On Nov. 12, 2018, at 95-years-old, Stan Lee — the publisher and longtime editor of Marvel comics — died. And what he left behind for parents and children is a legacy of standing up to bullies. Yes, Lee gave the world some of the most dazzling superpowers any comic book fan could dream of, but the motivations and personalities of the heroes he created are more enduring. And that’s because Lee’s best work focused on underdog heroes who were willing to go up against cruel villains in control of the status quo.
In the 2011Captain America film, Steve Rogers famously says “I don’t like bullies,” and though Lee didn’t create Captain America, he did begin his career writing comics with Steve Rogers. The third issue of Captain America Comic in 1941 was co-written by a young man named Stanley Lieber, writing under the pen name of “Stan Lee.” The rest is history. Lee was made an interim editor at Marvel at just 19-years-old, and pretty much stayed there for the rest of his life. But, the fact that the first hero he wrote for was Captain America is significant. Famously, Captain America fought the Nazis in Marvel comic books before the United States was involved in WWII. Even before it was politically fashionable to stand-up to the worst kind of bullies, Stan Lee knew this kind of bravery as imperative.
Cover of Captain America 109.
And part of what made Lee’s writing fantastic was his belief that young people were people, too. In other words, Lee found teenage sidekicks to be unrealistic, which is part of why the backstory for Cap’s best friend Bucky Barnes was changed by Lee. He didn’t want Bucky to be subordinate to Captain America, he wanted them to be equals. And so, when he turned Bucky into Steve’s old war buddy, that fact became part of the character’s origin story. Essentially, Lee believed having a teenage sidekick for Captain America created a built-in system where Bucky would be bullied. And so, he made the story more realistic, and much smarter.
But, the true brilliance of Stan Lee’s heroes really flourished in the sixties, when he matured and noticed the changing world around him. This was the decade of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and the X-Men. With Spider-Man, Lee created (along with Steve Ditko) an unforgettable avatar for geeky teenage kids who loved science and reading more than they loved sports. With the Hulk, he allowed brain and brawn to be wrapped into one man, seemingly all at once, a potent metaphor we’re still reeling from to this day. And with the X-Men, Lee tenderly created a family of outcasts, people who needed the kindness of strangers to survive.
While it’s fairly common knowledge that Lee used the concept of X-Men as an allegory for civil rights, some of his progressive and big-hearted political beliefs came directly out of his own mouth, too in a reoccurring column in Marvel comics called “Stan’s Soapbox.” In these brief essays, Lee would speak directly to his readers — often very young children — and let them know exactly how he felt about bigotry, injustice and a whole host of other issues. In short, he was against that stuff. And would often end his lessons with the phrase “nuff said!” as though it was just common sense that everyone should be a good person. Of racists and bullies, Lee once said: “The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal from the insidious evil they really are.”
And despite having cameos in nearly every single one of the popular movies based on Marvel comic book characters, Lee was exceedingly humble. “I never thought of myself as much of a success,” he said, a funny sentiment because it a sense it was true. Lee knew that in the minds of his young readers, the successful people were Spider-Man and Wolverine. Even though he had Stan’s Soapbox, Lee generally let his work speak for itself. The result? The pop culture world we live in today.
When Lee said “I guess one person can make a difference,” he may have been speaking of Black Panther or Captain America, but today, it seems like he was certainly speaking of himself. He will be missed, but thanks to his tireless work, his everyday heroics will never be forgotten.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Navy is completing a host of sweeping modernization upgrades to its fleet of 14 Patrol Coastal (PC) boats by integrating new laser-guided weapons, communications technology, drone sensors, and navigation systems to enable the ships to respond to newly emerging littoral and coastal area enemy attack possibilities.
“This modernization consists of numerous upgrades that support coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, which are important aspects of littoral operations outlined in the Navy’s maritime strategy,” Colleen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The sweeping PC Boat modernization overhaul is intended to extend the service life of the 1990s-era PC boat fleet into the mid-2020s and beyond. The expected service life of a PC is roughly 30-years, O’Rourke said.
