The Trump administration believes Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter and Tupolev PAK-DA stealth bomber will be developmental nuclear strike aircrafts.
The administration listed the two aircrafts as developmental nuclear strike aircrafts in its Nuclear Posture Review, a 100-page report released the first week of February 2018 laying out the U.S.’s nuclear policies.
The report took a harsh stance against Russia, saying that it “will pose insurmountable difficulties to any Russian strategy of aggression against the United States, its allies, or partners and ensure the credible prospect of unacceptably dire costs to the Russian leadership if it were to choose aggression.”
The Su-57 first flew in 2010, but has yet to be mass produced.
Moscow announced on Feb. 7, 2018, that it would purchase about a dozen Su-57s this year, and receive two of those in 2019, according to TASS.
“We are taking the Su-57 for experimental and combat operation, and the state tests for the first stage are over,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov told reporters, according to RIA Novosti.
The first batch of 12 will only be equipped with Saturn AL-41F1 engines — the same engines on the Su-35 — and not the new Izdelie-30 engines, which have only recently begun testing.
Russia’s newly upgraded long-range bomber, the Tu-160M2, first flew January 2018, but the PAK-DA stealth bomber has yet to be built.
As such, Russia’s main nuclear strike aircraft is currently the Su-34 Fullback, according to The National Interest.
“[Russia] has nuclear bombs for tactical aircraft and air launched tactical nuclear missiles as well. And there are ALCMs [air-launched cruise missiles] under development that will be used by tactical aircraft,” Vasily Kashin, a fellow at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told The National Interest.
“But I do not remember Su-57 being specifically mentioned,” Kashin said, adding that it’s possible that X-50 cruise missiles could fit into the Su-57’s weapons bays. Russia, he said, has not confirmed anything.
The status of the PAK-DA is even more up in the air.
Assuming Moscow builds the PAK-DA, it won’t enter Russian service until the 2030s at the earliest, The National Interest reported.
The PAK-DA will probably be able to drop nuclear gravity bombs, according to The National Interest’s David Majumdar. The aircraft will likely be primarily used as a strategic missile carrier — much like the upgraded Tu-160M2.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
President Donald Trump reportedly floated the idea of invading Venezuela to both senior administration officials and world leaders multiple times in the past year.
According to the Associated Press, Trump first proposed taking over the country to top aides at an August 10, 2017 meeting held in the Oval Office to discuss US sanctions on the country.
The backdrop was the South American nation’s rapidly deteriorating economy and the perilous state of law and order there.
The previously undisclosed meeting, on which the White House has declined to comment, was anonymously revealed by a senior administration official speaking with the AP, and by two high-ranking Colombian officials familiar with the meetings where Trump raised the idea. When asked for comment, a National Security Council spokesman told the AP that all options would be considered to restore stability or democracy in Venezuela.
Trump’s suggestion reportedly stunned people at one meeting, including Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, then the secretary of state and the national security adviser.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
The AP said those in the room, including McMaster, then spent five minutes taking turns warning Trump how military action could backfire and lose him support among other Latin American governments.
Despite his aides’ warnings, Trump reportedly continued to talk of a “military option” to remove Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s president.
At a private dinner held around a UN General Assembly meeting in New York a month later, the AP said, Trump proceeded to ask the leaders of four Latin American countries whether they would accept military action. The only one of the leaders named by the AP was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump reportedly prefaced the conversation with the leaders with the phrase: “My staff told me not to say this.”
He then went around the table to ask the leaders whether they were certain they didn’t want the US to invade Venezuela, to which each leader said clearly that they were, the AP reported.
Venezuela’s inflation rose above 41,000% in June 2018, making almost all goods unaffordable, and the UN human-rights office declared a breakdown of law and order in the country, citing reports that security forces had killed hundreds of anti-government demonstrators while protecting some suspected of criminal activity from prosecution.
Venezuelans have also been fleeing to countries including Brazil, Colombia, Chile, the US, and Spain.
