When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.
On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?
You close down the freeways.
Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.
(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)
“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”
As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.
The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.
Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames
“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.
Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.
The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin
(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.
With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.
With ISIS continuing to fight, Russia and China throwing their weight around, and budget shortfalls becoming bigger and bigger problems, the Department of Defense will definitely need strong leadership in the form of a commander-in-chief and his political appointees in the months immediately following the inauguration next year.
Here are 7 important decisions he or she will have to tackle:
1. Will the U.S. pressure China to get off of contested islands, force them off with war, or let China have its way?
America has a vested interest in navigational freedoms in the South China Sea. Many allies transport their oil, other energy supplies, and manufactured goods through the South China Sea and the U.S. Navy uses routes there to get between the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Currently, a few sets of islands in the area are contested, most importantly the Spratly Islands. In addition to controlling important sea routes, the area may hold vast supplies of oil and natural gas. The most optimistic estimates put it second to only Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil reserves
China is deep in a campaign to control the South China Sea by claiming historical precedent and by building new bases and infrastructure on them. An international tribunal ruling on the issue will likely side against China shortly, but China probably won’t accept the decision.
That leaves a big decision for the next president. Does America recognize Chinese claims, back up U.S. allies in the area through diplomatic pressure, or begin a military confrontation that could trigger a major war?
2. How dedicated is the U.S. to the NATO alliance and deterring Russian aggression?
For decades, America’s presence in NATO was unquestionable. Candidates might argue about specific NATO policies, but membership was a given. Now, a debate exists about whether NATO might need to be adjusted or a new, anti-terror coalition built in its place.
America pays more than its fair share for the alliance. Every member is supposed to spend 2 percent or more of its GDP on defense, but only America and four other countries did so in 2015. Even among the five who hit their spending goals, America outspends everyone else both in terms of GDP and real expenses. The U.S. is responsible for about 75 percent of NATO spending.
And NATO was designed to defeat Russia expansion. Though members assisted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve struggled with what the alliance’s responsibilities are when addressing ISIS. For those who think ISIS should be the top priority, there’s a question about why the U.S. is spending so much time and energy on a European alliance.
So the question before the next president is, should America continue to dedicate diplomatic and military resources to a Europe-focused alliance when ISIS continues to inspire attacks in America and Europe while threatening governments in the Middle East?
3. What part of the world is the real priority?
To use the cliche, “If everything is a priority, nothing is.” The American military does not have the necessary size and resources to contain both Russia and China while fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The next U.S. president will have to decide what is and isn’t most important.
Alliances can help the U.S. overcome some of the shortfalls, but each “priority” requires sacrifices somewhere else. The next president will have to decide if protecting Ukranian sovereignty is worth the damage to negotiations in Syria. They’ll have to decide if the best use of military equipment is to park it in eastern Europe to deter Rusia or to send it to exercises in Asia to deter China.
Obama spent most of his administration trying to pivot to Asia while Middle Eastern and European crises kept forcing America back into those regions. Where the next president decides to focus will decide whether Russia is contained, China is pushed off the manmade islands, and/or if ISIS and its affiliates are smothered.
4. What is America’s role in the ongoing fight against ISIS and is there a need for more ground troops?
On the note of transferring forces, those vehicles that could be redirected from supporting NATO or conducting exercises could be set to Iraq, Syria, and other countries to fight ISIS, but is that America’s job?
Though America’s invasion destabilized the region, Iraq’s rulers asked U.S. troops to leave before putting up a half-hearted and strategically insufficient response to ISIS. So the next president will have to decide whether America owes a moral debt to prop up the Iraqi government and Syrian rebels and whether it is in America’s best interest to do so.
The answer to those two questions will fuel the biggest one, should America deploy additional ground forces (something generals are asking for), risking becoming mired in another long war, to stop the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region?
5. How long will the Air Force keep the A-10?
The struggle between A-10 supporters and detractors continues to rage. Air Force officials and A-10 detractors say the plane has to be retired due to budget constraints and the limited ability to use the plane in a contested environment. Proponents of the A-10 insist that it’s the cheapest and most effective close-air support platform.
