These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

Russian military aircraft — everything from long-range bombers to advanced fighters to spy planes — have ventured close to Alaska three times in one month, twice prompting US F-22 stealth fighters to intercept the aircraft.

Two pairs of unidentified Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past northern Alaska Sept. 21, 2018, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced in a statement, noting that while the surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, they remained in international airspace.


The flight follows an alarming incident Sept. 20, 2018, in which two unresponsive Russian Tu-160 bombers approached the British coastline, causing France and the UK to scramble fighters to intercept the supersonic aircraft.

“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement, adding, “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160.

Japan encountered similar problems on Sept. 19, 2018, when it sent fighters to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching Japanese airspace. The same thing happened in early September 2018.

Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets approached western Alaska on Sept. 11, 2018, leading the US to dispatch two F-22s in response.

A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, 2018, when two of the same type of bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighters were sent out to deal with that situation as well.

Following the first incident early September 2018, American defense officials speculated that the Russian bombers may have been practicing for possible cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems in Alaska, although the true purpose of the flights is difficult to discern.

While seemingly disconcerting, Russia does this sort of thing fairly regularly. Russian Tu-160 bombers flew past Alaska in August 2018, and another pair of bombers did the same in May 2018. These flights come at a time in which tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the next Air Force One won’t have an in-air refueling capability

The US Air Force confirmed in early August that it would buy two Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental airliners and convert them to serve as future Air Force One planes for US presidents.


The decision to buy planes that were already built rather than custom-made aircraft stemmed from President Donald Trump’s push to cut costs.

Trump publicly criticized the Boeing-led program’s cost in December.

Earlier this year, Trump said he would be able to cut a billion dollars from the $4.2 billion Presidential Airlift Recapitalization program, though the White House later said those savings would only amount to “millions.”

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh

Now the exclusion of a key feature to keep expenses down may attract objections from Congress.

“Strangely to me, the Air Force has just announced that the next version of Air Force One will not have in-flight refueling capability. What do you make of that?” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton asked Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford on Tuesday, during a hearing to confirm Dunford’s reappointment to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I think that was a decision that was not made by the Air Force, but made by the White House,” Dunford said, “and I think it had to do with the fiscal constraints on the program.”

Cotton, calling the decision strange, suggested lawmakers and military leaders might reverse it. “I think we might need to revisit that decision here on Capitol Hill,” he said, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in August that it wouldn’t mandate the new planes have in-flight refueling systems, and officials have said adding that capability would add unneeded costs.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
Air Force One arriving with the President on-board in Israel earlier this year (Photo US Air Force)

But while the 747-8 models can fly almost 1,800 nautical miles more than the jets they will replace without refueling, according to Defense One — and even though presidents have never used in-flight refueling on the current planes — Dunford said the need to make ground stops for refueling, even in the case of emergency, “will certainly be a limiting factor, and we’ll have to plan accordingly.”

The Air Force plans to start modifying the 747s in 2019 and have them enter service in 2024. By that time, the two Boeing 747-200-based VC-25A aircraft that serve as Air Force One when the president is aboard will be 34 years old.

The Boeing 747-8 platform was selected as the next presidential aircraft in January 2015. The two aircraft acquired for the program were built by Boeing for a Russian airline that went bankrupt before it could take delivery. The company then held on to the planes until a new buyer could be found. The Air Force has not disclosed how much it paid for them.

Air Force One acts as a mobile national command center, and expected modifications include a specialized communications system, electrical upgrades, a medical facility, and a self-defense system. What requirements will be put on the planes and how much they will cost have been the subject of wrangling between the Pentagon and contractors for months.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
Obama on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aboard Air Force One en route to New Orleans in 2013. (Photo: The White House)

The Air Force is looking to cut costs by striking better deals on the materials going into the planes. A number of the plane’s interior furnishings will be commercially available products.