Of greater importance than simple service life extension, quite possibly, is that the upgrades are aimed at enabling PCs to keep pace with fast-changing surface threats in areas such as piracy, mines, small boat attacks, and potential long-range enemy attacks made possible by drones or modern sensors.
In recent years, the Navy has been arming its fleet of PCs with Raytheon-built Griffin B surface-launched, laser-guided missiles able to hit targets at ranges up to 4 kilometers. The idea is to give the 179-foot long, shallow-water PCs the ability to destroy targets at ranges farther than their onboard guns can reach.
Extended range offensive firepower is intended to give the PCs enhanced surface warfare technology to position the craft for modern surface and shallow water threats. Laser-guided Griffin missiles, reaching what Raytheon developers describe as “beyond gun range,” give the boats an ability to strike threats such as swarming small boats at greater standoff distances. The attack capability enhancements, fortified by advanced sensors, better enable PCs to address multiple threats simultaneously or respond to approaching enemy fire more quickly. The Griffin can provide 360-degree coverage for the ship.
The weapons adjustments are particularly well suited for the Navy’s 5th Fleet area of operations which covers much of the Middle East including flashpoint areas such as the Straits of Hormuz; tensions with Iranian small boats have at times emerged in some shallower waters near the Iran border which offer an important commercial and military passageway from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean.
The Navy upgrades also include unmanned aerial surveillance systems for 5th Fleet PCs, O’rourke added. This brings the prospect of networking ISR assets with targeting sensors and weapons to improve attack possibilities by relaying targeting information across longer distances. Navy PC boat Mk 52 7.62mm and MK 38 25mm guns are also being upgraded.
(U.S. Navy | YouTube)The Griffin employs a dual-mode navigational technology using semi-active laser technology and a GPS-aided Inertial Navigation System, according to Raytheon developers.
The weapons upgrade process begins with the installation of the launcher and weapons control system, Forward Looking Infra-Red Systems’ BRITE Star II sensor/laser designator, and Raytheon’s Griffin B (Block II) missile, Navy officials said.
The 25-foot wide PCs have an eight-foot draft and can reach speeds up to 35 knots. With a crew of 28, the ships are equipped to stay at sea for periods up to 10 days. Many PCs stationed at 5th fleet headquarters in Bahrain are equipped with enhanced communication suites, improved navigation systems, and an improved diesel engine control system. They also have two stabilized, electro-optic 25mm gun mounts, Navy officials added.
The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.
Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?
The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.
The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.
But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.
Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)
When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.
(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)
If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.
Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.
(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)
And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.
So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.
And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.
While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.
So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.
But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.
Australia passed sweeping foreign interference laws on June 28, 2018, that have been one of the most contentious pillars of deteriorating relations with China in recent months.
The laws broaden the definition of espionage and ban foreign agents from influencing politicians, civil society organizations, media, and ethnic groups. Individuals will also be required to register if they’re acting on behalf of a foreign power. Some offenses covered by the laws are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and abroad,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said when he introduced the laws in December 2017, though he made a point of saying he was not speaking about any one country.
But shortly afterwards Turnbull cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence” and called out an Australian politician for being a “clear case” of someone who took foreign money and then allegedly promoted China’s political views.
In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said its government had made a “serious complaint” with Australia and that the claim of foreign interference “poisons the atmosphere of the China-Australia relationship.” The sensationalist state-run Global Times reportedly carried an editorial claiming “[Australia] is beginning to look like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.”
And in June 2018 a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry answered questions about the laws by saying: “We hope that all countries could cast off Cold War mindset and strengthen exchanges and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.”
It’s not the first time the idea of the Cold War has been invoked in discussion around Australia’s current national security.
Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), recently told a parliamentary hearing that that espionage and interference activities have reached new and dangerous heights.
“The grim reality is that there are more foreign intelligence officers today than during the Cold War, and they have more ways of attacking us,” Lewis said.
Though the federal government had remained hush on the classified report that spurred its foreign interference laws, a number of media outlets have reported that a year-long inquiry found attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence Australian politics at all levels. The report also described China as the country of most concern to Australia.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Air Force is 10 days into its “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where four aircraft — AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine — have been strutting their stuff.