Trump said publicly in August 2017 that a military option was not out of the question for dealing with the Venezuelan crisis, but details of the president’s seriousness about the issue had not been reported until July 4, 2018.
His administration levied new sanctions on dozens of Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, in May 2018.
Trump’s bullish stance against Venezuela could actually bolster Maduro’s standing at home, however, as Maduro’s supporters have long lamented Washington’s involvement in domestic affairs and used anti-US sentiment to unite against his opponents.
Maduro’s son, also named Nicolas, said in 2017: “Mind your own business and solve your own problems, Mr. Trump!”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force players take to the field prior to the opening kickoff in 2019 during a football game against Army at Falcon Stadium. Photo/Trevor Cokley.
Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo will lead the Midshipmen into a game at Air Force for the seventh time on Saturday.
This trip to Colorado Springs will have a unique feel.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Niumatalolo said. “None of us have done this before. Obviously, we’ve played there many times when it’s a full stadium. This will be different.”
Navy (1-1, 1-0 in the American Athletic Conference) and Air Force (0-0) will meet for the 53rd time in a rivalry that the Falcons lead 30-22. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be Air Force’s season opener. The Falcons will travel to face Army on Nov. 7, the only other game on their schedule so far, but will add more after the Mountain West Conference reversed course and announced it will play a fall football schedule after all. That schedule will start on Oct. 24.
Only Air Force cadets will be admitted into Falcon Stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 47,000 fans, for this weekend’s game. Roommates will be seated in twos, and they will be required to be socially distanced and wear masks. No tailgating will be allowed.
“Maybe the noise level won’t be as loud, but I don’t expect the atmosphere at the game between the players to change at all,” Navy junior safety Kevin Brennan said.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said not having played a game before facing Navy, which won the 2019 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after defeating Air Force and Army, is not ideal.
“In fact, only three weeks ago, … we mentioned, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could find somebody on Sept. 26 to try to have a game under our belt?”’ Calhoun said. “Naturally, you want to play as much football as you can possibly play, but it is quite, quite different that way.
“Hopefully we’ll go 130 years until maybe it has to happen again, too.”
Navy will seek to ride the momentum it built after erasing a 24-point halftime deficit and winning at Tulane two weeks ago to avoid an 0-2 start.
Air Force is trying to replace several key pieces off a team that finished 11-2 last season, including quarterback Donald Hammond. The school announced in late July that Hammond “is no longer a cadet in good standing,” and Calhoun has not revealed who will spearhead the Falcons’ triple-option attack.
Both coaches are approaching 100 victories at their respective schools. Niumatalolo is 99-61 since taking over the Midshipmen in 2008, while Calhoun is in his 14th season and has led the Falcons to a 98-69 record.
Niumatalolo downplayed the milestone, as did Calhoun.
“I know at least here, since 2007, a coach has never, ever, ever won a game and never, ever played a snap,” said Calhoun (Air Force Class of 1989). “That’s not being evasive, as it is just truth. That’s the way we feel in our heart, too.”
Air Force, which will wear uniforms honoring the Tuskegee Airmen on Saturday, won its final eight games of last season. The Falcons hold the nation’s longest active winning streak and have not lost in nearly a year.
Their last setback came on Oct. 5.
Navy was their opponent that day.
“The world is not the same now,” Niumatalolo said.
After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.
After a little more than a year of research and more than 20 attempts to get the right materials, an Air Force Academy cadet and professor have developed a kind of goo that can be used to enhance existing types of body armor.
As part of a chemistry class project in 2014, Cadet 1st Class Hayley Weir was assigned epoxy, Kevlar, and carbon fiber to use to create a material that could stop a bullet.
The project grabbed Weir’s interest.
“Like Under Armour, for real,” she said.
The materials reminded her of Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid — which thickens when force is applied — made of cornstarch and water and named after a substance from a Dr. Seuss book, and she became interested in producing a material that would stop bullets without shattering. An adviser suggested swapping a thickening fluid for the epoxy, which hardened when it dried.
“Up to that point, it was the coolest thing I’d done as a cadet,” Weir, set to graduate this spring, told Air Force Times.
