrorism all rate to wear the ribbon above their heart if they’ve served for more than 89 days — including boot camp.
2. The medal’s front design
The medal features an eagle perched on a sword and palm branch. The eagle, of course, is the national symbol for the United States, the sword represents the armed forces, and the palm branch is symbolic of victory.
A new fighting robot called the Phantom might be deployed on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine next year, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian defense contractor developing the robot, displayed the robot at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC on October 9th, Defense One reported.
The Phantom can be fitted with tracks or wheels, as well as a wide variety of weapons, including a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, and grenade launchers, according to Ukroboronprom.
It runs on a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine that can hit speeds of up to 37 mph, and it can cover a maximum distance of about 81 miles, Ukroboronprom said. It is even capable of evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.
The Phantom also has a backup microwave-communication link that allows it to function even if its receiver is jammed or hacked, Defense One reported. This feature was specifically designed to counter Russian electronic-warfare attacks that have plagued Ukrainian forces, especially in the early days of the war.
The US is developing fighting robots as well, and Russia already “has a wide array of ground bots” but has not deployed them to the Donbas, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom is looking to sell the Phantom and form partnerships in general with other nations, especially the US, according to Foreign Policy.
“We came [to the AUSA in DC] to show our expertise and potential — to show that we can be partners,” Roksolana Sheiko, director of communications policy for UkrOboronProm, told Foreign Policy.
In recent months, the US and Ukraine have agreed to or discussed a number of weapons-and military-equipment sales and joint ventures.
In June, two deals were made to facilitate sale of military equipment and promote joint research and development between the two countries.
The United States’ win over Japan in World War II won’t be nationally celebrated on again until its September anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it whenever you want. Grab yourself a bottle of Old Crow bourbon and let’s get down to it with the Marine Corps’ finest beverage.
The capture of Guadalcanal in World War II marked another turning point in the war for the Pacific. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy was irreversibly trounced at Midway, the Japanese were still making gains in the war. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, all that ended. America took the initiative and Imperial Japan never again recovered their post-Pearl Harbor momentum.
When the Navy dropped the Marines off at Guadalcanal, Admiral Chester Nimitz left them with some cases of Old Crow bourbon. To make the limited supply last, the Marines rationed their bourbon to two to four ounces of the hard stuff per day. Being the disciplined warriors that the Marines are, they took the rationing a step further and cut the bourbon with their supply of unsweetened grapefruit juice.
U.S. Marines landing at Guadalcanal.
While unsweetened grapefruit juice and warm bourbon may seem like a harsh combination, keep in mind that some Japanese positions captured by the Marines also featured icehouses. Being able to cool down their beverages was a nice added bonus to wresting positions from Japanese control. Even if they couldn’t ice it down, harsh cocktails were hardly the biggest worry the Marines face on Guadalcanal.
For just over six months, Marines made amphibious landings to capture heavily-defended airfields and ridgelines as the Navy battled it out with Imperial Japanese submarines and battleships off the coast. At its outset, victory at Guadalcanal for the United States Army and Marines was anything but guaranteed. By the end of it, even the Japanese began to call Guadalcanal “the graveyard of the Japanese Army.”
So, if you’re looking to toast to the bravery of U.S. Marines, mix some Old Crow Bourbon with some fresh grapefruit juice, serve it over ice, and enjoy!
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.
No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.
No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend. Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know.
Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test.
Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this.
Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately.
The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity.
Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization. We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
Tennessee Militia Maj. Gen. Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson had to face down potential mass desertions twice in just a short period during the War of 1812, and both times he put on stunning displays of bravery that would hint at his potential for future success in both war and politics.
Portrait of Andrew Jackson
Jackson is a controversial figure for good reason. He was a military hero who earned accolades fighting the British, generally remembered as morally fine, and for fighting Native American tribes, something most of America would rather not talk about.
But he was, for better or worse, a product of his time, a general who marched where his state asked him to go and who shared the spirits and beliefs of his peers, even the deeply prejudiced ones. And he was dedicated to doing his own duty and in seeing every man around him do what he saw as their duty.
Jackson and his men find a missing supply train as well as, according to some reports, captured Creek warriors and Black men who attempted to flee slavery.