“From this point forward, any additional cost savings will arise from capitalizing on acquisition process opportunities,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense One this month.

Boeing has already gotten $170 million in development funding to study the future Air Force One’s technical requirements. Earlier this month, the Air Force awarded the company another contract worth a little less than $600 million to begin the preliminary design of the future Air Force Ones.

“Those [cost-saving] opportunities identified will be reviewed to ensure mission capabilities are not degraded,” the Air Force said at the time, according to Defense News. “The entire preliminary design effort will keep a focus on affordability.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is America’s Funniest Home Videos: Military

The folks over at America’s Funniest Home Videos, like, the actual producers of that show, have released a full 10 minutes of funny clips from the military that are actually fantastic with everything from funny training accidents, to hilarious pranks, to Joe doing stupid stuff in the barracks or on deployment.


★CRAZY Military Moments ★ | Army FAILS & Funny Soldiers | AFV 2019

www.youtube.com

Some of them are common experiences that always have hilarious moments, like when soldiers stumble and fall fantastically while coming out of a rollover trainer. Others are a little more niche, like the foreign soldiers (probably British) conducting an amphibious assault who accidentally jump into waist-deep mud.

But the whole collection really shines when you see the soldiers doing stupid games that you’ve never tried. For instance, I’ve never made a wind-powered vehicle out of a poncho liner, some old wheels, and broken office chairs. But I want one. And my personal heroes are now the troops who lifted an entire tent off the ground and moved it so their buddy, asleep on their cot, would inexplicably wake up outside.

The full collection is available above (duh, you know what YouTube embeds look like). It’s mostly U.S. service members, but there’s a smattering of allies and even some clips that might be from rivals. The videos appear to have accumulated over decades with soldiers in ACUs appearing just moments from grainy shots that look like they’re from the ’80s.

Skip to 4:34 for the guy who accidentally launches himself onto a fire extinguisher.

But, by far, top recommendation comes at 7:01 when some apparent trainees play a game that appears to be an adult version of quarters. Remember quarters? The bloody knuckles game from school, not the drinking game. The one where each player takes turns making a fist on a table while the other person slides a quarter across the table as fast as they can to try and bloody the first player’s fist.

Yeah, these guys play that, but with a shoe instead of a quarter and a crotch instead of a fist. 10/10, would show the clip to trainees and hope it catches on.

popular

U.S. military plane with ventilator shipment lands in Moscow

A U.S. military plane carrying a second batch of ventilators to Russia landed in Moscow on June 4, as part of a $5.6 million humanitarian donation to help the country cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, said the shipment contained 150 ventilators made in the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US and UK Marines team up for search and rescue

British Royal Marines exercised their Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel proficiency in Rindal, Norway Nov. 6, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The Royal Marines with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, worked in conjunction with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and assets from Marine Aircraft Group 29.

U.S. Marine Capt. Josef Otmar and U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Zachary Duncavage served as isolated personnel during the exercise. Approximately 30 Royal Marines loaded into two U.S Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 after the 24th MEU prepared to execute the TRAP mission.


Prior to the Royal Marines’ insertion into the landing zone, a UH-1Y Venom helicopter patrolled the area from the sky, searching for notional enemy combatants. The CH-53Es arrived shortly thereafter and delivered the Royal Marines who were met by members of the Norwegian Home Guard, who were role-playing as the opposing forces.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion lifts off from Rindal, Norway, during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

“It’s been very positive working with U.S. Marines,” said British Lt. Tom Williams, a troop commander with X-Ray Company. “The interoperability has been very effective and we have been able to do a lot of planning with them on a tactical level as well as at a higher headquarters level.”

