This small country has become key to Pacific struggles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

China’s growing presence in the Pacific and Indian oceans has its neighbors on guard, and their competition for influence has recently kept Sri Lanka’s capital and port city of Colombo busy.

On Oct. 1, 2018, a day after Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier Kaga, the country’s largest warship, and destroyer Inazuma sailed into Colombo, the ships’ commanding officers and the commander of Japan’s escort flotilla four, Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda, met with the head of the Sri Lankan navy, sharing “views on matters of bilateral importance.”


“Japan’s government is promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and this deployment in the Asia Pacific is a component of that strategy,” Fukuda told Reuters as his ships sailed to Sri Lanka. Japanese naval vessels have stopped in Sri Lanka 50 times over the past five years, he said.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome Japanese navy ships Kaga and Inazuma in Colombo, Sept. 30, 2018.

(Sri Lanka navy photo)

On Oct. 4, 2018, the same day the JMSDF ships departed, Chinese navy ship Hai Yangdao arrived for a four-day “goodwill visit,” according to Sri Lanka’s navy, which said the Chinese ship’s skipper and the commander of Sri Lanka’s western naval area “held a cordial discussion on matters of mutual interest.”

Sri Lanka sits not far from shipping lines through the Indian Ocean that carry much of the world’s container traffic and the majority of China’s energy imports. Its location has made it an area of interest for countries throughout the region.

Chinese assistance to the country has grown over the past decade, after the US ended direct military aid over Sri Lanka’s poor human-rights record. Earlier this year, China said it would give Sri Lanka a naval frigate as a gift.

That relationship has become more of a concern for India, Japan, and others in recent years, especially after Sri Lanka granted China control of the port of Hambantota for 99 years in 2017.

India in particular is worried Beijing will use the port for military purposes — China and Sri Lanka both deny that will happen — and to augment the presence it has elsewhere in the region, including at a port in Pakistan and a military outpost in Djibouti.

New Delhi has watched warily as Chinese submarines and other warships have passed through the area over the past several years. India’s security posture has undergone what has been called “a tectonic shift” toward the country’s southern approaches in recent years.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Sri Lankan navy ships SLNS Sagara, an offshore patrol ship, and SLNS Suranimala, a missile ship, both left Colombo on their way to India for a four-day goodwill visit that was to include training exercises.

Japan has also sought a larger role in the Indian Ocean region. Tokyo has expanded security partnerships and plans to spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects there — ambitions that rival China’s.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Kaga helicopter carrier.

The arrival of Kaga was purportedly meant as a sign to Sri Lanka that Japan was willing to deploy major military assets to an area of the world where China’s influence is growing.

After the Kaga’s departure, Japan’s navy was to begin four days of joint exercises with Sri Lanka’s navy in the Indian Ocean meant to strengthen cooperation between the two forces. Sources told The Japan Times that it was also meant as a message to China, though a MSDF said no specific country as being targeted.

As a part of the exercise, Sri Lankan officers will board the Kaga to observe Japanese training and to exchange information on humanitarian operations. (Officers from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet are also on hand.)

“It’s rare for the MSDF to allow military officials of other countries to board any of its vessels during an exercise at sea,” a public-relations official of the Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office told The Japan Times.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

Sri Lanka navy personnel welcome the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy, April 25, 2018.

(Sri Lanka navy photo)

Since the 2015 electoral defeat of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who presided over a number of questionable deals with China, the US has also looked for ways to rebuild ties with Colombo.

Washington, along with Tokyo and New Delhi, has reportedly taken an interest in the port of Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast as a way to counter China’s presence at Hambantota and around the region.

Trincomalee saw a visit by the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy in April 2018, and in August 2018 — a few weeks after Sri Lanka took part in the US-led Rim of the Pacific military exercise for the first time — the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage pulled into Trincomalee with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for a security cooperation exercise. (Such exercises have been done before.)

August 2018 also saw a visit to Sri Lanka by Japan’s defense minister, who stopped in Trincomalee and Hambantota. That visit came a few months after the Japanese foreign minister visited for the first time in 16 years.