(John Frost, 1847)
He became a hero in the eyes of the Tennessee militiamen. But they would face hardships as well, fighting throughout 1813 against Creek Native Americans and then suffering severe supply shortages the following winter. When he learned in November 1813 that many were considering deserting, he begged them to stay.
Jackson offered a deal. If missing supply wagons did not arrive in two days, he would ride back with them. But if supplies arrived, they would stay.
The two days passed and a standoff ensued. After a bit of wrangling, Jackson agreed to ride north with a body of soldiers and look for the missing supplies. If they were found, he expected them to return to the fort. And so the men rode north and did actually find the train, filled with meat and flour. According to 1847 pictorial on Andrew Jackson’s life, they also found re-captured slaves and Creek prisoners.
This time, he grabbed a musket and, since his left arm was badly injured from a personal fight earlier that year, he laid the weapon across his horse’s neck and aimed it with his right arm at the mutineers. This was one gun against a brigade. The deserters could have easily overpowered him, but someone would either have to take the first shot or be the first person to try and ride past Jackson and call his bluff.
No one tempted the anger in Jackson’s eyes. Instead, troops loyal to Jackson began forming up behind him until there was little chance the brigade could break free, so they turned and headed back south.
But the anger in camp was far from quenched, and the bulk of the men had signed one-year contracts that they believed would end Dec. 10, 1813. Jackson insisted that their contracts would end one year after he had called them forward into the field, an anniversary that wouldn’t come for months.
“Let me just ride around in front of these.” – Andrew Jackson, 1813
Then he rode out in front of the men and promised that, if they attempted to leave, he would order the cannons fired with himself still in the middle. Yes, he would likely be the first killed, but dozens would follow him to a quick grave if they attempted to leave.
He ordered the gunners to light their matches and then watched the men in silence. Eventually, officers came forward and promised that they and their men would stay until reinforcements arrived.
It must have been quite the dramatic display, and it did save Jackson’s army for a few days.
But the hits would keep coming for Jackson. Reinforcements arrived, and so he released the men who had attempted to “desert.” Then it turned out the new men’s contracts were also due to end in December, and that another brigade’s contracts would end January 4, 1814.
Jackson protested, but the arguments over contracts had made it back to the larger world. Both the governor of Tennessee and the secretary of war agreed with the militiamen that their contracts ended one year after signature, not one year after being called to active service in the field.
Cargo containers of coronavirus tests being unloaded from a Korean Air flight.
Maryland has National Guard troops and state police guarding coronavirus tests at a secret location because of concerns that they might be seized, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told The Washington Post Thursday.
“We spent about 22 days and nights dealing with this whole transaction with Korea. We dealt with the Korean embassy, folks at the State Department, and our scientists on both sides trying to figure out these tests,” Hogan said. “And then at the last moment, I think 24 hours before, we got the sign-off from the FDA and Border and Customs to try to make sure that we landed this plane safely.”
The Maryland governor said when the Korean Air jet carrying the 500,000 tests flew into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, it was met by National Guard troops and state police.
Hogan said it landed there “with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland state police because this was an enormously valuable payload. It was like Fort Knox to us because it’s going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens.”
Maryland @GovLarryHogan on whether he was concerned that the federal government would seize the tests the state procured from South Korea. He says the tests are being guarded by the National Guard at an undisclosed location. https://youtu.be/PjkMyHbyhro pic.twitter.com/15BhHmLzql
Hogan, who is a Republican, said he had heard reports from other states of the federal government confiscating supplies. He specifically pointed to an incident in Massachusetts.
After 3 million masks purchased for the state were confiscated in New York, state leaders in Massachusetts turned to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to help bring in coveted N95 masks from China on a private plane.
“There were a couple of other states that had similar stories,” Hogan said.
He said the tests were “so important to us that we wanted to make sure that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it.”
The governor added that the test protection was ongoing, saying that “the National Guard and state police are both guarding these tests at an undisclosed location.”
Maryland’s decision to purchase coronavirus tests from South Korea drew criticism from President Donald Trump, who said the governor could have made use of available labs to help boost testing capacity. “I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge, would have been helpful,” the president said at a recent briefing.
Hogan later responded on MSNBC, saying that if there had been “an easier way” to get the necessary tests, “we certainly would have taken it.”
There’s no doubt about it. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic, Saving Private Ryan, was a masterpiece in every aspect of filmmaking. It won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The immense scale of the invasion of Normandy was expertly recreated for film in a way that hasn’t been replicated since — and likely never will be.