The battle has nearly come to a head a few times. The Air Force was forced by Congress to keep the A-10 flying and finally agreed to a showdown between the A-10 and F-35 for some time in 2016. The critical analysis of the results will almost certainly come while Obama is still in office, but the A-10 decision will likely wait until the next president takes office.
The decision will officially be made by the Air Force, but the president can appoint senior officers sympathetic to one camp or the other. Also, the president’s role as the head of their political party will give them some control when Congress decides which platforms to dedicate money to supporting.
So the new president will have to decide in 2017 what close air support looks like for the next few years. Will it be the low, slow, cheap, and effective A-10 beloved by ground troops? Or the fast-flying, expensive, but technologically advanced and survivable F-35?
6. How much is readiness worth and where does the money come from?
Sequestration, the mandatory reduction of military and domestic budgets under the Budget Control Act of 2011, puts a cap on U.S. military spending. The service chiefs sound the alarm bell every year that mandatory budget cuts hurt readiness and force the branches into limbo every year.
The next president, along with the next Congress, will have to decide how much military readiness they want to buy and where the money comes from. To increase the percentage of the force that is deployed or ready to deploy at any one time without sacrificing new weapons and technology programs, money would need to be raised by cutting other parts of the federal budget or raising taxes.
So, what size conflict should the military always be ready for? And where does the money for training, equipment, and logistics come from to keep that force ready?
7. How many generals and admirals should the U.S. have?
Former Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel and Robert Gates both proposed serious cuts, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has recently floated a 25 percent reduction in the total number of general officers.
Not only would this significantly cut personnel costs since each general and their staff costs over an estimated $1 million per year, but it would reduce the bureaucracy that field commanders have to go through when getting decisions and requests approved.
When Erich “Bubi” Hartmann died in 1993, he was still the most successful fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare. With an astonishing 352 kills, his record is all but assured until World War III comes around. He’s not the only former Nazi Luftwaffe pilot whose name is at the top of the list. In fact, the top ten pilots on that list all have German names, including Gerhard Barkhorn (301 kills), Günther Rall (275), and Otto Kittel (267).
How did one of the most notably absent air forces in history rack up such impressive kill counts?
Hint: They had to be good because their bosses were so bad at their jobs.
The reason German pilots scored so high is a combination of skill and time in the air. There’s probably also a dash of luck in there, if they managed to survive the war. Since the Luftwaffe saw its best successes at the beginning of the war, taking on obsolete and unprepared air forces in enemy countries, Nazi pilots were fighting for years before American pilots. When the war came home, the number of German pilots dwindled, and enemy targets over Germany rose.
A skilled pilot could rack up quite a kill count in that time, especially if they had to fight until the whole war was over, or they were killed or captured.
And they did.
In contrast, American pilots would be sent home, or rotated out after a certain amount of time spent in the air. At the height of World War II, allied fighter pilots were required to spend at least 200 hours behind the stick of a fighter aircraft before being eligible to be rotated home. American pilots dutifully fought the required amount of time and went home for some RR.
Even Richard Bong, the Army Air Forces’ highest-scoring ace – the “Ace of Aces” – scored 40 kills in the Pacific Theater from September 1942 until December 1944. His stay was extended because he was also training pilots in the Philippines. He ended up spending much longer in the area, leading missions and training pilots. Even though he wasn’t allowed to seek combat opportunities, Bong still racked up an astonishing 40 kills against the Japanese.
It seems being one the top aces of any war is just a matter of time… and not getting shot down.
A senior Saudi official seemed to confirm that Saudi Arabia is moving forward with ambitious plans to turn rival nation Qatar into an island.
“I am impatiently waiting for details on the implementation of the Salwa island project, a great, historic project that will change the geography of the region,” Saud Al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said on Twitter.
Al-Qahtani, who has long been an advocate of the project, did not provide specific details on how or when the project would begin.
Previous reports, including one in state-linked news site Sabq, said the canal was still awaiting government approval, but was expected to be 650 feet (200 meters) wide and 50-65 feet (15-20 meters) deep.
Doha, the capital of Qatar.
Initial estimates put the cost of the project at around $US745 million (2.8 billion Saudi riyals).
In June 2018, reports surfaced in Makkah Newspaper which said that five international companies been invited to bid for the project, slated for completion by end of year. Sources told Makkah that Saudi authorities were set to announce the winner of the contract deal by late September 2018.