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

A British Royal Marine provides security after disembarking a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The Royal Marines were able to maneuver on the enemy location and recover the first isolated U.S. Marine simultaneously.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

British Royal Marines prepare to evacuate Capt. Josef Otmar during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

“It was impressive to watch the Royal Marines operate and how quickly they recovered the [U.S. Marines] while suppressing the enemy,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Jacob Yeager, a member of the 24th MEU who was embedded with the Royal Marines. “The fact that we were able to integrate them with Marine Corps aviation is a great training value for both of our forces. U.S. Marine Corps aircraft delivered U.K. Royal Marines into a landing zone to recover two isolated U.S. Marines. That’s significant.”

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

British Royal Marines evacuate Capt. Josef Otmar during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

After the first U.S. Marine was safely evacuated from the landing zone, the Royal Marines began to search for the second U.S. Marine which led them through approximately 500 meters of the steep, dense Norwegian forest.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions land during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

Once the Royal Marines were prepared to evacuate the second U.S. Marine, the notional enemy attacked from the tree line. Combined capabilities were on full display at this point, as the Royal Marines maneuvered on the enemy and Yeager called for close-air support, which was delivered by the UH-1Y Venom with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. The effective enemy suppression allowed the Royal Marines to deliver the U.S. Marine safely to the awaiting CH-53E.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

A British Royal Marine searches for a simulated isolated service member during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)

“Forty Five Commando has spent time on the USS Iwo Jima and Royal Marines and U.S. Marines shared their unique traditions and fighting capabilities with each other,” said Williams. “This training will aid in future interoperability going forward.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA can now tell if you’ve ever been exposed to WMDs

Picture an intelligence officer in the field. She is trying to piece together a suspected threat and has access to someone who may have a role in carrying it out. There may be traces of biological or chemical agents on his clothing or hair. She can look for them, but they’re transient, and often present in such low concentrations that she’ll need to send samples to a laboratory. Or she can check his epigenetic markers, read a history of any time he’s been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time.


DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome and identifies signatures that indicate whether that person has ever — in his or her lifetime — been exposed to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Also read: 6 reasons the Air Force wants to get its hands on Russian DNA

The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. This is one way that people can adapt and survive in changing conditions, and the epigenome is the combination of all of these modifications. Though modifications can register within seconds to minutes, they imprint the epigenome for decades, leaving a time-stamped biography of an individual’s exposures that is difficult to deliberately alter.

Whereas current forensic and diagnostic screening technologies only detect the immediate presence of contaminants, the envisioned ECHO technology would read someone’s epigenome from a biological sample, such as a finger prick or nasal swab, to reveal possible exposure to WMD or WMD precursors, even when other physical evidence has been erased.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

“The human body registers exposures and logs them in the epigenome,” explained Eric Van Gieson, the ECHO program manager. “We are just beginning to understand this rich biographical record that we carry around with us. We hope that with the capabilities developed within ECHO, someone in the field will immediately know if a suspected adversary has handled or been exposed to threat agents. The same technology could also serve as a diagnostic tool for our own troops, to diagnose infectious disease or reveal exposure to threat agents, so that medical countermeasures can be applied in time to make a difference.”

Related: DARPA wants to use ocean life to monitor strategic areas

Researchers on the four-year ECHO program will have two primary challenges: to identify and discriminate epigenetic signatures created by exposure to threat agents; and to create technology that performs highly specific forensic and diagnostic analyses to reveal the exact type and time of exposure. To develop this capability, researchers will have to assemble a foundational training dataset of pre- and post-exposure epigenetic readouts in biological samples. They will also have to create a device capable of performing multiple molecular analyses and onboard bioinformatics in 30 minutes or less, compared to an average of two days using current lab-centered processes. By the end of the effort, DARPA’s goal is to deliver ECHO capability in a man-portable device that can be used by an operator with minimal training.

“ECHO technology could open up new sources of forensic evidence and make battlefield collection of evidence safer, more efficient, and more accurate,” said Van Gieson. “Additionally, by making it possible to deploy an analytical capability to vastly more locations, we would enhance our ability to conduct global, near-real-time surveillance of emerging threats.”

