The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.
These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”
The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.
From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.
An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)
The Ghost Army
Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.
The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.
The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.
The Monuments Men
This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.
Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.
As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.
The Mormon Battalion
Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.
The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.
Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.
King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)
The Potsdam Giants
Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.
To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.
From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.
One of U.S. Special Forces’ most legendary figures died suddenly and tragically on April 29, 2019. Eldon Bargewell, a 72-year-old retired Major General, was killed after his lawnmower rolled over an embankment near his Alabama home. His 40-year military career saw him serve everywhere from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably every hotspot in between.
Bargewell as an enlisted recon troop in Vietnam.
He first joined the military in 1967, going to Vietnam for a year, going home, and then volunteering to return to Vietnam – in the same recon outfit he left a couple of years earlier. He was working areas outside of Vietnam, technically in Laos, monitoring NVA supply routes.
In an action for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, he was hit by an AK-47 round in the side of his face but still managed to carry on the fight. Deep inside enemy territory, his unit was hit with two RPG rounds as a hail of enemy bullets overcame them. In minutes the entire recon team was wounded. Bargewell, carrying a Russian-made RPD machine gun (because he wanted to ensure he killed the enemies he shot), broke up an onslaught of charging NVA soldiers, numbering anywhere from 75-100 men.
“Very few people come through the path Eldon Bargewell did,” said Maj. Gen. William Garrison, commander of the Special Forces effort to capture a Somali warlord in 1993. “Starting out as a private, working his way as a non-commissioned officer, and then getting to the highest levels of leadership. Very few people can do that. He is the type of man, soldier, leader that we all want to be like.”
Major General Eldon Bargewell, U.S. Army.
The NVA sent wave after wave of men toward the Army Special Forces’ perimeter, and each was gunned down in turn by Bargewell and his 7.62 RPD. With the dead and wounded piling up, including Bargewell himself, the Americans needed to get out of the area in a hurry. They anxiously awaited the helicopters that would lift them to safety. When they finally arrived, Bargewell refused to be evacuated.
“He wouldn’t go up,” said Billy Waugh, Bargewell’s then-Sergeant Major. “He had the weapons that was saving the day… he was the last out and that’s what saved that team.” And it really was. Bargewell went through half of his 1000 rounds protecting the perimeter and defending his fellow soldiers as they boarded the helicopter. That’s when 60 more NVA bum-rushed him.
Bargewell went up with the next helicopter.
“His selfless sacrifice touched so many,” said Lt. Gen. Lawson MacGruder III, one of the Army Rangers’ first commanders and a Ranger Hall of Famer. “In just about every conflict since Vietnam.”
After returning from Vietnam, he went to infantry officer candidate school, earning his commission. From there he commanded special operations teams in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. In his last deployment, he was the director of special operations at Headquarters Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad. He retired in 2006, the most decorated active duty soldier at the time.
The origin of the American sniper is vague, with reports dating back as early as the American Revolution. The first established peacetime sniper school within the U.S. military was the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper course in Quantico, Virginia, in 1977. The U.S. Army followed suit with their sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1985. Brotherly competition between the two branches is infamous and continuous, predating the establishment of peace time training for snipers.
As far as sniper legends go, the Marine Corps has Carlos Hathcock, aka White Feather, with 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Of the Viet Cong enemies he eliminated, several were known for their brutality — including a woman known as “Apache.” According to Military.com, “‘She tortured [a Marine she had captured] all afternoon, half the next day,’ Hathcock recalls. ‘I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire.’ Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.”
On the U.S. Army’s side is Adelbert Waldron, also a legendary Vietnam War sniper, with 109 confirmed kills. After serving 12 years in the U.S. Navy, Adelbert joined the Army, starting out as a buck sergeant and deployed to the Mekong Delta area. Major General Julian Ewell, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, recalled a story about Waldron’s eagle eye: “One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot.”
Coffee or Die spoke with both Army snipers and Marine Scout Snipers about their professional differences.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Editor in Chief, Logan Stark, started his career in the Marine Corps in May 2007. He spent four years in the service and deployed three times.
Stark passed sniper indoctrination and, later, the Scout Sniper course. He said the most difficult part of the school was the actual shooting. It wasn’t standardized, 1,000-yard shots on paper, but shots from 750 to 1,000 yards on steel. Their range was elevated, which made calculating wind calls for their shots more difficult.