According to local media, the government plans to turn the canal into a tourist site, but may also convert the area into a military base and a nuclear waste burial site.
Saudi Arabia has not yet officially commented on the project, though Saudi guards took control of the Salwa border crossing in April 2018, cutting off Qatar’s only land link, and further isolating the peninsula that has been diplomatically cut off by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE.
Featured image: The Pearl is a purpose-built artificial island off the coast of Doha, connected to the mainland by a bridge.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The M1126 Stryker is a beautifully designed vehicle. It’s packed with 16.5 tons of high-hardness steel to shield the passengers from direct attacks and a unique underbelly design to help defend against IEDs. Many are outfitted with remote weapon systems, allowing troops to engage the enemy without fear of snipers. It even has one of the most state-of-the-art fire-extinguishing systems in the world in case the worst happens.
With all that protection, it seems strange that someone decided a bunch of steel bars around it would make great armor…
It also works great for extra storage space for things you don’t mind losing. (Photo from U.S. Army)
Though it might look flimsy, the simple fence design is an excellent counter considering how explosives blow up. Having thick, reactive armor works wonders against conventional fragmentation rounds, but HEAT (High explosive, anti-tank) rounds are designed specifically to burst through it.
Take a standard RPG-7 single-stage HEAT round for instance: The explosion isn’t what makes it deadly. By forcing the explosion into a narrow cone, it’s used to blow a hole through whatever it hits. It’s the molten copper follows and uses the pathway cleared by the explosion that’s truly deadly.
In comes what we’ve been calling “fence armor.” This type of armor is actually called “slat armor” and has been used since the World War II on German panzers. The Germans needed an extra layer of defense from Russian anti-tank rifles and low velocity, high explosive rounds. They added steel plates. set a few inches away from the actual shell of the vehicle, so when it’s hit, the cheaper plates would be hit and the copper would have time to cool, causing minimal damage.
This method of stopping common HEAT rounds is still used today by armies going against enemies with RPGs. While slat armor isn’t 100% effective (no armor is, truly), it does have up to 70% effectiveness, which is remarkable for a solution that costs nearly nothing, is an addition to existing armor, and doesn’t negatively affect the mission.
Though nowhere near as effective, even ISIS tried to Mad Max their vehicles. Note, for this to work, slat armor needs to be a few inches away from the vehicle, it should cover vital spots, and shouldn’t be welded on (since the point of it is to be destroyed and swapped out).
B- for effort. F for forgetting that missiles drop down — not across — at three feet above ground. (Image via Reddit)
Female post-9/11 veterans are the fastest growing demographic within the veteran population, but they’re also the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness after their service ends. Just like their male counterparts, they experience all the financial trappings that come with leaving the military. As of this writing, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent and is falling. But for female post-9/11 vets, unemployment is a solid 5.5 percent.
Female vets are a valuable, knowledgeable part of the workforce. More than half of transitioning women have a college education and are twice as likely as men to have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math career fields. Despite this, many women have difficulty transitioning to civilian life and navigating their benefits, taking up to three months longer than male counterparts to find a job once they leave the service.
With this in mind, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families launched its premiere entrepreneurship training conference, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), with the help of the U.S. Small Business Association. It helps female veterans and military spouses find their passions and teaches them the skills they need to turn passion into a profitable business venture in just three phases.
65 percent of these women will start businesses after the V-WISE conference and 93 percent of those will still be in business five years later.
(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)
Phase I of the V-WISE program is a 15-day online learning experience designed to teach participants the “language of business,” how to understand opportunity recognition as it relates to growing a sustainable venture, and present actionable strategies related to new venture creation.
The conference phase of the V-WISE experience is a three-day training offered to cohorts of 200 women at locations across the country. Participants must complete Phase I before attending Phase II.
The conference includes more than 20 distinct modules of training (representing over 40 hours of coursework) designed for both new business owners and to support the needs of existing ventures. Topics addressed include business concepts, financing, guerrilla marketing, human resources, legal challenges, profit models, and more.
