Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94 - We Are The Mighty
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Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
David Johnathan Thatcher |  Photo:  Robert Seale


Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher, one of two last surviving members of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in Missoula, Montana from complications of a stroke on June 22, 2016. He was 94.

On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was involved in the Doolittle Raid – United States’ first retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell Medium bombers, 2  aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers…and 80 brave souls – all of which had volunteered and trained for the “extremely hazardous” secret mission under the command of the famous Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Thatcher’s aircraft, nicknamed the “Ruptured Duck”, was seventh to launch (is that ok to say because I say ‘take off’ in the next sentence) and was piloted by Ted W. Lawson. The goal for all 16 bombers was to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb military targets in Japan. It was not possible to land back on the Hornet, so the plan was to continue west for a landing in China.

The mission ended up launching 170 miles further out than anticipated, and all of the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the areas in China that were not occupied by the Japanese. As was the fate of two other bombers, Thatcher and his crew were forced to ditch their plane at sea. Lawson, the Ruptured Duck’s pilot and his co-pilot were both tossed from the B-25. Miraculously, all 5 crew members survived with serious injuries, with the exception of Thatcher. After regaining consciousness, he was able to walk and helped the others survive.

Doolittle would later tell Thatcher’s parents “… all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself, day and night.”

Thatcher was one of three awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during the Doolittle Raid.

“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing the Raiders who survived.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Thatcher said: “We figured it was just another bombing mission,” only later did he realize that  “it was an important event in World War II.”

“The Doolittle Raid was a pivotal point in the war and ‘very necessary,’ said Thatcher’s son-in-law, Jeff Miller in an interview with local paper, Missoulian.  “But nobody talks about the rest of the story. These guys weren’t put on the sidelines. Too often, the story stops at the Doolittle Raiders.”

Thatcher went on to train in Tampa, Florida on B-26 bombers, and was “one of 12,000 troops to ship out of New York Harbor on the Queen Mary, which zigzagged its way across the North Atlantic to avoid detection by German U-boats. In the next several months, Thatcher flew 26 bombing missions over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. He participated in the first bombing of Rome in July 1943.”

After retiring from the military, Thatcher worked for the USPS as a Postal Clerk. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, three of their five children and seven grandchildren.

The remaining Doolittle Raider is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole – Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.

Watch:

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Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

The U.S. military has intercepted a pair of Russian bombers flying off the coast of Alaska, a Pentagon official says amid escalating tension between Moscow and Washington over a recent U.S. strike on Syria.


Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross made the announcement on April 18, saying that two US Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft had intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers within 160 kilometers of Alaska’s Kodiak Island a day earlier.

The American stealth fighters escorted the Russian long-range bombers for 12 minutes before they reversed course and headed back to their base in eastern Russia, according to the official.

Ross said the intercept was “safe and professional,” and there was no violation of U.S. airspace and any international norms.

The Pentagon spokesman noted that Russia’s TU-95s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but there was no indication that the planes were armed.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The provocative move comes at a time when the U.S. and Russia are at odds over a six-year conflict in Syria and Russia’s engagement in fight against the Daesh terrorist group (ISIL) in the Arab country.

In a recent development on April 7, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered two U.S. Navy destroyers to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield, in retaliation for a deadly chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun, which American authorities have blamed on the Syrian air force without providing any evidence.

Damascus and Moscow argue that the incident was a result of an air strike hitting a chemical depot belonging to militants fighting the Syrian government. At least 87 people were killed in the town on that day.

This is while the Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the U.S. back in 2013.

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VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

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The US Navy has minehunting ships that are terrible at finding mines

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94


The U.S. Navy has sleek new vessels called Littoral Combat Ships but they are not very good at one of their primary missions: Finding mines.

The problem stems from the ship’s Remote Minehunting System (RMS) and Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMW), an underwater drone that is supposed to seek out mines. Key phrase: supposed to.

From Vice:

“Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago,” the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE), Dr. Michael Gilmore, noted in an August 3 memo. In other words, $700 million down the drain, and there’s no way to prove it’s any less likely to break than it was a decade ago.

The system has come under harsh criticism from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The senators slammed the RMMW as unreliable and pressed the Navy to consider alternatives, which they outlined in a letter obtained by Breaking Defense.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

It looks like the Navy is taking that advice. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the service is chartering an independent review of the RMS, which will report back within 60 days.