But soon after, she had to switch majors from materials chemistry to military strategies. That presented a challenge in continuing the research, but she teamed up with Ryan Burke, a military and strategic studies professor at the academy.
Burke, a former Marine, was familiar with the cumbersome nature of current body armor, and he was enthused about Weir’s project.
“When she came to me with this idea, I said, ‘Let’s do it,'” he said. “Even if it is a miserable failure, I was interested in trying.”
The science behind the material is not new, and Burke expected that the vast defense industry had pursued such a substance already. But a search of studies found no such work, and researchers and chemists at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center said the idea was worth looking into.
They began work during the latter half of 2016 using the academy’s firing range, weapons, and a high-speed camera. Burke got in touch with Marine Corps contacts who provided testing materials.
In the lab, Weir would make the substance using a KitchenAid mixer and plastic utensils. It was then placed in vacuum-sealed bags, flattened into quarter-inch layers, and inserted into a swatch of Kevlar.
At first, during tests with a 9 mm pistol, they made little headway.
“Bullets kept going straight through the material with little sign of stopping,” Weir told Air Force Times. After revisiting their work and redoing the layering pattern, they returned to the firing range on December 9.
Apprehensive, Weir fired on the material.
“Hayley, I think it stopped it,” Burke said after reviewing the video. It was the first time their material had stopped a bullet.
This year, they traveled to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to present their work and up the ante on their tests.
Weir’s material was able to stop a 9 mm round, a .40 Smith Wesson round, and a .44 Magnum round — all fired at close range.
During the tests, 9 mm rounds went through most of the material’s layers before getting caught in the fiber backing. The .40 caliber round was stopped by the third layer, while the .44 Magnum round was stopped by the first layer.
The round from the .44 Magnum, which has been used to hunt elephants, is “a gigantic bullet,” Weir told Air Force Times. “This is the highest-caliber we have stopped so far.”
Because it could stop that round, the material could be certified as type 3 body armor, which is usually worn by Air Force security personnel.
The harder the bullet’s impact, the more the molecules in the material responded, yielding better resistance. “The greater the force, the greater the hardening or thickening effect,” Burke said.
“We’re very pleased,” said Jeff Owens, a senior research chemist with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s requirements, research, and development division. “We now understand more about what the important variables are, so now we’re going to go back and pick all the variables apart, optimize each one, and see if we can get up to a higher level of protection.”
The model Weir and Burke created uses 75% less fabric than standard military-style body armor.
It also has the potential for use as a protective lining on vehicles and aircraft and in tents to protect their occupants from shrapnel or gunfire.
“It’s going to make a difference for Marines in the field,” Burke said.
On the civilian side, the material could aid emergency responders in active-shooter situations.
“I don’t think it has actually set in how big this can get,” Weir said in early May. “I think this is going to take off and it’s going to be really awesome.”
While the ultimate use of the material is unclear, the US Army and Marine Corps are reportedly looking for ways lighten the body armor their personnel use.
A study by the Government Accountability Office, cited by Army Times, highlighted joint efforts to lower the weight of current body armor, which is 27 pounds on average. Including body armor, the average total weight carried by Marines is 117 pounds, while soldiers are saddled with 119 pounds, according to the report.
The Army and Marines have looked into several ways to redistribute the weight soldiers and Marines carry, including new ways to transport their gear on and around the battlefield. The GAO report also said each branch had updated its soft armor, in some cases cutting 6 to 7 pounds.
The Pentagon has approved the use of six military installations, the most recent being a National Guard base in Nebraska, for the quarantine of evacuees returning to the US from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of a novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Department of Defense approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services to quarantine up to 75 people for a period of 14 days upon their return from overseas at Camp Ashland, a Pentagon spokesman said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
Prior to that announcement, the Department of Defense approved the use of March Air Reserve Base in California for the quarantine of 195 passengers who arrived back in the US last week.
“This week,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday, “several planes carrying passengers from Wuhan China will arrive in three states. These locations are Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, NE.”