Phase III, V-WISE Biz Support, provides program graduates with technical assistance to start and grow their business. Graduates will have access to incorporation services, financing services, mentorship, and opportunities for further education and skill-building with the IVMF and its partners, often at a reduced or waived cost. These services are available through a password-protected website.
And the system works. The V-WISE program is only six years old and has many of the three-phase programs under its belt but can boast more than 3,000 entrepreneurs — 93 percent of whom are still in business to this day. On Sept. 14, 2018, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families will host its 20th event in San Diego, Calif., where the slate of speakers will include:
Remi Adeleke, Transformers actor and former Navy SEAL
Larry Broughton, Co-Founder and CEO of BROUGHTONadvisory and Founder and CEO of broughtonHOTELS
Neale Godfrey, founder and CEO of Children’s Financial Network
The V-WISE class in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2017.
(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)
The V-WISE conferences are open to all women veterans, active duty female service members, and female partners/spouses of active service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. It is just one of a slate of eight national entrepreneurship programs and three resources offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families — a slate the IVMF calls, “The Arsenal.”
Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Its dedication to veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement allows IVMF to provide in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community.This one-of-a-kind dedication to the military-veteran community creates real, sustainable changes in the lives of military veterans, as showcased by the successful women who have graduated from the V-WISE program.
One was Mel Blanc. You never saw him. But you probably heard him. He was the voice of Bugs Bunny. Well, Bugs did his part for the war effort in some cartoons, including one that Warner Brothers pulled due to offensive stereotypes of the Japanese. America’s favorite “wascally wabbit” is an honorary Marine as a result of his service on the screen.
But Blanc did more than just entertain. He also helped train some of the soldiers who were putting it all out there. Specifically, he helped train the gunners on heavy bombers. The B-17 Flying Fortresses had a lot of gun positions. Some of the ten-man crew manning them had other jobs (like the bombardier, the navigator, and the radio operator). Others just had to shoot.
No matter what, though, they needed to know how to aim their guns so that some Nazi or Japanese fighter didn’t shoot their bomber down. In a 14-minute film, Blanc portrays a waist gunner on one Flying Fortress who starts out with some bad habits. Over that course of time, the trainees were given a crash course and the bare essentials needed to know how to aim their machine gun.
The Second World War saw extensive international cooperation amongst the allied militaries. US and UK aircraft and aircraft carriers conducted joint operations in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In fact, the British even loaned an aircraft carrier to the U.S. Navy during WWII. Renamed USS Robin, HMS Victorious launched American aircraft into combat alongside her compliment of British aircraft. Despite continued partnerships in fights against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the 21st century, American warplanes have not flown combat missions from a foreign aircraft carrier again until now.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest vessel that the Royal Navy has ever put to sea. The 65,000-ton warship is the pride of the British fleet. Still, she is smaller than the Nimitz-class carriers sailed by the U.S. Navy. As such, her flight deck still requires a ramp to launch aircraft. This, however, is exactly the kind of operating environment that the F-35 Lightning II was designed for.
Capable of short-takeoffs and vertical-landings, the F-35B is flown by the Royal Air Force and Navy as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. Marine F-35Bs trained aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018 to validate interoperability. However, the assignment of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) to the Queen Elizabeth marks the first combat deployment and sortie of American warplanes from a foreign carrier since WWII.
The 10 F-35Bs from VMFA-211 are joined by 8 F-35Bs of the RAF’s 617 Squadron, the famous “Dambusters.” It is the largest deployment of the F-35 to date.
On June 22, 2021, the Ministry of Defence announced that an undisclosed number of US and UK F-35Bs flew combat missions against ISIS from HMS Queen Elizabeth. The missions were flown in support of Operations Shader and Inherent Resolve. The MoD did not specify the locations of the missions or the targets that were struck. Also on June 22, the Marines announced that the blended air wing began combat operations on June 18.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21. British Secretary of State for Defence described the carrier strike group as, “the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.” The seven-month, 30,000-mile mission will take it to 40 countries through the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The carrier strike group includes a U.S. destroyer and a Dutch frigate and is expected to transit the South China Sea as a show of force.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner
New Marine recruits destined for Parris Island will spend two weeks at the Citadel before moving into training.