So will the Navy figure a way out of a $700 million-dollar boondoggle? Maybe. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take the lead of the Air Force.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

To the military spouse facing infertility

This is a letter to the military spouse that started the journey to parenthood, with hope and excitement. The one thinking this would be so easy because that’s what society has led you to believe, only to still be trying one, two, three or however many heartbreaking years later. The one who has watched countless friends bring home children during this time that feels more and more discouraged.


This is a letter to the military spouse walking down the family planning aisle looking for a pregnancy test with your fingers crossed, full of anticipation, thinking this is the month that your dreams come true and you will cross the line into motherhood. For the one looking at ovulation test kits instead of pregnancy tests thinking maybe this is what will make the difference this month in your journey. You are beginning to wonder if anything can help you. Kicking yourself each month for not just buying the 50 count test kits on Amazon because you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on tests already. But still, you buy them because you still have hope that you can be a parent one day.

To the military spouse digging through the trashcan in the hopes that the positive line appeared late because it just needed more time. Maybe it was too faint for you to see the line, or the lighting was bad when you tested so you missed it. To the one that tests again, and again. Noticing every little symptom, feeling that this time it must have happened, but the test still gives you that same soul-crushing negative.

To the military spouse that ugly cries on the toilet when your period starts yet again. You really thought this was the month that it had finally happened because Aunt Flo was late. Only she showed up with a vengeance and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. Each agonizing cramp and trip to the bathroom is a constant reminder that this cycle was a total bust.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

To the military spouse that can’t listen to one more person ask, “So when are you two having kids?” or the subtle hints from family members. Each question or comment cuts you deep down inside and makes you feel even more broken. You feel like a failure because you can’t do the one thing that seems to define womanhood. The boiling anger, resentment and jealousy you feel when you see someone that wasn’t even trying or that accidentally got pregnant. That feeling that takes over that you can’t seem to define.

To the military spouse that is at another doctor’s appointment trying to find answers. Desperately looking and waiting for them to determine the cause, the reason. Answers to why this isn’t happening as it should. Praying that there is some reason and that you aren’t left without answers. Hoping that you can pop a few pills and that will do the trick. Maybe you’re moving to plan B, C or D and you are praying that this is the right combination of medications or treatments this cycle.

To the military spouse facing postponements or cancelations in treatment cycles because of deployments, PCSes or COVID-19. Wondering if you are missing your last chance. Wondering if this is the last egg you have left. Full of questions and uncertainties. Waiting for however long with anxiety and fear. Hoping with every ounce in your body that this doesn’t ruin your chances once this delay is all over. For the one that dreads having to start all over again once you are able.

To the military spouse worrying over the financial realities that come with infertility. Worrying if Tricare will cover testing. Stressing over the cost of medications that the insurance doesn’t cover. Trying to find thousands of dollars to pay for the chance at having your own family. You have a deep biological desire to carry and give birth to a child of your own. Making the hard decisions of which treatment route to go, and how many cycle attempts you make before there is no more money left in the pot. For the ones exhausted from searching for grants, loans, any program that could possibly help with the financial burden of infertility.

To the military spouse avoiding social media because it is flooded with the gut-wrenching reminder that you are childless. That each pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and newborn photoshoot you scroll past is a stab at your empty womb. Maybe you have resorted to unfollowing or even unfriending friends and family because it hurts too much to see their posts. While deep down you truly are happy for them, your feelings of jealousy, sadness and rage take over and it’s easier to not be reminded.

To the military spouse attending a baby shower that is politely smiling and limiting conversation because on the inside you are struggling. Struggling to fight back the flood of tears and overwhelming sadness. Wondering if you will ever get to experience this for yourself or if you will always be barren. Looking for the quickest route to the door or bathroom in case the flood of tears starts to stream and the last thing you want is to cause a scene.

To the military spouse that got her positive test after all the struggles and heartache to have it all ripped away. For the ones that saw a heartbeat and thought they were in the clear this time. Or you thought this time it would be different, that this time you wouldn’t miscarry, but then everything came crashing down around you. Maybe you only know the devastating realities of pregnancy loss and long to be the one that experiences the joys of bringing home a child.

To the military spouse that feels alone, broken, weary, or even depressed: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. For the one that feels all these and more month after month, or year after year. To the one that has days where getting out of bed feels impossible. For the one that can’t face the world or function for days at a time. Let me say it again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. One in 8 couples face the same problems with infertility.

To the military spouse facing infertility: This does not define you. This is not who you are. This is not your fault. Your worth is not any less, nor does it make you any less of a woman. This is not a measure of your success. You are not broken or damaged. You are strong. The pain you feel is real and it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And it is okay for you to talk about it. Be a voice and share your story so others can see that they are not alone. You get to decide on your journey, just know that there is a whole military spouse community right here with you to support and encourage you because you are not alone and it is okay to talk about it.