Despite the massive war that characterizes the film, the movie’s primary conflict wasn’t between warring nations, but rather between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, and his duty to return Pfc. Ryan (as played by Matt Damon), who refuses to leave behind the brothers with whom he’d fought so far.
The film, being the masterpiece that it is, wraps the story up nicely, leaving few loose ends, but there’s that ever-burning question in Hollywood — how do you make that special lightning strike twice? How can you create another story surrounding the incomparable D-Day and find just as much success?
The truth is, simply, that you can’t. The story has already been perfectly told by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood at just the right moment. But that doesn’t mean that the story has necessarily ended…
What made this scene so great wasn’t the million put into it — it was Tom Hank’s reaction to everything happening around him.
As stated by Jack Knight of War History Online, there is serious interest in following-up Saving Private Ryan by continuing the story of the Rangers at D-Day and the mission that occurred at Pointe du Hoc. What made the beach landing scene so spectacular wasn’t the battle itself, but rather how the battle was seen — through Capt. Miller’s eyes.
The audience felt the immense gravity of war in a truly human way. In one moment, we’re listening to a guy joke on the landing craft; one second later, his blood is splattered on Miller’s face. This is the essence of what made Saving Private Ryan so great. World War II was just the backdrop to a more personal story, but the sheer, raw horrors of war were still very much present.
The audience saw the enemy in the distance, but the focus was entirely on the Capt. Miller. Any spiritual successor (or direct sequels) should keep that in mind.
It’s a grim reality, but it’s comforting in it’s own way.
Such a sequel, a movie that follows someone’s personal life after a major conflict, has been dreamt up before. One film, known as “the greatest war film never made,” that was to explore this theme was to be called The Way Back.
The 1955 film To Hell and Back was an amazing anomaly. It was the World War II experience of Audie Murphy, based on the autobiography of the same name that was written by Audie Murphy and David McClure, starring Audie Murphy himself. But this wasn’t the only film the war hero wanted to make. Everyone wanted to see his heroic stand on the back of the Sherman, but he never got the finances for the script that told the story of what happened after he was bestowed the Medal of Honor.
He struggled daily with post-traumatic stress. His family life was, to put it lightly, troubled. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. He even famously locked himself in a dirty motel room to kick his morphine addiction. He was lost in a world that wanted “him,” but not the real him. But he knew countless children looked up to him, so he put one foot in front of the other with a forced smile on his face.
This movie, were it ever made, would’ve been a powerful piece. Audie Murphy, arguably the greatest soldier to ever don a uniform, would’ve told everyone that not everything is fine when the war’s over. There’s a pain there that nobody can see, but many of us feel.
It’s not like there are too many war films out there specifically made for Post 9/11 vets. The bar is set kinda low…
War films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and rarely will they have any impact on the public because they’re just action scenes after action scenes until the credits roll. If Hollywood really wanted a powerful message to send to the world, they could make a grounded story following the life of one of the Rangers after D-Day. Use Saving Private Ryan’s personal approach and make it about one soldier. They could keep the action scenes, but make them a background to the story of just surviving. Then, as Act II rolls around, shift the story to show how a returning soldier survives this world he left behind to fight in D-Day.
Hollywood could have their cake and eat it to while also sending a powerful message to the countless returning veterans of the Post-9/11 wars, telling them that they’re not alone.
Immediately after the birth of aviation, there was a race to beat records, improve techniques, and push aerial boundaries. Being the first female to break the sound barrier is just one of the many records that Jacqueline Cochran holds, solidifying her place in history as a pioneer of the Golden Age of flying.
Jacqueline Cochran was born Bessie Lee Pittman on May 11, 1906, in Muscogee, Florida. Growing up in poverty, by just six years old, she started working at her family’s cotton mill in Georgia. Her childhood was rough, but it ingrained in her a will and resolve that catapulted her in achieving personal goals.
A young Jacqueline Cochran on the precipice of her aviation career.
She went on to marry George Cochran at the young age of 14 and changed her name to Jacqueline Cochran. Her marriage didn’t last, but that didn’t stop her from making a name for herself in the business world. In the early 1930s, she decided to venture into becoming a beautician and, eventually, owned her own cosmetics company that lasted well into the 1970s.