“The message to China is that Japan, with India and the United States and of course Sri Lanka, has the capacity to engage militarily,” Nozomu Yoshitomi, a professor at Nihon University and a former Ground Self Defence Force major general who advised the Japanese cabinet, told Reuters in October 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin made a huge power play at Trump’s expense

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invent being late, but he may have perfected it as a power play and means of communication, as US President Donald Trump most likely found out on July 16, 2018, before the pair’s summit in Helsinki.

Putin kept Trump waiting in a guest house for nearly one hour past his planned departure time, Politico’s Annie Karni reported from Helsinki. Putin took off from Russia and landed in nearby Helsinki at 1 p.m., just 10 minutes before the summit was scheduled to start.


While Trump’s tour of Europe has had its share of blown deadlines, skipped meetings, and late arrivals — including, notably, keeping Queen Elizabeth II waiting in a viral video — he’s no match for Putin’s tardiness.

Jonathan Eyal, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that “certainly for Putin, it is part of a power play” to keep Trump waiting.

“There is no question that it’s a political message,” Eyal added.

Putin once made German Chancellor Angela Merkel wait for four hours, and he usually keeps the president or prime minister of Ukraine waiting for three hours, Eyal said.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving in Finland.

“Putin seems to have a very healthy respect for monarchs,” Eyal said. “The British queen, he was only late for her for 14 minutes. The king of Spain he only kept waiting for 20 minutes.”

He added: “On the whole, it’s a sort of graduated thing that indicates more or less how seriously he takes you or how pleased he is with you.”

In fact, Putin is so consistently late that making someone wait only an hour is a form of praise, Eyal said.

“I think that this is a backhanded compliment,” he said. “Usually he could go two or three hours. The only person that was exempt from the delay was the pope.”

For Trump, who also tends to go by his own schedule, Putin may have bested him by showing up even later.

“There must have been some calculation from both sides about how much they keep each other waiting,” Eyal said.

For Trump, showing up a little late is “quite clever footwork,” according to Eyal, but “this time he might have met his match.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Victims of the 1983 Beirut bombing will finally be compensated

A federal judge has awarded a $920 million judgment to 80 victims of the 1983 bombing of a Beirut USMC barracks. The judgment is against the government of Iran for supporting Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for the bombing.


This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Wreckage and remains — USMC barracks, Beirut, 1983 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Cohen Milstein Sellers Toll PLLC, a national plaintiffs’ law firm, filed the lawsuit in 2014, suing Iran on behalf of the victims of the attack. While foreign nations are normally granted sovereign immunity from US lawsuits, Cohen Milstein argued that compensation is due under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows citizens to sue foreign countries if they are victims of state-sponsored terror. Cohen Milstein argued that Hezbollah perpetrated the attack at the direction and with the support of Iran.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the judgment after Iran failed to respond to the lawsuit, awarding roughly $207.2 million in compensatory damages and $712.8 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff group made up of service members injured in the Beirut attack and the estates and family members of those who perished.

The memory of the 1983 USMC barracks bombing in Beirut, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US military history, has surely been eclipsed in the minds of the American public by the horrors of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent drumbeat of terrorist bombings that underscores the Global War on Terror.  At the time, the Beirut bombing was considered by the FBI to be the largest car bomb attack ever and the largest non-nuclear detonation since WWII, but it’s likely that neither designation still applies.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Vice President George H.W. Bush tours the bomb site, led by Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, for the families of the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers who lost their lives in the attack, the day still lives in infamy. Though Iran isn’t participating in the suit, the judgement gives the plaintiffs access to restitution from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was set up to provide compensation to the 53 Americans who were held captive for 444 days at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 – 1980, but was expected to extend to other victims of state-sponsored terror.

Several more lawsuits against Iran are ongoing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just brought 2 NASA astronauts back to Earth in its Crew Dragon spaceship, kicking off ‘the next era in human spaceflight’

SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.

On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.


Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they’d spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth’s atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown.

Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.

“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”

“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.

With Demo-2’s completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA’s ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars.

“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.

“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.