The United States Marine Corps has begun placing incoming recruits into two weeks of isolation where they are regularly monitored by medical staff to identify any potential symptoms of COVID-19 infection, but the temporary tent housing these recruits stay in has been deemed insufficient as America’s southeast braces for this year’s hurricane season.
In order to ensure the safety of recruits awaiting training, the Marine Corps reached out to the Citadel, a public military college in South Carolina where aspiring military officers attend classes alongside civilians. The president of the Citadel, retired Marine General Gen. Glenn M. Walters, was happy to support.
“The Secretary of Defense charged each military service to develop strategies to maintain basic training, and The Citadel is proud to be part of the solution for the Marine Corps,” said Gen. Glenn M. Walters.
“Since The Citadel campus is currently closed due to the pandemic, the college is positioned to quickly assist as a mission-capable site in this effort that supports national security.”
Recruits will be housed in the campus’ empty barracks beginning on May 4, where they will remain for a two-week period of monitored isolation. During their time on the campus, they’ll be given access to the college mess hall, infirmary, laundry, and tailor shop. They will also utilize some classrooms for periods of instruction.
“While meeting our mission, the health and safety of our Marines, all civilians and our families are a primary concern,” said Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, USMC commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depos Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region.
“With high school graduations happening now, this is one of our busiest times of the year. We are grateful to have this temporary arrangement so near to Parris Island.”
The benefits of this agreement aren’t one-sided either. While the Marine Corps gets a safe and well equipped place to house recruits in isolation, the contract established between the Corps and the Citadel will help offset the significant economic impact the college has suffered due to closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This partnership is reminiscent of the Second World War, when The Citadel campus supported over 10,000 military personnel training in various programs before shipping overseas,” Walters said.
“This is an historic partnership at a time of need, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.”
You can learn more about what each branch is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at basic training here.
Early discussions about increasing production of Tomahawk-armed Virginia-Class submarines are underway as the Navy and lawmakers look for ways to more quickly deliver new high-tech attack submarines to the force, Congressional sources told Scout Warrior.
The discussions, involving lawmakers and senior members of the Navy, are still very preliminary and in the early stages. The possibility being considered includes the prospect of building more Virginia-Class submarines per year – instead of the amount called for by the current ship-building plan.
The current status-quo effort to build two Virginia-Class boat per year, however, will drop to one as construction of the Ohio Replacement Program, or ORP, begins in the early 2020s.
The possibility now being deliberated is whether, at this future point in time, the Navy and industry could produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Ohio Replacement submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Increasing production hinges on whether the submarine-building industry has the capacity to move up to three submarines per year, the Congressional source said.
Current budget constraints and industrial base capacity limitations may make building three submarines per year too difficult to accomplish, even if the desire to do so was there from both Congressional and Navy leaders.
While Navy officials, including Navy Acquisition Executive Sean Stackley, did tell lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee Sea Power and Projection Force Subcommittee, production changes could emerge in the future, depending upon funding and industrial base capabilities.
Stackley explained that the service would like to maintain a two per-year production schedule for Virginia-Class attack submarines, even after production of the ORP begins.
“We are working today, and we hope and expect you to work with us, to determine how can we keep two Virginias a year proceeding within all the fiscal constraints and within the limitations of the industrial base, to address this compelling requirement for the nation,” Stackley told lawmakers.
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.
In the past, various sub-building industry executives have indicated that this might be possible, however such a prospect has not yet been formally confirmed as it would likely involve an increase in resources, funds and man-power.
One industry source told Scout Warrior that the submarine building community would support whatever the Navy and Congress call for.
“We’ll support Navy programs,” the source said.
Navy Leaders Want More Attack Submarines
The prospect of an acceleration comes as Navy commanders tell Congress they would like to see the fast arrival of more Virginia-Class attack submarines added to the Pacific Fleet.
Pacific Commander Harry Harris told Congress that he would like to see more submarines in his area of operations.
“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-Class submarines, it is the best thing we have,” Harris told lawmakers. “As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM (Pacific Command).”
Virginia-Class attack submarines are necessary for the U.S. to maintain its technological superiority over rivals or potential adversaries such as Chinas, Harris added.