“You get these swirling winds coming off of the mountains, mixing with the wind coming off of the ocean, which makes reading wind extremely difficult to do,” Stark said, adding that “suffer patiently and patiently suffer” was a saying they often clung to during training.
However, the difficult conditions are what helped them hone in on the skill set Marine Scout Snipers are expected to perfect — which is, according to Stark, being an individual who can rapidly and calmly process information and execute a decision off that assessment.
“That’s why I joined the Marine Corps, was to do stuff exactly like that,” he said. “There wasn’t a worst part — it was fun.”
While Stark never worked directly with Army snipers, he has learned through the sniper community that the major difference is “the reconnaissance element to the Marine Corps Scout Sniper program. We’re meant to be an independent unit with four guys going out on their own without any direct support.”
Phillip Velayo spent 10 and a half years in a Marine Corps Scout Sniper platoon. He passed the Scout Sniper course on his second attempt and was an instructor from 2015 to 2018. Velayo now works as the training director for Gunwerks Long Range University.
Velayo has worked with Army snipers in the past and from talking with them, he learned that the Army’s sniper school is shorter — five weeks — compared to the Marine Corps’ school, which includes a three-week indoctrination course in addition to the 79-day Scout Sniper basic course. He added that he believes Army snipers place more emphasis on marksmanship than on mission planning because the Army has designated scouts, whereas Marine Corps snipers are responsible for shooting and scouting.
Velayo presented an example: If you take a blank-slate Marine and put him through Scout Sniper school and do the same with a soldier on the Army side, he said, “I mean, you’re splitting nails at that point, but honestly, I’m going to give it to the Marine side that we hold a higher standard to marksmanship than Army guys.”
Brady Cervantes spent the better part of a decade, starting back in 2006, with the Marine Corps as a Scout Sniper, and deployed four times. Cervantes passed the Scout Sniper school on his second attempt after his first try was cut short due to family matters that pulled him out of class.
“One thing I do respect about the Army is that they have certain calibers of curriculum that we may not,” Cervantes said, regarding differences between the two sniper schools, adding that the Army possibly goes into more depth as far as mission focus for a sniper. However, he said that he believes the Marine Corps maintains the highest standard within the military’s sniper community.
Cervantes said that if you take any Marine Scout Sniper and place them in a different sniper section, their shooter-spotter dialogue is uniform so they can function seamlessly as a team. In Cervantes’ experience overseas, the Army sniper teams he was around didn’t appear to have a clear-cut dialogue between their shooters and spotters.
But at the end of the day, Cervantes said, “if you’re a brother of the bolt, you have my respect.”
Ted Giunta served in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 2003 to 2009, transferring to the sniper platoon in 2006. He deployed four times as a sniper, three of those as the sniper section leader. Since leaving the military, he has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically pertaining to nuclear transportation. He is one of the two long-gun trainers for his entire agency.
Giunta attended the U.S. Army Special Operation Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). He believes that the Marine Scout Sniper program and the Army Sniper program are similar in how they train and evaluate their candidates. SOTIC, on the other hand, was a “gentleman’s course,” where they weren’t smoked or beaten down but evaluated on whether they could do the job or not.
Giunta said comparing Marine Scout Snipers to 75th Ranger Regiment snipers comes down to the level of financing for the unit. Because his unit and their mission set was Tier 2 and often worked with Tier 1 units, they had better access to training and equipment, which gives them the edge over Marine Scout Snipers. Giunta said the work as a sniper is an art form, and no matter what branch you are in, you make it your life.
Andrew Wiscombe served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2010, deploying to forward operating base (FOB) Mamuhdiyah, Iraq, from 2008 to 2009 as part of the scout sniper team.
Wiscombe said that Army snipers who belong to a dedicated sniper/recon section are comparable to Marine Scout Snipers. As far as a soldier who goes through the basic sniper school and then returns to an infantry line unit where they aren’t continually using their skills, they won’t be on the same level, he said.