The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.

“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.

He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”

In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut’s return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule).

“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.

“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.

American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil

Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.

During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.

Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million (not including NASA’s .7 billion in funding), according to NASA’s inspector general.

Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).

Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.

With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.

“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”

giant.gfycat.com

In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.

“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)

Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars

With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.

The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

There’s even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS.

But Musk’s primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet.

NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.

Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.

“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.

‘I doubted us, too’

During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.

“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.

He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”

Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”

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

Articles

The best martial arts for self defense, according to a SEAL

When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.


When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Willink discusses martial arts. (Youtube Screenshot)

“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”

Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?

Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt Andre Galvao demonstrating a full-mount grappling position at the 2008 World Jujitsu Championship. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.

He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.

Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

The SR-71 Blackbird was developed by Lockheed Martin as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds over Mach 3.2 ( 2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet.


In March 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan. With the Vietnam war in full swing, the intent was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy. The crew would fly daily missions into sensitive areas where one slight mishap could spark an international incident.

Related: Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

After climbing to 60,000 feet, the crew switched off its communication system so that only a select few would know the mission’s target. The aircraft didn’t always rely on its speed for defense; it was equipped with a jammer that would interrupt the enemy’s communication between the radar site and the missile itself.

On occasion, the enemy would fire missiles without radar guidance, which would sometimes get so close that the pilots could spot the passing missiles 150-yards away from inside the cockpit.

When reaching its target area, The SR-71’s RSO (reconnaissance systems officer) would engage the high-tech surveillance equipment consisting of six different cameras mounted throughout various locations on the Blackbird.

The system could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour, with images so clear analysts could see a car’s license plate.

With so many successful missions, enemy nations did their best to blow the SR-71 Blackbird right out of the skies. Five countries attempted that near impossible feat.

Also Read: These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOjEeGY4QCM
(The Joint Forces Forces Channel, YouTube)
popular

8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

Typically, the role of “Doc” in the convoy is as a passenger. While remaining alert and attentive, I also felt that I needed to keep my unit motivated and focused while they did their various jobs.


I took the task very seriously by acting as the Convoy DJ, playing the greatest hits for combat effectiveness!

Whether you cue up your own playlist for leaving the wire or DJ for the entire crew, stepping off is always better with an anthem.

Here are 8 tracks to help “kick the tires and light the fires.”

1. AC/DC — Highway to Hell

No convoy playlist is complete without a track from these rock Gods ripping through the airwaves. AC/DC has plenty of great hits to choose from, however, this song really says exactly how I felt about the roads we traveled in Iraq.

(acdcVEVO | YouTube)

2. Rage Against The Machine — Testify

The swirling guitar driving into the heavy drums plus de la Rocha’s rapid fire lyrics will surely stoke the fire inside any warrior heading outside the wire.

(RATMVEVO | YouTube)

3. Outkast — B.O.B

Perhaps it’s a little on the nose, but if you deployed to Iraq this song needs no explanation. All other lyrics aside, you can’t pass on a track with the refrain, “Bombs over Baghdad!” to really pump up that mission essential adrenaline.

(OutKastVideoVault | YouTube)

4. Jimi Hendrix — All Along the Watchtower

It’s been said that the Vietnam-Era warriors got the all the best music.

I could probably argue that point, but it goes without saying that this is simply one of the greatest war anthems ever.

When you’re down range and you hear that guitar shred into Jimi’s first verse (“There must be some kind of way outta here…”) something just feels right in the world.

(JimiHendrixVEVO | YouTube)

Also Read: This circus song was supposed to be a badass military marching theme

5. The White Stripes — Seven Nation Army

This song is your quintessential war drum, an accompaniment for heading right out the gate and into battle.

6. Cage the Elephant — Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

The bluesy slide of the guitar and Matt Shultz’s rhythmic verses reminds us that “we can’t slow down and we can’t hold back,” especially outside the wire.

7. System of a Down — Chop Suey!

Playing this heart pounding high paced rock anthem really kicks the team into high gear. Some songs are all about instrumentation; Chop Suey! is definitely one of those kinds of jams.