With their technological edge and next-generation sonar, the platform can successfully perform crucially important intelligence and surveillance mission in high-risk areas inaccessible to surface ships. For this reason, Virginia-Class attack submarines are considered indispensable to the ongoing Pentagon effort to overcome what’s talked about in terms of Anti-Access/Area-Denial wherein potential adversaries use high-tech weaponry and sensors to prevent U.S. forces from operating in certain strategically vital areas.
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 (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces, Navy program managers have 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.
“What enables this is the ship control system that we use. You can drive the ship electronically. This allows you the flexibility to be in littorals or periscope depth for extended periods of time and remain undetected,” former Virginia-Class attack submarine program manager Capt. David Goggins said several years ago.
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, Goggins added.
“There’s a person at the helm giving the orders of depth and speed. There’s always a person in the loop. The software is telling the planes and the rudder how to move in order to maintain a course and depth. You still have a person giving the electronic signal,” he said.
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, service officials explained.
“SEALs and Special Operations Forces have the ability to go into a Lock Out Trunk and flood, equalize and deploy while submerged, undetected. That capability is not on previous submarine classes,” Goggins added.
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.
Unlike their “SSBN” Ohio-Class counterparts armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.
Thus far, more than ten Virginia-Class subs have been delivered to the Navy, and seven are currently under construction. Like other programs, the Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.”
Blocks I and II totaling ten ships, have already been delivered.
The program has also delivered its first Block III Virginia-Class Submarine, the USS North Dakota.
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.
“For each one of these tubes you have hydraulics and you have electronics. What we did for Block III is we went to two very large Virginia Payload Tubes – now you have two tubes versus twelve. It is much easier to build these two tubes,” Goggins said.
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.
“In the future, beyond Tomahawk — if you want to put some other weapon in here– you can,” Goggins said.
Also, for Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 97-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. In fact, the Navy has already finished its Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for what’s called the “Virginia Payload Modules.”
The Block V Virginia Payload Modules, or VPM, will add a new “module” or section of the submarine, increasing its Tomahawk missile firing capability from 12 to 40.
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, he explained.
Navy engineers have been working on requirements and early designs for a new, 70-foot module for the Virginia-class submarines engineered to house an additional 28 Tomahawk missiles.
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, Goggins 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.”
“When the SSGNs retire in the 2020s – if no action is taken the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers. When we design and build VPM and start construction in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe. Over time as you build VPM you will eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number,” Goggins explained.
Shipbuilders currently working on Block III boats at Newport News Shipyard, Va., say Block V will involve a substantial addition to the subs.
“Block V will take another cylindrical section and insert it in the middle of the submarine so it will actually lengthen the submarine a little and provide some additional payload capability,” said Ken Mahler, Vice President of Navy Programs, Huntington Ingalls Industries, said several years ago.
The first Block V submarine is slated to begin construction in fiscal year 2019, Navy officials said.
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.
Virginia-Class Acquisition Success
The official baseline for production of Virginia-Class submarines calls for construction of 30 boats, Navy spokeswoman Collen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior. However, over the years, many Navy officials have said this number could very well increase, given the pace of construction called for by the Navy’s official 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan.
The submarines are being built under a Dec. 22, 2008, the Navy awarded a contract for eight Virginia Class submarines. The third contract for the Virginia Class, or Block III, covering hulls numbered 784 through 791 — is a $14 billion Multi-Year Procurement, Navy officials said.
Multi-year deals are designed to decrease cost and production time by, in part, allowing industry to shore up supplies in advance and stabilize production activities over a number of years.
The first several Block IV Virginia-Class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. In April of last year, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, service and industry officials have said.
As a result, the operations and maintenance costs of Block IV Virginia-Class submarines will be much lower and the ships will be able to complete an additional deployment throughout their service live. This will bring the number of operational deployments for Virginia-class submarines from 14 up to 15, Navy submarine programmers have explained.
Overall, the Virginia-Class Submarine effort has made substantive progress in reducing construction time, lowering costs, and delivering boats ahead of schedule, Goggins said.
At least six Virginia Class Submarines have been delivered ahead of schedule, Navy officials said.
The program’s current two-boats per year production schedule, for $4 billion dollars, can be traced back to a 2005 challenge issued by then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen. As mentioned, deliberations are already underway to consider stepping up this production schedule.