April is Infertility Awareness Month and this is National Infertility Awareness Week. For resources about infertility, please visit: https://infertilityawareness.org/. And from our hearts to yours: You are not alone.

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‘Missing Man’ honored after going MIA in Vietnam

Thundering jets above Colorado Springs the morning of May 9 bid a final farewell to a native son who went missing 48 years ago on a mission to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


It was a sound that Capt. Roger Helwig loved. Helwig, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Colorado Springs, was a free spirit known for meticulous honesty oddly melded with a wild streak that drove him to seek adventure in the sky.

“He was a tremendous guy,” said retired Maj. Jack Schnurr, a flight school friend, after an Air Force Academy memorial for the captain.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Helwig loved the F-4 Phantom and new bride Carol in what some joking called equal measures when he flew off for his second tour in Vietnam in 1969.

“He didn’t have to be there,” Schnurr said. “He volunteered to go back.”

On his first tour overseas, Helwig flew in the second seat of the F-4, running the plane’s weapons systems and electronics as a GIB, the military acronym for “guy in back.”

After he came home, Helwig got more flight training and headed back to war as the guy in front.

He was a forward air controller, one of the legendary “fast-FACs” who ranged far and wide over Southeast Asia spotting targets for troops on the ground.

During his final flight, Helwig and Capt. Roger Stearns were 10 miles west of Vietnam on a mission to stop the flow of arms and troops that fueled the Viet Cong insurgency. Flights against targets in neutral Laos, though, were something the Air Force avoided discussing in public.

Also read: The last US troops killed in the Vietnam War actually died two years after it ended

Records say the two had just bombed a target, and the jet was trailing a mist of fuel before it exploded. Searchers later found shredded parachutes and the remains of a life raft, but they didn’t find Helwig or Stearns.

In 1990, a Defense Department team returned to the crash site and found Stearns’ remains. Helwig stayed missing until last summer.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Dog tags are primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded service members. (Photo: U.S. Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal)

His widow got a visit from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August. Searchers had found a tiny talisman at the jungle site: Helwig’s dog tag.

“It was surreal when I held that in the palm of my hand,” Carol said May 9. “It was as if I was reliving the past.”

Dozens gathered at the academy May 9 to relive the past with her and tell stories about the 26-year-old pilot.

Lt. Col. Mike Newton, a chaplain, told mourners they need to remember Helwig’s courage.

“I have no idea what it took to fly 100 missions in Vietnam, each one of them harrowing,” Newton said. “But he strapped it on every time.”

Carol remembered the kind but kind of crazy young man she met when he was riding his motorcycle from Arizona to Washington, D.C.

She knew she was competing with a twin-engined jet for Helwig’s affection.

“He loved flying,” she said.

Helwig left no children to mourn him, but a wide array of friends came to the Air Force Academy cemetery to remember.

The academy supplied an honor guard, rifle team, and a bugler to play taps.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
The 24 notes of Taps lay heroes to rest. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

Air Combat Command offered up four F-15 Eagle fighters to blaze overhead in the missing man formation.

Carol supplied her own touch. Bells played a last waltz for the man she loved — the theme song of Doctor Zhivago, the first film they had seen together.

And as the bells played, quiet voices whispered the song’s tale of love long lost but reclaimed.

“Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing. Although the snow covers the hope of spring.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

New insight to ISIS found in a fighter’s captured diary

A notebook written in English that may have belonged to an ISIS fighter was reportedly found in a jail in Raqqa, according to the National, which exclusively obtained the notebook from an unnamed source.

The notebook reportedly details the inner workings of the militant group, including their future plans, military shortcomings, and issues foreign fighters faced within the group.


According to pictures of the purported notebook provided by the National, the pages appear to be written in English by one author who used American spelling of words and numbers. A second author wrote in French, and Arabic was used in some of the text as well.

The author details ISIS’s core strategies for maintaining control in the region.

On one page, the author describes how to prevent defectors from leaving ISIS territory: “We should push civilians who want to flee to our centers of gravity in Mosul and Raqqa.” The author added: “The enemy might try to break our control over an area and allow civilians to escape.”

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Hidden camera footage of what life was like under ISIS control in Raqqa.

The notebook describes a solution, written in large letters “THE BIG SOLUTION” which explains that ISIS should not use “conventional military power against a much stronger foe,” and suggests the group focus on “insurgency” until their “political situation allows for a more conventional approach.”

Another page compares several types of guns and their cost in dollars using hand drawn pictures.