Two aircraft arrived at Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar carrying 350 passengers Wednesday morning, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The CDC said that the planes will be met by CDC teams upon their arrival. While the health statuses of the passengers were assessed before takeoff and during the flight, each passenger will undergo additional screening once they arrive in the US.
The passengers will then be quarantined for 14 days. The CDC explained that this is “intended to protect the travelers, their families, and the community.”
Silence, darkness and cold. Those were the only things surrounding the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) since she plummeted to her deep-sea grave on the sea floor two miles below the surface of the war-torn Pacific on May 8, 1942.
Until March 2018.
Like an improbable plot from one of Clive Cussler’s “NUMA Files” adventure novels, billionaire explorer Paul Allen and his own private fleet of deep-sea scientists used a remotely piloted submarine to discover the wreckage of the USS Lexington on March 4, 2018. She lies on the bottom in 10,000 feet of water about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia where she sank. Photos show her deck guns still trained at a black liquid sky waiting for phantom Japanese Zeros, Val dive bombers and Kate torpedo bombers that disappeared into antiquity decades ago.
The wreck was discovered from Paul Allen’s private research vessel, the R/V Petrel, on March 4, 2018 at about 8:00 am local time in the Pacific. Brilliant color images of the Lexington and some of her aircraft were transmitted to the surface and shared around the world over the last 24 hours.
One of the most remarkable photos shows a beautiful, colorful Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter from U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3) that was aboard the USS Lexington at Coral Sea. The aircraft wears the “Felix the Cat holding a bomb” insignia common along with four Japanese kill markings on the right side of its fuselage below the canopy. The aircraft sits with its canopy open and its beautiful blue upper wing and fuselage and gray lower surface paint livery. It is the first time anyone has seen the aircraft since she was sent to the bottom in 1942. Despite the crushing depth, corrosive seawater and decades gone by, it remains in amazingly good condition.
Researcher Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen, was quoted earlier today on Geekwire.com in a story by writer Kurt Schlosser as saying that the USS Lexington was on a priority list of ships to locate by Allen’s team.
“Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work together with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue,” Kraft said. “We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”
Underwater images and video taken by the remotely operated submersible launched from the research vessel R/V Petrel also show large deck guns on the carrier along with aircraft like the F4F Wildcat and others. The advanced submersible robot camera vehicles used by Allen’s team can submerge to a depth of nearly 20,000 feet and transmit high-resolution video and navigation data to the surface.
Allen’s team also found the fabled USS Indianapolis in 2017. The cruiser Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine after a secret mission to deliver the first atomic bomb in 1945. The terrifying ordeal of the Indianapolis survivors became famous after it was featured in a monologue by the fictional character “Quint” in the Peter Benchley novel and movie, “Jaws”.
In 2015 Paul Allen’s team also located the wreck of the Japanese mega-battleship, “Mushashi“, sister ship to the giant Yamato battleship. Mushashi and Yamato remain the largest battleships ever constructed. Both were sunk in WWII.
Significant history also surrounds the discovery of the USS Lexington making Allen’s find even more extraordinary.
The USS Lexington was the first full-sized fleet aircraft carrier to be sunk by aircraft launched from an enemy aircraft carrier in WWII. The Lexington took hits from several torpedoes and bombs launched from Japanese aircraft as it fought alongside the USS Yorktown with an opposing force of three Japanese carriers. Her deployment in the region was a critical strategic deterrent to an anticipated Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland that never came. About a year earlier the smaller Royal Navy HMS Hermes, one of the first purpose-built aircraft carriers, was sunk by Japanese dive bombers.
After the USS Lexington took multiple hits from Japanese aircraft on May 8, 1942, a massive explosion tore through her spaces at 12:47 PM. Gasoline vapor from the ruptured port aviation fuel tanks exploded. The giant explosion destroyed the ship’s main damage control station, but air operations continued despite the fires. Remarkably, all of the surviving aircraft from the morning’s strike were recovered by 2:14 PM.