Mullen challenged the program to reduce production costs by 20-percent, saying that would allow the Navy to build two VCS-per year. This amounted to lowering the per-boat price of the submarines by as much as $400 million dollars each.
This was accomplished through a number of efforts, including an effort called “capital” investments wherein the Navy partnered with industry to invest in ship-building methods and technologies aimed at lowering production costs.
Other cost-reducing factors were multi-year contract awards, efforts to streamline production and work to reduce operations and sustainment, or OS costs, Navy officials explained.
The U.S. Navy is working to adjust the documentation paperwork regarding the size of its fleet of Virginia Class Submarines, changing the ultimate fleet size from 30 to about 51 ships, service officials have said.
John Wayne never served a day in the military, but he certainly was one very vocal supporter of the troops.
During World War II he tried to enter the military, but between a series of old injuries from his acting career and a bodysurfing incident, his family situation, and the maneuverings of a studio head, his efforts were thwarted, according to the Museum of Military Memorabilia.
Wayne did make USO tours in the South Pacific in 1943 and 1944, well after the fighting there had ended. But he made a number of iconic World War II films, including “They Were Expendable” in 1945, “The Sands of Iwo Jima” in 1949 (where he was nominated for an Oscar), “The Longest Day” in 1960, and “The Green Berets” in 1968. In “They Were Expendable,” the producers of the film worked with Medal of Honor recipient John Bulkeley.
One film that doesn’t get the attention of these other classics is “Operation Pacific,” released in 1951, which featured retired Adm. Charles Lockwood, the former commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines during World War II. Wayne played the executive officer, then the commanding officer, of the fictional submarine USS Thunderfish in this film.
Given Lockwood’s involvement, it’s no surprise that the film features some of the notable submarine exploits of World War II, compressed into one story — including Howard C. Gilmore’s famous “Take her down” orders, and the effort to fix the badly flawed torpedoes that dogged the U.S. Navy’s submarines for the first portion of the war.
The film’s climax featured an incident that composited the attacks on Japanese carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea with the actions of the submarines USS Darter (SS 227) and USS Dace (SS 247). The film is notable for showing the many missions the subs of World War II carried out, from evacuating civilians to rescuing pilots to, of course, sinking enemy ships (the Thunderfish’s on-screen kill total included a carrier, destroyer, a Q-ship, and a submarine).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against delivering an advanced air-defense system to Syria, saying it will further destabilize the war-torn region.
After a call between the two leaders on Sept. 24, 2018, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Putin that “transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands will increase the dangers in the region.
He also said that Israel “will continue to defend its security and its interests” by staging bombing raids on Iranian military targets in Syria.”
Israel’s statement came on the same day that U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned that Russia’s decision to supply Syria with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system was a “major mistake” and a “significant escalation” in Syria’s seven-year civil war.
Israeli planes have carried out a number of deadly air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria in 2018, largely undeterred by the Russian military presence there, apparently owing to close consultations between the Israeli and Russian militaries that Netanyahu’s office said were reaffirmed during the phone call.
But in September 2018, Russia for the first time challenged an Israeli incursion into Syria, blaming it in part for the downing of a Russian military plane that killed all 15 people on board.
A Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-20.
Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down the Russian Il-20 surveillance plane on Sept. 17, 2018, following an Israeli bombing raid. Moscow claims the Russian plane was hit because Israeli pilots were using it as “cover.”
Putin has described the incident as a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
The incident led Russia this week to announce new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian Army with an S-300 system and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.
Russia at an earlier stage in the war had suspended sending an S-300 system to Syria amid Israeli concerns that the missiles could be used against it.
But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the situation has changed, and it’s not our fault.”
Netanyahu in the phone call with Putin continued to blame what his office called the “unfortunate incident” on “the Syrian military, which brought down the plane, and Iran, whose aggression is undermining stability.”
Despite differing views of what happened, Netanyahu’s office said the Russian and Israeli leaders “agreed to continue dialogue between professional teams and intermilitary coordination via military channels.”
A U.S. Army sniper takes aim while wearing a ghillie suit (U.S. Army photo/Released)
The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.
One shot, one kill.
Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.
Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)
The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.
A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.
Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.
Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)
The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.
A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.