The biggest difference Wiscombe is aware of relates to how they calculate shooting formulas. “I know we use meters and they use yards, so formulas will be slightly different,” he said. “The banter may be different, but the fundamentals remain the same for any sniper. At the end of the day, there is some inter-service rivalry fun and jokes, but I saw nothing but mutual respect for very proficient shooters and spotters all around.”
Jaime Koopman spent eight years in an Army sniper section, from 2008 to 2016. He has worked with Marine Scout Snipers several times in a sniper capacity; he also had two Marine Scout Sniper veterans in his section after they switched over to the Army. Koopman worked alongside the Marine Scout Sniper veterans as well as others while competing in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) International Sniper Competition.
Koopman’s experience with Marine Scout Snipers showed him that their training is a little different from Army snipers, but it’s comparable. “The Marine Corps Scout Sniper is an MOS for them, so the school is longer, affording them the opportunity to dive a little deeper in each subject area,” he said, “whereas an Army sniper is expected to gain the deeper knowledge outside the school house with his section.”
As far as the most recent standings from the 2019 USASOC International Sniper Competition, first and second place positions were held by U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) teams while third place was claimed by a Marine Scout Sniper team. The 2020 competition has been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In early September 2018, the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II entered the Central Command area of operations for the first time.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the attached Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 is the first continental U.S.-based Navy and Marine Corps force to deploy with the Lightning II. The Essex ARG/MEU team is currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment.
While in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence operations to reinforce to the U.S.’s commitment to partner nations in the region.
“As a forward-deployed force we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes,” said Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1. “The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”
Following a six-month comprehensive, pre-deployment training period, the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. The training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods which collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks to include deep air support, close air support, offensive air support, and electronic warfare.
USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the Pacific Ocean.
(Photo by Communication Specialist 3rd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.)
“When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.
The Essex ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). During deployment they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, PHIBRON 1, the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 13th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced and VMFA 211; the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/1; and the Logistics Combat Element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.
If you’ve ever wanted to get an up close and personal view of fighter planes in training, but just never had the math scores to get into the cockpit, don’t lose hope. There is a magical place in Wales where the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots conduct low-level flight training – and you can grab your camera and watch them fly on by.
The Machynlleth Loop, more popularly known as the Mach Loop, is a series of valleys in Wales between the towns of Dolgellau to the north and Machynlleth to the south. The area is well known among plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts as the place to so closely watch the RAF and its allies conduct maneuvers.
The RAF will fly Panavia Tornado fighters, as well as Eurofighter Typhoons and BAE’s Hawk Trainers through the Mach Loop, while the U.S. Air Force will fly F-15E Strike Eagles, F-22 Raptors, and even C-130J Super Hercules turboprop cargo planes.
The HD video shot from inside the cockpit of a Typhoon is also an incredible sight, especially for those of us who may never get to ride in a fighter, especially during a low-level flight exercise.The ability to fly so close to the ground is an asset to a pilot’s skill set for many reasons. Non-stealth aircraft can fly low to the ground to penetrate enemy airspace, hit a target, and return to base. Flying so close to ground level can also allow pilots to escape from dangerous situations and surprise enemy aircraft. This is especially important, given how fighters perform against helicopters in combat.
Smaller fighters can fly as low as 100 feet off the ground, while larger planes, like cargo aircraft, can bottom out at 150 feet. If there’s an aspiring photographer out there who wants to fill their portfolio with amazing military aviation photos, it’s time to hop a plane to Wales.
Several Lithuanians have been arrested and charged with spying for Russia, the Baltic state’s chief prosecutor said, drawing an angry reaction from Moscow.
One of the suspects is Algirdas Paleckis, a politician who is known for pro-Russian views and has questioned Lithuania’s membership of NATO and the European Union, Prosecutor-General Evaldas Pasilis said on Dec. 19, 2018.
Pasilis did not specify how many people were arrested.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the arrests “another Russophobic move” and a “reversal of democratic rights and freedoms” in Lithuania. She did not explain the grounds for those statements.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
Since 2014, when Russia increased concerns among neighbors about its intentions by seizing Crimea and backing separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine, Lithuanian courts have convicted five people of spying for Russia or Belarus.
One person charged with spying for Russia is currently on trial, while investigations against six other suspected Russian spies are under way.