(systemofadownVEVO | YouTube)

8. Godsmack — Awake

You’ve got F/18s launching from an aircraft carrier, Navy SEALs on fast boats, guys jumping out of a helicopter into the surf — now add a wailing guitar riff and a pulsating drum beat and you have the ingredients for a Navy commercial that almost had me signing up for another 10 years.

You’ve also got an epic anthem to keep the troops pumped on those exceptionally long convoys.

(GodsmackVEVO | YouTube)Even if you’re no longer jocking up and taking the wheel of some Mad Max-esque war machine to go spread freedom and democracy around the world, you can still rock out to these amazing songs.

Every convoy needs some musical motivation. Whether you’re taking the kiddos to school, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive or simply heading into the office for another day of crushing it, cue up this playlist and have an epic journey.

Articles

ISIS just suffered a major defeat in Iraq

Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.


Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.

“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.

Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.

Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.

A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.

Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.

“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”

Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.

IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.

Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Photo from DoD.

The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.

A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.

“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new VA secretary nominee is against privatization

Robert Wilkie, President Donald Trump’s’ nominee to become the next VA Secretary, said June 27, 2018, that he was against “privatization” of VA health care and would work to break the bureaucratic logjams on wait times and benefits appeals.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Wilkie also rejected allegations that he supported “racially divisive” issues in his private life and in his past work as a staffer for conservative senators.


Wilkie said he had previously attended events of the Sons of Confederate Veterans involving the display of Confederate flags but said he “stopped doing any of those thing at a time when that issue became divisive.”

He said that former President Barack Obama had sent a wreath to a Southern heritage event, an episode noted in a Washington Post report.

Wilkie also dispute the charge that in the 1990s he marked up draft legislation calling for young women to finish high school before they qualified for welfare.

Wilkie, who was working at the time for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Lott and other staffers made changes in the legislation.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles
Trent Lott, Senator from Mississippi.

When asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, whether he believed women should have to graduate from high school to receive government benefits, Wilkie said, “that would never enter my mind.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Wilkie he expected his nomination to be confirmed, but added that Wilkie had worked for a “very racially divisive senator,” meaning the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.

“[And] you were appointed to this job by a very racially divisive president,” Brown said.

In his opening statement, Wilkie said that there were no excuses for failing to address the VA’s problems after Congress gave the department nearly $200 billion in funding and passed the VA Mission Act to overhaul and consolidate the VA Choice Program on private health care options for veterans.

Wilkie said he favored private and community care when the VA could not meet the needs of the veteran, but added that he was opposed to privatization and would keep the Veterans Health Administration fully funded.

If confirmed, Wilkie said his goal would be to make the VA more “agile and adaptive” to meet the needs of a changing veterans population.

“It is clear that the veterans population is changing faster than we realize,” he said. “For the first time in 40 years, half of our veterans are under the age of 65. Of America’s 20 million veterans, 10 percent are now women. The new generation is computer savvy and demands 21st Century service — service that is quick, diverse and close to home.”

Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, had been undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness when he was moved over to the VA in March 2018 as acting Secretary after Trump ousted then-VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Exciting new technology improves veteran access to emergency care

Emergency stroke care for veterans continues to improve thanks to the expansion of VA’s National Telestroke Program, one of the first nationwide telestroke programs in the world.

The program was launched in 2017 to improve veteran access to stroke specialists.

“In just two short years, the VA National Telestroke Program has grown to provide acute stroke services in over 30 VA medical centers from coast to coast,” said Dr. Glenn Graham, VHA Deputy National Director of Neurology. “We’ve built an extraordinary team of over 20 stroke neurologists across the United States, united in their passion to improve the care of veterans in the first hours after stroke.


“We’ve developed new technological tools dedicated to the task, such as the Code Stroke mobile app, and have improved the consistency and quality of stroke care in VHA nationally.”

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. When it comes to stroke, time is brain! During a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute. Delaying treatment one-hour ages the brain 10 years.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

Telestroke go-live training at the Las Vegas VA Medical Center.