Air Force pilots already have flown basic surface attack missions in the A-29 and AT-6, according to the service, and conducted “familiarization flights” in the Scorpion and AT-802L as part of the month-long event.
The live-fly exercises will move into combat maneuver scenarios and weapons drops, some of which have already happened.
“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement August 9. Goldfein, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, stopped by the event, which the service has been putting together for months.
How service leaders plan to evaluate the performance of four very different aircraft — from jet to turboprop plane to an armored cropduster — is still to be determined.
The aircraft were on static display for leaders, including Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, to check out.
Goldfein even flew in the AT-6 and the A-29, according to reports.
“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Wilson said of the experiment, dubbed OA-X. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”
Goldfein added, “We are determining whether a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”
The service has said the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, with the Islamic State and other extremist groups extending their influence in the region, is the impetus for buying another plane — just one that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune.
“We want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in,” Bunch said in March.
But no matter what the outcome, some in Washington, DC are already pleasantly surprised the Air Force has become more hands-on in potential future weapons and aircraft buying strategies.
“The light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, provides an example for how rapid acquisition and experimentation can help our military procure the needed capabilities more quickly, more efficiently, and more affordably than we have in the past,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain said.
“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the US military advantage — and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” he said in a statement August 9.
The former Navy pilot stressed that, while the Air Force should sustain its A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter fleet for close-air support, “the Air Force should procure 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”
McCain on August 9 stressed his committee has been supportive of the action, and “included $1.2 billion in authorized spending for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.”
“I am encouraged to see the Air Force using the rapid acquisition authorities that Congress has given the Department of Defense in recent defense authorization bills,” he said. “The light attack aircraft will be an integral part of building our military capacity to combat current threats, and this experiment is a new model for quickly getting our warfighters the capabilities they need to bring the fight to the enemy.”
In late February 2018, amid a marked thaw in tensions between North Korea and South Korea during which the prospect of diplomacy looked brighter than ever, Bolton wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”
In the article, Bolton argued that North Korea had given the US no choice and must be attacked before it perfected its fleet of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. In his article, Bolton never mentioned South Korea, which is in range of North Korea’s massive installation of hidden artillery guns.
Experts estimate that thousands would die in Seoul, South Korea, the capital of a democratic, loyal US ally, for every hour of fighting with North Korea.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton said to conclude his article.
After South Korean diplomats said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had expressed willingness to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, Bolton dismissed it as a trick.
“The only thing North Korea is serious about is getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” he told Fox News. Bolton frequently appears on Fox, Trump’s favorite news station, to talk about North Korea in his characteristically hawkish way.
Bolton’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of reminders of links between North Korea’s weapons programs and those in Syria and Iran.
Bolton believes, not without evidence, that North Korea could become an exporter of dangerous technologies that could threaten US lives.
Trump already had a North Korea hawk — Bolton is a super hawk
McMaster isn’t exactly a dove on North Korea. McMaster is believed to have pushed the idea of striking North Korea, though perhaps in ways designed to prevent all-out war.
In November and December 2017, persistent reports came out that Trump’s inner circle was weighing such a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea. But by the new year, military and administration officials had started to pour cold water on the notion.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.
China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.
Type 001 Liaoning
China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.
“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.
The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.
Type 001A and Type 002
The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.
It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.
Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups
The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.
“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.
Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”
The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.
“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.
Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most
There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.
In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.
Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”
But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.
“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”
China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.
Type and number of ships in a carrier task force
“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.
“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.
A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.
“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.
A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.
Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.
Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates
The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.
The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.
China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.
Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers
These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.
Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.
Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers
While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.
The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.
Type 056 Jingdao corvettes
Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.
“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”
These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.
Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)
Additional naval and support vessels
In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.
“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.
“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s a signal that the effort to kill the A-10 is dead, instead of the A-10 itself – which is what usually happens to anything trying to kill the A-10 Warthog. After trying to bury the plane for nearly a decade, the Air Force has not only finished refitting some of its old A-10 Thunderbolt II airframes, the branch has decided to expand the effort to more planes. The re-wing projects will cover 27 more of the Warthogs through 2030.
So the Marines can expect excellent close-air support for the foreseeable future.