In July 2017, a court in Vilnius sentenced a Russian security official, Nikolai Filipchenko, to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of attempting to recruit local officials to bug the home of the country’s president.
Before troops enlist in the military, they often find themselves preparing for the hellfire that their soon-to-be Drill Sergeant/Instructor is going to rain on them. Hate to break it to you, but there’s no escaping it — everyone gets bit in this shark attack. And remember, while they still have their brown round, you’ll never get the chance to grab a beer with them.
That doesn’t mean that your Drills are hate-filled robots. The point of basic training/boot camp is to break the civilian out of new recruits and turn them into moldable clay by the time they get to their first duty station. You won’t ever be friends with them while they’re your Drill Sergeant, but you can get on their good side. Here’s how:
5. Lose the civilian attitude
For some reason, after recruits sign on the dotted line, say goodbye to mom and dad, and are ready to defend this great nation of ours, they still show up and think it’s like working at Starbucks.
You see those other troops? Act like them and you’ll be just fine.
4. Learn everything you can
Basic training is just that — it trains you in the basics of what it takes to be a soldier. This is why the focus is on military customs and courtesies, Drill and Ceremony, and the proper wear and appearance of your given uniform.
The more you learn, the quicker you learn it, and the less you have to be told twice the better.
3. Shoot and PT better than everyone else
If there’s one thing that makes a Drill Sergeant/Instructor giddy, it’s seeing their recruits shoot better than the other Drill Sergeants’/Instructors’.
Be the guy that your Drill is willing to pit against the other recruits.
2. Don’t f*ck up
If the Drill Sergeant tells you to do something, do it. If they say not to do something, don’t you dare do it.
Drill Sergeants have an expectation that they’re teaching a bunch of idiots, so they’ll tell bark orders at you for everything shy of common sense.
1. Most importantly, don’t suck up
Drills are used to damn near everything they put up with from new recruits. You can just barely pass your PT test, shoot just well enough to qualify, be as quiet as a ghost, and they’ll still talk highly of you after you graduate.
This goes hand-in-hand with dropping the civilian mentality: suck-ups don’t make it in the military, well, on the enlisted side anyways. They don’t need some kid telling them how great they are — they have a mirror. Suck-ups don’t make it far because it goes against the one rule of military life: one team, one fight.
A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.
The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.
The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.
Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.
Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.
In a stark assessment, the US Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030.
On March 2, General Mark Welsh told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that currently it is estimated that the US has a “couple thousand more aircraft” than China, The National Interest reports.
The PLAAF is larger than the US Air Force in terms of personnel, and that size will be represented by the number of aircraft China has in the coming years.
“At the rate they’re building, the models they’re fielding, by 2030 they will have fielded—they will have made up that 2,000 aircraft gap and they will be at least as big—if not bigger—than our air forces,” Welsh told the subcommittee.
More importantly than just the number of aircraft and personnel in the PLAAF, though, is Beijing’s trend of acquiring and successfully fielding more and more advanced weapons systems. This drive by the PLAAF will also shrink the commanding technological advantage that the US currently holds over China.
“We are not keeping up with that kind of technology development,” Welsh said. “We are still in a position of—we will have the best technology in the battlespace especially if we can continue with our current big three modernization programs.”
Welsh also went on to warn that China “will have a lot of technology that’s better than the stuff we’ve had before.”
China is currently constructing prototypes for two different fifth-generation fighters that are specifically tailored to different mission sets. It’s J-20 is thought to be making quick development progress, while it’s J-31 is believed to be the equal of the F-35 due to espionage and Chinese theft of trade secrets.
Additionally, China is also developing a stealth drone as well as seeking to buy Russia’s highly capable Su-35S fighter aircraft.
All these measures taken together will cumulatively make China a significantly more capable military force that could project its will against US protest across East Asia.
The US Air Force is ordering three new and survivable missile warning satellites, the service revealed Aug. 14, 2018, in an announcement stating that the contract had been awarded to Lockheed Martin for $2.9 billion.
The Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, part of the larger Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) constellation, are expected to bolster US early warning capabilities, as well as demonstrate greater survivability against present and emerging counterspace threats from US rivals and adversaries than existing systems, Defense News reported Aug. 15, 2018.
“This is early warning to support our nuclear deterrence,” Thomas Karako, a senior fellow with the International Security Program and the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.