ECHO is focused specifically on diminishing the threat posed by WMD and improving diagnostics for troops who may have been exposed to threat agents. The ability to partially reconstruct an individual’s history through analysis of the epigenome, however, could have application well beyond national security and thus raise privacy concerns. Accordingly, DARPA intends to proactively engage with several independent ethical and legal experts to help inform the Agency’s research plans, think through potential issues, and foster broader dialogue in the scientific community on social implications.

DARPA will host a Proposers Day on Feb. 23, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, to explain the ECHO program to potential proposers and answer questions. Details and registration are available at: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-23/listing.html.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspicions mount of foreign hand in fire at sensitive Iranian nuclear site

There is growing support among outside security experts for the notion that an “incident” at Iran’s main nuclear-enrichment facility last week was an act of sabotage in a shadow war aimed at setting back Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Many analysts believe that a foreign state, possibly Israel, was behind the July 2 fire at the Natanz facility in Iran’s central Isfahan Province.



The conflagration caused “considerable financial damage,” according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which had originally sought to downplay the incident.

An image released by Iran in the aftermath of the incident and satellite images released abroad showed significant damage — including ripped-out doors, scorch marks, and a collapsed roof — at a building where centrifuges were assembled.

Twitter

twitter.com

Iranian authorities have said they know the cause of the incident but have withheld any public announcement due to “security” issues.

“Many countries have a clear interest to delay the Iranian nuclear military project; one of them is Israel,” Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general and former national-security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told RFE/RL.

Iran maintains that all of its nuclear activities are peaceful, and it has opened its known nuclear sites to UN inspectors since signing a deal in 2015 exchanging curbs on its nuclear program for sanctions relief with world powers including the United States, which has since walked away from the deal.

But the United States and Israel have for years accused Iran of a long-running effort to acquire a nuclear bomb-making capability.

Previous Attacks

They are thought to have targeted Iran’s nuclear program in the past with cyberattacks and malicious software, or malware.

One of those suspected joint efforts was the Stuxnet computer worm, which damaged Iran’s nuclear infrastructure according to reports that began to emerge in 2010.

At least four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012, engendering speculation that the killings were part of a suspected covert campaign waged by Israel against Iran’s nuclear program.

After last week’s fire at Natanz, The Washington Post on July 6 quoted a Middle Eastern security official as saying a “huge explosive device” had been planted by Israeli operatives to “send a signal” to Tehran.

“There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity,” the unnamed official told the paper.

On July 5, The New York Times quoted “a Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode” as saying Israel had targeted Natanz using what the paper called “a powerful bomb.”

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any role in the incident.

Speaking on July 5, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country wasn’t “necessarily” behind every incident in Iran, adding that Israel’s long-standing policy is not to allow Iran access to nuclear capabilities.

Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said Israel has demonstrated the ability “to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program,” most recently in 2018 when Israeli agents are reported to have broken into a warehouse in the Iranian capital and extracted a trove of documents detailing the country’s nuclear activities.

“It is the type of operation that Israel might conduct at any time when it sees the opportunity,” Goldenberg, who previously headed an Iran team in the Office of the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told RFE/RL.

‘Perception Of Chaos’

Speaking generally and not about this specific incident, he suggested the aim of such operations might be to delay Iran’s nuclear program “as much as possible.”

“For Israelis, there is also the additional benefit of trying to create the perception of chaos at a time when the Iranian government is struggling with an economic crisis and COVID-19,” he added.

The Natanz incident comes amid a gradual backing away by Tehran from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

It has said its moves are a response to the May 2018 withdrawal from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) by U.S. President Donald Trump and the reimposition of harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Raz Zimmt, an Iran analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, suggested that the incident at Natanz could reflect Israeli concern about Iran’s expansion of its nuclear activities beyond the limit set in the nuclear deal, which Israel opposed.

“Not only that Iran still refuses to return to negotiations, but it has withdrawn from its commitments to the JCPOA shortening the breakout time considerably,” he said in a reference to the period needed to amass enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon.