Moments later at 2:42 PM another major explosion tore through the forward part of the Lexington, igniting fires below the flight deck on the hanger deck and leading to a power failure. Though assisted by three destroyers, the damage control parties were overwhelmed after a third explosion ripped through her hull at 3:25 PM. That explosion, the death blow to Lexington, cut off water pressure to the hanger deck preventing fire crews from containing the fire there. As a result, a final, enormous explosion from fuel and ammunition stored in her hold and magazines ignited an uncontrollable inferno on board.
Shortly after 3:28 PM her commander, Captain Frederick Sherman, issued the order to abandon ship. Despite multiple explosions and fires on board Lexington a remarkable 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued. Tragically, 216 were killed in the Japanese attack on the ship and in the fire-fighting efforts that followed. The USS Lexington was scuttled (purposely sunk) by several torpedoes fired from the USS Phelps to prevent her hulk from falling into Japanese hands.
The discovery of the USS Lexington wreck and the images made by Paul Allen’s research team provide a unique and invaluable insight into WWII history. This treasure of historical data would have likely remained lost forever if it weren’t for the wealthy investor’s remarkable drive for discovery and commitment to research.
The Mitsubishi X-2, Japan’s first foray into the world of 5th generation fighter aviation, took to the skies for its maiden flight just yesterday, lifting off with the traditional gear-down configuration from Nagoya Airfield, home of the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. Originally known as the ATD-X, the aircraft has been in development for over seven years, with no less than 220 domestic Japanese companies involved as program subcontractors. The flight lasted a total of 26 minutes, with the launch occurring at 0847 local time from Nagoya, and ending at 0913 local at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Gifu Airbase, escorted along the way by a Mitsubishi F-2 fighter.
The X-2 isn’t actually a fighter, however. Mitsubishi, and the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), will instead use it as a technology demonstrator and a testbed to develop and mature concepts and hardware which they’ll eventually use on an indigenous 5th generation stealth fighter, presumably also built by Mitsubishi. The design of the aircraft is fairly similar to the broad architectural layout used on the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, but lacks the dark gray radar-absorbent coating the latter jets utilize to further diminish their radar cross section (RCS).
The X-2 actually only around 46 feet in length, in comparison to the F-35 which is 51 feet long, and the F-22 which is 62 feet long. It’ll fly, for the moment, with one pilot though there seems to be space for a second cockpit behind the primary. It includes thrust-vectored IHI XF5-1 turbofan engines which use three paddles (per engine), probably to afford it a three-dimensional vectoring ability unlike the F-22’s two-dimensional vectoring capabilities. Mitsubishi will also be testing a “Self Repairing Flight Control Capability”, which will allow the aircraft’s onboard computers to detect malfunctions or damage to flight control surfaces, and accordingly adjust the the aircraft to achieve stabilized flight, at least until the aircraft can return to base.
The ultimate goal of the X-2 program is to develop a fighter that can best anything China has to throw at it, including the country’s new J-31 and J-20 fighter aircraft, which are supposedly on the same playing field as other fifth generation fighters in development today. The X-2 actually has the F-22 Raptor to thank for its origin, as the program began when Japan’s attempts to buy the Raptor for the JASDF were shot down by the US government, with a formal prohibition on foreign sales of the F-22. Japan plans on procuring the F-35 Lightning II for the JASDF as well.
The Army has had a love-hate relationship with its PT tests. It seems like every few months, soldiers catch wind of a new APFT that is definitely coming, so they should start getting ready. This has been circulating through the Private News Network for over a decade and has steadily been covered by military journalists since 2011.
While the actual events in proposed tests differ from year to year, each potential revision generally includes adding to the existing three staples (push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run) some events more consistent with the military lifestyle. They also usually change up the grading system to either being a single, unified scale for everyone in the Army or something so convoluted that no one can easily figure them out at 0530.
Also unanswered: “Is the VA cool with all of the back-problem claims they’re about to receive?”
(U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has been very open about feedback and answering soldiers’ questions about the test, as seen in an article on Army Times. Nonetheless, the ever-looming question of, “will it actually happen this time?” remains unanswered.