The author also discusses expanding efforts to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. A page reportedly questions: “How to make Saudi like Syria? Can we get people to hate Their [sic] rulers?”

The author continues: “Mecca and Medina are a priority for the [caliphate] to actually influence world Muslims. But to get there we need to destabilize Al-Saud. Direct action against Al-Saud from Iraq will likely fail militarily and attract US ground troops so the best way to do this is internally, with the support for Yemen and Iraq.”

The writings also appear to show that ISIS fighters kept up with international news, and often monitored global political cycles.

The author offers suggestions on how to pull “the USA to another major war to exhaust its economy.” The writer also extensively followed the US presidential elections, and said key decisions would depend on US political action.

“The US decisions are very important, and they depend on the Presidential elections.”

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“However, if democrats lose, a Republican administration would be more likely to bring US boots on the ground, and cooperation with Iran will likely stop,” the author reportedly wrote.

The journal also reportedly layed out a strategy for confronting the US on the battlefield: “Fighting the USA might be more dangerous militarily, but it will grant IS respect in muslim [sic] eyes.”

The notebook also reveals the innermost thoughts of what appears to have been a foreign ISIS fighter. At the bottom of a page detailing “important” military issues “to study,” the author asks himself: “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? How did I reach this place?”

According to the report, the author bemoans several limitations within the group, including lack of training time to militant fighters and notes there were “problems created by different languages.”

Associate Professor at the Naval War College Monterey, Dr. Craig Whiteside, told the National that there were notable similarities between the strategies laid out in the book and the strategies taught in western military training.

“The author has studied topics we study in a war college, such as the differences between policy and strategy.”

“If this is a foreign fighter, not studying their own country for military facilities but instead learning about Iraq and Syria, the goal is to encourage them to stay,” he added.

Figures from October 2017 show more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries flocked to Syria and Iraq after its establishment in 2014. Reports indicate that roughly 129 US nationals joined the caliphate. Of those foreign fighters, at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Littoral Combat Ship will use an advanced AI warfare network

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.

The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber harden its growing ship-bast ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services.


CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.

“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”

Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Pre-Installation Test and Check Out technicians Diana Burnside and Arnel Franswells perform acceptance testing on Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services racks in SPAWAR’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility.
(U.S. Navy photo)

“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomolous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time — such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters and drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems — the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope, and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers, and computing functions.

“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.

Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase on-board automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.

Along these lines, Navy engineers recently competed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.

“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.

The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyberattacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.

“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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Afghan ambassador honors fallen special operators

Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States paid a special visit to Fort Bragg on Thursday to pay respects to Army special operations forces killed while fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups.


Hamdullah Mohib, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, joined Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo in placing a wreath at a memorial wall outside the U.S. Army Special Operations Command headquarters.

Tovo is the commanding general of USASOC.

Mohib, who served as deputy chief of staff to the president of Afghanistan before being appointed ambassador to the U.S., also spoke with soldiers who have served or will soon deploy to Afghanistan.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
U.S. Special Operations Memorial Wall at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Marcus Butler, USASOC Public Affairs)

The memorial wall, located on Meadows Memorial Parade Field, lists the names of more than 1,200 special operations soldiers who have died in conflicts dating to the Korean War. More than 330 of the names have been added since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At least four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, all of them belonging to USASOC units.

The latest losses were last month, when Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, both part of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were killed in southern Nangarhar province.

Mohib, who is based in Washington, was a special guest of Maj. Gen. James B. Linder.

Linder relinquished command of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School during a ceremony Thursday morning. He’ll next serve as commander of the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan and Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan.

Officials said Mohib’s presence highlighted the strong ties between Afghanistan and Army special operations.

“Since 2001, the men and women of U.S. Army Special Operations Command have been on continuous rotations in and out of Afghanistan,” Linder said. “Our soldiers have formed enduring friendships with our Afghan commandos and special forces partners. We have cemented a brotherhood through blood, sweat and sacrifice.”

Fort Bragg soldiers have historically played a key role in the 16-year war in Afghanistan. Local troops have been continuously deployed to the country since the earliest days of the war.

And last month, the Army announced that 1,500 paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division would soon deploy to the country.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.

According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.

At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.


The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.

“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.

Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”

Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

An S-400 radar unit.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.

Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”

Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.

But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.

The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”

“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.

In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.

An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.

The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.

The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.

In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.

But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.

India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.

And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.

“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens if the US pulls out of the INF treaty

Experts and analysts are struggling to grasp the implications of the growing likelihood that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. As U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton holds talks on the matter with counterparts in Moscow, RFE/RL takes a look at some of the more interesting reactions.