“Under those circumstances, and especially considering the possibility that it would be difficult to go back to the JCPOA whether Trump wins the U.S. elections [in November] or [Democratic challenger] Joe Biden [does], Israel is back in the dilemma of either to allow Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program up to a short distance from a breakout capability or to use covert operations, or even a military option in the future, in order to delay Iran’s nuclear program,” Zimmt said.

Tehran’s Dilemma

Any sabotage targeting Natanz, if conducted by Israel, could pose a dilemma for Tehran on how to respond. Admitting an Israeli role could be interpreted as showing that Tehran was unable to prevent such an attack and would also likely suggest a need for retaliation, which could in turn prompt Israeli action.

“The reason why authorities are not ready to point their fingers at Israel is that they would then be forced to react — at least at the same level, which would be very difficult, and it would result in Israeli retaliation,” said former Iranian diplomat Hossein Alizadeh, who thinks Tehran’s “cautious” reaction appears to confirm the assessment that Natanz was targeted by a foreign power.

Speaking on July 7, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei suggested that reports claiming an Israeli role in the destruction at Natanz were part of a “psychological war” against his country.

“The Israeli regime should be aware that creating a norm-breaking narrative on any attack against our nuclear facilities, even if it is only propaganda, is considered as stepping in the path of violating red lines of global peace and security,” Rabiei was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Suspicious Incidents

The fire at the Natanz facility follows several other suspicious incidents, including a June 25 explosion at a gas-storage facility near a military base east of Tehran.

That has led to speculation about a possible Israeli or U.S. effort to destabilize Iran’s clerical establishment, which is already under intense pressure due to sanctions, growing public discontent, and a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 12,000 Iranians and infected nearly 250,000, according to official figures that are thought to be a significant underreporting.

Analyst Zimmt, meanwhile, warned of the danger of speculating about connections between such events.

“It is inevitable that some of the incidents are also related to infrastructure problems due to the difficult economic situation or mismanagement,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants to recall 1,000 retirees to active duty

Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.

To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.


It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.

“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.

Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
Capt. Brad Matherne, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron pilot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.

Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.

“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.

Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.

“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.

To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.

“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.

Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.

“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.

Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.

The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.

In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.

The Air Force has said it does not plan to force anyone back on active duty involuntarily in any capacity. Officials said at the time they would work through how they could best use the executive order to voluntarily recall pilots.

Officials said additional VRRAD application procedures and eligibility requirements can be found on the VRRAD page of the AFPC public website.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why shows like ‘The Punisher’ are more likely to get cancelled early on

Many Netflix shows are short lived. With the exception of some of its earliest series, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix has a tendency to cancel shows after two or three seasons.

Ampere Analysis tracked 61 canceled TV shows between September 2018 and March 2019 across streaming and traditional TV. The report, released on April 9, 2019, found that streaming services are more likely to cancel a show early on. Original streaming shows have an average lifespan of two seasons, compared to four seasons on cable and six-and-a-half seasons on broadcast networks.

Netflix accounts for 68% of video-on-demand cancellations, and 12 of its 13 canceled shows since September 2018 were for series with three seasons or fewer, according to Ampere.


“The VoD services seem determined to drive subscriber growth through a continuous pipeline of new content, but this comes at the cost of missing out on long-running franchises like NBC’s ‘Law Order’ that keep customers coming back year after year, reducing churn,” Fred Black, an Ampere analyst, said in the report.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

Season six of “Law Order.”

It’s worth noting that Netflix shows are ordered straight to series, and the streamer drops entire seasons at once. On traditional TV networks, a pilot is typically ordered first, and many shows don’t even make it past the pilot phase.