Treatment of stroke with a clot-busting drug reverses the effects of a stroke and reduces long-term disability. Having a stroke neurologist readily available to guide treatment improves outcomes for stroke patients. However, emergency access to a stroke neurologist 24/7/365 is often limited. Telestroke solves this problem by using technology to bring a stroke neurologist to a patient’s bedside anywhere in the country in seconds.

In minutes, stroke victim talking to neurologist via video

The VA program uses an innovative approach to providing services by using low-cost, highly-reliable commercial technology: iPads. When a patient has stroke symptoms, the telestroke neurologist initiates a FaceTime video call to the iPad at the patient’s bedside and has a live conversation with the patient, caregiver, and on-site providers. The neurologist examines the patient, reviews the medical record, and guides treatment.

In the first two years of operation, the program has conducted over 1,000 emergency consults and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Specialty doctors, really good ones, are not able to be in every place at every time. We had a way to connect the doctor with me when I needed it,” said one veteran.

The program has attracted stroke neurologists from around the country. “It’s the ability to serve veterans in a new way and to serve veterans that otherwise wouldn’t get that care, bringing a new service to those areas. It’s been really gratifying,” said a VA telestroke neurologist.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

VA doctor survives stroke with help of VA Telestroke program he helped put in place.

The reach of the program will extend beyond VA with the upcoming worldwide release of the Code Stroke App. The VA-developed app scheduled for release this summer will be free to users worldwide. The app is designed to be used during a stroke code to reduce time-to-treatment by providing real-time information to all team members regardless of location.

“The Code Stroke app focuses on accelerating the episode of acute care by organizing and managing the repetitive aspects of care while providing decision support, structured interaction between neurologist and ICU/ER staff, and automatic documentation,” said William Cerniuk, Director of VA’s Mobile Program.

Need for quick expert decision is critical

“While our initial focus was on small, rural VA medical centers with little or no specialty care in neurology, it is clear that even large, urban VA hospitals can benefit from participating in the VA Telestroke Program,” said Dr. Graham. “This is really no surprise, as with the increase in stroke treatment options, the need for expert decision making at the bedside and without delay is greater than ever. I can imagine a time when all VAs not having a resident or attending neurologists in the hospital at all times will use telestroke to fill these gaps. There is much exciting room for growth, and much important work to be done.”

Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone you are with shows any signs of a stroke, such as the abrupt onset of weakness, numbness, vision loss, difficulty speaking or understanding, or loss of coordination. Act FAST!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing has a plan to turn the B-1B into a supersonic gunship

In the fast-moving world of defense technology, it pays for contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing to stay on top of Uncle Sam’s spending habits. If you can accurately predict how the government will be looking to spend its massive defense budgets, you can position yourself well to secure tomorrow’s contracts with just a little bit of leg work today–and over the past few years, few have managed to do so as effectively as Boeing.


With so much money being funneled toward stealth and hypersonic platforms over at Lockheed Martin, Boeing has adopted a different angle in its pursuit of tax dollars: leaning into America’s recent love affair with revamping aging platforms for continued use. Instead of offering up costly, all-new aircraft to the Pentagon, Boeing has focused on finding cost-effective ways to keep existing platforms relevant. This effort is not only responsible for the new slew of updated F-15EXs expected to begin production in 2020, but also the sweeping upgrades to the Navy’s Super Hornets that are so substantial, some have taken to calling the Block III version of the fighter, “Super Duper Hornets.”

It’s almost certain that same mindset led Boeing to secure a patent last May that would turn America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber into the world’s fastest gunship.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

With a top speed of Mach 1.2, the Bone would make for one quick cannon-carrier

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)

The B-1B Lancer had a tumultuous start, with the program canceled and revived twice over the span of four sitting presidents only to finally make it into production just in time to see its nuclear delivery mission sidelined by the fall of the Soviet Union. The fighter-like bomber would have to undergo yet another technical shift, converting it into a conventional payload bomber following America’s signing of the START treaty in 1995, before the “Bone” (as aircrews took to calling it) would find its way into the fight. Now, however, with the next generation B-21 Raider slated to enter service in the coming decade, the B-1B has been set to enter retirement just as soon as there are enough new bombers to replace it.