Jacqueline Cochran simultaneously ran her successful cosmetic line during her aviation career.
However, it seemed that ordinary life was not suited for Cochran. She wanted to make a difference in the war efforts of the time and felt that flying would offer the hand-hold to do so. In 1932, her ambitions reached into the world of aviation and she began to train and study. After just three short weeks of instruction, she received her pilot’s license and set her sights even higher.
Above, Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
Cochran obtained many prestigious titles, including being the first woman to win the Bendix Trophy during the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. She set an international altitude and speed record while becoming the first woman to make a blind landing. She earned the Distinguished Service Medal for leading the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WAFS) and continued to set speed records for 15-, 100-, and 500-km courses after breaking the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre in 1953.
Chuck Yeager championed for Jacqueline Cochran and supplied her with guidance before she broke the sound barrier.
In addition to all these impressive records, she had time to lend a hand to the advancement of female aviators when she gained command over the British Air Transport Auxiliary, consisting of a select group of female pilots. In the U.S., Cochran directed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1942, which provided more than one thousand pilots to the armed forces.
At the time of her death in 1980, her persistence and drive for excellence attributed to her collection of more speed, distance, and altitude records than anyone in the world, male or female.
“Jackie was an irresistible force… Generous, egotistical, compassionate, sensitive, aggressive — indeed an explosive study in contradictions — Jackie was consistent only in the overflowing energy with which she attacked the challenge of being alive.”
Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.
Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.
It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.
With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.
“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”
Creating a Cadre
Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.
The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.
Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.
“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.
For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.
Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.
“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”
The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.
“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.
February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.
Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.
That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.
The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.
Foundation of Skills
Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.
Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.
“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.
Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.
“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.
“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.
Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.
“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.
According to a1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.
“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.
“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.
Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.
“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”
But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.
Rooted in History
Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.
Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.
“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.
Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.
The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.
When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.
With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.
“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.
New Focus on Warrant Officers
“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.
While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.
“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.
“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.
Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.
Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.
Key Decisions Ahead
Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.
“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”
Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.
“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.
“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.
While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.
“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.
“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”
Tens of thousands of NATO troops have converged on Norway for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.
The exercise officially starts on Oct. 25, 2018, but the arrival of thousands of troops and their equipment in the harsh environs of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia hasn’t gone totally smoothly.
On Oct. 23, 2018, four US soldiers were injured in a roadway accident as they delivered cargo to Kongens Gruve, Norway, in support of the exercise.
“The accident occurred when three vehicles collided and a fourth vehicle slid off the pavement and overturned while trying to avoid the three vehicles that had collided,” the US Joint Information Center said, according to Reuters.
One of the soldiers was released shortly after being hospitalized, and as of late Oct. 23, 2018, the three others were in stable condition but still under observation, according to the information center. The troops and their trucks were assigned to the Army’s 51st Composite Truck Company, stationed in Baumholder, Germany.
A US Army Stryker vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
US ships taking part have also encountered trouble.
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, part of a group of ships carrying a Marine Corps contingent to the exercise, returned to port in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Oct. 22, 2018, after heavy seas caused damage to the ship and injuries to its sailors.
The US 6th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Atlantic around Europe, said the ship’s well deck and several of the landing craft aboard it were damaged. The Gunston Hall returned to port for a damage assessment, though there was no timetable for its completion, the fleet said.
The sailors who were injured received medical treatment and returned to duty.
A landing craft enters the well deck of the USS Gunston Hall to embark for Trident Juncture 2018, Oct. 3, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
The amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, also on hand for the exercise, also returned to Reykjavik “as a safe haven from the seas until further notice,” the fleet said.
A 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times that the seas were challenging “but not out of the [Gunston Hall’s] limits” and that the USS New York “will remain in port until it is safe to get underway.”
The Gunston Hall and the New York were part of a group led by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima that left the US in October 2018, carrying some 4,000 sailors and Marines.
US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit hike to a cold-weather training site in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo)
It’s not clear if the absence of the Gunston Hall and the New York will affect the exercise, the 6th Fleet spokesman told Navy Times.
Trident Juncture will include some 50,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and other personnel from each of NATO’s 29 members as well as Sweden and Finland. The drills will be spread across Scandinavia and the waters and airspace of the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic.
Massing men and machines for such exercises rarely goes off without problems.