The Next Gen OPIR constellation is expected to replace the current Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), with the first satellite launch now expected in 2023, two years earlier than initially planned. The initial procurement plans were first announced in April 2018.
Animation showing geosynchronous satellite orbiting the Earth.
“As we develop these new systems, speed matters,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement, adding, “We are focused on providing a missile warning capability survivable in a contested environment by the mid-2020s.” Discussions of survivability are reportedly focused on China and Russia, which are developing counterspace weapons, according to Military.com.
Lockheed will be “working closely with the Air Force on the rapid development of Next Gen OPIR’s more advanced, resilient missile warning capability,” company spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said, Space News reported. We understand the need to ‘go fast’ while improving our national security posture against emerging threats around the world.”
When it comes to protecting the US from missile threats, early warning satellites are the first line of defense.
“That infrared, that heat-detecting satellite is there to detect a missile’s plume, so it gives you that early warning of a big missile launch,” Karako explained. “That is important from the national command perspective because in the event of a very bad day, the United States would have that warning and that time to kick our overall deterrence force into gear.”
There are three main elements of the missile defense process — early warning, tracking, and discrimination. “Tracking and discrimination are what you have to do over and above early warning,” Karako stressed, noting that early warning is still “critical.”
After early warning systems have detected a launch, it is necessary to have a persistent track of the missile’s location and speed. Knowing this is essential for interceptions “because if you want to send something in its way, you need to know exactly where to send it,” Karako told BI.
Discrimination is then determining which of the many things floating around in space after the warhead separates is the intended target.
The new missile warning satellites are strictly focused on the early warning mission.
“There is going to be another constellation coming that is probably going to have a lot more satellites, and that’s for the tracking and discrimination challenge,” Karako introduced, adding, “There’s a lot of talk about a space sensor layer for missile defense. That is still forthcoming.”
Painting of a Defense Support Program satellite on station. Primary sensor (lower left) is pointed at Earth. The star tracker is seen pointing off to the side, above and to the right.
The Air Force currently operates 77 satellites serving in national security roles related to communication, command and control, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, etc.
Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, recently argued the need for a robust space-based sensor layer to bolster missile defense. “The most important thing to do in the missile defense business is make sure you can see and characterize the threat,” he said at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium.
“If you can’t see and characterize the threat, I don’t care what kind of shooter you have, there is nothing you can do about it. We have to be able to see that threat,” he added.
Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, has also called for the development of an improved sensor architecture in space, citing the hypersonic missile threat. China tested a new hypersonic aircraft In August 2018 that could be weaponized to slip conventional and nuclear payloads past existing defenses, and Russia is developing a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle for its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The US Air Force awarded it second contract this year for a hyerpsonic weapon to Lockheed Martin Aug. 13, 2018.
Featured image: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket delivered the ABS 3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B satellites to a supersynchronous transfer orbit, launching from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in March 2015.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Navy is shelving plans to turn 33 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers into floating Priuses. One vessel, USS Truxtun (DDG 103), will get the modifications as a test program.
The Navy wanted to use a Hybrid-Electric Drive to increase fuel efficiency by having the ship’s electrical generators turn the propellers as opposed to the drive shaft. The approach would work at speed of up to 13 knots, enabling the ship to carry out anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense missions, or routine operations at night. However, the system had implementation problems, which ultimately led to generators being forced to run at nearly maximum capacity.
“At that point, you are a light switch flipping on away from winking out the whole ship,” an anonymous official told Defense News.
A loss of power could be fatal for a warship in combat — even in peacetime, this presents its own hazards as the collisions involving the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and John S. McCain (DDG 56) last year proved.
During the Obama Administration, the Navy pushed a “Great Green Fleet” initiative. The program was best known for pushing the use of biodiesel fuels in aircraft and ships. However, the green, alternative fuels proved to be far more expensive, according to reports from the Daily Caller.
In 2012, the DOD was spending as much as $424 per gallon of biofuel. In 2016, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason deployed using a blend of 5.5 percent biodiesel based on palm oil – costing $13.46 per gallon as opposed to the $1.60 per-gallon costs of conventional fuel. The ratio was far below the goal of a 50-50 blend.