“Hey Taliban, what rhymes with hurt? BRRRRRT.”
The news comes after the Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in August 2019 when the Air Force awarded a 0 million contract to Boeing to expand the re-winging effort to include more planes. Even as the battle over the future of the airframe raged on in the Air Force, at the Pentagon, and in Congress, the A-10s were undergoing their re-winging process, one that first began in 2011. Ever since, the Air Force has tried to save money by using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for close-air-support missions or even giving that role to older, less powerful planes like the Embraer Super Tucano.
Despite its heavy use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that the airframe is beloved by warfighters on the ground, the Air Force effort to retire the plane stems from the perception that close-air-support missions can be done better and with less risk to the plane and pilot by higher-flying, more advanced aircraft like the F-35.
Talk BRRRRRT-y to me.
The A-10 was first developed in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, to bust tanks and provide the kind of cover artillery might otherwise give, but with a faster, more mobile, and efficient delivery. A slow flyer, the A-10 is a kind of flying tank. But it’s more than an aircraft built around a gun (the GAU-8 Avenger fires so powerfully, it actually slows the A-10 down) the Thunderbolt II features armor, redundant systems, and a unique engine placement that makes it a difficult threat against most conventional anti-air defenses.
The Air Force’s main reason for getting rid of it was that the Thunderbolt II isn’t suitable for modern battlespaces and that most of its missions could be done by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new re-winging effort is a signal that fight is likely to be over and that the Air Force’s close-air support mission is a much bigger deal than previously expected.
While some may question why the A-10 is getting an extended life when the F-35 can supposedly fill that role, the guys on the ground will tell you it’s all about the BRRRRRT – they live and die by it, sometimes literally.
Frustrated current and former US officials warned that President Donald Trump’s personal Apple iPhone is being monitored by Chinese spies, according to a New York Times report published Oct. 24, 2018.
Trump reportedly has two iPhones that were programmed by the National Security Agency for official use, but he keeps a third, personal phone that remains unaltered — much like the normal iPhones on the consumer market, according to the officials.
Unlike the other government-managed phones, Trump uses the unaltered personal iPhone because of its ability to store contacts, The Times reported. One of the two official phones is designated for making calls, the other one is for Twitter.
The information Chinese spies have collected included who Trump regularly speaks to and why, The Times said, and was part of a wider lobbying effort to influence Trump’s friends and business associates. US intelligence agencies discovered the espionage campaign from sources in foreign governments and communications from foreign officials.
(Flickr photo by Japanexperterna.se)
Through its efforts, China reportedly identified Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, who has ties to Beijing’s Tsinghua University, and former Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn as potential targets in an influence campaign to curb the ongoing trade war with China.
China’s plan included targeting and encouraging Trump’s associates to persuade the president to formally meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one official said to The Times.
Despite the security compromise, current and former officials reportedly cited Trump’s unfamiliarity in matters of intelligence and said they believe he was not divulging sensitive information through his personal phone.
The White House’s communication methods have long been scrutinized by people familiar with the situation. Much to the chagrin of the officials, Trump is believed to quietly make calls to current and former aides. Separately, the White House chief of staff John Kelly’s phone was reportedly compromised for months in 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”
An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)
While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.
The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.
“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.
It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”
The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.
Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”
The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”
The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.
“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A completed, comprehensive Navy analysis says producing more Virginia-Class attack submarines on a much faster timetable is “achievable” and necessary to ensure future undersea dominance for the U.S. — in an increasingly contested strategic global environment.
The current or previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins.
The completed study, however, maintains that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Columbia-Class submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals, such as Russia and China.
The study found that sustainment of the two-per-year Virginia-Class submarine production rate during the procurement years of the Columbia-Class SSBNs is achievable and that it provides significant benefit to the Navy and the SSN (Attack Submarines) force structure, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
Maintaining a two-per-year Virginia Class build-rate will help the Navy reach its goal of 66 SSNs, as identified in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment, Navy officials added.
Increasing production will, to a large extent, rely upon the submarine-building industry’s capacity to move up to three submarines per year.
The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.
Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology
Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR, anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces.