Netflix’s recent cancellations include “One Day at a Time” and its Marvel TV shows, such as “Daredevil” and “The Punisher.” Netflix canceled “One Day at a Time” in March 2019 after three seasons, saying “not enough people watched to justify another season.” It canceled its remaining Marvel shows, “The Punisher” and “Jessica Jones,” in February 2019.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

“Marvel’s Daredevil”

(Netflix)

Deadline reported March 2019 that Netflix sees little value in long-lasting shows, and prefers ones that run 10 episodes a season and 30 episodes total. After that, they often become too expensive to continue to invest in, unless they are a breakout hit that Netflix owns like “Stranger Things.” And the shorter the season, the easier it is for new viewers to jump into a show for the first time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis are about the change the game in the Middle East

In the first week of February 2018, insiders in the Israeli aviation industry told Haaretz that Saudi Arabia reportedly granted approval to Air India to fly direct from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace.


Reuters confirmed that Air India said it is planning direct flights to Israel, and sought permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory, which would significantly reduce flight times by more than two hours.

Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority denied reports that it already granted Air India’s request.

However, there was no indication that it would not consider the request in the future.

If the air route is confirmed, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia would allow commercial flights to fly to Israel using its airspace and would mark a significant shift in strategic policy that has shaped the region for decades.

Also read: The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has instated a ban on flights traveling to Israel from using its airspace for more than 70 years.

But news of Saudi Arabia potentially easing its airspace regulations may add concrete evidence to reports of the country’s warming ties to Israel.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared goals

Several reports have surfaced showing covert cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who currently maintain no diplomatic ties.

One key issue the two have reportedly bonded over is curbing common-enemy Iran’s continued expansion in the Middle East.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Iran has openly threatened to annihilate Israel many times over the serious decades-long conflict between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conflict dates back to a centuries-old divide between Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority in the Saudi Kingdom, and Shiites who govern Iran. The two officially severed ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy compound in Tehran.

While the two countries have been coy about reports of exchanging intelligence, Israel has been upfront about its “covert” contacts with Saudi officials amid common concerns over Iran.

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

Representatives from the two countries shared the stage at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015 and discussed their common interest in opposing Iran. Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that they’ve been quietly conducting diplomacy on Iranian issues since 2014.

In 2017, a leaked diplomatic cable confirmed longtime rumors of Israel and Saudi cooperation. In the cable, Israel instructed its overseas embassies to encourage support for Saudi Arabia in its battle against Iranian-proxy Hezbollah.

Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera that Iran remains a major threat to many countries across the Middle East.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally. Therefore the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel,” he said in the interview.

The Crown Prince is ushering in a new era

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Saudi’s young Crown Prince is also seen as a key piece to understanding the timing of Israel and Saudi Arabia renewed relations.

The ambitious Mohammed Bin Salman has been spearheading a reform of Saudi’s domestic and foreign policy, which includes reevaluating its regional alliances, and aggressively opposing Iranian influence, according to Al-Arabiya.

The Crown Prince is also shaping Saudi’s cultural ethos. In November 2017, Salman made waves by purging anti-American and anti-Jewish clerics, making a strong indication that Saudi Arabia is seeking rapprochement with its Jewish neighbor and U.S.-ally Israel.

More: This is where Saudi princes do prison time

And by December 2017, Israel invited the Crown Prince to visit the country to discuss regional peace, and described the nation as the “leader of the Arab world.”

Experts say the Salman’s rise to power and widespread calls for reforms have allowed for a modern partnership with Israel to grow.

Associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri told Al Jazeera: “The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened.”

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How the military uses video games to get better at killing

Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.


Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.

The system doesn’t use wires or tethers to power the suits or transmit data, so participants can move like they would in the real world.

Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
The Dismounted Solder Training System allows soldiers to train as a squad. Photo: US Army Maj. Penny Zamora

Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.

One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.

The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska
Soldiers train in the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 April 6, 2015 in before heading to live-fire training at Saber Junction 15. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau

The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.

While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.

And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.

Until then, there’s always video games.

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