But at least scoring a 300 gave soldiers their very much owed bragging rights.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Seong Joon Kim)
The Army Physical Fitness Test was first introduced in 1858 at West Point and has been evolving ever since. In the 20s, it was standardized and the 40s gave us a seven-event system that was bonkers. There were minor changes made to the system until the APFT as we know it came into being in 1980.
The current test focuses on three fitness groups: upper body, core, and endurance. You are then scored according to the average performance of others of your age and gender, giving you a rough idea of how physically fit you are. The test is combined with a “tape test” to measure body fat, but this portion is often skipped if the soldier is obviously not overweight.
The main criticism of the test that’s been in place for 38 years is that it doesn’t accurately identify if a soldier is fit for combat. A scrawny 18-year old could score a 300 and still won’t be able to carry anyone else in the unit should the worst happen.
According to Army Times, here’s what the new test will look like. Note that all events are now graded on a “go/no-go” scale. From the moment the first dead-lifts start, soldiers are only allowed brief rests before moving to the next event. The entire test would take 50 minutes.
Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
Standing power throw. You’ll be required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. You’ll have three minutes to make one practice throw and two for a grade. The longest distance is recorded.
Hand-release push-ups. You lower your chest to the floor and lift your hands off the ground between each rep. You’ll be required to do the most reps in three minutes.
Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, you will go 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each repetition will include a different activity. Meaning you’ll sprint, drag a sled, run a lateral shuffle, or carry two 40-pound kettle bells, and then sprint again.
Leg tuck. You will be required to hang from a pull-up bar and, with your body parallel, pull your knees to your elbows. Do as many reps as possible within two minutes.
Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.
In the very likely scenario that this will happen (because my faith in some soldier’s intelligence is laughable) please send those photos to US Army WTF Moments.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux)
See any red flags in there? The overhaul brings about some serious concerns that have been largely avoided with the three-event test. The sit-ups are out entirely and the regular push-ups have been modified into “hand-release push-ups,” in which you must clap your hands mid-rep.
There’s an obvious risk involved in rushing a company full of soldiers through a mandatory test while instructing them to blindly throw a heavy-ass ball behind them. There’s a less obvious risk involved in requiring dead lifts. The fact is, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, an improper dead lift is going to devastate your back. There’s also the risk of soldiers slipping up on the hand-released push-ups and eating pavement — which is nothing more than funny if it doesn’t involve a trip to the dentist.
While it’s only in the hearsay-phase, if the test were to be in ACUs, it’d make things even worse.
Then there’s the cost factor. Only two of the seven events don’t require some sort of special equipment to perform. In order to keep up with the “two-minute rest” condition in the test, units are going to need to dish out a metric a*s-load of cash to buy enough equipment to test everyone. Add to that the money needed to store all that equipment when it’s not in use and the costs of keeping all the equipment in working order — the bill is starting to add up.
This is all without addressing the most polarizing aspect of the new test: it uses a single grading system for all soldiers. There’s a reason for the current grading system — it’s based off of averages for each gender and age group. Realistically speaking, a 41-year old female who’s been in the military her entire adult life would obviously not do as many push-ups as a fresh, 18-year-old football jock.
The current test compares her to women in her age group. It accurately tells the command that, yes, her 300 score means she’s kicking all of her like peers. Pitting her in a dead-lift competition against Mr. Teenage Quarterback just doesn’t make any sense.
There are many, many roadblocks ahead for an updated PT test. Since the onset, critics have been vocal and yet many problems remain unaddressed, so don’t hold your breath on this one happening by 2020 as projected. Army brass is keen on this test so, if it does happen, expect a lot of backlash, back problems, high costs, and countless classes on proper dead-lift form.
Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.
Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”
“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.
The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.
The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.
The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.
“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.
Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.
Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.
New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.
“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”
“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.
To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.
According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.
The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.
“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.
“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”
The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”
U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.
“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”
Started in August 2013, as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.
“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”
An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.
“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.
“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”
One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.
A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)
“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.
“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”
And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.
No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.
The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.
He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.
That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”
When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.
“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”
“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”
The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.