That is, unless Boeing has something to do with it. The patent they secured last year included a number of different cannon options to be added to the swing-wing bomber ranging in size from 25mm to 40mm. Some design options involve opening the bomb-bay doors to reveal the cannon, others have cannons unfolding from the belly of the beast, but the intent is the same in either regard: creating a supersonic platform that can deliver firepower like the legendary AC-130U Spooky Gunship and still outrun whatever trouble may be headed its way.

Deadly AC-130 Gunship in Action Firing All Its Cannons

youtu.be

The Bone’s speed and advanced terrain following flight systems would allow it to fly in contested airspace with minimal detection, something an AC-130 can’t do, and its massive fuel stores and payload capacity mean it could loiter for hours over a target and deliver thousands of pounds of guided bombs between cannon volleys.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the B-1B Gunship concept. Thanks to the swing-wing design, the B-1B may have a lower stall speed than you might find in some other supersonic platforms, but it still seems unlikely that the aircraft can fly slow enough to reliably use a cannon in close air support missions. The B-1B’s biggest proposed cannon, at 40mm, is tiny compared to the 105mm cannon fired from the Spooky Gunship — though that concern could be mitigated by the B-1B’s ability to drop highly accurate ordnance in combination with the hypothetical cannons.

This small country has become key to Pacific struggles

One of the designs includes a cannon that would lower from the Lancer’s belly, while others would rely on opening the bomb bay doors.

(U.S. Patent Office)

The Bone would also be a costly replacement for the much slower AC-130U, to the tune of about ,000 more per flight hour, though one could argue that if they found a way to use the cannon effectively in the B-1B, it would broaden the options for commanders in the field enough to warrant the cost. Because the AC-130U tops out at around 300 miles per hour and is too big to miss with many anti-aircraft weapons, they tend to be used only in nighttime operations in lightly contested or utterly uncontested airspace. The B-1B, on the other hand, could fly close air support missions in far more threatening environments.

Will this concept ever make it off of paper and into American hangars? Well, it’s tough to say. Securing a patent doesn’t mean Uncle Sam is interested in what they’re selling — but having it means it’s always an option on the table, and as the B-1 continues to find new uses in the forms of new anti-ship and stealthy cruise missile armaments, the Air Force may find reason to invest new money in the B-1s future after all. Who knows what the wars of the future might bring.

Humor

9 weapon fails that will make you shake your head

Shooting a weapon is an incredible experience that you never forget. Squeezing that trigger can make any gun owner smile from ear-to-ear.


On the other hand, many gun owners have no freakin’ clue how to hold the weapon and accurately fire it at a target without getting hurt.

Properly handling weapons is not that hard, but for some reason, lots of people just don’t get it. They forget the first rule: safety is key.

There are safety rules put in place for a reason, but countless people throughout the globe treat their weapons as if they were toys — and many end up having accidents in the process.

Related: This is the upgrade M2 Browning fans have been waiting for

1. We wish all enemy forces were a dumb as this guy.

How long have we been at war with these guys? (Image via Giphy)

2. And the award for best shooting position goes to…

We call this is the “rock squat.” (Image via Giphy)

3. What an excellent way to hold a rifle.

We are curious what the hell he was aiming at. (Image via Giphy)

4. He should have worn cargo pants.

At least he was wearing underwear. (Image via Giphy)

5. A good reason why it’s important to properly stow all of your weapons safely.

Everyone is a badass until shit gets real. (Image via Giphy)

6. Pointing your weapon down range is one of the most important aspects of hitting your target. You don’t become a marksman by shooting the damn ground.

Pew pew pew. (Image via Giphy)

7. When your dog handles a weapon better than you do.

This isn’t a weapon fail, it’s just freakin’ funny. (Image via Giphy)

8. Do we really need to reinvent the electric toothbrush?

Introducing the airsoft powered toothbrush. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

9. Well, at least that soldier almost threw the grenade three feet.

They take training for war to the next level. (Image via Giphy)

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