Political ploy?

While most Russian analysts have been slow to comment, state media in Russia have been putting forward the notion that U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements against the INF Treaty are not to be taken at face value.

The state RIA Novosti news agency quoted an unidentified “diplomatic source” in Brussels as saying Trump’s statement has “an election context.”

“Just days before the elections to Congress, he wants to show his electorate that he can make decisions that will upset the president of Russia,” the source was quoted as saying.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

The pro-Kremlin tabloid website Argumenty Nedeli quoted an unidentified “high-ranking Russian diplomatic-military source” as saying that Trump’s statement was a ploy to get the upper hand in talks with Russia on nuclear issues.

“The business president is simply raising the stakes before negotiations like he always does,” the source said. “Now a banal exchange of concessions both by us and by the Americans will begin.”

Thomas Graham, former specialist on Russia for the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, told the daily Kommersant that the withdrawal indications could just mean that Bolton, who has long opposed any arms-control treaties with Russia, has caught the president’s ear.

“Only time will tell if this decision is final,” he said. “In the administration there are high-ranking figures who support the treaty and who would like to continue working with Russia to regulate contentious issues.”

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

National Security Advisor John Bolton

(U.S. Embassy in Ukraine)

Russian violation?


Since 2014, the United States has argued that Russia has been in violation of the INF Treaty because it is developing an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile that is provisionally known as the 9M729. The Trump administration said in 2017 that Moscow had begun deploying the new weapon.

Russia has denied that it was violating the treaty and has countercharged that some elements of a U.S. antimissile system in Europe violate it.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Russia fires an Iskander-K ballistic missile during Zapad 2017 drills. The 9M729 is said to be a variant of this missile.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Writing for the Brookings Institution, former high-ranking U.S. diplomat Steven Pifer has argued that unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement in this way would be a mistake that would leave Washington to blame for killing a major element of global arms control.

Withdrawing from the treaty would also enable Moscow to deploy the 9M729 without any restraints, Pifer added. It could also further the erosion of U.S. relations with its allies in Europe, he said, noting that no European countries have expressed concerns over the 9M729.

Pifer concludes that a smarter approach would be to get on one page with Europe and urge NATO allies to raise the possible violation directly with Moscow. At the same time, Washington could take “treaty compliant” steps such as deploying additional bombers in Europe that would send a serious signal to Russia.

“The INF Treaty likely has entered its final days,” Pifer wrote. “That’s unfortunate. The Trump administration should make one last push, with the help of allies, to get Moscow back into compliance. And, if that fails, it should have ready a presentation that will win the inevitable fight over who killed the treaty.”

Demonstrating Russia’s alleged violations would probably require the United States to declassify some sensitive intelligence information, Pifer noted.

Stephen Sestanovich, a former U.S. National Security Council senior director for policy development under Reagan, writing in The American Interest, largely agreed with Pifer, saying that keeping the treaty is important because it “keeps Russian capabilities under legal limits.”

“Yes, Moscow will probably keep nibbling at the edges of the INF deal, but the only way it can launch a big buildup is by withdrawing from the treaty itself — something it clearly hesitates to do,” he wrote.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

A missile test in China in August, 2018.

(Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China)

China gambit

Sestanovich notes that U.S. military planners are concerned about the INF Treaty because it restricts Russia and the United States but leaves China free to develop the weapons it bans.

“Military competition between China and the United States will obviously be the Pentagon’s top priority in coming years,” he wrote. “But the idea that this need decisively devalues the INF Treaty seems — at the very least — premature.”

He says that for the foreseeable future, the United States and its allies deter China with a combination of air- and sea-launched weapons.

“It’s not impossible to imagine that over time we and our allies will come to think that medium-range, ground-based missiles — the kind the INF Treaty keeps us from having — would add meaningfully to deterrence of China,” he wrote. “But this is not a near-term prospect. In fact, virtually every U.S. ally in the region would reject the idea.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

17 Photos That Show Why Troops Absolutely Love The .50 Caliber Machine Gun

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.


Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.

Here’s why:

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

… to the rails of U.S. Navy ships.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Of course, two is better than one.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Before they can fire it, soldiers usually learn how to disassemble, assemble, and adjust headspace and timing — tweaks made to the gun that allow it to fire safely. (The U.S. Army upgraded a number of their .50 cals to the M2A1, which doesn’t require headspace & timing adjustments).

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.

Second-to-last surviving Doolittle Raider dies at 94

Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.

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