Future Virginia-Class submarines provide improved littoral capabilities, sensors, special operations force employment, and strike warfare capabilities, making it an ideal platform for the 21st Century security environment, Navy developers said.
Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.
For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.
The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator. With this technology, a human operator will order depth and speed, allowing software to direct the movement of the planes and rudder to maintain course and depth.
Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface.
Unlike their “SSBN” Columbia-Class counterparts to be armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.
Development of Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.” Blocks I and II have already been delivered.
The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.
Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.
Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say. Specifically, this means that the submarines are constructed such that they will be able to accommodate new technologies as they emerge – this could mean engineering in an ability to fire upgraded Tomahawk missiles or other weapons which may emerge in the future.
The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.
Virginia-Class Block V – Virginia Payload Modules
For Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. “Virginia Payload Modules.”
The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.
The VPM submarines will have an additional (approximately 84 feet) section with four additional Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a ship total of 40 Tomahawks.
The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers.
Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.
While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy officials explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”
North Korea is widely believed to be developing a new ballistic missile submarine that could one day be trouble for US forces and allies in the region, but experts say it may take years to turn this boat into a serious threat.
In July 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a “newly built submarine.” North Korean media reported that its “operational deployment is near at hand.” Observers suspect this is a new ballistic missile submarine, a weapon North Korea has described as “an important component in [the] national defense of our country.”
If it eventually works, this kind of submarine would give North Korea and alternative sea-based strike option to attack countries like South Korea or Japan, as well as US bases.
Experts believe the work is underway at a shipyard in Sinpo, a major port city and defense industry hub located on the coast of the East Sea/Sea of Japan where an experimental ballistic missile submarine lives.
Rpt: North Korea Appears To Be Building New Ballistic Missile Submarine | The Last Word | MSNBC
Joe Bermudez, one of the authors of a new CSIS Beyond the Parallel report on recent developments at Sinpo, told Insider that North Korea may be close to launching its new submarine, the development of which likely began a few years ago. North Korea already has a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and it has conducted several successful tests, although never aboard a submarine.
The development of this particular submarine has taken longer than some of the other boats in North Korea’s arsenal because a ballistic missile submarine is more complicated. But, given North Korea’s recent display, it may soon be ready for launch, experts say.
But simply launching a submarine doesn’t mean its ready for combat. “Even if launched today the submarine will have to undergo a period of fitting-out, then manufacturer’s acceptance trials, KPN acceptance trials, commissioning and finally KPN shake-down cruises before becoming truly operational,” Bermudez and Victor Cha, well-known Korea experts explained, in their new CSIS report.
Bermudez suggested that if North Korea launched with the Pukguksong-1, North Korea’s only submarine-launched ballistic missile, they might achieve operational capability in a year or two. “If it is with a new system, that could potentially take two to five years,” he added.
North Korea has been known to define operational capability a little differently than most countries do, sometimes putting “in service” systems that are actually still in development.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a submarine factory.
“They could launch this submarine today and within the next six months conduct a test launch from it. That’s not operational,” Bermudez explained, adding that given North Korea’s recent weapons testing, it would not be surprising if they actually took such a step.
Bermudez and Cha characterized North Korea’s ballistic submarine program and ballistic missile program as an “emerging threat,” explaining in their report that North Korea appears to be “making real progress in developing a second leg of the nuclear triad, bringing them closer to a survivable nuclear force and lessening prospects for full denuclearization,” a Trump administration priority that it has struggled to achieve.
Left unchecked, the North Korean program could steadily become a greater challenge. “If they launch, that is a certain level of threat but not overly significant. If they test, that raises the threat. When they finally get to operational, that is a real significant threat,” Bermudez told Insider.
If they were to achieve operational capability and if there were an armed conflict, “they could launch at Japan, South Korea, or US bases in the Asia-Pacific region from a direction different from what we have been anticipating and planning for,” he explained. “If they were able to achieve a time-on-target for sea- and land-based ballistic missiles, that would further complicate defense.”
The new submarine appears crude and is likely noisy, making it easier to detect and eliminate. That being said, its existence raises the threat level as an alternative nuclear weapons delivery platform, and that is especially true if North Korea can find a way to build and field a more than one of them.
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